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 Advrider.com.

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.

Dash1

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.

VolControl

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.

Prologue

How did I get here, to the place where I can go on this epic bucket list adventure?  I was born in 1958 and grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio.  I bought my first motorcycle in 1977 on April 17, which is also my father’s birthday.  I plan to ride another 40 years, so check back later.

My father was a life insurance salesman; he was risk averse.  As a kid there were no BB guns, sling shots, fireworks and, especially motorcycles.  Upon occasion we would get a chance to try these things when a friend had them.  My first BB gun experience was in the attic of my brother’s friend.  We were shooting targets and it did not take long before a ricochet hit me in the cheek.  It hurt; maybe I should be more careful.  One of my early encounters with fire crackers resulted in a Black Cat exploding in my hand.  It hurt; maybe I should be more careful.  Once a friend came by with his dirt bike and my attempt to ride behind him resulted in me flying off the back.  I never let my father know about these things.

As I grew up I was interested in aviation history and in 1973 I met a pioneer in hang gliding at the Cleveland Air Show.  His name was Chuck Slazarcheck (I hope I spelled it correctly).  Believe it or not Cleveland was an early mecca of the sport.  His gliders were all the early delta-wing design; most made with aluminum tubing but one or two were bamboo.  Soon after, I sent him a few dollars for the plans to make one and presented my idea to dear old dad.  It did not go well and I never got off the ground.

Fast forward to when I was 18 years old and an enlisted kid in the Air Force.  Dad was not around to prevent me from buying a motorcycle.  I have been hooked ever since and have far more miles logged on two wheels than in cars.  The bike was a 1976 Yamaha XS750D, I loved it.  It was way to much bike for a noob with almost no riding experience; what could possibly go wrong.

It did not take long for me to crash, at Red Rock Canyon outside of Las Vegas.  I was relatively unscathed except for road rash on my hands because I had no gloves.  When my bike got fixed the front fender was new so I had to get a new sticker to get on military bases.  To get the sticker I had to take the Air Force rider safety course.  It opened my eyes and I learned a ton.  It got me serious about practicing and wearing the right protective gear.  It is probably why I am still at it today and more serious than ever.

After the Air Force I worked my way through school, got married and had four sons, you know, typical life.  All of the boys are through college and on their own so now I can take this trip.  I have a very understanding wife, Sandy, that knows I have to do this and supports me fully.

Follow My Motorcycle Trip to Alaska

This blog will chronicle my two month motorcycle trip to Alaska.  This trip has been a long time in the making and I am very fortunate to be able to do it.

My name is Kevin Gerlock and I live in Fallbrook California.  I plan to leave on June 2 and return just before my birthday at the end of July.

BlogShot1

I have been taking trips on my 2011 BMW R1200GS Adventure for the last six years and I have worked out how to pack efficiently for motorcycle camping.  My trip to Alaska will span two months so all of my practice runs had better pay off.  The photo above is a fly fishing trip I took from my home in north San Diego County to Colorado.  A GS Adventure can carry a lot of gear.