Category Archives: BMW

New Riding Gear

As I prepare for this year’s NY to CA trip, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the riding gear I’ll be using.  In the past, I pretty much just packed whatever gear I had and headed out on the road. This year, safety and comfort are the primary considerations and have led to a whole new outlook on riding gear.

This change really began late last summer soon after bringing the K1600GTL home.  It didn’t take long for me to come to the realization that the performance of the BMW was going to change how I ride.  Safety was going to become much more of a priority so I started with an HTC modular helmet and a Tour Master textile jacket with some basic body armor.

After riding for almost 7 years riding with a cheap half helmet, it took some time to get used to the full face helmet but after a couple of weeks, I had embraced it and became very comfortable wearing it.

The Tour Master jacket was easy to get used to.  In fact, it was warmer than my leather jacket in the cool weather and opening the vents allows your to control how much cool air flows through as it gets warmer.

Unfortunately, I find that the HJC helmet is quite noisy and has a somewhat cheap feel to it.  Not surprising really, it was only about $175 making it one of the lower priced modular helmets available.

With my vacation quickly approaching, I decided it was time to invest in some nice gear for this year’s cross-country trip.  I needed to address a couple of key areas – summertime comfort and better protection.

The first purchase was a flat black Schuberth C3 Pro helmet.  My research  indicated that this was one of the quietest modular helmets available.  The C3 Pro is an expensive helmet made with top notch materials and a nice feel of quality to it.  So far, I’m quite pleased with this helmet.  It’s quiet, comfortable, reasonably lightweight, and fits me quite well.

Next up was clothing.  I’m satisfied with the Tour Master jacket but it’s really intended for cooler weather riding.  Once the temperature gets up to around 80, there’s not enough airflow to remain comfortable.  I also have a Tour Master heated jacket liner and Tour Master rain suit.  I’m happy with these items and will continue using them.

First on the list of gear was a lighter and more summer oriented jacket.  I spent many hours looking at jackets online and settled on a Dainese Spedio D-Dry jacket.  This jacket is a combination textile jacket with mesh panels for airflow and a removable waterproof liner.  It comes with shoulder, elbow, and arm protectors and I added a Forcefield back protector to round out the armor.  It’s a good looking jacket that I hope will provide comfort and a reasonable amount of protection during the summer months.

Next on the list of protective gear was a set of riding pants.  I’ve never worn anything other than jeans while riding so riding pants are new to me.  I really didn’t want bulky pants so Dainese was once again the brand I ended up looking at and chose the D-System D-Dry pants.  These pants have a flap that opens near the knee to allow air to flow through them as well as a removable waterproof liner.  They also have good knee/shin armor and some thin hip padding.   I’m hoping that they flow enough air to keep me cool during the hot summertime weather.

The final bit of new riding gear was a pair of TCX X-Move waterproof boots and Joe Rocket gloves.  The boots are mid-cut boots with good ankle support and protection .  They look good and can be worn without looking like you are wearing motorcycle boots.

While style isn’t at the top of my list of priorities, it certainly was one of the criteria used when choosing all of this new gear.  I didn’t want gear that is bulky, baggy, or contains any high-visibility materials and clearly my choices of gear reflect this.  I know that I may be compromising some protection but I’m just simply not ready to go that far with gear right now.  Up until now, my summer riding gear has been jeans, t-shirt, a half-helmet, and occasionally some fingerless gloves so this is a major move in the right direction.  I really hope that all this new gear proves to be comfortable this summer.

New Tire Machine

With a little over 9,000 miles on my BMW K1600GTL, I’ve pretty much worn out a second set of tires.  At 5k miles per set, I’ll need at least 4 sets of tires each year so I went ahead and bought a Cycle Hill tire changer and static balancer. I should be able to save over $100 per tire change by doing it myself.  I haven’t tried it out yet but it’s bolted to the floor and ready to go.

The videos make the process look pretty easy so we’ll see how it goes.

Setting up a ridiculous electronics package.

Over the winter I started developing a plan to hook up a complete wireless electronics package on the K1600 GTL.  The bike has built-in bluetooth capabilities providing a foundation to build upon.   My goals were to have music, phone, navigation, and a CB radio all playing through a Bluetooth headset.

The list of devices includes:

1. All of the functions included on the bike –  AM/FM radio, iPod, satellite radio and BMW Navigator.
2. Galaxy S3 phone (cell phone and wifi hotspot)
3. Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus tablet (mp3 player, Pandora, Google Maps)
4. CB Radio

The first item I had to get was a Bluetooth headset.  I settled on a UClear HBC100 Helmet Communicator due to its small size, reasonable cost ($150), and its unobtrusive microphone.  After charging it up and installing it in the helmet, I paired it to the bike.  Locating the speakers inside the helmet took quite a bit of trial and error in order to get the best quality sound.   In the end, I guess I’d have to characterize the music quality as acceptable.

