Category Archives: BMW

Test Ride – BMW 1200 GS

I went to the BMW dealer to get the right switch gear replaced and as it turned out, they didn’t have the part in stock.  So, they offered me a loaner bike and asked what I would like.  After going through some options, I decided it was about time to ride something with a boxer motor so I choose to take a 1200 GS.

The GS is a rather tall bike with wide handlebars.  I didn’t really have trouble touching the ground, but it was a bit of a stretch.  I was pleasantly surprised at how light the bike felt.  It looks like a good-sized bike and with all that motor sticking out the sides, I expected it to feel heavier.

The riding position seems to be similar to my Versys except that the GS is just bigger and roomier.  I liked the peg location and appreciated the leg room.  The seat seemed pretty comfortable and I suspect it would be just fine on a long trip.

Riding some of the back roads around my house I started getting a good feel for the bike.  The power comes on strong above 4K and gets you up to speed surprisingly quickly.  Low-end power could be a bit better and I did feel some vibrations from the motor but it wasn’t enough to bother me.

As far as the gearbox is concerned, shifting gave a nice positive feel although it was a bit loud and clunky when shifting.  The gears seemed well spaced and neutral was easy to find.

The suspension is great for the rough roads here in Upstate NY.  The shocks seemed to soak up all nasty bumps making it very pleasant and easy to ride on roads that are less than perfect.

One of the things about the boxer motor that I wasn’t fond of was the sound.  I know it’s silly but the sound of a motorcycle is important to me and I just don’t like the sound of the boxer motor.

Overall, I liked riding the GS.  It had good power, was comfortable, handled great, and felt a lot lighter than it looks.  After spending a day with it, I can certainly see why they’re so popular.

 

 

 

 

BMW Starter Switch

Well, it finally happened.  The starter switch on the BMW stopped working.  I’ve been lucky so far as this is a common problem with the K1600.  I had installed a new Shorai battery and then rode it to work a few days ago.  When I went out to go to lunch and tried to start the bike, pressing the starter switch did nothing.   Since the dashboard display and headlight came on, I was pretty sure the battery was fine.

Thankfully, I had saved some instructions to my phone describing how to bypass the starter switch by jumping a couple of terminals under a relay.  After finding some spare wire and touching the proper terminals, it started right up.

One of the suspected causes of the starter switch failure on these bikes is that the switch gets too hot while sitting out in the hot sun.  So, I draped a cool cloth over it to cool it down.  That didn’t work so I had to hotwire it again when it was time to go home.

Looks like its time to make an appointment to get the right switchgear replaced.  It seems to be working today so apparently its going to be an intermittent problem.

161,286 Miles and Counting

Recently, I was taking a look at some of the statistics I’ve gathered over the years and thought it would be interesting to share with everyone.  When I started riding, I never expected to accumulate so many miles in such a short period of time.  

Since purchasing my 2006 Harley Davidson Electra Glide Classic on May 9th, 2006 I’ve racked up a total of 161,286 miles between the four bikes that I’ve owned.  

 Miles by Bike
2006 Electra Glide (May 2006 – Feb 2014) 68,467
2010 Electra Glide Limited (Jan 2010 – Aug 2012) 60,429
2012 BMW K1600GTL (Aug 2012 – Feb 2014) 26,312
2013 Street Triple (Jul 2013 – Feb 2014) 6,078
Summary
Total Miles as of 2/21/14 161,286
Average Miles per Year  21,108

Here in Upstate NY, I actually end up riding about 8-9 months a year due to the cold and snow that we get. 

During the riding season, I commute back and forth to work almost every day.  I’m also out riding most Saturdays and Sundays.  This all adds up to quite a few miles.

Of course a good chunk of the miles I’ve accumulated are a result of the cross-country trips I’ve taken.  These trips have ranged from 7k-9k each year accounting for somewhere between 45k – 50k of the total miles I’ve ridden.  These long trips are the reason I really like big touring bikes.  

