2007 BMW R1200GS
8am Peru, Illinois
Hit rain for the first time. Rain gear on.
The inevitable 11th hour flurry. Tire pressure check and pack gage, battery charge, load luggage and balance, rally info, IBA 1000 info, weather check, etc. Two game time decisions remain. First, what jacket to take. With lots of hot weather, the one weakness of the Kilimanjaro will be tested. However, cool temps will make it a welcome friend. The second decision involves the tank bag. It is mighty convenient, but has to come off at every gas stop. We shall see. Off to get some rest.....
In this wave, I once again worked on several things, and struggled with the location for almost all of them. First, I tried to find a place to mount the camera suction cup base. It turns out that there are no flat surfaces anywhere near where it needs to go. That quest continues, and I may need to create a shelf right behind the windshield. I also picked up a one-into-two cigarette lighter accessory socket. After looking around for where to mount that, the inside of the front body work is looking most promising.
I did mount the auxiliary fuel bottle on the right pannier. I opted for that location since it is (a) outside the luggage, (b) not the most rearward thing on the bike as it would be if I went behind the pannier, and (c) somewhat shielded from debris and wind as it is behind the driver leg (and the passenger leg). After poking around on web forums, I opted for a bicycle bottle holder plus fire extinguisher holder plus industrial velcro solution. Longer shakedown ride to follow shortly.
The dry bag that I had for some time unused will probably go on top of the right pannier as things stand, but that is subject to change as the tent, tarp, and sleeping bag all fit in the top box. I had this all worked out on my RT, but I am trying to avoid the old gunny sack across the passenger seat configuration. right now, it can't be ruled out.
In other news, the new smoke shield for the helmet arrived, so I can choose not to wedge the sunglasses in behind the clear shield. I'm also doing an oil change this weekend. Time is suddenly dwindling......
In something just short of miraculous, I am going to be able to attend the MOA Rally in Redmond, OR and I am going to ride there and back. Now as usual if you have been reading this blog, the time frame is far tighter than anyone would plan, but such is the nature of things at velocity central. 9 days. 3 days out, 3 days there, 3 days back. Piece of cake.
In a related event, one of the two GPS units in the household died. It is an aging TomTom unit and it lived a full life. As a result, a new clearance TomTom530 has arrived, but now the dilemna. The old one had a ram mount and the new one needed the same to move between car and bike. Gadget Guys to the rescue, and now all the unit needs is some road testing to see if it deals well with vibration. Unlike the old, there is nowhere to attach some velcro for insurance. We will see. Meanwhile stay tuned for more rally prep....
When I purchased the Happy Trails panniers over the holidays, I got the lockable lids. They were not ready at the time, and I took regular lids and waited for a swap in February. Well, they arrived in March, and the quick swap took place with no issues. The lockable lids have a hinged cover to keep out the elements, and a rubber grommet where it meets the lid. Hopefully, this will remain a watertight setup for a long time.
In a stranger deal, I swapped some extra /5 parts for a store credit which in turn became a set of Pivot Pegz. I wasn't really in the market for wider pegs, but the choices were limited. The installation was a breeze. A couple of circlips is all that keeps your footpegs in place on the GS. However, on the left side, you need to remove the gear shift lever in order to get the pin in and out. Once installed, they proved more comfortable, and far better to stand on due to the wider platform. Without rubber, they may be transmitting a bit more vibration, but that may be more in my mind than factual. We will see on the first long outing...
You couldn't ask for a more perfect day to celebrate 10,000 miles on the GS odometer. I know that this is barely broken in for the GS, but almost all of these miles are from longer trips to national rallies and other faraway destinations. This year, it will probably get a bunch more if plans hold up. My RT went 68K with just tires and oil changes, and was in great shape when it left the stable, so there are high expectations.
On this morning, a dirt road beckoned, which turned to a path through a field that went down to a lake. It was not a well travelled path, as the bramble was high and the path was little more than trampled grass. It seemed poignant that the GS would depart the paved road for this empty field with the solitude of the morning, and the mist still rising off the lake. Later on the way home, the odometer turned and I stopped for a quick picture. There are not many bikes that you would take across the country, or across town, or across a field, but this is the natural habitat of the GS. Happy 10K.
When you have a winter which leads you to measure snow in yards rather than feet, the call of the catalog is hard to resist. A gift certificate to Touratech from a raffle some time ago was about to expire and so I went happily shopping through their catalog. I settled on a front beak extension, since I really liked how they look on the GSA model. Intstallation is a matter of applying some foam cushioning to a slot where it meets the existing beak, and then two bolts. This brief foray into farkling will not last long, so spring had better get a move on!
The GS has had the stock seat on it, and it has been ok for several hours in the saddle. However, it has not been ok for all day riding. Coming back from the MOA rally last year I got a sheepskin (rally special closeout) and it helped for the ride back, but not enough. The basic problem is pressure points, and everybody's derriere is different. I started looking at custom seats from Mayer, Sargent, Russell, etc. The prices for some approached the cost of project Honda CBs, so I was hesitant. Then I came across an ad from a guy selling a Sargent seat, and after some negotiation we struck a deal. You can see from the pictures that the shape of the seats are very different. I put the Sargent on the bike and it seems to cradle you more. It feels more comfortable, but the stock seat seemed fine sitting on it as well. The true test is a couple tankfulls of gas, and that is not happening anytime soon given the consecutive storms dumping yards of snow in eastern PA this year. We are in the midst of another one right now.....
