This morning I went on a ride, but didn’t really have a set route. It turns out I rode some new roads and visited a few favorites. Which is fine by me! The weather this morning was nice, starting out at maybe 78°F with some light clouds and a nice breeze. It was beautiful! I accidentally took a wrong turn and thought I was going to go down 2222 but it was actually Anderson Mill. Go figure. Oh well, that meant I could head south on 183 and take Old Spicewood Springs which I haven’t ridden for a while now. That would eventually drop me out at 360. Old Spicewood was fun as usual, with almost no traffic on this Holiday weekend. After that I headed south on 360 and noticed that the police were out in force pulling over speeders. I always try to keep my speed at or below the posted limit but you know with a bike it’s a little harder to regulate a consistent speed. But I did ok today and the police pulled over the giant SUVs and left the fellow motorcyclist alone. 🙂
After 360, I took Bee Caves out toward the Hill Country which was kind of the general plan that I wanted to go with. Vague, I know, but I had a morning pass from the familia! I thought about going down the road towards Hamilton Pool and Pedernales Falls, but kept on going up 71. As I passed over a couple bridges I saw that the water level was really low, if not completely dry. Therefore I decided to head to CR310 and do some light dirt. I figured I wouldn’t have to worry about any water-crossings today! CR310 was fun and sure enough, the water crossings were dry. It was a little sad because we are having such dry weather, but as I looked at the dried-up algae I thought I could live with it today. I continued on CR310 to a section I hadn’t been on before (CR308), and enjoyed it a lot. Riding on the gravel is so fun. I found my way back on the pavement at Farm Road 3347 for about 50 feet and then more dirt!
This road goes by the 3347, CR310, and the Althaus-Davis Road. It’s fantastic! And exciting too. I was riding along when a large snake, about a 2-footer slithered across my path and reared its head right before I ran over it. I looked in my mirrors to see if it was dead but I didn’t see anything! The thought crossed my mind that the critter could be latched on to the bike and/or my leg, so I stopped the bike, jumped off and had a look. It was nowhere to be found. I guess when I ran over it, the snake just got pushed into the dirt and kept on wiggling to the side of the road. My heart was still racing a bit as I continued on and was interrupted by a group of about 7 birds crossing the road in front of me. They looked like a cross between a turkey and a roadrunner. I stopped to get a better look at them but they had disappeared in the brush.
The gravel eventually gave way to pavement and turned into Althaus-Davis Road. This is a really fun stretch. Definitely a road I’d like to come back to. In fact, I thought about turning around and doing the road again from the opposite direction. I kind of wanted to look for that snake too. But I continued on to Willow City and since the sign for Willow City Loop was staring me in the face, I decided to ride it for the third time. No wildflowers this time of year, but still some great views of the Hill Country to be seen, and no traffic!
After the loop (which isn’t really a loop) I headed to Llano and then west on 52 to the small town of Castel. It was around noon by now and time to head back. It seems that I always end up on Hwy 29 for the ride back, and this was the case today. It’s a straight shot over to Reagan/Parmer and then home. Really a great ride and Kiki seemed to like the fresh engine oil and new battery. Boy do I love my motorcycle!
Odometer: 229.73 Miles
Changed the oil this past week as part of the 12,000-mile maintenance. Everything went smoothly. This was the second time doing it for me so it went pretty quickly. The process is to remove the bash plate, loosen the drain plug a bit (makes it easier to remove later when the engine is warm), remove the left side cover, then warm up the engine for a bit. Loosen the top drainplug a little, then remove the top oil container thing, then fully remove the drainplug and tilt the container to empty out the oil into a jug or something. After that is done, replace the drainplug and put the top oil container back into place. Next, remove the bottom drain plug and empty out the oil. Clean the drainplug and any debris that the magnet may have trapped. Put a new crush washer on, and tighten the drainplug. Next, remove the front sprocket cover, and get ready to remove the oil filter cover which means to make sure and have your makeshift funnel ready. BMW will sell you the funnel for $65, but I opted for the beercan method (see photo above). Remove the old oil filter and replace with a new one (put a little fresh oil on the rubber seal first). Put a new gasket on the cover, and put it back together. Next put 2 liters of oil in the top, then let the engine run for 30 seconds. Add .3 more liters. Replace bash plate and side cover and you’re done. Easy peasy!
In addition to the oil change, I bled the brakes and put in some fresh DOT-4 brake fluid. Now the brake action feels a lot more solid.
