This trip has been one of the best I’ve ever taken from the perspective of just a single solo quiet time to be with myself away from distractions and troubles. It was really an extraordinary time. I’d like to start by talking about the bike and its performance over the 2,000 mile journey I took in 5 days.
Despite the 1.2 litre engine, the R1200 GS is not a fast bike. around 110 horsepower which, loaded up isn’t a lot of oomph and the gearing is set up for low speed off roading so at 80 MPH on the interstate, 6th gear has you hovering at 6K RPM and gas guzzling is at the peak. I’ve learned that 55 Mph is the sweet spot for fuel economy. This is a bike built for mountain passes and county roads that connect cities, not highways that connect states.
Where the bike lacks in power, it does make up in capability, comforts and technology. The 2017 GSA is out now and that makes this bike 8 model years old. It uses oil-cooled tech over water-cooled, it lacks cruise control, cornering ABS, driving modes like rain, road and off-road and it’s heavier up top and doesn’t do very well in the corners like the newer generation can.
The R1200 GSA from 2009 still had most of the similarities with the R1150 aka the Africa Bike from Long Way Round and the newer models are built with road touring in mind as a lot of people who buy them take long road trips and rarely see gravel. Even the tires that come on newer models are far from off-road capable. So in a lot of ways, my bike is still the best of both worlds. I really wish it had cruise control.
For the amount of gear on my bike, I put the ESA (shock damping control and preload) in 2-Up mode basically telling the bike that 2 people are sitting on it. Then I put it in comfort mode which softened things up slightly. I weigh 250 and I had about 250 pounds of gear and luggage so I think 2-Up mode was the most appropriate and it never let me down. I was on a bike that was quite nimble and fun even on those awesome North Carolina twisties that had me scraping my boots at every turn.
75 miles into my journey, my TPMS light went off and showed no air pressure in my front or rear tire. I pulled off and checked the pressure with my gauge and things were fine. Luckily, I was 15 miles from Max BMW in Troy, NY. They inspected the bike, topped off the tires and said that at around 6-7 years old, these bikes have a TPMS battery that goes out. Labor involves yanking off both tires. Since I was replacing tires with brand new ones in the Spring, they suggested I just check the pressure every morning & night and ignore the warning. This issue didn’t keep my trip from being a blast despite a constant warning that I had low tire pressure. The thing about TPMS sensors on bikes is that a rider will know when they have a flat tire. If you can’t tell you’re running at half PSI or none at all, you shouldn’t be on a bike.
I did drop my bike once. I was stopped in a parking area, in Neutral and had put the kick-stand down. I rolled forward slightly and decided to just put the bike on its stand while I tried to find my wallet in the tank bag. Forgetting that when I roll forward, the kick stand sometimes rolls back slightly, I dropped the bike. The weight on it worked against me and I severely damaged the engine guard and my left luggage box. My bike itself was completely fine. I assume a new guard is $100 and a new luggage box will cost $500. A costly mistake that I’ll have to rectify before my trip back as those guards are single use. Once dented, it may not do its job next time. The case is no longer water-tight and may break at some point from the screws being cracked on the bottom. I don’t want to risk it on my way back home.
As usual, every time I stop, someone will come up to me and ask me about the bike, my journey and my adventures. The bike itself was a magnet for adventuring Men who wanted to make sure I was on a journey worth talking about. I think most of these guys wished they could be on a trip like this but work, kids and family keep them from it. It was truly an awesome adventure.
2 hours from my 2nd to last destination, it was the most stressful leg of the trip. I’m on Georgia’s 441 South about 100 miles from the Florida border and the Sun had set and it was me all by myself on a road that was so flat and so straight that I could see cars approaching from 20 miles away. It’d take a full 8 minutes at times for me to meet them and we’d lower our high-beams and pass carelessly to our opposite destinations. Along this road, I would see a pack of deer every 2-5 miles. This is not an exaggeration. There were deer everywhere. They stood right alongside the road, eating grass and waiting to kill me. On a bike, hitting an animal the size of a deer can lead to death. It’s no laughing matter, I white-knuckled my drive and each time my aftermarket LED lights showed a glimpse of an animal’s reflection from their eyeballs, I’d squeeze the clutch and my brakes and come to a stop as quickly as possible while blaring my horn. It was a great exercise in my stop & go training but did a huge number on the life of my brakes likely shaving 2-3 weeks off their life each time I did it.
I was almost unscathed when right in my headlight about 25 feet ahead of me entered a deer carcass laying flat in front of me in the road, head in the center of the road and its body overlapping the white line on the right. I was traveling in a direction that crossed over the deer’s torso.
Stopping wasn’t an option. Swerving would have required I had that new-fangled “cornering ABS” which my bike does not so I did what they taught us in MSF, I lowered my body, leaned forward to make myself one with the bike and as soon as I crossed over the deer, I hit the throttle.
My bike left the asphalt for half a second, my engine RPMs went up to 9,500 and I saw a blinking red light in my computer while the engine cut power to zero, a yellow light started flashing as soon as I landed and I presume ABS along with traction control did everything possible to modulate power and braking independently on the front & rear brakes to keep me upright and doing in a single direction.