While averaging over 20k miles a year sounds pretty good, in some ways, averages can be deceiving.  If memory serves me right, the first couple of years I only averaged about 13k-14k a year.   This past year is the most miles I’ve done in a single year.   I’ve racked up 32k miles in 15 months (Aug 2012-Nov 2013) between the BMW (26k miles) and the Triumph (6k miles).     These two bikes are a lot of fun to ride.

I’ve spent countless hours enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells that only a motorcycle can provide.  I hope to be able to continue for many years to come.

Long Distance Riding – Packing for the Trip

Over the years I’ve gradually reduced the amount of stuff that I pack when I go for a long ride.  The first couple of years, I packed lots of stuff that I never used.  I found that the extra stuff I brought with me just added weight and made it more difficult to find the stuff that I really needed.  So, I now pack less and just stop at the local WalMart to buy whatever I need along the way.

I don’t put a lot of thought into what clothes I pack.  I just grab enough clothes for about a week and throw them into a bag. I bring a variety of clothes to account for the various extremes in weather including both hot and cold weather.  One thing you definitely want to bring is an extra pair of shoes so that you have a dry pair after a long run through heavy rain.

The riding gear you choose to bring with you needs to account for variations in weather.  If you’re going to be out on the road for any length of time, it’s going to rain so a good rain suit is essential.  Riding hundreds of miles in the rain is no fun, especially if your gear isn’t up to the task and you end up getting cold and wet.

Put any liquids such as toothpaste, shampoo, sunscreen, etc. into a plastic zip-lock bag.  That way, if there’s a leak, it’s contained within the bag and won’t get all over everything.  I learned this the hard way when a bottle of sunscreen cracked and got all over everything.

If your luggage isn’t waterproof, pack everything in plastic garbage bags to keep your stuff dry. You really don’t want to have to dry out all of you clothes after a long day of riding in the rain.  I also bring some extra plastic garbage bags to put dirty clothes in.

A heated jacket liner is great to have because it doesn’t take up much space and eliminates the need to bring other bulky cold weather gear.  I’ve ridden in some pretty nasty weather with my heated jacket liner and, along with rain gear, has proven itself to be one of the most important pieces of gear I have.

If you’re like me, you’re going to want to bring along a bunch of electronic devices.  Make sure you have all of the necessary chargers and cords.  Of course, any electronics need to be kept dry so make sure you pack them in waterproof containers or bags.

A few extra bungee cords or straps are nice to have and don’t take up much room.  Somehow, it seems like I always end up coming home with more stuff than I left with and need to strap extra junk to the bike.

You should bring along some basic tools and repair items just in case you have a problem on the road.  You should be able to fit all of this stuff in a small bag.  I would suggest the following:

  • – Assortment of wrenches, pliers, torx, allen wrenches
  • – An assortment of zip ties
  • – A roll of electrical tape, a few spare fuses and a small roll of wire
  • – Tire plugs and small 12v air compressor
  • – Pocket knife or other cutting tool

These are just some general thoughts and suggestions.  In the end, what you pack will depend on how far you’re going, weather conditions, and how much room you have for stuff.   One thing I cannot stress enough is to ensure that everything is packed in waterproof bags – it will rain if you are planning on any kind of extended trip.

Long Distance Riding – Bike Preparation

Before embarking on a long ride, you should do some basic bike preparation.  Once you start off on your epic journey, you want make sure that your ride will be as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.

Take a few long day rides in different weather conditions and note anything that you find annoying or uncomfortable.  Two day weekend rides can help to identify any weaknesses so that you can fix them before starting out on a long ride.  Small annoyances can become quite problematic when you spend multiple days on the road.

Depending on the bike you have, you may be able to tweak things like the position of footpegs or handlebars to make them more comfortable.  You might also discover that the seat that is fine for an hour or two becomes uncomfortable during longer rides.

When you spend a week or more out on the road, foul weather is inevitable.  Anything you can do to minimize the effects of poor weather will pay huge dividends in the long run.  Is your windscreen the right height to block wind and rain?   Are you able to adjust the windscreen to allow cool air to pass by when it gets hot outside?  Is your riding gear and luggage truly waterproof?  Anything you can do to address these issues before embarking will make your ride more tolerable when the weather turns bad.