Now that the Bluetooth headset was working, it was time to add more devices.  When I take my cross-country trips, I like having a CB so that I can monitor traffic and road hazard reports from truckers.  I also find some of the conversations entertaining which helps to pass the time across the flat, straight, and boring midwest roads.  After some online research, I settled on a Midland model 75-822 handheld radio.  It’s a 40 channel battery-powered radio with a scanner and weather band radio built-in.

Mounting all of these electronic gizmos required a vast array of Ram mounts and cables.  I looked at what seemed like hundreds of types of  cables and mounting options and came up with a plan.  A couple of cables and splitters were routed from the aux port, under the body panels, and zip tied to the handle bars.  Short cords were used to hook up the tablet and CB.

With all of these battery-powered devices, I also needed to work out a charging solution so I also bought a dash mount dual USB charger, mounted it to the handlebars, and hard-wired it to the battery.

I now have all of my electronic gadgets mounted and powered.  Once the weather improves, I’ll go for a ride and see how everything works.

K1600 Seat Modification

I’ve put over 8,000 miles on the BMW since I got it in August 2012.  Overall I’ve found the K1600GTL to be very comfortable.  I like the position of the handlebars and have adjusted to the position of the foot pegs.  However, something needs to be done with the stock seat.

Initially I had some concerns about the foot pegs being directly underneath me but I quickly adapted to the new riding position and with the addition of the Illium engine guards and footpegs, I can stretch my legs when necessary.  I still think I prefer the feet-forward position of the Electra Glide on longer rides but the GTL is better than I thought it would be.  One thing I like about the GTL pegs is that you can stand up when going over railroad tracks or other bumpy patches of road.  With the floorboards on the Harley, you really can’t stand up easily.

On my 2010 Ultra Classic, I had the most comfortable motorcycle seat (Harley Hammock) that I’ve ever ridden on.  I could easily burn a full tank of gas without stopping or getting uncomfortable.  It was the perfect seat for me and even after 800+ mile days, I felt good at the end of the day.

The stock seat on the GTL isn’t horrible, but after about an hour, I start getting uncomfortable.  After 2 hours, I really need to stop and get off the bike and walk around for a few minutes.  I’m not looking forward to sitting on this seat when I head to California this summer.

Aftermarket seats of all shapes and sizes are plentiful for Harley’s but there seem to be very few options for the GTL.  The aftermarket seats for the GTL also seem to be rather expensive and require the use of your existing seat pan adding shipping costs and additional time to the process.

The main problem I have with the stock seat is that there seems to be a high spot running down the center of the seat.  This is the primary cause of discomfort for me.  I would also like the seat to be a bit softer – the stock foam is pretty firm.

I did some internet research and from what I found, it looks like modifying a seat is a project that can be done easily and inexpensively.  All you need is some foam, some spray glue, a sander to shape the foam, and a stapler to put the seat cover back on.  The DIY approach also allows for test fitting and adjustment to ensure that the seat is shaped just right for me.

Materials
———-
Spray adhesive – $6.00
1″ high density Foam – $20.00
1/2″ foam – $10.00
Staples – $3.00

Tools
——
Harbor Freight Air Sander – $15.00
Harbor Freight Air Stapler – $20.00

Dis-Assembly
————–
Start by removing the staples holding the seat cover in place.  I did this with a small flat blade screwdriver and needle nose pliers.  Since I only plan to modify the front part of the seat, I left some staples in and just moved the front part of the seat cover out of the way.

Once the seat cover was, out of the way, I unplugged the heating element and peeled the seat foam from the seat pan.  There was very little glue holding the foam to the seat pan so it came right out.

Next, I removed the top layer of 1/4″ foam and carefully peeled the seat’s heating element from the main chunk of seat foam.

Reshaping and Assembly
————————–
At first I tried to just reshape the existing foam but after sitting on the reshaped foam, I still didn’t feel real comfortable.  So, I found a local upholstery supply company and went ahead and bought a sheet of 1″ thick foam to add to the seat.  The foam I got is pretty firm and just slightly softer than the stock seat foam.

I went ahead and glued a layer of the 1″ foam on top of the existing foam and then used a sander to shape the top layer.  After a couple of test fittings, I was satisfied with the shape and decided that it was time to put everything back together.

I set the heating element on top of the newly sculpted foam and then glued a piece of the 1/2″ foam over the top of everything.  This thin layer of foam smooths everything out before fitting the vinyl back over the top of the foam.  Fitting the seat cover took some effort due to the added foam thickness.  As I stretched the cover over the edge of the seat pan, I stapled the edges to the seat pan making sure to work out the wrinkles.

