Updated:  2014-06-02

The following is a list of failures and problems during the Trans-Continental Motorcycle tour.

  • Lifesaver filtering water bottle:  leaking pump mechanism REPLACED.  June 02, 2014:  Pumps on both bottles leak too much.  Not for use in tent or back pack with water sensitive items
  • Motoport Kevlar Mesh Jacket and Pants:  seam failure in both pants, two broken zipper pullers, seam on snapping front closure let go.
  • Sena SMH10 helmet communicators: broken contact pin affecting voice, same pin on “spare” unit showing signs of become loose.
  • X-Lite X-551 Helmets by Nolan: Pin-lock inserts, vents, flip-down sun visor,  gasket.
  • Big Agnes Insulated Air Core sleeping pad: likely fabric failure leading to many small air leak.  2014-06-02: other 4 year old pad failing.

The Details

Lifesaver filtering water bottle

We are using Lifesaver filtering water bottles.  The pro is that we don’t buy water and don’t leave a trail of plastic waste, and can have clean, tasty water wherever water is found
The negative here is that both bottles have a leaky pump mechanism.  This does not directly affect filtering.  Jenn’s, however, has leaked like a sieve from day one and cannot be packed in a daybag or be left in her duffle bag (even mostly empty) without wetting other things.  Lifesaver has shipped out a replacement to Colombia at their expense.

2014-02-22:  received the new bottle and primed it.  It is completely leak free so far.  Much better.

2014-03-30: replacement Lifesaver bottle now leaks a bit – but similarly to other one.  Not gushing during pumping like the replaced one.

2014-06-02:  at this time both bottles have been “leaking” for some time.  Lifesaver claims that it is not normal.  Cannot have full bottom in back with items such as computer, and can expect to get wet if  used in the tent.  Bottle works, but is a wet experience despite manufacturer’s claim.

Motoport Kevlar Mesh Jackets and Pants
We are using “custom fitted” Motoport Kevlar Mesh jacket and pants.  For the most part performing well, but both of our pants have had a seam let go at the inner leg (fail!).  Adam’s pants have had various other threads let go.  The vendor has reported that there may have been a problem during manufacturing our custom gear as their sewing machines require maintenance after a certain amount of garments have been produced.

Some, or all, of our garments seem to been manufactured after the point at which the machines require maintenance and, in our opinion, should be considered factory seconds.  The manufacturer has stated that this sort of failure will be covered for life, beyond their 7 year warranty (which – admittedly – is a good warranty) but has not suggested replacing the affected gear outright.  That said, it is neither practical, or economically sound to attempt to send the gear back to California at this point and we are using local tailors to fix the issue.

[2014-03-30] Adam’s main zipper tag also fell off.  The pants don’t stay up as well now due to the the lack of the locking zipper tag.  This never worked well as the zippers at the waist and angle cuffs always open a bit – that said – you don’t realize that the locking zipper is doing something until the tag is missing.

[A while ago] The zipper puller on Adam’s left sleeve broke off.  It is not an issue with gloves that go over the wrist, but a real pain with gloves that go under the wrist.  As well, the strip of material on the chest which snaps closed to cover the zipper is fraying at the bottom likely due to the threads letting loose.  It is now fraying presumably when in contact with my tank pad.

Sena SMH10 helmet communicators
We are using Sena SMH10 Bluetooth helmet communicators.  This is our second set.  Our first set was purchased quite away ago had a good run.  That pair arrived with one dead contact pin which was replaced under warranty, no questions asked and everything was fine since.
We purchased a new set specifically for this trip knowing that we rely on these day to day to talk to each other.  We are even carrying the old set for spares.  Rather disappointingly, a pin on one of the new units has become wiggly and affects the outbound voice channel on that device.  In my opinion, this is early days for this sort of failure.

We have sent the failure unit to California from Panama by way of EMS courier for US$15 at their request (what a waste of time).  Note that DHL wanted US$115 for this service.  Sena set be a replacement to Colombia, at our expense, of about US$25 but due to various circumstances, it was “returned to sender”.   This was not their fault.  US customs was very slow to release the package.  Sena has been “reluctant” to send with warranties on an international level and claimed to have made an exception for us.  This is a bit of a poor show.  We have been through several countries where you can purchase Sena products (international distributors), and despite our mention of this, Sena did not acknowledge our mention of this.  Due to a combination of the above, as well as slow email response from Sena later on in the claim, we are going to have them send us a replacement when back home.

Sometimes we second guess our packing and become self-critical about what we have brought with us.  In this case, we are using our “what if” spares within the first three months and we are very glad that we did.

Overall, I think the Sena units are pretty good, but probably based on receiving one DOA (the stuck pin), and don’t think that it is wise to rely on a single pair of units surviving an extend trip, especially if bike-to-bike communication is important to you.

2014-06-02:  some time ago, we noticed that the “spare” unit we are using is also starting to show signs of the beginning of a pin failure in the one of the pins (I believe the same as the failed unit) is starting to bed.  It is located close to the bottom.  In my opinion, this is a design flaw, and perhaps their is too much leverage on this pin.  At this point, there would have to be some exception circumstance for us to remove a Sena unit from the helmet.  As mentioned, they generally work well but are fragile and should be considered semi-disposable (I gasp at stating this due to their relatively high cost).

