Buying a motorcycle isn’t the end of something. That motorcycle is the beginning of a multitude of roads, multitudes of journeys, and a blank alloy canvas.
It’s a rare rider – if that rider exists at all — that finds a bike that is absolutely perfect exactly as it is found.
You know what I’m talking about. Handlebars that are just a tad too narrow, or too low, or whose grips are at just the wrong angle. Levers that need to be rotated, changed, adjusted for point of engagement. Pegs that are just a tad off.
There are a whole punch list of things that need to be done to make that machine fit you, to do the job you need it to do.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that the most recent resident of the Rolling Physics Problem garage – a 2017 BMW F800 GS Adventure – had its own wants and needs, and those needs needed to be fulfilled.
The basic motorcycle absolutely spoke to me – a middle displacement motor, making nice revvy power with a noticeable top end power hit – typical Rotax fare. The chassis itself is light and narrow, with rigid, long travel suspension at both ends. Out of the box, the bike was already accessorized so that there was little that it needed – it had the Adventure’s 6.5 gallon underseat fuel tank, LED driving lamps, and the factory’s Touratech-sourced luggage frames, expedition cases, packing straps, and lower crash bars.
The big stuff – 98% of the work — was done.
The last 2% though, would be required to take the bike from good to perfect.
It started innocently enough.
I’d been looking at the foot of the GS’s sidestand, and thinking that for a motorcycle that was going to be parked off pavement from time to time, that the foot of the sidestand was perhaps not as large as it needed to be.
I‘m not the first one to have this thought – a search string of ‘sidestand foot enlarger’ on Amazon maxes the search out at over 5000 hits.
I waded though the 5000 hits until I found one that fit what I needed it to for what I wanted to spend on it. It even matched the bike’s color scheme.
It showed up in my mailbox. I put it on. It worked.
It was like a little bit of Bike Jewelry. Zero drama.
Then, though, drama.
ADVRider – that forum/place/community/media locus or whatever the heck it actually is right now – it turns out, is kind of like Amazon for GS Parts. And the fact that I do not own the boxer version of same does not affect that in any way.
I was involved in an online conversation about people’s F800 GSs, and someone let slide that there were a lot of choices when it came to lowered saddles for the bike, and as a matter of fact, Said Someone had two that he was trying to sell after having traded his in on its bigger 1200 brother.
The F800 GS is a tall motorcycle.
I could manage it around town, but the reach to the ground had me on the balls of my feet, and it felt just precarious enough that sooner or later, it would somehow catch me out, and then it would be time to wear the GS for a hat. Getting one inch closer to the ground doesn’t sound like much, but that inch managed to worm itself into my brain – and got larger and more firmly attached until it would absolutely not unworm.
Said Someone and I traded a few private messages, and then cut a deal for a Touratech Lowered Comfort Seat, for roughly half of what Touratech gets for them.
I renewed my familiar imitation of Loyal Poochie Waiting for His Favorite Fed Ex Delivery Man to Appear.
Which he eventually did.
After work, I took the new saddle out to the garage. I transferred the bike’s cute tiny toolkit – I think there are 3 tools which fit every fastener on the machine – and the owner’s manual pack to the new saddle’s base. The saddle engaged the rear mounting pins, mounting bumpers and lock just like factory.
I swung a leg over, and settled in.
I remember, when I tested a MotoGuzzi V85TT, thinking that motorcycle had the firmest saddle upon which I had ever placed buttocks.
This, apparently, was firmer.
I did get a photo from the saddle’s former owner, Said Someone, that had the German Language item description on a label on the saddle pan – ‘Komfortsitzbank Sport Neidrig’ – which I believe translates to ‘Comfort Bench Seat Lowered Sport’. I can only conclude from this very small sample size data that when a German Motorcyclist describes something as ‘A comfort saddle’, that he or she means something far different than I what I customarily mean. Still, if one assumes that this description is coming from the Dirtbike side of the motorcycling family, then it starts to make somewhat more sense – where firm support and ability to move the motorcycle with any of the motorcyclist’s contact points – hands, butt and feet – are all positives.
Riding the bike it made more sense – there really was good support and the contact with the machine was much enhanced. At stops my purchase with the ground was improved, and the rider triangle was almost unaffected – there was still plenty of leg room. As the miles rolled up some combination of my butt and the saddle broke in to each other, and I started to understand the old wisdom about motorcycle saddles.
An Old Wise One had told me once that a saddle that is comfortable in the showroom – soft, cushy – will be hellspawn on the road, whereas something that on first sit seems too firm, will reveal its virtue 4 hours in. This was clearly one of those.
Still, in the Immortal Word’s of TV’s Inspector Columbo, there was just one tiny little thing that was bothering me.
