I blame Ewan Mcgregor and Charlie Boorman for my first choice of steed, the BMW R1200GSA. Having travelled by bus, car, plane, boat and foot in the past, the thought of travelling by motorcycle was thrust upon me by watching ‘The Long Way Round’ and ‘The Long Way Down’ series. These guys managed to travel from country to country with relative ease, albeit with a few hassles at borders. They were given BMW R1200GSAs to ride, so having no experience of motorcycle travel, I assumed that these must be the bikes for the job. I had to own one.
I found an immaculate example on eBay, a four year old bike in red. With a fist full of my hard earned cash we set of for Essex on a chilly February morning to collect it from a dealer, riding it back in heavy snow. Over the following months at great expense, I transformed my two wheeled thing of beauty with all the things I would need for long distance overland travel, so I thought. Most of which proved to be nothing more than pretty trinkets, the reality is any bike can do the job with little if any modifications.
Our trip around Europe in July 2012 taught me two things; firstly this is a very capable bike and second, that it’s VERY HEAVY! I have managed to fall off a couple of times – both stationary but had to take all the luggage off to pick it back up again. A friend of mine summed it up well, ‘That bike will dictate where you go, you will not dictate where it goes.’ Go figure. Our trip in 2014 will be a mix of off road and tarmac, I needed a lighter bike. Namely, it had to go!
My current bike is a 2008 BMW F800GS. As there is no such thing as the perfect bike for overland travel, I opted for this bike because it’s the bike of my heart.
The first thing to say about this bike is that it’s quite a lot lighter than the BMW R1200GSA – very noticeable in the bends with a lively engine and a top speed on par with the R1200GSA is loads of fun. The two complaints I have with the bike though are the iron hard seat and the less than useless screen. The bike already had a custom belly pan, a set of heavy duty engine bars when I bought it so saved a few quid there, but I needed to do something about the screen and the seat. I settled for an Airhawk Seat which is essentially an air cushion that sits on top of the seat, which gives me about twice the distance before my ass goes to sleep. The problem with the screen was solved with a Touratech fairing which is not cheap but does a great job of protecting me from most of the wind, I also think it looks great. The bike has recently been fitted with a set of Metalmule panniers that are made from 2mm thick aluminium and look up to the job.
Lisa’s bike is a 2001 BMW F650GS having started out with 27,000 miles on the clock. Lisa spotted this factory-lowered bike on eBay at the right price so she 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 I transformed her from an ugly duckling into a swan. Lisa finds her oodles of fun to ride but I personally find it a little under powered for my taste. I fitted 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 Metalmule panniers.
Lisa believes that more often than not, Pearl saves her from herself. She’s an extremely forgiving motorcycle, a great starter touring bike and I know Lisa adores her as much as anything else. Fusing like some mythical Greek creature: half woman, half motorcycle…or something like that!