The Bike

If you have read my previous posts you already know that the machine I will be taking on this adventure is a BMW R1200GS Adventure – a 2011 model.  There are so many good things already written about this bike that I cannot add anything new.  It is an amazing machine.  I have had it for a bit more than six years and have it appointed to my needs and tastes.  Before I get into details about this bike here is a bit of background on my 40 years of riding.

My first bike was a 1976 Yamaha XS750D.  I cut my teeth on this bike and learned how to work on bikes as a result.  At one point I took the whole thing apart and put it back together with new paint on everything and a slightly modified engine.  While I was doing this work I had a 1982 Yamaha XJ550RH.  I bought this bike because I had a fantasy of becoming a road racer.  At the time anyone with sense had a Kawasaki 550 for racing; the Yamaha did not stand a chance.  I did not get further than Keith Code’s California Superbike School in my racing career.  I was working full time as a technician and going to school, so becoming a road racer was not a high priority.  Also, being 6’2″ is not exactly the right size for a racer.  My XJ was a good commuter bike.

In 1986 I got my first BMW as a sort of birthday present.  I put 100,000 miles on the K100RT and it never had a problem besides the speedometer bug that plagued that vintage and BMW fixed under warranty.  I sold it when I bought a used 1998 K1200RS.  I got it with 16K miles on it and commuted on it for fourteen years and it had 166,000 miles when I traded it in on my new commuter bike – a 2016 R1200RS.  The RS is really fun, great motor, brakes, suspension and all of the modern things BMW offers.

I recently have acquired one other machine that will be a project when I return from my trip.  In 1977 BMW introduced the R100RS.  Al’s Cycle Shop, in Las Vegas, had one of the first ones in their showroom and I would gravitate to it every time I went in there.  It cost twice that of a Yamaha and it was too much for an airman to consider.  I have wanted a project bike for some time and it suddenly hit me last year that I needed an R100RS.  I found a 1988 in Pennsylvania with under 11K miles and struck a deal; it arrived here just before Christmas last year.  It has some age issues and the fairing has some repairs but I will address all of those things.  I can’t wait to take it apart so I can put it back together.

I bought the GS Adventure at the end of 2010 to use for fun.  To date is has 44K miles on it.  I have taken numerous trips on it and love to ride and camp.  Another of my passions is traditional archery so I pack up my GS with my camping gear and a three-piece hybrid longbow and go to several rendezvous each year.  Many of my trips also involve fly fishing and I plan to do as much of that as I can on this trip.

I have made a few changes to the bike to suit my needs and think I have a good platform for travel.  I added an Altrider luggage platform that works well for packing because it is at the same level as the BMW panniers.  I recently added a Givi Outback Trekker top box that attaches to the platform using mounts available from Altrider.  I put the mounts on both the pillion platform and the rear platform so that I can carry the box in either place.  Additionally, I was able to re-key the lock cylinder on the Givi box to use the same key as the bike.  A tutorial on how to do it can be found in the GS Spot on

One of the first things I did was to customize some electronics for travel.  I added a Touratech dash and replaced the American style cigarette socket with a USB charging port.  This port is powered from a circuit I designed into a small box mounted to the dash.  There is also an audio amp inside the box that drives my helmet speakers, my phone plugs into the box to provide the music and there is a volume control inside the left hand guard.  I do not talk on the phone when I ride.


The volume control is inside a little pod I made from carbon fiber and one finger control up or down changes volume.  A 3.5mm connector mounted to a trim panel on the left of the tank is where the helmet plugs in.


Last fall I upgraded the ESA suspension with a Tractive shock on the rear and a Wilburs on the front.  The Beemershop set them up to my weight.  This upgrade transformed the bike, it is much better planted in all conditions and really inspires confidence when the going gets spirited.

I added 2 inch Rox risers a couple of years ago and these made a big difference in comfort on long rides.  I used to get a bit of shoulder pain on trips but it is a thing of the past.  I added a Saddleman Adventure Tour seat and fabricated spacers to raise the front seat mounts 12.7mm.  I have a small milling machine and a lathe that comes in very handy.  And, top it off with a Z-Technik windshield that is much more quiet than the stock screen.

Trip Preparation

I have been doing my own maintenance, and even major repairs, for several decades so I am very familiar with my machines.  Preparation for this trip is basically a major service with a few other things thrown in and a complete inspection of the bike.

I installed metal fuel quick disconnects that are sold by The Beemer Boneyard.  One area of special concern was to check the u-joints in the drive shaft – the rear one is not smooth so I bought a new Ei drive shaft from the Beemer Shop.  This is a very nice unit that is completely re-buildable and has grease fittings on the u-joints.  There are accounts of drive shaft failures at comparable mileage as mine so I do not want to take any chances.  In the course of inspecting the rear end I found a little weep from the outer bearing seal in the final drive so it got replaced.  Up front I found the Telelever ball joint boot torn so I replaced that as well.

Other maintenance includes new front Carbon Loraine brake pads and a full bleeding of the brakes.  The remaining service that needs to be done includes a valve clearance check, new spark plugs, new air filter and engine and transmission oil change.

After much contemplation I settled on Mitas E-07 tires to start my trip.  I have read a few reports that indicate they might last the entire trip, if they don’t last I can get more tires in Alaska.

The bike is ready, the rider has been working out to be ready.  Now I have to pack the bike.  Stay tuned.

One thought on “The Bike”

  1. Kevin, Thanks for the blog. Looking forward to riding along with you (vicariously). Wishing you good fun, good fortune, and good weather!


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