Recent note: these are the bikes we rode, and have since sold and replaced.
(if you’re not into motorbikes, don’t bother with this page — it will bore you senseless)
Why BMW? These bikes (the GS series) were designed for the sort of duty planned, a two-continent jaunt terminating in Argentina. Why a 2007? Because I’ve been getting ready for this sort of trip, poco a poco, since before purchasing “the beast” back in 2007.
I’m not one of those knuckleheads that say there is no suitable brand but mine – the market’s full of REALLY good choices. And people have made the trip on everything from nimble little enduros to full dress cruisers. When you’re loping down the highway, the big cruiser is the perfect bike. When you’re bouncing around on some dirt “road” in the middle of nowhere, the enduro is perfect. For a trip like this, neither the big road bike nor the little enduro could meet all needs.
Mike’s bike – 2007 BMW R1200gs “Sport”
I wanted a kinda “swiss army knife” sorta bike, capable of 5-600 mile days on the highway, but not afraid of semi-gnarly dirt roads. I used to ride two excellent bikes to fulfill those needs, an F650gs and an R1150R, and that was a good combo. The R1200gs is a blend of those two bikes, and its only real drawback is that it IS a heavy beast. Not Goldwing heavy, but certainly not dirt-bike light either. So the R1150R that I bought, rode, and loved in Germany, went as trade for the big GS, here at Santa Fe BMW. After 2 years and 2 trips over 4k miles each, it has performed perfectly.
Why the “Sport” model and not the “Adventure”? I just didn’t fancy that huge gas tank on the Adventure. It’s a great bike, and comes well equipped. But for me, these bikes are tall enough already, and they’re a bit top-heavy and tippy. So the added height of the Adventure, and the additional weight up high that big gas tank brings was not my cup of tea. I went with the simpler “Sport” model and chose my own bits and pieces to gain the functionality of the Adventure, but with a lower center of gravity. I’m pleased with the result, though the Adventure would have been cheaper.
Electrical: In an attempt to cut weight, BMW now controls virtually everything with a specialized on-board computer “network”. That computer reaches out and checks everything (everything!) electrical or electro-mechanical on the bike, and as nifty as this system is, it does NOT enable modifications or additions.
So the first upgrade was addition of a small marine electrical distribution panel (thank you, Lori!) direct-connected to the battery, mounted under the seat. That allowed installation of Touratech lights (one fog, relay-coupled to the low beam, and one HID coupled to the high beam, but separately switchable). An extra power socket is now on the “dash” wired through the circuit panel to the battery, and I added a small LED voltage indicator that monitors the charging circuit.
Physical/Mechanical: Next came crash bars, from Hepco Becker. Lots of folks make these, but I liked the clean design of the HB’s. As of this writing, haven’t tested ‘em yet, but I know the day is coming. Jesse Safari aluminum cases were next, and they’re ENORMOUS, though not as wide as the handle bars, so the size is no problem. They’re well made kit, and haven’t shown any sign of wear of any sort. I use Eagle Creek packing cubes inside the cases, and it’s a handy setup. The cases are big enough to carry much more than anyone needs.
Recently added “footman’s loops” for strapping gear to the tops of the bags, and fabricated mounts for four one liter gasoline bottles on the back, to provide a little spare fuel and as fuel for the campstove, which was specifically selected because it will burn gasoline. The red bottles are the same bottles the stove requires, so this is two birds, one stone, yes?
Ohlin springs and shocks went on this spring, and made a significant difference in the bike’s handling. They also brought the seat height down about an inch (nice!), necessitating a shortened center stand. Ohlins are pricey, an extravagance (for my purposes) but sweet. A “mud sling” plastic thingy is now in front of the rear tire, protecting the rear spring/shock from junk coming off the back wheel.
Comfort Stuff: The seat gets special mention – it’s made by Sargent, and electrically heated. BMW builds great bikes, but seats of stone. For me, a Sargent after-market seat, heated seat was the fix. Didn’t think I needed the heat, but it IS nice on a chilly day. Fastway pegs make standing more comfy, and a “hammerhead” shifter, a bit longer than stock, fits my foot better than the OEM.
I liked the size/shape/utility of BMW’s small tank bag for ’08 and younger GS’s, and that’s what’s on the bike. Problem was, the mounts on both ends didn’t work on my ’07, so I fabricated new mounts and it is secure and convenient (now). Front mount required learning how to make a “saddle stitch” in leather, and it is now secured to the tank with a marine-style “common sense” fastener, like you used to see on convertible tops. It works really nicely, easy disconnect for gas stops (since the bag covers the fuel filler).
Windshield: Z-technic turned out to be the ticket for me. Tried a Cee Bailey, but too big for me — I find I’m one of those folks that doesn’t like to look THRU a windshiled. Now with the Z, pleased with absence of buffeting. Curious to see how it holds up — a few small cracks appearing near one of the attachment screws. Vamos a ver…always carry epoxy, si?
The quantity of mods is probably more a function of the time I’ve owned the bike than the absolute necessity of any of ‘em — I just like fussin’ with it. This bike was born ready for this sort of trip, I’ve just made it a bit more capable/comfy/protected.
Heather’s Bike — 2007 BMW F650Gs
The photo above, two pretties, is Heather’s bike as she found it. She wanted a dual sport, but it had to be a looker. Her requirements were met when we found this shiny black 2007 F650gs on eBay, with very low miles, located in a suburb of Minneapolis. We made the deal and she and a good friend (another Lori) went up and captured it. It was already equipped with PIAA lights, a Cee Bailey windshield, Givi Bags, a center stand (OEM?) and heated grips. The gent who sold it to us had graduated to an R1200GS, so little sister had to go. We were VERY pleased with the find.
Since the top photo was taken, we added a snazzy Sargent seat, installed handguards, crash bars and Fastway pegs. Installing the Fastways was a real pain — the first one took close to two hours, the second took ten minutes. Lovely when you know what you’re doing, yes?
The Givi hard cases are cute, but not terribly robust and not very big. We looked over the cases on the market, and there are plenty. But based on the features we were looking for, it came down to the Jesses or the Touratechs. The Jesses, besides being stronger (made of thicker material), have a bit greater capacity than the Touratechs, so this wasn’t a difficult selection. They should provide her excellent service for many years. So…. here they are (see below). They have footman loops installed and Heather bought a set of Cee Bailey case liners (interior bags made to fit the cases), which should equip her to haul everything she ever needs and a good bit more.
The only significant additions remaining for this bike were a wolfman tank bag, a new Odyssey battery, Rox Risers (to raise the handlebars) and a high-end DID chain.
Final prep for both bikes was AirHawk seat pads, fresh brakes (trying out EBC double H pads), new tires, and change-out of ALL fluids top to bottom. Hope is that this’ll defer the first on-the-road service to Colombia.
After this much prep, it should be “ride ’em like we stole ’em!”