Storage is important when travelling so you should do a test fit of the luggage and/or gear that you plan on taking with you so that you know how you’re going to attach everything to the bike.  If you think you’re going to be gathering souvenirs during your trip, have some extra space available.

Make sure that all of your gear can be mounted securely and isn’t going to shift around.  Any straps that flap around in the wind will scuff paint so make sure to trim them to the proper length.  Keep it simple and make it easy to attach and detach because after riding 10-12 hours you want to be able to quickly and easily unpack each night and then repack the next morning.

Finally, you’re going to want to do all of the routine maintenance before leaving.  Here are a few obvious things that you want to do or at least check before embarking on your long ride:

  • Fluid change (oil, transmission, rear differential, etc.)
  • Tires
  • Brakes
  • Chain/sprockets
  • Lights and turn signals
  • Check/replace coolant
  • Check overall condition, check critical fasteners, clean radiator fins, etc.

Fluid changes are relatively easy and inexpensive so there’s no reason not to do this before leaving.  There’s no harm in changing them even if you haven’t reached the normal service interval.

Tires are a bit trickier.  They’re expensive and may not be worn out when it’s time to start your trip.  You need to decide whether or not it’s worth spending money on a new set of tires now, or plan to change them while out on the road.  It’s certainly easier to change tires at home than it is to try to find a place with the right tires for your bike when you’re out on the road.

You might also want to consider fitting a different tire than you normally use.  If you generally use a sticky sport oriented tire, you may want to consider a sport touring tire that will provide higher mileage to extend the distance you can travel on a set of tires.

In addition to the unknown cost of replacing tires in some unknown city, it also takes time.  You’ll probably need about half a day to make the arrangements and get your tires changed which is time you won’t be riding.  For me, it’s not worth the hassle I did this once and the time lost getting a tire changed wasn’t worth saving a few dollars.

In closing, you want to do everything you can to make your ride comfortable and enjoyable before you commit to weeks on the road.    A bit of preparation ensures that you will be able to enjoy a nice comfortable ride without interruption.

Long Distance Riding – Choosing a Bike

Choosing the right bike for a long distance ride is going to be a very personal thing.  What’s important will depend on the type of riding that you’ll be doing.  If you remember back to the introductory post that I did, you’ll remember that I limit my travel to paved roads leading me towards certain types of bikes.  

Some of the features you want to look for when choosing a bike are:

  • Ergonomics (seat, bars, foot pegs)
  • Weather protection
  • Waterproof storage
  • Fuel range
  • Cruise control

Ergonomics

When you’re going to be on a motorcycle for 10-12 hours a day over the course of many days, one of the most important things is comfort.  It’s easy to get tired and can actually become dangerous if you’re feeling beat-up and sore from riding.  I’ve ridden two different Harley Davidson Electra Glides and my BMW K1600GTL from NY to CA and found that for me, the Harley’s were more comfortable.   There were times on the BMW where I was miserable for long periods of time due to shoulder/back pain.  It was not a pleasant experience.

Anything you can do to increase comfort will pay off big-time.  The right seat eases pressure on your backside, an adjustable backrest can be a great addition to a seat, highway pegs will allow you to stretch your legs, and handlebars that are right for you can ease shoulder pain.  These are some of the basic elements that can help to avoid a painful ride.

Weather Protection

When you go for a long ride, you can count on hitting some bad weather.  Bad weather can be rain, cold, heat, or wind.  None of these is pleasant without proper weather protection and quality riding gear.

For rain and cold, a windshield, lower fairings, heated grips, and heated seat are all great at minimizing the effects of bad weather.  If you’re cold and wet, riding can become dangerous so anything you can do to avoid this unpleasantness helps you to continue down the road rather than constantly needing to stop to warm up.  Good waterproof gear or a quality rain suit is necessary when riding in rain and can be surprisingly helpful in the cold too.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, riding in hot desert conditions is actually more comfortable with a mesh jacket that provides good airflow while keeping perspiration in and the hot sun off of your bare skin.  Combined with a good under layer made with one of the many cooling fabrics available (such as Under Armor), you can stay surprisingly comfortable as long as you keep moving and air flowing.

