I had set a goal of using the Dakar to attend the 2011 BMWMOA Rally. A number of things had to come together prior to that. Dave Cushing and Brian Curry sorted out the one pulled head stud that was discovered when the perfect valve clearances still resulted in a loud valve train. And then there was the clutch problem. On a shakedown ride, the bike suddenly had no clutch after stopping at an intersection. The lever and cable were fine, but there was no clutch resistance and I suspected the rod, or something worse. I towed it home, and upon unloading the bike, the clutch was back to normal ! It turns out that it was the actuator at the back of the transmission. It is a known problem that with age, the original piston expands when it heats up and gets stuck. The solution was a replacement with a smaller diameter and the problem was solved.
Then there was the headlight. One of the plastic retainer clips had broken, and the headlight was rattling around. I stuffed some foam in there initially just to prevent more damage, and then attacked the lighting issue one weekend. Lots of folks upgrade the alternator on the bike, and then add a mega lighting package of some kind. I wanted to add some LED lighting to avoid the whole upgrade process. After looking at some effective but expensive solutions from Clearwater and Twisted Throttle, I decided to invoke my frugal BMW clan member side, and picked up some LED auxillary lights from an automotive store. They installed easily once I got a pait of clamps for the frame, and I am pleasantly surprised at the results. They are very effective, and draw no current. The combination with the headlight has dramatically improved night vision, and the cost was a fraction of the other solutions. However, I am under no illusions about durability on these lights, as one good rock would likely mean game over.
The stock side cases were in good shape, but lost their retainer straps, so I transferred a pair from my other system cases. The Pelican case sat on the tail rack, and the tank compartment had a new lock, so all was right with the luggage world. I purchased one of those LED bulb replacements for the tail light. I don't notice very much difference in brightness during the day, but I am sure it is more effective at night. Lastly, an oil change, and new plugs. You would think that I was going cross country, but this was all planned anyway and just got concentrated into the pre-rally burst of activity.
I took a circuitous route to the rally making it 360 miles to get there. I did about 60 miles offroad, and the rest on tarmac. The bike performed flawlessly despite blistering temperatures in the 90s the whole way. I can say that the heat off the cylinders does not help ! With the softly sprung front end, it does tend to wallow in the corners a bit. I camped at the rally, and saw several other nice examples of Dakars among many other things mentioned in the main blog and elsewhere. I did some day rides including more dirt where the front suspension was much better suited. Some great riding. I took a different route home and added about 200 miles. All in all, I can now declare the bike ready for major duty. I have my eye on a few trips this fall.....