What Worked (and Didn't) on My Recent Cross-Country Ride

(December 31, 2016) I’ve been away from writing about my riding for about six months as I was busy with a series of short, multi-day rides, recovered from hernia repair surgery, studied for my Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) exam, and co-authored a proposal for my group’s follow-on contract with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). With the end of the year, I am now able to return to writing about my rides.

As I prepared for my cross-country ride to Taos, San Francisco, Seattle, etc. earlier this year, I constantly had in my mind the painful experience I had in 2014 when I suffered permanent nerve damage to my feet and temporary damage to my spine on a ride to British Columbia. This time, I decided to throw money at the project. Fortunately, most of my investments paid off. In this post, I want to identify which items proved helpful and which did not and why.

Corbin Saddle with Backrests

In March, I purchased a Corbin Dual Tour leather saddle with heaters (HD-FLH-14-DT-E) along with a matching trunk armrest and rider backrest. The three pieces cost me $1,461, with $67 of that for shipping. This was well worth the money for several reasons: (1) the set looks great, as it is color-matched to my bike and Corbin does a great job on style; (2) the heat feature proved very useful when I was at high elevations in northern New Mexico and northern Nevada; and (3) it was very comfortable for my backside over the entire journey, especially important on the final three-day, 2,100-mile sprint from Havre, Montana to my home in Cary, NC. This is my second Corbin saddle and I highly recommend them.

HD ElectraGlo Tail Lights

I made an important purchase just before I departed on my ride: HD ElectraGlo Tail Lights (part number 67800241A). In addition to unexpectedly riding in the dark as I made my way from Mount Rainier to Bellevue, Washington, I  also got caught in some severe thunderstorms—including one during that ride in the dark. These super-bright saddlebag-mounted tail lights made me feel much more visible and thus a little safer in very unsafe conditions. They were easy to install and at $229.95 provided me some peace of mind at a reasonable price. I highly recommend them.

In the video above, I show how useful these lights were as I was forced to stop under a bridge near Elk City, Oklahoma to avoid high winds. The rain and lightning were scary, but the strong gusty winds were blowing me across the highway making the end of my life seem immiment. 

GoPro Camera & Beaucoup Accessories

I decided to try something very new for me on this trip: take video with a helmet-mounted camera. I decided to go with the proven technology and purchased a GoPro HERO4 Silver ($319) camera, along with a whole bunch of accessories, including but not limited to:

I was able to capture video that I could not have otherwise gotten. However, I was disappointed with two critical aspects of using the GoPro camera: (1) control of the device and (2) wind drag on the camera when it’s mounted on my helmet.

The biggest bummer for me was the difficulty in controlling the camera while riding. I purchased the remote control but it’s very hard to read while riding, not to mention dangerous. Of course, you can stop the bike and start the camera recording and resume riding. But then you end up with a lot of video you don’t necessarily want. You can use the remote control to toggle the camera's recording mode on and off but then have to be careful that you (1) actually toggle the pause/record mode, and (2) remember which state the camera is in. I missed capturing some great video of riding in San Francisco because I thought the camera was recording when it wasn’t.

I've included two examples, above, of video captured with the GoPro. The first is my crossing the Golden Gate Bridge at 7:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning, which is a really good time to cross because of the very low traffic volume but with sunlight. The second example is part of my ride along California 1 north of the Bay Area.

In 2017, I plan to try mounting my iPhone to the handlebar and controlling the camera with the phone. That application works very well. I recommend the GoPro camera with the caveats listed above, but I do not recommend the remote control.

Klock Werks Windshield

I quickly realized what a great decision I had made in switching from the stock windshield to a 6.5-inch Klock Werks ($179.95). On my previous bikes I looked through the windshield and on my new Ultra Limited I found the top edge of the windshield right in my line of sight. Wow, what a pleasure it is to not have to look through a windshield or stretch a little to look over the top. The flared shape of the Klock Werks faring directs the wind (and most rain) over my head. However, one will still get an occasional bug in the face. I recommend this product.

T-bags Dakota Rack Pack 4 Harley Tour Pak

I was grateful to have purchased this T-bag ($192.59), which mounted very nicely on my Tour-Pak. It has really nice features and is well designed. It’s expensive but worth it. I recommend this product.

Camping Stuff

Therm-a-Rest LuxuryLite Mesh Cot - (Large - $209.13) - In combination with my Therm-a-rest inflatable sleeping pad, this cot was as comfortable as a decent hotel bed. And it’s really nice to be off the ground if it rains heavily and your tent lets some of the wet stuff in. When I camped in Havre, Montana it did rain heavily and though no rain got into my tent, I slept well knowing that even if it did, I was going to be dry.

Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow Denim Large - ($23.98) - This is totally a luxury item as you can construct a pillow with a sack and laundry. However, I had room and enjoyed it. I recommend this item only if you have the space.

TrekUltra Tour One Camp Chair - ($74.95) - I finally remembered to take a chair with me. I used it only once — in Spokane, but I really liked having it along just in case. It’s pricey, but worth it if you plan on camping more than a few times. I recommend this item only if you plan on camping more than three or four times in the next few years.


HD Mesh Jacket ($150) - This was a very comfortable riding jacket that offered good protection while looking very nice. I recommend it.

MotoSkiveez shorts ($59.95) - These have been so kind to my spine that I purchased a second pair and took them both with me on my cross-country ride. I highly recommend these, despite the steep price. I rode well over 7,000 miles in 18 days and felt great when I got home. I credit that to the excellent Corbin saddle and these shorts.

MotoSkiveez socks ($24.95) - Whereas the shorts are great, the socks are only OK. I own two pair and that may be the end of it. One of the socks developed a hole after only several wearings. The company promised me a replacement but never delivered.

Other Products

Arrela® Selfie Stick Wired Portable Foldable Self-portrait Monopod with Remote Shutter for iPhone 6… ($19.95) - This proved to be a very handy selfie stick for my iPhone 6. I recommend it.

Harley-Davidson Indoor/Outdoor Cover ($149.95) - I like to cover my bike for security reasons when I travel across the country. This is a very good cover. I recommend you buy the plain black version so as not to advertise the brand and draw undesired attention. 

RedaGas Can ($33.78) - I own two of these, one for each saddle bag. On my cross-country trip I took only one and fortunately never needed it. However, when riding in places like the Utah-Nevada border on Crestline Road, I appreciate having 0.9 gallons of additional fuel. I recommend this product to Harley touring bike owners. (It’s designed for those style saddle bags.)

iPhone 6 ($300?) - The beauty of having a really nice “smartphone” with you on a ride is that it serves so many different purposes in a very compact package. I very much appreciate having a phone and camera in one handheld device. I especially enjoyed making quick little videos along my travels and then posting them to Facebook. I highly recommend you take a smartphone with you on long-distance rides.

Keep the shiny side up and pray for a short winter!

-The Long Rider

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