Jason’s weapon of choice is a 2008 BMW F800GS. As there’s no such thing as the perfect bike for overland travel, he opted for this bike because it’s the bike of his heart.
The first thing to say about this bike is reaping a weight benefit. It’s a fair bit lighter than the BMW R1200GSA, particularly noticeable in the bends with a lively engine and a top speed on par with the R1200GSA, is loads of fun.
The two complaints he has with the bike are the iron hard seat and the beyond useless screen. The bike already had a custom belly pan, a set of heavy duty engine bars when he bought it, so saved a few quid there, but needed to do something about the screen and the seat.
Jase settled for an Airhawk, which is essentially an inflated air cushion that sits atop of the seat, tantamount to twice the distance before his backside goes to sleep. The problem with the screen was solved with a Touratech fairing–not cheap but does a great job of protecting him from most of the wind. He also thinks it looks the business. The bike has also been fitted with a set of Metalmule panniers, made from 2mm thick aluminum although since replaced for lighter Adventure Spec Magadan MK2 soft saddle bags.
Mr Jangles (Oct 2016 to date):
Oh Pearl, my beloved Pearl. She executed the ride from the bottom of the planet to the top, beautifully: from Ushuaia, the southernmost tip of Argentina to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, having run out of road going north. All 50,000 miles of it through 21 countries over the last 2.5 years. At 15 years of age, she rarely missed a beat, remained happy to be nurse maided on occasion and threw her all into getting me to let go.
In fact, I knew more by feel and sixth sense than by appearance, Pearl imparted to the dirt road itself a sense of sureness and a generosity of spirit. She exuded poise as much as purpose that took me in, urging to keep her steady on the trails. And often times, would save me from myself!
That said–knowing Pearl has dug deep into my heart–there comes a time when you take stock, size things up and arrive at an unequivocal decision. Journey past the tipping point. Upon reaching a natural pause in the trip, our increasingly growing desire to undertake more technical terrain, dictated the necessity to embrace “less is more”. And “size does matter”. On the dirt, at least. Going forward, my bad habits must be broken. Namely, stockpiling on: clothing, surplus belongings, excessive numbers of bars of soap (don’t ask), and the luxury items that simply aren’t essential, the cowgirl boots.
Meet Mr Jangles, my 2001 Suzuki DR650. Much taller than I’m used to, but what a joy this motorcycle is to take on the dirt. Entering my life during my 36th birthday celebration, our meeting kick-started well: bonding well with him (some big shoes to fill there), around Canmore, Alberta. “Well suck my pants and call me Noreen!” nailed Stephen Fry–he glides effortlessly over gravel, weight shifts like a break dancer and has transformed my off road riding. Behaving like a pup chomping at the bit in the dirt, I couldn’t be happier whizzing my maracas off astride this dandy little DR.Where has this bike been my whole life?
DR650s are mayhaps one of the best kept secrets among long distance moto-travellers. It’s almost child’s play, requiring less input from me, freeing me up to feel free as a bird. And I admit, at around 100 pounds lighter, Mr Jangles is infinitely easier to ride off road than my hefty old Pearl (530 pounds laden with luggage). Jason’s right: I better keep my luggage to an absolute minimum to keep reaping the benefit…
Jason has worked a fair bit on Mr Jangles: upgrading the suspension, adding a bigger Acerbis tank, installing new plastics, rejetting the carburetor, opening up the air box, fitting a lighter exhaust, as well as a Vapour Tech digital display. More to come: a decent windscreen, cruiser pegs (oh yeah!), bigger hand guard shields, pannier racks for my saddlebags, and a lowered custom seat. We invested in the links to lower the bike although honestly, don’t think I’ll need them–not with the customized seat, luggage and me to lower the bike. What’s more, I’ve never enjoyed awesome ground clearance before, won’t that be novel?
Pearl (Feb 2014 to Oct 2016):
My former bike, Pearl, was a 2001 BMW F650GS having been broken in by two previous owners with 27,000 miles on the clock. Fortunately, I spotted this factory-lowered bike on eBay at the right price so took a chance. To be honest it looked better in the pictures than in the flesh, but with a few cans of spray paint and three days of hard graft, Jason transformed her from an ugly duckling into a swan. Oodles of fun to ride although Jason personally finds it a little under powered for his riding style and taste. Fitted out with Oxford heated grips because the originals had expired, plus a Touratech radiator guard. As well as an additional sump guard over the original belly pan and a set of hard Metal Mule 31 litre panniers, which we swopped for Adventure Spec Magadan MK2 soft saddle bags.
Absolutely, Pearl’s an extremely forgiving motorcycle, a great beginner’s and dual sports bike and I adored her as much as anything else. Fusing like some Greek mythical creature: half woman, half motorcycle…or something like that!