When riding in just a t-shirt in the dry desert air, your sweat evaporates immediately and provides absolutely no cooling effect.  Painful sunburn is also a constant threat if your skin is not covered.  Sunscreen can help, but it’s better to avoid the hot sun altogether.  Additionally, a t-shirt provides absolutely no crash protection.

Wind protection is quite important when travelling at 75 mph on interstate highways for obvious reasons.  It’s nice not to constantly be fighting the wind.

Waterproof Storage

You don’t just need storage, you need waterproof storage.  After riding for hours in heavy rain, you really want to have dry clothes to put on.  Even with the best rain gear, if you ride in the rain for long enough, water always seems to find it’s way into places that you don’t want it to be.

Hard luggage that is designed for the bike is probably the best solution to waterproof storage.  Both my Harley’s and my BMW have hard side bags and top case and I’ve never had a problem with water getting into them.  On the other hand, even with raincovers, some of the soft luggage I’ve used has become damp inside after riding for hours in the rain.

Fuel Range

For many parts of the US, fuel range isn’t much of an issue – you may just need to stop more often.  However, when you get out into some of the more remote areas of the American West, it’s not uncommon to travel 100 miles or more between gas stations, even on Interstate Highways.

I would have to say that the absolute minimum fuel range if you’re planning a trip out West is 150 miles.   I’ve seen distances of 160+ miles between gas stations through parts of Nevada.

With higher speed limits and heavy headwinds, your fuel mileage may be significantly lower that what you’re used to.  A good stiff headwind could lower your fuel mileage by 10 mpg or more which can reduce your range by 50 or more miles.

With my BMW, I typically average around 40-42 mpg when I’m at home with 55-65 mph speed limits.  When I travel in areas with 75 mph speed limits, mileage drops to the mid 30’s and if you add a stiff headwind, I’ve seen as low as 28 mpg at times.   With the 7 gallon tank, total range varies from 280 miles down to only 190 miles when riding fast into a headwind.  My Harley’s were about the same but with a smaller capacity tank, my 2006 Harley’s theoretical maximum range with a 5 gallon tank could be as low as 140 miles.

Keep fuel range in mind when planning routes and don’t underestimate the effect of heavy wind on fuel mileage.  When riding in the American West, it’s a good idea to stop and top off your tank at every gas station.

Cruise Control

I guess some people would consider cruise control a luxury that you could do without.  However, the ability to let go of the handlebar and relax your right hand and arm make it easier to ride for hours at a time without your hand getting stiff.

Choosing a Bike

There are many different bikes that you can choose to ride with the obvious choices being the large touring bikes such as Gold Wings, Electra Glides, and various BMW models.  The downside of these bikes are their weight.  These are big heavy bikes, some of them are over 900 lbs.  For ultimate long distance comfort, it’s hard to beat one of the big touring bikes.

Sport Touring bikes such as the Yamaha FJR and Kawasaki Concours are another obvious class of motorcycle that have most/all of the features that you need.  They are reasonably comfortable and have the added benefit of being lighter and providing better performance and handling than the big touring bikes when the roads get twisty.

Of course, you may already have a bike that you like and just need to add a few things in order to make it comfortable for long hauls.  Either way, comfort, weather protection, waterproof storage, and the ability to move around are elements that will make your journey more enjoyable.

I’ve contemplated taking my Street Triple on a long trip – probably not all the way to California but maybe 1,000 – 1,500 miles from home.  I would adjust my daily distances down to 300-400 miles a day and stop more frequently.

In the end, any bike will do, but a more comfortable bike will make your journey that much more enjoyable.

Mid October Ride

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a fellow K1600 rider who is making a 50 state tour on his BMW.  We wanted to see if we could meet up as he passed through Upstate NY and ride together for a few miles.  After a few emails to coordinate the meeting, I took the day off from work and met Chuck in Wilmingtom VT at about 9 am on 10/17/13.

After introducing ourselves, Chuck took a quick photo to document our meeting and we headed out.  We took some nice back roads towards North Adams MA and then into Williamsburg MA where we stopped to take some pictures of the Williams College campus.  Williams College has plenty of well beautiful and well maintained colonial buildings.  It’s a great place to see classic New England architecture.

