Bike Build: BMW R1200GS Extended Test
The cannons are silent and the dust has settled on last year’s “Battle Ready” 2015 BMW R1200GS build. We learned a lot over the past 18,000 miles about the bike, its armor, and other paraphernalia originally selected to enhance the machine’s already formidable capabilities. We began dismantling the old cyborg, analyzing each piece to determine what withstood the test and what failed. Our next unit, a fresh 2016 GS, gets a lot of proven hand-me-downs from its older brother, but we’ve made a few upgrades to the set-up, too.
WHAT WE CHANGED
Our Hepco-Becker crash bars gave their all. After too many low-sides on variable terrain, they were bent and dented. The aluminum Touratech valve cover protectors did their best to shield their charge, but they too succumbed to the barrage, pinched and deformed beneath the engine guards. Placing themselves in harm’s way, both components prevented serious damage but the scars on the valve covers are evidence of numerous skirmishes and I would rather see them built a bit tougher. I understand that Touratech now has an upgraded stainless steel version of the valve cover guards but we have yet to try a set.
Machineart Moto’s nylon X-Head boots replaced the tweaked Touratech valve cover protectors. These surprisingly stylish shields are lined with a solid half-inch of molded rubber helping to protect the delicate magnesium covers. They encompass a whopping 80% of the valve cover and, so far, don’t appear to deform in a fall.
The Hepco-Becker crash bars were traded for war-proven Touratech stainless steel uppers and lowers. These gorgeous bits of workmanship are comparable to Woody’s Wheels fit and finish and, with 2mm-wall, 1-inch diameter tubing formed to cage the cylinders and heads—much tougher than their predecessors. On our first outing I managed to tag a rather large tree and was suddenly ejected like I’d hit an IED. The left engine bar gouged a chunk of bark that would draw an “Atta boy!” from Paul Bunyan himself. Aside from the tree, the driver was the only casualty. The bars just shook it off like a triceratops to a BB gun.
A good soldier is always on his feet. Our old Black Dog Cycle Works (BDCW) pegs were superb, with a large, comfortable platform that made standing a pleasure, but in the muddiest conditions boots could slip off once the edges had worn down. BDCW has solved that issue once and for all. Their Traction Footpegs boast sharper aluminum teeth, a more open void, which allows mud to squeeze through and, most notably, removable sharp steel traction pins set into the perimeter of the aircraft-grade billet. A little lauded feature is their unique installation pins, which make replacement a breeze. Slipping resolved. And yes, they will still open a beer at the end of the ride. Two treats for Black Dog.
WHAT WE ADDED
Latecomers to the 2015 were Hammerhead Designs’ shifter and brake pedal. Both factory units are non-folders, which are non-starters for much serious backcountry travel. The factory brake pedal took a hit before replacement, requiring a field repair to restore its usefulness. The Hammerhead units are among the top components on the bike and they look the part. Both fold nicely when brushed by an immovable object. The shifter comes in various lengths, colors, and your choice of a knurled aluminum or rubber tip. Hammerhead offers several platform options for their brake pedal—with or without folding hinge, taller or shorter, and in different sizes. Threaded traction pins ensure grip and a brake snake is included in the kit to ward off saplings from the space between pedal and frame.
Final drives are vulnerable and ours picked up a few scratches... thankfully nothing worse. But to eliminate any further chance of an issue we slapped on a Touratech fiber-reinforced final drive guard and lower pivot cap for peace of mind.
Our side stand switch took a rock hit somewhere in an Arkansas creek bed, causing the dreaded “Why’d It Die?” syndrome until we determined the cause. We grabbed an AltRider side stand switch guard to prevent another incident with the new switch. Simple and effective.
WHAT WE KEPT
Woody’s Wheels are pure eye candy. We switched colors this time to silver Excel rims with crimson hubs. We kept the narrower, oilhead-size rims to accommodate a wider range of tires and for the relative protection they offer over the more exposed stock widths. Last year’s black rims took a bit of scuffing with all the sand riding and we woefully managed to lightly dent a front rim by railing down a rocky river bed with low tire pressure. Factory rims would have died an ugly death under those conditions. Even with the hit, not a single spoke has loosened in 18,000 miles of abuse with our original Woody’s Wheel-set.
Woody uses the best, Excel 7000 series rims mounted to his own design Superlite II billet hubs. His unique Superlace pattern spreads forces radially through spokes .040 inch thicker than stock. With the addition of Galfer wave rotors, the whole set-up is nothing short of stunning.
Our Braille ML 14C military-spec Lithium carbon fiber battery is now on its fourth motorcycle and is still going strong. Two spare auxiliary Powerlet outlets ensure our accessories will always have a place to be charged. Ram mounts continue to hold the cell phone and Garmin Montana GPS where they belong.
Shinko 804/805 series Big Block adventure touring tires wrap the rims on our new build as before. They have not failed to perform as they should, with grip comparable to similar tread designs costing nearly twice as much. Mileage ranges from 2,500 to 4,500 on the rear, depending upon wrist activity, and roughly double that on front. No complaints for a pair of tires costing under $200.00.
