Francois, our motorcycle

With our trusty steed as much a part of our travels as we are we’d like to share a few lessons we’ve learnt from our travelling. We often get asked questions like, what preparations or modifications did you do to your bike? What tools did you take? What spare parts did you take? How heavy is the bike?

What is your bike?

Francois is a standard BMW 1200GS 2007 model. I decided on the simple plain old GS and not the Adventure model for two reasons, the Adventure was too heavy and the extra price tag wasn’t justified. Oh and I had seen all the Adventure up close and personally all the extra bells and whistles didn’t cut it. Plus there are more things to go wrong. The simpler the better especially for a long trip where any number of things could and would go wrong!

That said there really isn’t much difference between the standard GS and the Adventure but I wanted to choose the aftermarket parts and accessories and not have them dictated to me by BMW. There are a huge assortment of parts and accessories for the GS it’s almost mind-boggling.

Bike Setup and Handling

Each bike has its own max carrying capacity. This is not just in reference to the suspension, handling or tyre capabilities but also to not stress the frame and engine beyond it’s designed capacity.

To compensate for overloading, perform the following checks regularly:

  1.   Increase tyre pressure – I usually run 2-3 psi higher at the rear and 1-2 at the front
  2.   Check oil more regularly
  3.   Check/adjust suspension setup – we run higher rated spring (+2)
  4.   Increase stopping distances – more load means it will take longer to stop
  5.   Keep heavy items as low and central as possible
  6.   Keep weight up high or in the top box to minimum
  7.   Adjust front/rear balance – where possible redistribute the weight to the front of the bike and/or lower down

How heavy is the whole setup?

Our 1200GS isn’t light when 2up fully loaded with all our gear. It represents a large weight to lift if (read when) we fall over!!

The bike weighs wet 225kgs (485lbs) +
Passengers 180kgs (396lbs) +
Accessories (crash bars, racks) 10kgs (22lbs) +
Alu Panniers and top box 65kgs(154kgs) +
Tankbag and font saddle bags 15kgs (33lbs)
Total combined weight = 495kgs (1091 lbs or 78 stone)

Max Payload = 210kg (462lbs) as stated in the BMW manual
Our Payload = 270kg (595lbs)

So we’re over max payload by approx 60kgs (133lbs).

With the list of items to compensate the added payload we decided it was imperative to have an Ohlins +2 rated spring on the back. We’ve been riding with this payload give or take for over 50,000kms (>30,000miles) on all terrain with no evidence of load related problems. Keep in mind the max payload is only a recommendation so a few pounds over will not be a problem especially if packing equipment correctly and doing the other checks mentioned above.

What accessories or modifications did you make?

The modifications we made albeit quite minor with the exception of the rear suspension are:

  1. New rear suspension with +2 rated spring from Ohlins and home made neoprene cover
  2. Hepco & Becker Engine Crash bars
  3. Headlight protector and home made plastic visor for it to reduce reflections at night
  4. Home made helmet hook made from a galvanised 3” nail for a second helmet under rider seat
  5. Washable air filter from K&N
  6. Pre-filter on air intake (made from either filter foam or ladies stockings)
  7. Home made phone holder (which I don’t use)
  8. Power socket integrated into Hepco & Becker Aluminium pannier (I also made this 🙂 )
  9. Hepco & Becker Aluminium panniers and Topbox + pillion backrest
  10. 12V power plug near the instrument panel
  11. Extended bashplate by Touratech
  12. Removed the mud-guard and replaced it with an underseat mudguard from rubber

What tools do you carry?

To compliment the BMW toolkit (which is pretty much non-existent) I have added the following items.

  • Ratchet with extension & elbow
  • Sockets 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16mm
  • Torx keys 20 – 55
  • Adjustable spanner
  • 22mm Inner Hex
  • 22mm Spark Plug socket from BMW (extended)
  • Tyre levers x 3 (one extra long for leverage)
  • Filter foam (for the pre-filter)
  • Allen keys
  • Feeler guage
  • Long nose pliers
  • Adjustable pliers
  • Oil Filter tool
  • Spark plug tool (for removing the distributor cap)
  • Electrical wire (length of 50cm)
  • Steel wire
  • Reversible screw driver (philips & flat-head)
  • Cable ties (lots of these in various sizes)
  • Duct tape
  • Oil Filler cap tool
  • 12V CyclePump air compressor
  • StopnGo tyre plugger