For me, the decision was hard luggage to be able to locking them and walk away, which gave us peace of mind on a daily basis in cities and small towns throughout Latin America. Maybe soft bags are lighter and better for off-tarmac but the Touratech Zega Pros have absorbed countless hits and rediscover they shape with the help of a spreader or a mallet borrowed from a roadside mechanic.

Why the F700GS? Back in 2009, before I had heard the term ‘Adventure Motorcycle’, I was riding a 1993 Yamaha Virago cruiser affectionately named La Vigorosa (“The Feisty One”) from Los Angeles to the Darien Gap in Panama. In Belize, I met Marshall Ballick and Meghan Jepson who were riding F650GS singles on a North to South America trip. On an off-tarmac daytrip to some Mayan ruins, they doubled up and invited me to ride the other 650. I thought, 'I gotta get me one of these!'

When I later began to research dual sport and adventure bikes, I decided on the two-cylinder 650, which in 2013 was essentially renamed the F700. I liked that is has greater power for interstate travel than the single and the seat height doesn’t have me on my tiptoes as is the case with the F800. You can find much better bike reviews than I can do, so I’ll just talk about my modifications.

Crash Bars

I like the Altrider Crash Bars because they are one piece that protects both engine and fairings. On the penultimate day of our North to South America trip, I encountered a sudden gravel-strewn turn at high speed and somersaulted the bike. No engine or frame damage if you can believe it.

Skid Plate

I like the Altrider Crash Bars because they are one piece that protects both engine and fairings. On the penultimate day of our North to South America trip, I encountered a sudden gravel-strewn turn at high speed and somersaulted the bike. No engine or frame damage if you can believe it.

Headlight and Headlight Guard

Again, I went with Altrider for the Headlight Guard. I like the clear plastic over the metal grill – personal preference, I suppose. The guard include a glare protector so it can stay on night and day, on-road and off. I replace the stock bulb with the Cyclops LED Bulb. This was hopefully, and successfully, instead of auxiliary lights. With a bit of coaxing the LED fits into the stock housing and gives off considerably more lumens of white, rather than yellow light.

The stock F700GS windscreen is my biggest gripe about the bike. Fortunately, it’s easily replaced but, unfortunately – at least in my case – it was hard to find the right one. After trying at least three different designs, I settled on the most expensive, which was, of course, from BMW. The F800GS Touring Windscreen fits to the 700 with the addition of two, of course rather expensive, brackets. The is easy to see over when seated off-tarmac but at upwards of 100km the turbulence is brutal. I solved this with the addition of the Wunderlich Wind Deflector. I like this setup because I install the deflector for long, ugly interstate stretches and then remove it for a cleaner look when I get to the fun riding.

Windscreen

Hand Guards

From BMW. They keep rocks and bugs away and reduce the wind chill.

Fork Protectors

My second biggest gripe about the F700 is that the forks aren’t inverted. The neoprene Fork Protectors from Touratech guard from arrant pebbles and look reasonably subtle, I think.

Sidestand Foot

My second biggest gripe about the F700 is that the forks aren’t inverted. The neoprene Fork Protectors from Touratech guard from arrant pebbles and look reasonably subtle, I think.

Top Case or Duffle?

Duffle. Specifically the Touratech Adventure Dry Bag that sits on the BMW Luggage Rack. Why the duffle? Because it saves weight over a top case, sits lower and closer to the rider, holds more, looks better, and is safe from the opportunistic thief secured to the bike with a PacSafe. For a while it looked like a top case would be a necessary evil if I wanted to bring along a drone but the DJI Mavic Pro folds up small enough to easily fit in the side case where the toolkit used to go…

Security

Again, the primary reason for the hard over soft panniers and the aforementioned PacSafe for securing the duffle bag to the bike. I installed a Scorpio SR-i900R. The unit includes a half-mile range RFID transceiver and a 120 dB siren that is triggered by an accelerometer (tilt sensor) and/or a perimeter sensor, and RFID transceiver. I think it’s a bit hard to find the right sensitivity setting on the perimeter sensor for use a busy street but the transceiver has notified me several times of mischief – never theft, just people leaning or sitting on my bike to take a photograph.

As mentioned above, I’ve found that placing a PacSafe around the duffle bag adds piece-of-mind by deterring the opportunistic thief. I have the largest (140L) because this allows for extra space if I want to place riding jacket, pants and/or even boots inside. Finally, and probably my simplest, cleverest touring and daily community security accessory is a medium weight Kryptonite chain lock that secures around the pillion hand bars. I use it to secure my helmet and to run through the arm of a jacket and, occasionally, riding pants when I reach my destination. Really, this is an easy must-have!

Although the Bag Liners fit the full interior dimensions of the Zega Pro panniers, in reality they are hard to fill above the pannier rim because some of the fabric invariably and annoyingly gets caught when you close the lids. Instead, I hung a net by affixing small D-ring hangers from the small screw at the top corners of each lid.

DIY Modification: Pannier Lid Nets

This works well but only fills a small portion of the lids. So, instead – or, actually, in addition – I installed a net that connect at just above the rim of the lid. With nowhere to anchor the net, I first tried installing clear plastic hooks with double-sided tape but even with superglue they continually popped off during rides. I solved the issue definitely by drilling small holes in the pannier lids and placing screws, which are ultimately hidden under the plastic corner protectors, to affix D-ring hangers inside the lids. The addition of some silicon around the screw holes removes any concerns about waterproofing.

Rounding out the tools, I moved the small sensor in the registration compartment to allow for the placement of the Stop & Go Mini Air Compressor and a few spare bulbs. Under the seat I cut away the plastic tabs intended to hold a too-small-to-be-useful first aid kit and strapped on the Tubeless Puncture Pilot kit, also from Stop & Go. Although I rarely ride sans panniers, it gives me great piece of mind that the tool kit, puncture repair, and air compressor are on-bike at all times.

After trying to like the plastic manual canisters that are now sold as tool tubes, I upped the ante and bought the 40cm aluminum Adventure Tool Tube from Motoarbo in the UK. It’s heavier but, boy, is it worth it: durable, watertight, good-looking, and has plenty of capacity for my RTB1 RoadTech BMW Tool Kit from CruzTools. The tricky part is where and how to mount it. For me the solution came in the form of a made-to-fit rack that cost $50 at a welding shop in Guatemala and uses the attachment points intended for the BMW Vario Case rack but not used by the Touratech Zega rack. The virtue is that this setup connects the weight directly to the frame rather than to the inside of the pannier rack on the non-exhaust side. After several additions to the CruzTools, the textile roll was no longer large enough. The simple solution of a made-to-fit tool bag cost $8, including logo printing, at an upholsterer in Guatemala. Really, the set up deserves a page or video of its own.

DIY Modification: Toolkit Storage

Small and simple: the Giant Loop Diablo. At 4L it’s just large enough to hold all the spare batteries and charging accessories, a small water bag with sipping tube, and on-the-move toiletries, and doesn’t obstruct or encumber whatsoever.

Tank Bag

Panniers

2013 BMW F700GS

"Penelope"