We retained the Maier rear forward splashguard, front beak extension and Neoprene fork seal protectors from Touratech. These bits have proven invaluable, each in their own way. The splashguard is a simple, effective barrier against all the crud that aims to destroy the rear shock. It rubbed a little on the rear tire at first, but a bit of forming with a heat gun and some natural relief from wear have eliminated any issues. It’s a cheap and effective component.
The Neoprene fork seal protectors have left the seals on our 2015 as good as new. Zero leaks and no visible issues from grit or impact. The beak extension is just cool... what more matters?
Final bits from Touratech include their high strength plastic GS hand guards and spoilers. Tough as carbide nails, they are also pliable enough to absorb some of the impact from a fall and they don't bend like aluminum handguard often do in a big bike spill. Once bent, it's a street fight to form them back on the trail. They come in colors, and spoilers can be mixed and matched.
Touratech’s headlight protector has kept us illuminated through numerous ak attacks. We struggle to choose between the high-strength Macrolon or laser-cut stainless steel guard (both included in their quick-release Ultimate Headlight Guard Kit). Both have done their job without complaint.
Ned Seusse’s Doubletake Mirrors are a must-have for any dual-sport or adventure bike. They are inexpensive, infinitely adjustable, they stay put once properly installed and tightened, and the housings are guaranteed for life. Crystal clear SAE glass replacements are sold separately.
We stuck with the Rigid D2 Dually lights and FZ1 Fuzeblock from BDCW. Battle is no place to experiment and these electrical components have held up awlessly (with the exception of a tiny bit of corrosion on the Fuzeblock circuitry which was removable with a brush). Rigid lights illuminate our Tacoma GS overlanding truck as well, and we have experienced equal success over five years of backcountry use.
The indomitable BDCW ULTIMATE skid plate deserves the Medal of Honor for all it has done to save our engine. BDCW armor has also successfully staved o all attacks to our radiators and will remain on the new bike, as will their simple, form-fitting side stand enlarger. Their 40mm bar risers have proven just right for my 5-foot, 10-inch frame.
Our BDCW Helopad luggage platform has been invaluable for toting everything from our Warn XT 17 winch to luggage and even RotopaX for water and fuel.
Wolfman Rocky Mountain panniers and their Overland tailbag have the most miles hauling our gear and so far this set-up has proven awless. The addition of Wolfman’s new Pikes Peak Rapid Release system settles the only serious complaint we’ve had with soft luggage.
Touratech’s electropolished stainless steel pannier frames match the engine guards perfectly and they protect the aft portion of the bike while offering an ideal mounting spot for their Mundo aluminum panniers or any soft luggage set-up.
Sargent’s World Sport Performance Plus saddle has been one of the most important components of the upgrade. Crossing continents to save the world takes its toll on the butt. This saddle has literally saved mine. We use the pillion less frequently, but Susan (my wife) reports that it’s much more comfortable than the stock unit.
Overall, with the exception of the items and upgrades mentioned, our Battle Tested GS has earned its stripes. The GS platform is a hammer... always performing without complaint and, properly accessorized, it is more than up to the task of doing battle with some of the toughest, longest roads on the planet.
|Side Stand Switch Guard||AltRider.com or Revzilla(Affilicate)||$46.97|
BDCW ULTIMATE skid plate, radiator guards and Platform footpegs
Add $10.00 for Traction pegs
|Rigid D2 Light Package||BlackDogCW.com||$458.00|
|Back Country Pannier Kit||BlackDogCW.com||$624.99|
|Braille 952 PCA battery||BrailleBattery.com||$1,312.49|
|Doubletake Adventure Mirror||DoubletakeMirror.com||$120.00|
|Hammerhead CNC Shift Lever||HDMoto.com||$79.99|
|Hammerhead Rear Brake Lever||HDMoto.com||$229.99|
|Sargent Heated Saddle and Pillion||SargentCycle.com||$899.95|
|Shinko Big Block 804/805||ShinkoTireUSA.com or Revzilla (Affiliate)||$178/set|
|Touratech Crash Bars, Upper/Lower||Touratech-USA.com||$359.95/$439.95|
|Final Drive Guard||Touratech-USA.com||$249.95|
|Ultimate Dead Light Guard Kit (w/ both covers)||Touratech-USA.com||$189.95|
|Hand Guard Protectors & Spoilers||Touratech-USA.com||$132.80/$35.00|
|Neoprene Fork Seal Protectors||Touratech-USA.com
|Wolfman Rocky Mtn Panniers||WolfmanLuggage.com||$524.99|
|Wolfman Pikes Peak Rapid Release System||WolfmanLuggage.com||$324.99|
|Woody's Wheel Works||WoodysWheelWorks.com||Priced Per Build|
|TOTAL||$7,878.11 + wheels|