I landed and it took a few hundred feet to realize that I had just survived death.
I noticed a wobble in my bike so I pulled off and felt a few loose spokes. One of the advantages of the GS Adventure of most BMW Motorcycles is the off-road spokes which allow you to take on gnarly bums at high speed without feet of cracking a cast wheel. Spokes aren’t indestructible but they’re designed to become loose and be re-tightened. I rode on and then my low – oil light came on. It’s something that happens every 1,000 miles as my bike does eat oil. I pulled off at a fuel station in the next town and topped off the bike with the small funnel and BMW oil I keep in my luggage for such occasions. Before topping off the bike, I checked for any oil leaks and waited a full 20 minutes to make sure the deer incident hadn’t led to a complete failure of my mechanical system. All looked good, I added oil and continued on my journey.
This was my first and last issue on this trip and thankfully, the best outcome considering the alternative of high-siding over a deer and landing in a ditch with 20+ bones broken at 9:30PM at night 90 minutes from any major hospital.
Tuesday evening, I pulled into St. Augustine with half a tank of gas, a riding suit that was white but now almost slate grey with road debris and dirt and dust and a very sore butt from riding 500 miles the day before and 150 that day.
In late-March, I return to Florida to take my bike to BMW for its service which includes:
- Air Filter
- Oil Filter
- New Tires
- New Brake Pads
- New Brake Rotors
- TPMS batteries on front & rear
- New Engine Guards
- New Luggage box on left-side
- Fuse box install (mine is out of capacity as I want to add LED lights next year)
- 18K Mile service checks
- New Slip-On Exhaust if I can afford it by then
I’ll then drive the bike back home on a different route. Maybe this time going through Alabama up to Tail of the Dragon, then Bourbon County and up Ohio then driving to Niagra Falls and the Trans-Canada Highway back home to New Hampshire. That would be another unforgettable road trip.
Unfortunately, a few weeks after that, I drive down to Asheville for Wookies in the Woods again at Tail of the Dragon so it’s going to be a huge month for driving.
My time in Florida was a lot of fun. I saw family, old-friends and met a lot of people who are now a part of their lives. My sister who turns 17 in January has a girlfriend. That was interesting to see but good to know she’s in love with another person who appears to be very kind and loving but they’re both children so who knows who my sister will love in a year or five? My other sister is having wins and losses as an entrepreneur. I don’t think she’ll succeed in her current endeavor but she’ll earn valuable life lessons in a time when failing is not as catastrophic as it might seem. She’s only 20. Failure is good. The risk is low. Fail early and often. You don’t have a mortgage yet.
My Dad’s gym celebrates its 3rd anniversary in February. I was there the day he signed the lease and showed me the building. I can’t believe it’s been that long since he started out on his own after running other people’s gyms for the last 30 years. They’re profitable and growing. I took a lot of photos for him which I hope can be put to good use on his Facebook and website.
St. Augustine was warm, Sunny and full of people. Lots of traffic with a lot of amenities and things to do but the traffic was awful. It’s not clear to me if Florida has a text & drive law in place but they should. On my bike, I honked at people more than I ever have in New Hampshire with people creeping into my lane, turning into the wrong traffic lane, failure to signal, or stop at traffic stops. Merging & Yielding are foreign concepts and through it all, every offender was typing on a cell phone while breaking the law. They all could have put me in the hospital just to send a stupid effing smiley face to their stupid friend. These offenders should be put in jail. You’re driving a 2 ton metal tank on a road going 55 miles per hour and you’re texting. Please please stop.
St. Augustine is full of nice people but there are so many people living there not from the South so that southern hospitality is basically gone. too many New Yorkers I guess?
Each day was basically the same. I’d get up at 7AM, join dad for breakfast consisting of a bottle of water and 2 eggs with cayenne pepper. We’d go to the gym and I’d read and study while he trained clients. Then, he and I would do a workout together. We’d get an afternoon break where I’d see my sisters or have a 5PM lunch with dad and then we’d teach martial arts at night. It’s identical to the schedule I had while living in Florida. The routine came naturally.
I return back to New Hampshire today sore, tired, craving a long nap and very thirsty from my muscles being robbed of all nutrients or maybe just starving for more given how hard we lifted this week.
By design, I didn’t go to the beach. I simply nursed the bottle of Four Roses I bought in New Hampshire, worked on my bike a bit, edited videos & photos, wrote, read, studied and worked out.
One of the highlights of this trip was eating real Mexican food again. Spicy chicken with beans and rice is so hard to come by in New Hampshire. Oh and NH can’t do Chili Relleno at all. Get a clue!
On the calendar, I work for 3 days this week and then I spend the long Thanksgiving weekend packing up my house into a U-Haul Pod and waiting for my contractor to start remodeling my new home from the ground up.
The last day I rode my bike for 2016 was yesterday, 11-19 and I literally said out loud, “I’m really going to miss this.” I’m new to motorcycling but it’s going to be a very long Winter and I simply cannot wait to get back on the bike in March and ride back North again.