Update written after our trip finished. All the mods etc shown below worked fine with one exception. In Alaska we found that the heated vests (see under ‘charging leads below’) weren’t as good a solution as we thought. Basically, they keep your trunk warm which means you just notice how cold your arms are even more! So, whilst in Canada we bought heated jacket liners with sleeves. These are much better than vests! Now we find we only need to wear a t-shirt, heated liner, and our riding jackets (without quilted liners) and in most conditions we’re fine. If particularly cold or mucky weather we just put our water/wind proof jackets and troos on and we were really comfy and warm. In essence, don’t bother with heated vests, just get sleeved heated jacket liners and be done with it. (by the way, mine came with heated gloves aswell. Initially I scoffed at these but you know what – bloody marvellous bit of kit, my hands were so comfy and warm; I’m a convert to heated gloves.
(BMW GSA 1200 Adventure)
Known variously as Dirty Bertie (his usual state), Shirty Bertie (playing up), Squirty Bertie (leaking) or Flirty Bertie (parked next to a particularly attractive bike).
Carries 2 people and luggage well – sits happily at motorway speeds fully loaded 2 up
Very comfortable, handles very well on road and well for a heavy bike, off-road.
Good mpg for a big bike (46 mpg off road, 54 mpg easy riding up to 60mph ish, 50 mpg motorway speeds).
Bags of character
Not many bikes will carry two adults and all their kit, eat up motorway miles then take you off road to a wild camp site!
Finish/build quality poor in places. Fastenings, especially on brake calipers, rust. Had a failure of rear suspension at 22K miles and a failed Throttle Position Sensor at 26K miles. (Update Dec ’14 in Argentina – sidestand switch failed, bike cuts out when you put it into gear whether stand is up or down – easy fix, known problem) Are these failures really acceptable for a premium product with a premium price tag????
Parts are expensive. Servicing is also expensive if you use a BMW Motorad dealer.
It ain’t pretty! (So if you like a pretty or shiny bike, this isn’t it)
Modifications/preparation for trip
WILBURS SUSPENSION (ESA 2 Compatible) – REVS, Halesowen
The BMW OEM rear unit failed at 22K miles and was not repairable (the OEM part is a non repairable and non serviceable sealed unit). We wanted to upgrade the suspension anyway so went for Wilburs and had the front replaced at the same time. Springs are rated specifically for the type of riding you’re expecting to do and the weight you’ll normally carry. The ride quality was immediately improved! Although the cost made us gulp (£1,200 all in) we felt the suspension was one area we had to upgrade considering the roads we’ll ride and the 2 up weight of a fully loaded GSA. Note – Wilburs suspension is fully ESA compatible and is serviceable and repairable.
EXTENDER, front mudguard.
Keeps a lot of muck of the exhaust cross pipe/engine.
BASH PLATE, Touratech full size. http://tinyurl.com/otbyurg
This provides more protection than the standard sump guard. Curved sides and front edge protect the exhaust and extra length protects the catalytic converter where the pipes go two into one. After a few off-road & stony track rideouts the scratches and scrapes on the underside of the plate testify to it’s effectiveness.
OIL RADIATOR GUARD
Fabricated from a metal cutlery tray purchased in Poundland (Jenny’s idea). Saved us some money but not sure how big a hit it would take. On the other hand at least one of the expensive ones available online says that in hot weather the guard may cause some overheating and if that happens you should stop until the engine’s cooled down; don’t think we’ll have that problem.
WINDSCREEN EXTENDER for tall guys (see photo below)
Garmin Zumo 660 using Garmin and OpenSource Mapping. Waterproof and touch sensitive screen with or without bike gloves on. Excellent piece of kit and if we want voice instructions it bluetooths to our helmet intercoms. Don’t use the voice often but it is handy in busy towns/cities when your eyes are everywhere. We’ve used this for years and would buy it again. For the trip we’ve successfully downloaded Open Source Mapping for most of South America with no problem and hope to download similar for Central and North America nearer the time we need it.
