Bike Modifications


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May 31, 2002
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Dereham, Norfolk, today...
27th July

I’ve received several PMs & Emails asking about various modifications I’ve made to my bike, in preparation for, and during, this trip. Since I have a few days off the road here in Portland, I thought I’d post a few notes and pictures.

The bike is a BMW R1150GS Adventure. I bought it, new, in March 2002. The bike was a cancelled order, so my choice of options on it was limited (for my American & Antipodean readers, most of the standard equipment on the Adventure marketed in your countries, are options in the UK). The previous ‘owner’ had specified a small fuel tank, no ABS and a ‘standard’ gearbox (this means it had the same 1st gear as the standard GS, but had the slightly lower top gear of the Adventure). He’d also specified heated grips, but no crashbars. My dealer (erroneously) told me that the headlamp protector and fog lights came as standard.

The deal I cut was for the large tank to be retro-fitted; Lind BMW agreed to supply the fog lights and headlamp protector (top dealer :thumb, alas, no longer dealing in bikes); Adventure crashbars would also be retro-fitted.

After 20,000 miles on the bike, trying various combinations of accessories to try to ‘tune’ it to my needs, I managed to find a carefully laid diesel slick on a dark roundabout in December 2002. The result was a Pylon fracture to my right leg, which is now held together with various bits of titanium. I was off the road for the best part of 5 months, during which time I project-managed the rebuild of the bike, changing much of the equipment I’d had fitted thus far. The bike that came out of the workshop in May 2003 was very similar to the one I’m riding now…

In no particular order…

The seat: I tried to get used to the original Adventure seat, but could not. I had the seat re-covered, re-profiled and re-vamped 3 times before giving up. I’d ridden a friend’s standard GS a bit and preferred that seat, so found someone on the UKGSer board who wanted to do a swap and switched seats (this involves switching luggage racks as well). This was a little better, but not much. I tried Melvyn Hunter’s gel mesh conversion, but it didn’t extend the pain barrier. In the end, I was lucky enough to find a Bill Mayer seat for sale in the UK and snapped it up. If there was just one accessory I could take with me to my next GS, this would be it. 200 mile between stops? No problem. 500 mile days in hot weather? Quite comfortable. An excellent bit of kit. :thumb


The handlebars. The other accessory I’d take, if I could only have 2… I bought these Pro-Taper aluminium handlebars and mounts from Ricardo Kuhn, who many of you will know from this site. Not only are they beautifully made (the mounts have to be seen…


to be fully appreciated), but they make an enormous difference to my comfort on even short journeys. When I’ve ridden a GS with BMW bars on, I’ve been amazed that I put up with them so long. They’re not cheap, but they are definitely good value – plus Ricky is one of the nicest blokes to do business with you’re ever likely to meet…


Lights. The lights on both the standard GS and the Adventure are identical – and equally appalling. The BMW fog lights were sacrificed (very easily – they are not strongly constructed) to the diesel spill, so I replaced them with something a little more hardy. To aid dipped beam, I fitted two PIAA 910 Fog Lights.


Fog lights have a flat beam pattern which can be aligned to that of the dipped beam headlamp, thus giving greatly improved illumination without dazzling oncoming road users. They work through an ‘Autoswitch’, allowing me to switch them off if required. I ride with dipped beam and these two lights on during the day. The lights are fitted on a titanium bar, made by Mica Tech.

To augment the Main Beam, I’ve fitted a pair of PIAA 1200 Driving Lights.


These have a pencil beam and are aimed to fill in the gaps in the original lighting. Despite their diminutive size, they are amazingly bright.

All these lights work through a series of relays which results in the following light configurations:

Dip Beam – Standard dip plus both Fog Lights
Main Beam – Standard Main Beam plus both Driving Lights (the Fogs go out).

Although I try to avoid driving during the hours of darkness in the USA whenever possible (too much wildlife on the roads), the improvements to the lighting allows me the capability to move rapidly at night if required.

Headlight and Oil Cooler Guard. This is made in the USA by a firm called Top of the Line. They have no UK importer, as far as I know. The grille provides protection against the scatter of gravel from logging trucks on gravel roads. I’d like to get a similar form of protection for the other lights.


Plus, of course, they make the bike look like it belongs to Darth Vader…

Footpegs. Because I’m fairly long-legged, I fitted a pair of footpeg lowerers (is that a word?)…


…made by Verholen. They allow my legs to be slightly less bent, helping with long distance riding, as well as making it easier to stand up and ride the bike when negotiating rough surfaces.

Indicators. Rather than the protuberant standard indicators, I fitted mini-indicators from Touratech.


