Heli Bars and Puma Motorcycle Boots | MC Tested

Think of it: a Ducati 999-or any other hard-core, clip-on-equipped sportbike-with true long-distance riding comfort.

Right. And Ashlee Simpson really does sing her own songs.

Luckily for those with a penchant for clip-ons, there is a remedy for those aching wrists and lower back, and it's a heckuva lot cheaper than trading in your beloved but uncompromising Duck for a Gold Wing-Heli Bars.

According to company literature, Heli Bars give 999 riders 1.5 extra inches of rise, are positioned three-eighths of an inch farther apart and are angled a half-inch farther rearward. The important measurement here is the first one-1.5 inches may not seem like much on a cruiser with ape-hangers, but on a 999 it's nirvana. The extra bar height rotates the riding position rearward just enough so that neck-cramping from craning your head to see forward is a thing of the past. Most of my riding is stop-and-go commuter stuff on city streets, and while the Ducati isn't always happy in this environment, the higher bars make 999 commuting much more agreeable. I've also noticed I have better throttle control with the new bars in place, as the bars' angle allows you to rotate your wrists more freely.

Bar position fore and aft at installation is critical. Position them too far rearward and you'll pinch your thumbs against the tank; too far forward and you'll bust your knuckles against the fairing. Experiment and find the position that works for you. There are no markings on the bars to guide you; it's strictly trial and error.

The instructions tell you to remove the top triple clamp. What they don't tell you is that you need a special Ducati tool to do that. Shop Foreman Michael Candreia didn't have one handy, so he did it the old-fashioned way-he hoisted the front end in the air, loosened the pinch bolts, dropped the fork tubes and removed the stock bars. According to Candreia, installation was fairly straightforward with no real problems, and took a couple of hours to accomplish. He didn't have to replace any cables, either.

If you own a 999 or any bike with cramped ergos, Heli Bars are probably the perfect mod for you.

Puma 1000 Roadracing Boots
First things first: These new Puma boots look really cool! That shouldn't be too surprising coming from the maker of some of the trendiest treads around. But what is surprising is that a company that only recently began making motorcycling footwear has come up with roadracing boots that work so well.

The Puma 1000's success is no accident. The inner booty, made of neoprene and mesh, is fastened much like a corset for a comfortable, abrasion-resistant barrier between the foot and boot. Combined with a soft, removable footbed and dual-compound, rubber-injected outsole, comfort is unparalleled, both on and off the bike.

Comfort isn't as important as protection, of course, and this boot ranks right up there. The most notable-not to mention noticeable-feature on this boot is the outer "Ghost Doctor" ankle-protection device, which prevents the joint from moving past a safe range in four directions. The boot also features a heel impact disperser, a reinforced toebox and inner heelbox, all fastened by CNC-machined aluminum buckles that are adjustable for fit.

Another thoughtful touch is the use of titanium toe sliders. If, like me, you typically go through several pairs of plastic ones in a day's racing or track riding, you'll appreciate this feature. Not only will you save money on extra toe sliders, you can keep your toes inside the boots and away from the asphalt-and they throw sparks when you drag them!

The Puma 1000s are available in smoked pearl/orange and black/metallic silver in European sizes 38-46. If you're not 100 percent happy with your current roadracing boots, try these on for size. Puma covered all the bases with these boots-and surprisingly did so on its first attempt.