You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2010.

Our wildfire season here in socal is upon us. Well actually, if you have lived here long enough, you know that the real wildfire season starts in late September with the arrival of the Santa Ana winds. That’s when fires are truly scary, and downright life threatening depending on if you live in fuels. Been there, done that!

But, we do get grass and brush fires starting each year usually mid June. The fire season starts in the deserts even earlier than that, then works it way into the inland valleys, and then into the coasts and the higher elevations as summer wears on the and heavier 100 hr and 1000 hr fuels cure (dry out).

Anyway, when I heard the Ranch fire come over the scanner, it was in my parents neck of the woods so I grabbed my camera gear and headed out!

Turned out to be not bad, 100 ac. or so by the looks of things. If this had started later in the summer, or under a santa ana condition, it was in the right location to cause a large and devastating fire (10,000 ac +)



After a long breakfast and map reading in Kanab, I decided on an easy day around Southwest Utah, and then I would go stay with some family near Cedar City for the night.

I made my way to the Coral Pink sand dunes on some nice back roads. The weather was perfect, the clouds were building but they didn’t look as threatening as in past days.

The Coral Pink sand dunes were pretty. I stomped around in the sand for a while and took a few pictures.

I found my way to Colorado City (look it up!) on dirt roads and then I found a dirt road that would connect me over near Zion on highway 9. It turned out great because I found a big field of flowers, and then I was treated with some awesome views of Zion.

What a great day of riding. I also wtnt up to the Kolob Reservoir, on the Kolob Terrace Road. I highly reccomend this road for motorcycles. It’s scenic, twisty, and fairly deserted. It takes you up to over 7,000 feet at the lake. You can continue on dirt towards Cedar City, also.

All in all, this was a great way to spend some time on my new bike. I love this area of the country and I keep coming back year after year because there is just nowhere else like it.

Happy trails,


Today my plan was to leave my campsite near Mexican Hat, UT, head up to Lake Powell and catch the ferry across, take the Burr Trail to Boulder, ride hwy 12, then go south through the Kodachrome Basin, go through Kanab and then camp down at Toroweap. Well, things would not work out that way.

The sunrise was amazing, though. (by the way, click on pictures to make larger)

I made my way North to Bullfrog. I stopped about 10 miles short of the lake and looked at the map, and the weather. It looked like I would be riding into a maelstrom of rain, thunderstorms, etc. I couldn’t remember if the Burr Trail had clay soil or not, but I also didn’t like the idea of riding in the rain all day. So, I turned around and decided to take a southern route through Page to get over to Toroweap. It was quite a bit of riding, but drier and warmer, I thought.

It was a long ride to get to Fredonia and the start of the road to Toroweap. I did hit a big storm coming into Kanab. The headwind was awful. I put on raingear which stayed on the rest of the day.

I parked at the start of the dirt road to Toroweap. 61 miles, it said. A sign read, Roads impassible in inclement weather. I guess I don’t put much faith in road signs, but I should have listened to this one, it turns out.

For a long time, the road was just fine. It was damp in spots, but no mud to speak of. Storms dotted the horizon, and it smelled like desert rain. There was no one else out here, and the road kept going over rise, after rise, after rise. It was beautiful, and desolate. It reminded me of a few days on the Divide last summer.

I turned a corner and saw mud ahead. I didn’t think much of it. As I got closer, I saw a Buell Ulysses sitting on the side of the road, with no rider in sight. I thought, wow, how strange is that? I didn’t really put 2 and 2 together until I got into the mud myself. It was an absolute quagmire. It looked innocent enough, but it started to swallow the bike. It was that thick, gooey, sticky mud that is just relentless. You can’t get through it when it’s deep, and you are on a big bike with street tires. So, I got stuck.