We will think very carefully about purchasing Sena communicators again due to their fragility.  While not trying to sound like a slight, by this time Sena may well re-evaluate their physical design, or a competitor may prove to have a more robust unit.
Big Agnes Air Core sleeping pad

Some time back, we noticed that Jenn’s Big Agnes sleeping pad was partially deflating in the night requiring topping up the air several times a night.  We deciding to test for leaks using soap and water figuring that we had a small puncture.

It turns out that there are many tiny leaks on the base of it which cannot have been caused by us.  We are not sure of the life expectancy of these sleeping pads, although Adam has used his a lot more than Jenn and it is considerably older, without issue.  Her’s is about 2.5 years old and only been used 25 times or so.

We have contacted MEC and Big Agnes to inquire about “next steps” and whether we should be making a warranty claim.  We unsuccessfully attempted to repair the mattress with seamseal.

Big Agnes sent a replace out to us but it was “returned to sender” due to a specific circumstance.  They have been very slow to further address the issue, don’t respond to emails promptly, or at all, and the returned item has been held up in US customs for several weeks.  We ended up buying a replacement item at a South American outdoors store, mostly giving up on Big Agnes, and well get a refund from MEC for the failed product (this has been are real pain in the ass – quite literally for Jenn).

2014-06-02: our second Big Agnes sleeping pad is now failing.  We are not sure of what the life expectancy of the mattress is supposed to be.  The mattress was not used at all since we purchased the new one for Jenn.  It appears the fabric naturally degrades and we will have to purchase a replacement if we are to continue camping.
X-Lite X-551 Helmets by Nolan
Our helmets are made by a well known helmet manufacturer from Italy (Nolan) under the brand X-Lite.  We chose them as they seemed promising and offered some features not found in Arai and Shoei helmets in the same class. The reviews generally seemed good. The main difference with this helmet is that they incorporate a flip down sun visor/shield which eliminates the need for sunglasses.  Nolan is well know for this feature.
The helmets are comfortable enough, and for the most part are quite good.
Sticky Vents

The weakness we have found are that the front facing vents are very sticky and, for the most part, cannot be operated while the helmet is being worn.  Inconvenient.
Pin-Lock anti-fog inserts – poor implementation

The Pin-Lock anti-fog inserts are very troublesome and difficult to mount without interference.  We have tried several ways of fine tuning and it seems that the helmet is manufactured with the tolerance so close that you either don’t have a good seal between the visor and the gasket, or the gasket catches the Pin-Lock until it eventually loosens the Pin-Lock insert.  In Adam’s case, dust and crime was accumulating and both the shield/visor and pinlock have become scratched, and if I was back home I would be considering replacing them.  We didn’t have this sort of problem with Adam’s Shoei Hornet, although Jenn had some issues with her Shoei RF series helmet.  We really, really like Pin-Lock anti-fog inserts and wouldn’t ride without one in Canada.  We have needed in rainy, foggy Guatemala and other mountainous areas but unfortunately have removed it until we can figure out how to install it without issue.  Fail.
Viewport gasket – falling off 

[2014-03-30 edit: now cracking]

The lower side of Adam’s gasket also became detached from the helmet body very early on – pre-trip.  We have attempted to repair it with clear RTV silicon to no avail.  At this point it is a mostly cosmetic issue but are disappointed with the build quality of this helmet given that they are touted as being handcrafted in Italy. Fail.


Is anyone noticing a trend here?  US based retailers, from our experience, seem to be OK with warranties, etc. but US based manufacturers seem to be difficult to deal with on an international context.  This is by no means emprical, but we have a 1/1 success rate with a UK based company with a warranty issue, and 3/3 problem rate (at some level) with US based manufacturers).

Having contacted the German vendor, as well as Nolan directly, we cannot say that we a very pleased with the level of support we have received.  Given that we have made it clear that we are on an international motorcycle, we expected a little more from Nolan than effectively “please return it to us for evaluation”.  Surely Nolan has distributors and partners in South America (actually, we know for a fact that Nolan products are available – limited of course – but the one line response was a bit of a joke.

At this point, the only thing really separating this X-551 helmet from my Shoei Hornet is that the X-551 includes a built-in sun visor (sun glasses).  The build quality of the Shoei Hornet, in my opinion, is much better than the X-Lite/Nolan.  I am not sure if I will be purchasing another Nolan product in the future.

Past frustrations

Not related to this trip directly, Adam also has bought not one, but two motorcycle suits from US based Olympia.  Adam wore one of these during his previous South America trip.  This suit was bought en-route as the other suit was too hot, but not without a bit a of begrudging emotion behind it.  Adam had tried to get customer support for a some Olympia Ranger 2 pants which had no vents, supposed to be extremely waterproof, and perfect for cold wet riding.  Within a few months they leaked at the crotch.  Having contacted Olympia directly, they were very reluctant to deal with the issue.  The pants were finally replaced in Guelph, Ontario where they were originally purchased with a sort an under-the-cuff comment about the company, that they were “hard to deal with in terms of warranty work”.