With my seating position lowered an inch, my relationship with the windshield had changed just enough that it was now the inheritor of the accursed brainworm inch. The GS’s Previous Owner had supplied the bike with a Givi D5110ST replacement windscreen. The D5110ST is a great replacement shield if one is decidedly tall, which the Previous Owner was, and, alas, I am not, and not likely to magically become, either.
On the stock saddle, I could see over the shield when I adopted good posture. With an inch of altitude shaved off, looking over now required a bit more of a stretch. I had noticed some buffeting at the higher cruising speeds I seem to prefer, which the lower seating position actually improved nominally. The overall performance of the shield, though, left room for improvement, so I tried to improve.
In all fairness, the problem with windshields on enduro or rally style motorcycles isn’t the fault of any one manufacturer or any aftermarket supplier – without resorting to extreme measures, truthfully, they all straight up suck. The issue is one of simple aerodynamics – these offroaders are narrow motorcycles, with accordingly narrow shields. At any kind of sustained speed, in any even remotely suboptimal conditions – dirty air from other vehicle wakes, quartering winds, anything — and the upper part of the aerodynamic envelope – wherein, it should be noted, one’s head sits – collapses onto itself from the sides, causing awful buffeting. An extended test of an original KTM 1190 Adventure that I did revealed a fantastic motorcycle that – at any speed over 65 mpg – was like being punched in the head over and over and over again.
Givi also makes a screen called the Airflow. The Airflow is a two-piece shield system, with a shorter main shield and an adjustable upper shield. The upper shield has a significant flow of air behind it – net result, very granular adjustability and smooth airflow around the rider’s head. I’ll be the first to admit that it looks like some form of Steampunk Nerdvana Contraption, but if I adapt the perspective of RPP’s Motorcycle Styling Traditionalist Cadre – Hi Bud! – that means it fits right in with the rest of the GS.
Online commenters consistently said things like, “This is the best money I have ever spent on this GS…” so purchasing one seemed fairly low risk. In fact, it was so low risk that every single one in North America seemed to have already been purchased. The Internet, when faced with one of these little challenges, is a truly wonderful thing. After about 30 seconds of Furious Googling, I had identified an Italian Motorcycle Accessories business that apparently had no supply chain problems, and a crazily low price, even including shipping.
Click, click. Wait for delivery man.
Given the international order, no one was more shocked than me when the UPS man pulled up on the fourth morning after the order, coming out of a holiday weekend. Given that I was removing one Givi shield and replacing it with another, the installation was as close to trivial as anything motorcycle ever gets – remove six torx headed screws – one on each side and four in the center of the cockpit – and replace the new shield and torque down the four screws. Once the base shield is secured, the upper, movable shield is inserted in the tracks and the clamps – which can be opened and closed by hand – are closed to secure the upper shield in position. I’m altitudinally challenged and summer in Maryland is coming, so I went with the lowest possible position.
Total duration – about 8 minutes.
I had a little errand in Frederick that – unusual in these days – really required that my face be located directly in front of another face that had been failing to take a required action when contacted by any other medium – phones, text, e-mails – that could easily be ignored. Given how frenetic my worklife has been lately, it was important that this errand be completed as efficiently as possible. Translation – high rates of speed and no mucking about en-route. Shame really, as muckin about en-route is a specialty of mine.
In short, though, the perfect opportunity to test a new touring fairing.
I leathered up, geared up, lit up the Rotax and headed to Frederick.
Rolling through Jefferson I was happy that the set up seemed stock – solid with no squeak or rattleage. The cockpit seemed calm, but almost everything does at 45 mph.
Headed up 340 out of town, I wound the motor through the gears – only shifting into 6th after passing the ridgeline and heading down the other side. Once in top, I stayed in the gas – 80…85.
It was only then that I realized I had never closed the visor on my Shoei.
Never let it be said that Certain Italian Motorcycle Engineers do not know how to make the best use of wind tunnels. At my idea of an appropriate Interstate highway cruising speed the GS’s cockpit was quiet and calm enough to run with one’s full face helmet open – for longer days in the saddle, this is worth any amount of mere currency. For me to want to travel – really cover ground – on a motorcycle, it has got to be quiet, because noise equals fatigue, and fatigue is a wall that can’t be ridden though, or Iron Butt Rally Winners aside, I can’t ride through, without feeling that I am writing checks that eventually aren’t going to be able to be cashed.
This Airflow screen had completely transformed this motorcycle. It was now really ready for any kind of speed and distance.
And you guys or gals out there with OG KTM 1190 Adventures, you really want to check one of these Givi Airflows for your bike out. Yes, they make them. I checked.
Little tweeks. But these tweeks were completely transformative.
Time to go for a long ride.
Still, there is this guy on Adventure Rider that has a nice SW-Motech aluminum replacement for the ludicrous plastic bash plate that BMW hoped no-one would ever notice…