I tried to drive forward, but no luck. Eventually, after much cursing, sweating, and acting like a child, I realized the only thing to do was to drop the bike on it’s side, then pivot the front wheel around 90 degrees, to get out of this rut. About the time I was picking the bike back up and about to be on my way BACK to town (I could not continue), a guy shows up in truck towing a bike trailer! It was the Buell owner! He was staying at a motel in Kanab after having towed his bikes down from Montana. He got stuck earlier in the day.

His bike was totally jammed with mud, the shifter broken, the clutch burnt out (entirely). Dead in the water (or, mud). It took us an hour to load the darn thing on his trailer, after taking off the fenders, clearing mud away from wheels, brakes, etc. It didn’t help that it was raining as we did this.

I took off on my bike back towards town with Mike following. I dialed up the warp drives once I got out of the rain storm and made it to town well before he did. We spent forever with pressure washers trying to get the bikes clean.

We enjoyed a late dinner in town and Mike was nice enough to let me stay in his hotel room for the night. We swapped stories and commiserated about clay mud.

What a day! I was exhausted.

Day 1

The first day of my ride was spent mostly on the highway, getting from my house in Hemet, CA to an overlook and camping spot north of Mexican Hat, UT. The ride was about 630 miles. When riding days like this, I seem to be pretty good until about 500 miles. After that, I start squirming in my seat, getting bored, and find myself daydreaming of being off the bike. It doesn’t help when you are on straight roads with not much to do. Just keep the throttle open and the bike pointed the right direction. The mind really wanders.

The ride is always worth it, though. Arriving at a viewpoint like this makes the memory of all those boring miles dissapear.

This is the edge of the world.

You better not be afraid of heights. It doesn’t help when it’s really windy and you are trying to park the bike 4 feet away from a 1,500 foot vertical drop. !

This is the good life, let me tell you. Tent camping next to your motorcycle, a hundred miles away from nowhere, at one of the most beautiful places in the world. Nothing but the wind the and rocks. It turned out to be a long, stormy night. Lightning and wind all night don’t make for a good night’s sleep in a tent.

Tomorrow, I try to head north but get turned around by nasty weather. Then, I get stuck in the worst mud I’ve ever encountered. Alone. On a 550 lb bike. 70 miles from the nearest highway. Like I said, this is the good life. 🙂

Utah and Arizona were beautiful. My trip did not turn out exactly as planned due to weather, but it was an awesome adventure! I managed to get the bike truly stuck in some ridiculous mud, and so did another rider on a Ulysses! His bike did not fare so well… mine is OK, though. Did not get to camp at Toroweap due to the mud bog situation.

I will post a report soon but here are two pics that tell a story.

It’s time to see if the long legged reputation of the BMW GS is for real! This will be my first overnight/interstate trip on the Beemer. I hope I get some time to bond with the bike. Hopefully we will beat the statistics and our relationship won’t end in divorce. 🙂

I’m heading to Southern Utah to camp near the San Juan river, then down and over to So. Az. to camp at Toroweap at the Grand Canyon. The third night, time permitting, I hope to head over and see some family near Cedar City. Trip is 4 days and maybe… I dunno… 1,600 miles?

My camps will be dry, so self supported. Here is the gear I have and how I am carrying it.

In the tankbag:

  • Waterpfoof winter gloves, summer gloves, snacks, two cameras (Nikon DSLR and Canon p&s), phone charger, ipod charger, earphones (Etymotic ER6), aspirin, eyedrops, earplugs, faceshield cleaner kit, flashlight, multitool, raincover for tank bag, maps, etc.

In the tank panniers:

  • Chain lube, spare tube, heavy jacket liner, light jacket liner, rain jacket, rain pants

Under the seat:

  • Complete toolkit for the bike from Adventure Designs. Two Motion Pro T6 alloy tire levers. CO2, inflator, emergency stuff like tape, wire, etc.

