Wild Nordics

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How to pimp out a BMW R1200 GS Adventure for serious road trips

By on 03/12/2017

In this article we will take a look at the best accessories for the BMW R1200 GS Adventure motorcycle. This write-up is based on research and personal experience from riding my 2014 model for two summers around Europe.  The recommendations assume that the rider will mostly be doing road or gravel riding.

Straight off the factory floor the BMW 1200 Adventure is a capable motorcycle. What makes it stand out from the pack is how easy and comfortable it is to ride.

Don’t be mistaken in thinking this machine is for more than modest off road use. It’s heavy, wide and will sink at the first site of mud. Dakar legend and BMW riding school trainer Simon Pavey might make it look easy but for the rest of us mere mortals it’s advisable to stick to firm ground. (Picture of bike bogged is from the Austrian Alps)

The Premium Package

BMW is pretty good at getting money out of their customers. In order to get the what some might expect to be the standard bells and whistles one must part with an extra €4-5 K. I did this and was pretty happy with the package.

This gets you:

  • Dynamic ESA
  • LED Headlight
  • Keyless Ride
  • On-board Computer Pro
  • Ride Modes Pro
  • GPS Preparation kit
  • Heated Grips
  • Tire Pressure Monitor
  • Cruise Control
  • LED Auxiliary Lights
  • ABS Pro
  • Saddle Bag Mounts for ALU Cases

Nowadays there is also Dynamic Traction Control and Hill Start Control for an extra  €1500. The Dynamic traction control could be useful but needing or wanting hill start assist is just plain embarrassing.

Factory Accessories

The BMW Motorrad Garmin Navigator is one of the nicest pieces of kit that can be fitted to the motorcycle. It integrates beautify and is easily controlled from left handle grip multi-controller. You can get information straight from the motorcycle along with very decent maps and navigation.

One of my biggest regrets was not fitting the Anti-Theft Alarm. At the time when buying the motorcycle in Finland it seemed hardly necessary but in retrospect it would have given increased peace of mind especially when travelling in the east and south of Europe where vehicle theft is significantly higher. I carried and used alarmed disc locks which were useful but in my mind the more security the better.

I purchased and used all 3 of the BMW ALU cases. With road riding you are never far from civilization and it is very nice that they can be locked. When camping, the side cases are easily dismounted and make a very nice stool and table. When at home I mostly just used the top box which snugly stored a helmet. Annoyingly BMW makes you pay extra for their foam padding back rest on the top box but your pillion will appreciate it.

For the factory side cases there are BMW dry bags (liners) available for all 3 cases which are a bit over priced but useful to keep things dry. I used the smaller right side BMW case for clothes and the bigger left side case for food, water and cooking utensils. BMW sells carry handles for the cases which I bought but never used them. They just cause drag and get in the way of strapping things on.

I also purchased the BMW Tank bag. It was expensive and wasn’t as waterproof as I would have hoped. Then again I did visit some very wet places like the west coast of Ireland. It came with a handy strap which clipped on and could be warn around the shoulder which was very useful. Generally all your valuables are kept in the tank bag. All in all it was a good purchase but maybe next time I would look into options from other vendors before re-buying the same tank bag.

The slip-on HP sports silencer by Akrapovič was an option that I also opted in for. It has a slightly nicer sound but that is about it. In hindsight you can buy a lot of petrol for that €1 K investment.

Any other BMW accessories I have not mentioned here I did not buy because I did not think they were useful.

Crash Protection

If this motorcycle leaves you stranded it won’t be because of a breakdown. The BMW R1200 GS Adventure is one of the most reliable machines on the planet. As long as the motorcycle is properly maintained it is highly unlikely to break down. I carried tools to tighten faring and plug a flat tire (which I did at least once) but that was about it. The biggest and more likely risks is crashing it into a tree.