They are cheap and made of a rubber-like material, which means they were undamaged when the bike went over in Glacier – the standard ones would probably have been broken.

Crashbars. The original Adventure Crashbars were not only hugely expensive (over £500 to replace), but ineffective – in a low speed slide, they allowed one of my rocker covers to get holed – effectively stopping the ride. I replaced them with these…


…from Hepco & Becker, which acquitted themselves very well in the Glacier Park ‘topple’.

Sidestand. The standard Adventure sidestand is too short and has too small a ‘foot’ on it, allowing it to sink into soft ground. I fitted a wider ‘foot’, made by Wunderlich, and , after the ‘topple’, had the base extended by welding a pad of alloy to the bottom…


‘Bash Plate’ extender. I fitted this alloy sheet over the centre stand so, when it was up, it protects the gearbox. Judging by the scars it now bears, it was worth fitting .:D


Mirrors. The stock mirrors weren’t bad, but showed me large parts of my elbows in great detail. I found these…


…in a catalogue in UK. They are made by B&M, who make the original BMW mirrors, but have a wide-angle ‘blind spot’ section, which is very handy. They are a pig to fit, as you have to remove the threaded stem from the right hand mirror and re-drill, re-thread and insert a threaded stud into the mirror stem. Pain in the bum to do (cost about $30 from a local machine shop), but well worth the improvement in rear visibility.

Steering Head Protector. Also called the ‘Touratech Hard Part’, this is designed to protect the steering head in case of a drop at high speed and/or high weight…


It’s designed to stop the front brake line being pinched between the suspension wishbone and the fork leg, too…


…however, I’ve noticed that the rubber ‘bump stops’ have become perished and have fallen off – I’ll get some replacements at a hardware store tomorrow.

Screen. I tried a variety of different ideas, before settling on the MRA Vario Screen…


I’d had one of these fitted to my Honda ST1100 and had been pleased with it. It’s adjustable to allow for various weathers and temperatures. The stock screen produced very unpleasant buffeting when riding. Although this was improved by fitting the MRA, I also fitted Tobinators…


…which allow an infinite variety of positions for the screen. After much trial and error, I’ve found the perfect position for me…:thumb

Side Panels. The GS doesn’t have side panels as standard. This leaves the rear brake fluid reservoir exposed. I fitted these panels, from Boxer Design, and had them sprayed to match the tank. I’ve put a power socket on the left one. The switch is redundant – it used to power the heating element in a previous seat.


Panniers. I’ve tried Touratech Zega Bags, which were OK, but didn’t survive the diesel nearly as well as I would have wanted. During the re-build, I fitted Jesse Odysseys, which were very successful, but I’d made the mistake of ordering them in black – which cooked anything you left in them if you were travelling in hot sunshine. I had, therefore, decided to paint them silver, but investigated Vern’s Worldbeaters as well.


I worked out that I could sell the Jesse’s for the same price I could buy the Worldbeaters, which could be made to order. I’ve documented in detail the problems I’ve had with the bags elsewhere in the journal, so I won’t harp on about it now – suffice to say, I’d go back to Jesse’s, given a free exchange, and if I weren’t in the middle of the trip (and therefore committed to the amount of gear I’m carrying). One item I kept when I sold the Odysseys, was the rear pack…


…which holds most of my tools, plus a puncture repair kit, bungee net etc.

Exhaust extension. Directly linked to the problems with the panniers, this is an extension I had fitted to the exhaust to deflect gases away from the pannier, to avoid damaging the contents. It’s welded directly to the inside of the stock silencer.


GPS. I started the trip with a Garmin Streetpilot III, which was, and is, a perfectly usable GPS. However, I got bitten by the ‘new toy bug’ at Daytona Bike Week and the option of 20% discount from Chicago BMW, Paul & Mandy buying my SPIII from me, plus a favourable exchange rate…


…found me in possession of a BMW Navigator II. Very nice bit of kit :thumb. I’ve got it fitted on one of MiGSel’s RAM Mounts…


…which positions it perfectly, just above the speedometer. The only drawback I’ve found with it is that it tends to ‘lose satellite reception’ more often than the SPIII, probably because it has an internal aerial – I’m considering fitting a remote aerial lead…

Mudflap. Inelegant, but effective…


I think I bought this on EBay. It’s originally designed to fit on the rear mudguard of an Airhead BMW – but does its job very efficiently here.

While we’re talking mud – these are mudflaps designed to protect your feet…


…which work very well in cold or wet weather. Also shown is the extended ‘foot’ I put on the rear brake lever – also from Wunderlich.

That’s about it, for now – I’ll probably re-read this and remember a dozen other things I’ve done and then do another post…

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