2013 BMW G650GS
Greg taught me to ride on a 160 TVS Apache in Liberia, West Africa, in 2012. At the time, I thought it was gigantic – until the next year I bought a BMW G650GS. Greg was set on getting a BMW and it just made sense to get the same brand so it was just a question of which one and the 650 was the smallest and lightest GS at the time.
At 5’ 9” the standard suspension and seat were just fine; the bike was actually the perfect size. I loved the look of the spoked wheels but we switched to cast aluminum to run tubeless tires for easier puncture repair. Heated grips, ABS, and the center stand came standard I’ve appreciated having all three.
The fairing and engine guards are from Touratech. They are subtle and unobtrusive and protect engine and plastics. I found that with a hard fall, the faring bars bend inward, pressing on the plastic, can have to be forced back out.
The Altrider Skid Plate in black. It has definitely done its job and protected the engine from enormous speed bumps (‘topes’) and loose rocks. The cut outs are just big enough to get a wrench around the oil-release bolt it’s not an easy maneuver.
The G650GS’s stock foot pegs are as narrow as twigs. That’s fine as long as you’re seated but as soon as you want to stand you need to have a bird’s feet to stay balanced. So, naturally, I just avoided standing! After much pushing and pleading, Greg persuaded me to change them out so I got the SW-Motech On-Road/Off-Road Convertible Footpegs. Ok, ok, admittedly it’s a much sturdier platform…
I replaced the stock windshield with the VStream from ZTechnik. It has lived up to the good reviews: I can easily see over it and even at high speed I barely feel the wind.
The BMW Hand Guards don’t provide much protection from the cold but they do deflect a whole lot of bugs and rocks. Because the plastic guards don’t run along a metal spine they bend in a crash leave the levers to absorb the impact. So carry spares.
At the time of purchase, BMW offered the plastic, collapsible Vario Cases for free. I chose the cases over the alternative $500 rebate and regretted my decision ever after. I liked the slim profile and understated look but for adventure riding where a tip-over is likely, they are not a good choice. Firstly, they open by swinging outward from the side leaving any loose articles pouring out onto the side of the road. Secondly, much of their 36L is difficult to occupy where it is molded to fit around the exhaust. Thirdly, while the panniers nicely absorb a crash by collapsing and can after be reset in place, the plastic mounting brackets don’t survive the first crash and thereafter you must keep an endless supply of zip ties.
Eventually, I replaced the Vario Cases with the SW-Motech Trax panniers. The rack and mount aren’t as bomb-proof as Greg’s Touratech Zegas but the Trax look way better. The rack gives a little in a crash, which is probably better than transferring the impact to the chassis. Also, a crash can leave the mount offset so that the case rattles on the rack but a few zip ties solves this completely and, again, they just look great!
DIY Modification: Pannier Lid Nets
During an outdoor gear shopping spree, I discovered that the REI tote bag is almost the perfect fit as a pannier liner bag. The only problem is that this lease several liters of unused space in the pannier lids. We first tried gluing in plastic hooks but these constantly popped off. So, instead, Greg placed a cargo net just above the rim of each lid by drilling four small holes and placing screws to secure D-ring hangers on the inside. For my Trax cases, the best place to drill the holes is through the aluminum brackets in between the two rivets.
Diablo 4L from Giant Loop. Small and understated with just enough capacity for the essentials and easy to remove and carry away or pack in a pannier if you want to leave the bike.
I had a 90L Ortlieb duffle that was 100% waterproof and held up extremely well through 30,000km through North and South America. But having that much space entices you to fill it and I don’t think the duffle should weigh more than 20lbs. Now I use the 49L Touratech Adventure Dry Bag also made by Ortlieb with a PacSafe to give piece of mind when I wander out of eyeshot.
The Tubeless Puncture Pilot by Stop & Go, which includes plugs and a mini-compressor, in case I'm on my own when I get a flat. For the rest I have Greg or - let's face it - more likely a roadside mechanic workshop...