The BMW GS is an amazing bike in more ways than one. Yes, it is the swiss army knife of motorcycles, but it is also one of the few products that I have come across in life that actually makes you get out and use it more and more. Its very reputation is based on millions of miles travelled, which must include some portion of those miles on pathways, ruts, trails, and other non-paved surfaces. And if you do that, you begin to need upgrades and accessories. The treadmill becomes a clothes hangar, the tennis racket a fly swatter, but the GS gets a lot of use or gets sold to someone who will. GS bikes for sale either have hery low or very high mileage. The stock luggage on the bike needed more capacity for any significant 2-up travel. It also had side-opening cases which caused contents to spill out (or seriously test the retaining lanyards) when loaded. This design has its benefits as well (you don't have to remove items on top to get items in the luggage), and top-load vs side-load is hotly debated on forums.
For me, more capacity + top-loading were the key elements of the next luggage solution. Once you make that decision, there is an array of options to choose from. I sought the counsel of the elders and wisemen on the Advrider forum in this thread. Function vs form debates ensued, passionate supporters and opponents opined on related threads, and in the end people struck their own balance and voted with their dollars accordingly. I selected aluminum panniers from Happy Trails. The balance of form, function, and value worked best for me.The installation went as follows:
The bags arrived after the holidays, but it was like a christmas morning from childhood. Even though you knew what was inside the packaging, it was finally going to be in your hands! The contents were all carefully packaged, and looked great. The instructions looked inadequate with only a couple of pictures and little text, but I need not have worried. I fired up the garage heater and got to work. The stock luggage racks must be removed before starting. The new racks are a typical rectangle with appendages for attachment points. These racks do not "disappear" like the very simple and elegant stock setup, and would probably look better in silver. The longest part of the install was the relocation of the turn signals. It turns out that they are in the path of some of the bracketry by just enough to force the need for an alternate location. I generally hate mucking about with modern BMW wiring. I am under no illusions that I can do it better than the excellent engineers and robots back in Germany. Regardless, this had to be mucked, and I wanted this wiring to be secure and durable, so it took some time to cut/splice/shrinkwrap. I thought about putting some kind of inline connectors on so that the whole assembly could be separated, but decided against it because I had no such connectors, it was 20 degrees out, and the original wiring had none. In the end, it looks ok.
The frame can then be attached to bike in key places, using the new hardware, and everything can be tightened up. The panniers themselves are so simple that you question why they should cost what they do. Basic aluminum boxes and a good gasket on top. The lids continue the simplistic theme and are a cover with a straightforward articulated pivot. The bag hardware is incredibly simple to attach once you have the holes in the right place. I got mine pre-drilled, so I skipped that part of the fun. Tabs on the outside of the inner surface of the bags swivel and overhang the frame. You can fix the upper or lower tabs in place using bolts and then allow the other two to swivel and be tightened using large knobs. This presented a trouble spot on the left (exhaust side) pannier. The knobs are too large to fit in the upper locations because of the "shelf" needed to clear the exhaust. If you use the knobs on the bottom they significantly reduce the already smaller capacity of the pannier. None of this is an issue if you keep the bags permanently mounted, since you can use the extra supplied bolts and avoid the issue. However, with garage space challenges, those are not my plans. Besides, I siliconed the lower holes so that they would be watertight. I suppose on a trip of any length the knobs might not be needed, but I'd like to keep the option.
With everything buttoned up and cases mounted, things looked good. The latches on the panniers don't feel like they will last as long as the panniers themselves, but that is one of the few niggles. The lids have tie-down points which make you want to strap down a tent and a duffel bag full of well...something. In that sense the panniers remain true to the GS mystique and make you want to ride across Siberia.....even when you had no previous desire to do so.
For weeks I had been playing tag with a friend planning to go for a ride before winter had the region in full grip. Today was an unusually warm 65 degrees around these parts, and we were both in town and available. We met at the house and though we both had favorite loops, he won the toss. Although the loop had mostly roads that I had ridden before, I became aware that I normally ride them at a relatively brisk pace. I found that going slowly allowed for an appreciation of the roads that I had not experienced since the first time I rode them years earlier. There were fields and barns and vistas that somehow looked different.
After a leisurely and enjoyable ride, we ended up in Belvedere where we got a bite to eat. By the time we left, the cruisers were out in force, and the temp seemed more like 70 than 60. The route home was similarly paced but via a few new roads. These were very narrow farm roads with very poor surfacing (or lack thereof in places), and multiple 90 degree turns. I arrived home feeling like I had discovered a bunch of new roads, but there were only a few miles of road that I had not traveled previously.
In racing you are taught to change where you look and how you look in order to be successful at race speeds. In order to enjoy late fall motorcycle touring, perhaps the same is required....
There is something about the fall. The first smell of crisp cold air, the pallette of colors, the falling of leaves. It is probably the calendar period that most beckons me to the road. The impending sense that riding days are numbered, the fact that air-cooled motors are happier, and the dissapearance of the tanktop and flipflop cruiser set from the roads, makes it more of a season for the true enthusiast. The GS with its heated grips and enhanced with the taller screen I added is the preferred steed for these times. It also helps that it will travel offroad where some of the best of the season's splendor can engulf you rather than just acompany you on either side....
The purchase of the GS involved another sleep-deprived 400 mile roundtrip in less than ideal weather conditions. Unfortunately, the pictures have gone missing...