About the bikes

For those of you curious about our bikes, I think it is about time to write a bit about them.
To start, my bike (the red one) is named Irmtraube and is a 2001 BMW F650GS with about 9000 miles on it. I bought her back in 2008 with only 700 miles on her from a friend.
Megan's bike, Gigi Cavaliero, is a black 2009 BMW G650GS with about 5000 miles on her. We bought her new back in June from Ride West BMW in Seattle. The G is essentially the same as my F. Almost all the parts are the same.
Both bikes have ABS (antilock brakes), heated hand grips, and grip protectors.

Single Cylinder
In the motorcycle world they are what is referred to as a thumper. A thumper is a single cylinder motorcycle that because of having only one piston makes a thumping sound. Being german motorcycles, the sound is not a loud thump but rather a muffled diggida-diggida-diggida sound with a bit of low end bass.

The main advantage of a thumper, as I see it (and very well could be wrong), is that there is only one cylinder which translates to less maintenance. There are less parts to break and only one set of shims to adjust. People also say that it is lighter and has more low end torque (power when going slow) than bikes with more pistons. The lighter thing doesn't matter too much since we are loading it down with all our gear, but I suppose it could be nice if get the ladies stuck somewhere. The low end power will be nice on steep hills (they were great in San Francisco) and gunk.
The disadvantages of a thumper is that it can't go as fast (I don't care about that) and it is a much more vibraty which translates to shorter days of riding.

Why we got BMWs
BMW bikes are known the world over as some of the most technical bikes you can buy. They are generally owned by engineers and techie types. They cost about 30% more than other comparable bikes on the market, but the engine reliability more than makes up for it (in my opinion). Of course, parts cost more too, but hopefully we won't have to deal with that too much. From what I can tell, the main things that fail on our bikes are suspension, steering column bearings and possible a water pump. Beyond that we just have to do regular maintenance like changing the oil, keeping the chain very lubed, and just keeping an eye on nuts and bolts (literally).
Beyond the mechanical reasons to get a BMW, there is also the community reason. BMW riders are fanatical about their bikes. Anyone who has (or who ever has had) a BMW moto falls in love with them and wants to bond with other people who have them. We have experienced countless interactions with people who just want to chat because we have BMW motorcycles. Just the other day, we were on the street flushing the brake fluid through our bikes and a guy from Brazil and his kid were in the park playing with a fancy radio controlled car. They came up to us and asked us about our bike and the kid kept saying "I love BMWs." We shared our small allen wrenches with them and chatted about bikes for a while.  This happens a lot.

I am not a big on customizing a bike. I just don't know what to do and don't particularly love doing major customization (I'm not a typical BMW rider in that sense). I trust that the bike was built well enough for the trip we are taking so I don't really feel like there is much to modify. In an ideal world, I would have sucked up the $1200/ bike for aftermarket Ohlins rear suspension, but I will wait for the current suspension to fail before I do that.

  • Front fork protectors from Touratech. To protect the exposed suspension from rock chips
  • Engine guards from Touratech (although we can only put the right one on megan's G650GS)
  • Aluminum Paniers- one set from Happy Trails, one set from Touratech
  • Metzeler Tourance Tires. High mileage (10,000 miles) 85% on tarmac, 15% off road tires.
  • AGM Maintenance free battery for my bike. I needed a new battery and I might as well get a maintenance free one.
And that is it. Maybe I will come to regret this, maybe not. I'll keep you posted.

Spare Parts
There is a balance one must take between being prepared and adventure (that is what we are calling it when things go wrong). I did a lot of research on f650.com and other sites about what to bring down and decided in the end to bring to bring good tools and some maintenance items, but beyond that rely on good old Fedex.

  • spare rear spocket and two front sprockets. (I left the chain at home since our chain is readily available worldwide.
  • 2 oil filters per bike with sump plug crush washers (these are hard to find).
  • 3 spark plugs (megan's bike has two, mine has one) and one cap for my bike
  • 1 air filter
  • spare crucial nuts and bolts (especially the subframe bolt).
  • Two sets of front and back brake pads. We need to be able to stop efficiently, now don't we.
    • The standard BMW tool kit that came with my bike. 
    • Proxxon Engineers Socket set. This thing is sweet!
    • 13mm spanner, adjustable spanner (0-30mm)
    • 5mm and 8mm allen wrenches
    • Wire cutters, needle nose pliers, small vice-grips
    • Bolt for locking the engine when doing a valve shim check (could also act as a secret lock when leaving the bikes in sketchy places. Feelers for shims, Valve shims for both of the bikes.
    • pocket volt meter from radioshack
    • Spare fuses for both our bikes
    • gorilla tape, various gauges of wire for holding things together, jb weld, liquid steel, silicone, super glue
    • Lots of loc-tite both red and blue
    • micro air compressor from Aerostitch, valve stem tool with extra plugs.
    • CO2 canisters (and adapter for tire) for inflating the tires quickly. I think this is redundant but oh well.
    • I "site sucked" the entire F650.com FAQ website onto my computer. This is probably the most important tool. We also bought the Helge Pederson F650 instructional DVD which was really useful for great beta on how to change the tires. It made it much easier to know his tricks.
      In a future post I will write about our camping and personal gear that we are bringing down.
      Thanks for reading.