SATNAV BRACKET, lockable.
We’ve used this for over 3 years in UK & Europe. Before this we had a standard non-lockable RAM mount and so we used to take the Satnav off the bike nearly every time we stopped in populated areas – a pain.
ROUTE CARD HOLDER
Home made with a RAM mount and the base of a washing up bowl – sorry about your bowl Jenny. Great for writing routes or memo’s on as we prefer to use maps etc rather than the Satnav wherever possible.
Two Army PLCE pouches sprayed black to ‘demilitarise’ them. Handy for odds and sods such as bottles of water, stowing spare bits of kit or clothing quickly. (Lined with a waterproof bag of some sort they’re even handier)
HANDLEBAR RISERS – ROX (it’s that tall guy again).
These made a big difference to my comfort. Still difficult to get the perfect position that suits ‘sit down’ and ‘on the pegs’ riding positions but much better than before I had the risers when the lower height of the bars meant I was leaning too far forward/down.
12V CHARGER on handlebars.
Combines with a 4 x USB adapter to keep gadgets going. We could probably come up with a more elegant solution to this but haven’t yet.
For Keis heated vests x 2 (the leads are fitted permanently to the battery terminals). We opted for vests rather than sleeved jackets. Obviously not as warm as a full size heated jacket but a good compromise for packing down when not in use (notably less bulky than the sleeved jacket). They work so well we have never used them on full heat. If you get one of these ensure you get the controller with them (our dealer included controllers for free). Without the controller you will get very hot.
REPLACEMENT BATTERY. Odyssey heavy duty.
Because that’s what people said to get (!) and our battery had 28,000 miles under it’s belt – the idea is we shouldn’t have to worry about the battery causing any problems during the entire trip.
SHEEPSKIN SEAT COVERS
Fashioned from cast offs from a sheepskin shop in Ambleside; (RIP Shaun the Sheep). We can definitely last longer before getting numb bums so our initial assessment is they do work. (eaten by 2 dogs at a hotel near Lago Viedma Argentina! Replaced with genuine Patagonian Sheepskins)
Keeps crud off rear suspension and rear frame area. Actually works very well. (which is just aswell because the standard BMW rear mudguard fell off in Argentina. It couldn’t hack the vibrations from the ripio roads – apparently they always fall off!!)
LOCKABLE TOOLBOX, GSEmotion.
Really handy little box and it fits into the otherwise unused space behind the RH pannier. We won’t overload it with weight (after all it is hanging onto the same rack as the panniers and anything on the back rack) but it’s good for our puncture repair kit, rags etc. Lockable opening sprayed black so once the RH pannier is fitted the box is less obvious to the eye.
Other mods/adjustments made
Riders pegs, rubbers removed for better grip
Pillion footpegs, replacement item designed & fabricated by Zen Overland as a one-off. Unlike the riders pegs (with rubbers removed), the pillion pegs on the GSA are not suitable for stand up riding. On the original footpegs Jenny found that her feet were slipping a lot.
Exhaust flap, disconnected. This flap is apparently designed to close at low ‘ish’ revs to keep the exhaust noise down and then open at higher revs for a nicer ‘noise’. Ours seized into the closed position and as a BMW replacement was expensive I just disconnected it. By disconnecting the servo for it aswell, the bike doesn’t keep going through a self test routine every time we start up. Other than flagging up an unresolved ‘fault’ code on the diagnostics it has made no difference to the way the bike runs that I can discern.
Modifications planned but not carried out yet
Replacement horn (loud!) Now fitted – FIAMM Master Blaster 119db.
Alarm with movement sensor. Cancelled, decided not to fit one after all.
Heidenau K60 Tyres; photo shows 17″ rear. http://www.motorcycleproducts.co.uk/heidenau-150-70-tb-17-tyre-k60-enduro-p-198713.html