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Pictures from 5 days of riding in Death Valley are posted. It was amazing! Made some GREAT new friends and had a blast. Our thoughts go out to two riders who had bad luck this weekend. Dani who crashed her BMW and broke her back. And Charles (RAZR on the forums) who had to be taken to Vegas for emergency abdominal surgery (he has the same rare, incurable disease that I do).

Pics are here:

http://www.pbase.com/ischoenleber/death_valley_daze_2011

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Took a great trail ride with friends in Anza Borrego on Halloween. I dressed up as a guy riding too heavy a bike, who got stung by a cactus. Oh wait, that wasn’t a costume, that was reality!

Click the link below for some pictures.

http://www.pbase.com/ischoenleber/bsprings103110

Last time I wrote about the bike was, ummm, some miles ago. Here are my current feelings.

Since I bought it in April I’ve logged about 10,000 miles. I don’t feel like I’ve ridden that much… maybe that’s the moral of the story here. The bike is easy to ride, easy to cover miles. The engine is smooth, and seating position comfortable, and the fuel range is good. It can go anywhwere and it’s fun on any surface, from high speed paved sweepers, to rough jeep trails high in Colorado.

It really is, in my opinion, the best bike to buy if you can only have *one*. Others might say the KTM 950/990 ADV, but I disagree. Had one. Too hard to work on, poor gas mileage, not reliable, heavier and larger feel than the BMW… it’s just not grown up yet. The BMW can be crazy when you want it to, but it can also settle down for the ride home. The KTM never settles down. It’s always the crazy one, casing trouble (having fun, too, sure), and acting like a teengaer.

Fuel mileage? I average around 55-60 mpg. I’ve gotten as high as 70 (no typo) and as low as 47. With a 4.3g tank, range is around 220-260 miles, depending on riding conditions.

Handling? Yes, good! Depends on tires. I like the Heidenau K60. Good in all conditions. TKC80’s blow, in my opinion. Tried a combo of Anakee rear, TKC80 front – big mistake. Don’t do it!

The bike has a low CG and handles well on and off road. Comfort – good. Riding position is nice, windflow (lots of it) – but smooth, no buffeting.

Ease of ownership – very good. Well, my rear wheel bearings did fail at 5k miles, a known problem. BMW fixed it, and it’s OK since. I did the 12k miles service including valve check myself – not hard to do, and valves did not need adjusting. Bike is easy to service and parts go together logically.

Things aren’t all peachy, though. Front springs are too soft, they bottom out on hard hits off road, which bends the soft factory front rim. Yep, did that last weekend!

Things I’ve added since my last reports:

Scotts steering dampener ($550). Best gadget ever! Takes all drama out of steering problems – wobbles, shakes, etc. Riding in sand, rocks, ruts? No problem! Just turn up the dampening. I will never have another off road bike without one of these dampers. Ever. Absolutely no downside to this thing. http://www.renazcoracing.com/index.cfm?carttoken=1655272092710075940&action=ViewDetails&ItemID=538844&category=2017&viewby=ordervalue&sortorder=ASC

Bill Mayer custom seat. $360 (on sale from $460). I rode to Ojai and had them make this for me today. I have been using a Sargent enduro, which is better than stock, but still really sucks. Considering that at $450 it costs more than a custom seat, I give a BIG thumgs down to Sargent. In fact, I will never give a penny to Sargent or Corbin again. The custom saddle is about 10 times better, and costs the same or less money!

Soon I’ll be installing the Bitubo springs in the front which should help prevent more damage to the front wheel, and givce a better ride for off road conditions.

Overall, you can’t go wrong with the F800GS, in my opinion. It’s not a dirt bike, so if you ride it like that, expect damage. It can be strengthened at some cost. But for most conditions it performs well and is a very versatile machine.

Had a great weekend at the Big Bear BMW Rally. Thanks very much to the owners clubs of San Diego and Orange County for jointly putting this great party on. And to all the vendors and companies who donated food, raffle prizes, etc. And to my great friends for providing some entertainment. !!

We mostly hung around and were social, but we did go for a ride Saturday. 2 bikes dropped, one water crossing, and some nasty winds coming through the desert. Awesome!

It’s been a lot of work but my pictures from my trip are all posted. My favorite galleries are Colorado and New Mexico. I just can’t believe the skies in New Mexico – you have to check out those shots. It really is the land of enchantment!

http://www.pbase.com/ischoenleber/9state2010

Happy trails,

Ian

Yes, I’m back from vacation. I know I am behind on my blogging. I can’t believe last time I wrote I was in Colorado. From Gunnison I rode down through Creede, Pagosa Springs, into New Mexico through Chama, Abiquiu, Grants, and down to Silver City. I followed the continental divide but I took mostly paved roads since I had done the GDMBR last year. It was a beautiful ride even without the dirt.

Caught up with Brandon in Silver City, went on a ride, got a little bit lazy. I left last Sunday night and rode through the night, fighting fatigue, and arrived here Monday morning.

I have a lot of pictures to edit and post.

Here is a preview. Click to enlarge.

This blog coming to you from my tent! Camping here in June lake. Rode some dirt today, also rode hwy 120 from mono to Benton- epic road! Turned around and rode it the other way too!

Beautiful here. Staying with Dave tomorrow in tahoe then on to lassen, Shasta, crater lake… Wow, love this ride.

See ya!

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,

Ian

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.

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.