In the Great Basin Giant Loop:

  • CAMP KIT. In the left pod – (2) Nalgene bottles, camp towels. In the right pod – Jetboil, xtra fuel, LED lantern, LED headlamp, lighters, carabiners, utensils, tabasco sauce (most important), and toilet kit. In the top section: Sleeping Pad (North Face Cats Meow 20F), Sleeping pad (Thermarest Neo Air), Tent (REI Camp Dome 2 for this trip), food, camp chair (thermarest trekker).

In the dry bag:

  • Street clothes, shoes (chucks), tent poles, hat, etc.


I know it doesn’t sound like it, but this is all a very compact and lightweight setup, compared to what many ADV riders travel with!! It’s much less than I traveled with last Summer. Less weight, less crap… these are good things!

Leaving in the morning… follow me here (link also at left)

Forecast shows wind, thunderstorms, but mild temps. Bring it on. If it gets too sketchy I can take shelter at Starbucks. (that one’s for you, Dave).

F800GS Modification and Accessories (after three weeks)

I’m one of those people that has to “tinker”. I can never, ever, leave well enough alone. And since I obviously know better than the BMW engineers, I have done quite a few upgrades/mods on the GS so far. If you own motorcycles, you know they are just a down payment on all the cool shiny bits they will need.

  • Changed stock grips for Pro-Grips gel 714. The stock heated grips were awful for me.  Too skinny and not enough grip. Uncomfortable! Thanks to YetiGS on the advrider forum, I saw that I could carefully remove the stock grips and install new grips over the BMW heaters. You have to be extremely careful not to cut the heater elements. Other than that, it’s just a normal grip change. Cost = $20.
  • Jammed a 14g wire in the throttle pulley of the throttle body. What, you say? Oh, yeah, I read it on the forums. It makes the throttle less snatchy (on/off) at low speeds. Seems to work. Cost = 5 cents.
  • Added Wolfman tank panniers. Only need when touring. Cost = $0 (already had them but $80 if you don’t).
  • Added Wolfman explorer lite tankbag. Added electrical port to bag so I have SAE and ciggarette plugs inside the bag for charging gadgets and powering heated clothing. Wired direct to battery with fuse. Used powerlet products. Cost = $50 for the electric bits and $100(?) for the tankbag (but I already had it).
  • Added RAM GPS mount and hardwire for Garmin GPS. Cost = $50 or so. (GPS is Garmin 478C, retail $1,000)
  • Added handguards from HighWay Dirt Bikes. These are totally bomber and the best guards out there by far. They mount to the handlebar clamp. Google them, buy a set. Made for many models of bike. Handmade in Colorado. Cost= $160
  • Replaced stock seat with Sargent Enduro seat. Stock seat didn’t work for me, not comfortable! Sargent is pretty good and still lets you move around like you should be able to on a dual sport type bike. I also had good luck with Sargent on my KLR. They make nice seats. Now comfortable for hours at a time. Cost = $440 and the first and best thing I did for the bike!
  • Added Givi crash bars. They look good on the bike, and don’t ruin the lines. Check advrider, they have been crash tested and seem to work well. They also function as highway pegs! That’s nice on long rides. Kill two birds with the Givi’s. Cost = $200
  • Added skidplate from Ricochet armor (got it on ebay). The cheapest skid plate I could find (KLR rider at heart) but also 4mm thick and well built! I’m happy with it for $140.
  • Added rear luggage rack from cpilot on advrider. Great rack for lashing your stuff on (BMW doesn’t give you one) and a bargain at $75. Looks nice, works nice. Sweet.
  • Added Giant Loop Great Basin bag. This is in lieu of expensive metal panniers. It holds less, but it’s also bombproof, lightweight, and cheap (relatively!). No racks to break, no wide bags sticking out in the wind, on and off in 60 seconds. Nice! About 55 liters of space, I think, and extremely well thought out and built. Everything I need for extended self supported camping fits in the bag. Sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent, water, food, lantern, lights, trekker chair, jetboil, extra fuel, and more. Cost = $400.
  • On order but not received yet : Rotopax 1 gallon fuel cell. If you need more than 230 miles of range, which is not often. Mounts to rear rack (rack is pre drilled). Rotopax are great fuel cells. Cost = $75
  •  Also ordered but not received : Adventure Spec tool kit. Everything you need to wrench on the bike in a kit that fits under the seat. Nice! Pricey but better than trying (and probably failing) to put together a sensible kit by myself. Cost  = $180

The only other thing I really want to address on the bike is the suspension. That could easily run big money and I won’t deal with it until next Fall or Winter.