The cover isn’t perfect due to the added foam and slightly different shape but overall, it looks presentable.  The whole job only took about 3-4 hours which isn’t too bad when you consider that this is the first time I’ve ever modified a seat.  Sitting on the bike in the garage, it feels good.  I’m looking forward to a nice long ride once the weather warms up.

First Round of Customizations for the K1600

Within the first couple of weeks after purchasing the BMW I added  a few basic items that I consider necessary for long distance riding.

A cup holder was the first thing that needed to be added.  It took a few days and some creativity to figure out how to mount a cup holder but in the end, I found an inexpensive bicycle cup holder and mounted it to the inside of the left hand fairing.  This actually worked out quite well because it’s easy to reach and did not require drilling any holes in my new bike.

The next thing I did was to replace the odd BMW power outlet with a standard 12v socket.  This was installed in the same location as the BMW power outlet and wired directly to the battery so that I can plug-in and charge my cell phone while the bike is parked.  The 12v socket is slightly larger than the BMW power outlet so I had to enlarge the hole slightly to get it to fit. Overall, it was a simple conversion that allows me to use existing 12v chargers and accessories without the use of an adapter.

The final task was to wire up a socket for my heated jacket and add a battery tender lead.

BMW K1600GTL

In mid-August of 2012 I sold my 2010 Harley Davidson Ultra Classic Limited and bought a 2012 BMW K1600GTL.  While most people were surprised at this radical change in bikes, it was something that I had been considering for close to a year.   While I enjoyed riding the Harley and found it to be an excellent long distance touring bike, I found myself looking at sport-touring bikes more and more.

I had two main reasons for moving away from the Harley – I wanted more power and water cooling.

During my 2012 NY to CA ride, I became frustrated with the lack of power provided by the Harley.  There were a number of times where, due to a stiff headwind, I had to downshift to 5th gear keep the bike going 75mph on flat Interstate highways.  You would think that a 103ci motor would be able to keep a steady speed when the motor is spinning at 3k rpms.  Even in 5th gear, the throttle had to be nearly wide open leading to very poor fuel mileage (29 mpg).

I also wanted a bike with water cooling.  Air cooling just doesn’t work well when sitting still in traffic at 90+ degrees.   All too often, the 103 motor goes into heat management mode shutting down the rear cylinder when stuck in traffic.  This can’t be good for the motor and makes it quite uncomfortable for the rider.

I sat on a couple of different bikes.  The Kawasaki Concours and the Yamaha FJR both seemed to have me leaning forward and putting weight on my wrists.  I prefer a more upright riding position and felt that leaning forward would be uncomfortable on long rides.  I then decided to stop by the BMW dealer to check out some of their bikes.

I liked the looks of the K1600’s and initially thought that the GT version would work out nicely.  After taking a 20 minute ride, I found that I was leaning a bit forward and would be putting weight on my wrists.  I  then took the GTL for a ride and really liked the relaxed and upright riding position.  Having my legs underneath me was a bit uncomfortable as I’m used to having my feet out in front of me on the Harley’s.

I was immediately impressed with the power of the GTL.  It has very good low-end power and really comes alive at around 5K.  Because of the wide power band, you can put it in a gear and just let the 6 cylinder motor pull you along without shifting.

I was also pleasantly surprised at how well the GTL handled corners. It feels like a much lighter bike that the 750 lb weight would suggest.  Switching between the various electronic suspension settings (comfort, normal, and sport) lets you tailor the ride to the road  without stopping to adjust shock settings.

After a 90 minute ride on the GTL, I was sold.  I went ahead and sold my 2010 Limited and then bought the 2012 K1600GTL.  My family and friends were surprised and somewhat confused at the switch from the Harley to a BMW.  There are very few similarities between the two bikes other than the fact that they both have 2 wheels and are meant for long distance touring.

I’ve had the BMW for about 3 months now and have come to appreciate all that the GTL has to offer.  I added engine guards and highway pegs so that I can stretch my legs when needed, added a cup holder, and replaced the odd BMW power outlet with a standard 12 volt outlet.

The 6 cylinder engine is simply incredible.  Its smooth, has very good low-end power and outstanding midrange and top end power.  As an added bonus, fuel mileage is about 3 mpg better than the Harley on average.  Twice the power and better fuel mileage – amazing.

The electronics are equally impressive allowing me to modify various ride qualities of the bike as conditions change.  I love being able to change the suspension dampening on the fly.  The only issue that I have now is that the seat isn’t all that comfortable so I’ll need to replace it at some point.

Put this all together and it’s an impressive piece of machinery that seems to do just about everything well.  Like all bikes, there are certain compromises and the  GTL is no exception.  It may not be quite as comfortable as the Ultra Classic or as fast and nimble as a sport bike but for me, it’s the perfect combination of performance and comfort.  I’m looking forward to putting many miles on it.