As stock the BMW R1200 GS Adventure comes with reasonable crash protection. The front crash bars will save the fairing and engine if sliding down a smooth road but on rough surfaces the side mounted cylinder heads are very exposed to sharp rocks. Other major vulnerabilities are the radiators near the front wheel and the lower engine block.

To protect the radiators I installed Touratech’s Stainless steel guards. They offer good protection and don’t restrict airflow too much. Wunderlich offers a similar product but I preferred the Touratech offering. It seemed more simple yet sturdy and not that much more expensive.

The stock Engine protection skid plate (as seen in the picture above) is inadequate and should be replaced with something more robust. During riding I heard a lot of loud rock strikes to the under body and exhaust on rougher gravel roads. BMW’s own Factory Accessory Aluminium Engine Guard would not be my first choice. It seems too light and flimsy. Touratech’s Expedition Skid plate seems the most sturdy. It goes all the way back to protect the rear suspension, has nylon skid strips and is constructed of much thicker aluminium.

Touratech Exhaust header pipe guards might also be good along with their Cylinder head guards but they are quite unsightly and take away from the sexiness of  the motorcycle. Still if you want to not be stranded in the middle of Mongolia they might be good insurance.

One of the most useful accessories I installed was the Touratech’s Large Sidestand Foot to keep the bike from falling over.

I usually camped in forests and fields where the ground was soft and I never had any problem with the sidestand sinking in.

 

The hand guards on the BMW R1200 GS Adventure are a little flimsy. I never felt a strong enough urge to replace them even though the thought crossed my mind. I did however purchase Touratech spoilers for the original hand guards to keep a bit more wind off the hands. This was especially important when up in the mountains where the air is cold.

 

I installed a Touratech Sidestand Switch Guard after a stick strike damaged the electronic switch. Apart from being expensive to replace, the broken switch can inhibit starting the engine due to the automatic engine shutoff functionality.

I also installed a Touratech Drive Shaft Slider. The idea with it is to protect the expensive final drive shaft from getting scratched up. In practice though if you have the side cases on the bike they will be what takes the impact. Without the cases on the slider might be useful.

I did not bother with a headlight guard as I usually rode on my own and rocks generally did not get flicked up that high. Most of the options available consist of a hideous steel mesh construction. At least with the Touratech headlight guard option they provide both a clear perspex cover and a metal mesh cover that can be interchanged so when needed you don’t negate the efficacy of the powerful LED headlight.

Comfort

The BMW R1200 GS Adventure is about as close as you can come to riding a sofa while still maintaining decent handling and agility. During my trips I was spending 8 – 10 hours a day riding so comfort was paramount to making the distance.

The stock BMW seat is rubbish as its too soft and square. I made a very good decision to invest in an aftermarket seat. I can’t speak highly enough of the Wunderlich Ergo seat. (Driver + passenger seat sold separately) Not only does it look beautiful but it is a dream to sit on. There is also a heated option if you really want to spoil yourself.

At 188 cm (6’2″) I found the stock screen slightly low. It meant wind buffeting on the top of the helmet. To counteract this I attached a Touratech Windscreen spoiler. It fixed the wind buffeting nicely but exposed another problem of the motorcycle.

The screen adjustment bracket is not as solid as it should be and could do with additional reinforcement. Wunderlich has a screen reinforcement kit which adds a fair amount of sturdiness. This is especially important for the Wunderlich aftermarket screens they are taller and wider than the BMW stock screens.

One important aspect of staying comfortable on the bike is changing position regularly. I picked up this pair of highway pegs in Latvia on my way down to the Alps. They worked wonders for being able to stretch out the legs in a multitude of different ways. The pegs just clamped nicely onto the engine bars.

Some also have a screw off end that you can take off and hide some spare cash in case you get separated from your wallet. This was a life saver for me when my wallet got stolen in Scotland.

Additional Storage

One of the things I learned from my travel was that the less stuff you take the better. Always leave with bags half empty because by the time you get home you will have more stuff.