We left Massachusetts and headed Southeast toward Catskill NY.  When we arrived in Catskill, we stopped stopped for gas and planned the next part of the ride.  The weather was warming up nicely by now and it was into the low 70’s – quite warm for mid October.

We set out towards Kingston to get on to Rt 209.  At about 3:00, we stopped at a nice little Mexican restaurant for lunch and some more relaxed conversation.   Chuck ‘is another rider who had previously been riding Harley’s before switching to the K1600.

After lunch, we continued down Rt 209 toward PA.  We reached Port Jervis at about 5:00 pm and soon after crossing into PA, I decided it was time for me to head back home.  We pulled over to the side of the road near a small motel to say goodbye.   As we went to shake hands, my bike rolled backwards a little bit, my foot slipped, and I dropped the bike over onto its right side.  Chuck quickly helped me to get the bike back upright and we parted ways.

If you’re reading this Chuck, it’s OK to laugh, I certainly did.  What a memorable way to say goodbye!  I hope the rest of your journey is safe and snow free.

My Favorite Bike

When people find out that I have three bikes, they inevitably ask me which one I like best.  This generally results in me having  to explain that I really don’t have a “favorite” bike.  Each bike is different and is used for a different purpose.

The Electra Gide is comfortable and generally quite relaxing to ride.  The Rinehart true dual exhaust and amplified stereo ensures that everyone hears me coming from afar.  The Harley is a motorcycle that has a classic feel to it that makes it a great bike to ride.  With 68K miles, my 2006 Electra Glide has been 100% reliable and has never leaked a drop of oil.  It’s definitely not fast, corners poorly compared to my other bikes, and the brakes are just OK.  This is the bike I ride when I just want to slow down, relax and enjoy the scenery.

The Street Triple R is my sport bike.  It’s the bike I’ve been riding the most lately because its lightweight, powerful, handles great, and has terrific brakes and is an incredibly easy bike to ride.  While long rides are not out of the question, the Triumph’s suspension is firmer and  focused on performance rather than comfort.  In short, it’s everything that the Harley is not.  Its’ the bike I ride when I just want to have fun.

The BMW K1600 has to be the star of the bikes I own.  Every time I ride the BMW I marvel at just how good it is.  It’s fast, comfortable, corners great, stops brilliantly, and has every electronic gizmo you could imagine.   The 6 cylinder motor is amazing – very good low-end power with amazing high rpm power as well.  Sure, there are more powerful engines, but when you can go from 35 mph to 135+ mph in 6th gear on a 750lb motorcycle, that’s impressive.  The suspension/handling is equally impressive and amazingly flexible due to the ESA.  The electronic suspension adjustment (ESA) allows you to have a very soft and plush ride on the interstate highways and then, with a couple of button presses, switch to firmer settings to handle the twisty roads.  Really, the only downside to the BMW that I can come up with is that it’s heavy to move around in the garage and parking lots.  I ride the BMW when I want the comfort, weather protection,  and storage of the Harley with the performance of a sport bike.  It’s got to be one of the best all-around bikes ever made.

So there  you have it. Three bikes for three different riding moods.

 

Day 17 – 6/15/13

I made it home Saturday night around 8:40 pm after one final 800+ mile day.  The weather was perfect for riding and traffic was never a problem.

As I reflect on this years ride, I have to say that the Electra Glide is more comfortable for me than the BMW for those long stretches of Interstate highway that need to be traversed in order to get out West.  However, once i got to the mountains, the BMW was fabulous.  The power, handling, and brakes are great especially for a bike this size.

My back and neck bothered me almost constantly making it uncomfortable for most of the ride.  I suspect that some changes to the seat and/or handlebars will be necessary to resolve these comfort issues.  I wasn’t prepared for this because I never experienced this with my local rides.  It could also be that the new helmet that I started wearing a week or two before this ride contributed to my neck pain.   It’s also possible that the additional hour or so between fuel stops is just too much time between stops.  The 7 gallon gas tank typically has me riding for 3-4 hours between fillups compared to 2-3 hours on the Harley.  Once I figure out the cause of this back/neck pain, the BMW will be perfect.