As I get more time on the bike I will update on how my additions and changes hold up. I tried to go with quality stuff that will last. After over 100k miles of riding bikes I know what I like on my bike and what I don’t like. I’m picky. I’m also cheap so it’s a constant battle. 😉

I’ve had the GS now for a few weeks and have put about 1,000 miles on it on freeways, highways, backroads, twisty roads, dirt roads, and jeep trails. I wanted to give my opinion on a few things for those that are curious.

Engine: Responsive, torquey, efficient. Not as smooth as some engines, but not bad for a parallel twin. I get about 55 mpg in mixed riding, 60 mpg if I’m easy on it. Fuel range is about 230 miles to empty when you get 55 mpg on the tank. I ran it to 220 miles with a little gas left. The computer said I had 15 miles left.

Ergonomics: Excellent. I did swap the seat for a Sargent. I changed the stock grips for pro-grips as the stock ones were too narrow and slippery for me. The pegs and bars are in the right place for me.

Comfort: Good. Wind protection is minimal, but at least you get smooth air and no buffeting. I’ve struggled with buffeting on tons of bikes and this is a welcome relief. The ergonomics are good for all day rides.

Suspension: So-so. Knd of dissapointing for a $13,000 bike. The rear shock is just OK. The preload does adjust nicely for varying load conditions (passenger, luggage, etc). There is rebound damping adjustment. The forks are not that good. The initial response is harsh and then they blow through the stroke too easily. There is no adjustment. If you browse the forums the forks are the biggest complaint about the bike other than recall items like wheel bearings, etc.

Overall fit and finish: very good.

Brakes: very good. Switchable ABS – remember to turn it off when in the dirt!! Consequences can be severe if you do not.

Other thoughts. I like the instrumentation. Gear indicator, fuel gauge, mpg readout, temp gauge, etc. Heated grips work well, two settings.

Offroad ability. It’s there. The two things holding the bike back are suspension, and snatchy throttle response (on/off). On a rocky trail, it’s hard to apply smooth throttle at low speeds, so it’s kind of like riding a bucking bronco. There are some things I have done to help this, more on that later.

On dirt roads, this thing is a hoot. The engine has almost no freewheel, so it spins up fast and lets you roost like mad. It loves to throttle steer, even at high speeds. The bike is totally stable at 90+ on a dirt or gravel road. They nailed this aspect of the bike.

Compared to competition. Ok, that’s tough. I did own the KTM 950 Adventure. It was a great bike but I had some issues with it. I could not fix the wind buffeting. It got bad mileage and hence poor range. It was hard to work on. I did not have peace of mind re: reliability. It felt larger and heavier than the 800 does. The suspension was much better than the BMW.

There really are no other bikes that compete. KLR? Yeah, love them. But 35 horsepower single cylinder compared to 85 HP twin? And nearly three times the price. Different universe. The KLR is about the same offroad but not nearly as good a streetbike. But it’s more simple and I would trust it more in a remote or third world environment. Cheap, easy to fix, don’t worry about dropping it, etc.

Why I bought the GS. I wanted a bike that was a good streetbike to start, and then had some offroad ability, more than you get on a vstrom, tiger, 1200GS, etc. Since I had already had the KTM 950 this bike was the only other choice. I’m happy with my choice. I miss the Tiger 1050, but I will get less speeding tickets with the GS. The Tiger was a screamer. But in the end I need a bike that can leave the pavement.