I was a huge fan of the simplicity of strapping on the an  Ortlieb Duffle dry bag and left the top case at home for my second big trip around Europe. The Ortlieb dry bag was tough, easy to carry and totally waterproof. The bag compressed down easily by squeezing the air out of it and it would stay deflated. When riding one up I put it long ways and if carrying a passenger I strapped it sideways. The soft bag also doubled as a really comfortable back rest.

The best tie down straps money can buy are ROK straps. They go on easily and are super strong. Make sure you get the ones that loop onto themselves and not the ones with hooks.

I also really loved the Wunderlich Crash Bar Bags. The fitted perfectly and helped move weight to the front of the bike. They provided quick access to tools, a puncture repair kit, a first aid kit and a few extra bits and pieces. When securing the bike they easily came off got packed into one of the side cases.

Another useful bag was the Wunderlich Boxer bag. I fitted discretely under the rear rack above the tail light. I used it to store the bike papers and a hunting knife in case I ever got chased by a bear. Fortunately the latter never happened but I did have to pull out the bike papers on more than one occasion.

Utility

Most of us carry devices that need charging. The BMW R1200 GS Adventure has BMW (Din/Hella) power outlet which will need a usb socket of some sort. The position for the socket is not great so I recommend getting an adapter with a linger lead which can be wrapped or attached somewhere. Make sure it has the rubber seal over the front to keep the water out when you are not using it, otherwise you run the risk of shorting a fuse.

Tires

Off the showroom floor my 2014 BMW R1200 GS Adventure came with Michelin Anakee 3 tires (pictured to the left). They wore quite well but did not have the best grip and where surprisingly noisy on the highway.

I had the opportunity to test them in mud and I can report back that they were totally useless. This picture to the left was very happy ending to a treacherous track somewhere in the back hills of Slovenia. I am sure many have experienced that gut wrenching feeling after realizing the only way is forward into the unknown as there is no way to go back. In particular I got to experience how to try to stop a 300 kg beast that wants to slide off the side of a mountain. Lessons learnt, save this riding for a Yamaha WR 450.

Next for fun I put of a set of Continental TKC80 tires on mostly for curiosity. (to the right) The handling on dirt was pretty awesome but at the cost of road handling. Since at least 80% of my riding was done on road it didn’t make a lot of sense to keep them on.

A lot of people put the tires on the bike just for looks. It admittedly does make the bike look tough but for me it’s more about practicality. With a good set of road tires this bike grips the road like a goanna climbing a tree and corners like a leopard on crack.

My final selection of tire that I really fell in love with was the Continental ContiTrailAttack 2 tires. They were quiet, gripped the road well, handled water and behaved on gravel. On top of that they lasted a lot longer than any other tire.

My only complaint with them was that they were a little slippery in the extreme heat of Sicily, Italy in the middle of summer. The roads were seriously hot. I have not ridden with other tires in extreme heat so do not know it is all tires or these in particular.

Riding in leathers in 40°C was not really my thing so maybe I would go for another pair for riding in the mountains or up here in Finland.

Conclusion

There is no point in going cheap on the accessories for your BMW R1200 GS Adventure. You have spent a lot of money buying the motorcycle why not spend some more. There are lots of nice Factory Accessories from BMW and a whole lot more from Touratech and Wunderlich.

The machine is highly reliable but susceptible to damage from accidents and road debris.  Don’t get stranded, especially if you will be going far away from civilization. Put the necessary protection on the bike.

If you are actually planning on doing serious road trips then give some thought to comfort. You need to be able to do long stints on the motorcycle. Poor comfort leads to increased fatigue which puts you in danger. If fitted out correctly the BMW R1200 GS Adventure will give you pleasurable riding from sunrise to sunset.

There are a lot of good additional storage options as mentioned above but remember the less stuff you take the better your trip will be. Finally, invest in good tires as they are the only thing keeping you on the road. Replace tires when they need to be replaced and use them as directed by the manufacturer.

Have fun and be safe!