The BMW was surprisingly good in the windy conditions riding across the plains.  It handles the wind much better than the Harley.   The windy conditions still push the bike around, but it doesn’t seem to affect the BMW as much.   When there’s a string headwind, the BMW just pushes right through the wind,  The Harley often struggled to keep its speed when driving into a headwind.

When you get to the mountains, the BMW head and shoulders above the Harley.  This is where the BMW really shines.  The power of the 6 cylinder motor allow you to pass slow moving vehicles very quickly.  Passing slow vehicles with the Harley requires more planning and distance.   The BMW goes around corners so much better than the Harley and powering out of one corner toward the next one is a blast on the GTL  I still haven’t come anywhere near the limits of this machine.  I still haven’t scraped the footpegs and there’s still about 3/4″ of unused rubber on the sides of the tires so I know there’s more lean angle than I’ve been willing to use.

I rode must of the way from NY to CA with the throttle set to rain mode and the suspension set to normal or comfort.  When I got to Kaydee’s house, I took all of the bags off, and switched to Dynamic and Sport mode and the bike transforms into a machine that just begs to go for a spirited ride on the Ortega Highway.   Twisty mountain roads are where this bike really shines.

I’m probably an average rider and more cautious than I need to be because I really don’t want to crash and hurt myself.  I’ve ridden the Ortega Highway on the Harley and always felt that simply keeping up with traffic was a bit scary and pushed myself and the Electra Glide pretty near its limits.  However, the BMW is just so easy to ride in the twistys that the cars seemed slow and I was excited  to blow by them anytime I got a chance to do so safely.  Passing power is amazing and actually requires some restraint because the acceleration is amazing on this bike.

Another great road that I rode on was Angel’s Crest Highway.  I was fortunate to ride this road on a weekday when there was very little traffic and for the most part, I had the road to myself.  This highway is about 60 miles long and has very few straight roads.  It’s almost all winding mountain roads with everything from 10-20 mph hairpin turns to nice easy sweeping turns.  There were a few sections where there were rocks in the road but for the most part, it was a nice smooth road that is easy to have fun on.  I’ll definitely ride this road again.

One of my biggest worries about the BMW was tire life.  I’m pleased to say that the Michelin PR3’s did just fine.  With a bit over 7,000 miles on them, both the front and rear tires still look pretty darn good.  I should be able to use them for at least a couple more weeks commuting back and forth to work.  I’m pretty sure that they’re good for another 500-1,000 miles.

I also traveled with motorcycle pants, jacket, gloves, boots, and a full-face helmet this year.  In the past, it was basic jeans and t-shirt along with a half-helmet and gloves if my hands got cold.  I have to say that riding with all of the gear wasn’t all that bad.  It got hot when it was 95+ degrees but even in jeans and a t-shirt it’s hot so there really wasn’t much of a difference.  Another benefit is that since I was basically covered from head-to-toe, I didn’t need multiple applications of sunscreen to protect my bare skin.

This was my 6th trip to CA and I visited some familiar places although riding the BMW made this years ride different – more enjoyable in some ways, but less enjoyable in other ways.  For general Interstate travel, the Harley is more relaxed and comfortable.  However, if you happen to hit slow traffic, the Harley is just miserable due to the excessive engine heat.  The BMW never really gets uncomfortably hot even in stop-and-go traffic.  Once you get to the mountains, there’s simply no comparison – the BMW wins by a large margin.

Total miles for this year’s trip was 7,213.  For next year, I hope to have the comfort issues worked out.  If I can do that, the BMW will be the ultimate long distance bike.

Day 16 – 6/14/13

It was just a long ride across I70 today.  Nothing much to write about as it was mostly straight Interstate highway riding.  I did a little over 800 miles today and should be home sometime tomorrow night.  The weather was good with temps in the high 80’s and low 90’s and I didn’t hit to much traffic.  The areas of road construction that I rode through moved along rather nicely.

I stopped for the night in Cloverdale Indiana, about 40 miles from Indianapolis.