So I decided to go on a nice long ride this past weekend and visit (briefly) a few states that I’ve never ridden in before. In fact, it was my first time ever to visit Arkansas and Oklahoma! You know, Texas is so huge that it takes quite a while to reach any border if you live in the center of it, which I do. However, I love long-distance riding and since I had two days free I figured I would do it!
My route took me east on Hwy 79, and actually continued the length of it into Louisiana. From there I continued north into Arkansas and to my stop for the night in Murfreesboro. The next morning it was off to the Ouachita National Forest and Oklahoma before heading back south and home again. All in all, I traveled about 1,040 miles, 30 of which were because I missed a turn off to Hwy 79 on the way back. Doh!
My favorite part of the ride was definitely the forest area in Arkansas and Oklahoma, and Talimena Scenic Drive in particular. There were lots of nice vistas and plenty of clean air and I wish I could have spent more time there. And the riding around there was super! Lots of twisties and elevation changes to keep things fun. Not everything went smoothly, though, but at least it was nothing major. The USB to cigarette lighter adapter connection came loose and wouldn’t stay tight which meant I couldn’t have my GPS running all the time. I blame that for my 30 mile detour. I have batteries in the GPS, but they ran out of juice quickly. Secondly, one of my earpieces on my earbuds went out which meant no music on the way home. Lastly, when I arrived home I dropped my bike in the driveway. Ouch! I bent the handguard and the bike suffered a few scratches (adds character to a GS) but no real damage. I did manage to lift the bike up on my own so at least I know I can do that.
At any rate, it was a really fun trip and I can now put on three more state stickers on the bike! I’m up to five: Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
Kiki is nearing the 12,000 mile mark which means a bunch of service needs to be done and I’m trying to do most of it myself to save a bit of cash. One of the things I haven’t done before on the GS is change the spark plugs. Although my bike is a single-cylinder model, it’s a “dual-spark” which means there are two spark plugs. I decided to use the stock NGK DR8EB plugs as replacements and the price for these were about $4.50 each as opposed to an Iridium plug which goes for upwards of $20. Too pricey for me and the performance difference is debatable.
For a nice guide on how to change the spark plugs, you can check out the FAQ at the Chain Gang site. However, there were a few parts of the procedure that could use a little more detail. For my 2007 model, I’d recommend taking off the plastics, removing the snorkel, the battery, and the battery tray. By doing this, you can access the tops of the coil/caps. There is a grey rubber sleeve that secures the coil to a metal mount, and you’ll want to turn the coil so that the sleeve comes off of the metal mount. After that, you can pull the coil/cap up off of the plug. It’s easier if you have small hands. For the coil/cap on the side, you might be able to push that up from the side, rather than pull up from the top.
Click on the photos below to view at Flickr where you can see highlighted notes.
Once you get the coil/caps off, blow off the plug area with compressed air to get rid of any dirt. Next, you can use the spark plug socket included in the BMW toolkit to unscrew the plugs. For the center plug, you will have to drop the socket down onto it from by where the battery was. Then, use a big screwdriver and put it in the top of the socket. My plug was in there pretty tight, so I used some vice-grips on the screwdriver handle to turn the socket. Once you get the plugs out, just reverse the process and you’ll be done!
On my old Supercub, changing the plug would take only a couple minutes since it was so easily accessible. The BMW F650 GS’s plugs are tucked in there pretty tightly and there was plenty of cussing and sweating when I was figuring out how to do it. But now that I know how it’s done, the next change will be pretty easy. Anyways, I hope this post helps someone who might be unclear on what they have to do to change their plugs. You can always leave a comment here if you want me to contact you for more explanation!
I was browsing around the Ride Dual Sport forums and I came across a short ride report and photos of Regency Bridge near San Saba. I’ve ridden around the area a couple times before, and I really enjoyed it so I figured I’d go again and see the bridge. I had the whole day to myself so I decided to take my time, ride on country roads and avoid the highway if I could. Just north of the town of Burnet I made a left onto County Road 106/San Saba Road and proceeded northward in the general direction of San Saba. This was a really nice stretch, with a speed limit of maybe 45. I must have ridden about 30 though, just taking in the sights and smells of the countryside. It went on for several miles and the only other vehicles I saw were two bicyclists out for a leisurely ride. It was great.
I kept wandering around the back roads, occasionally looking at my GPS to make sure I was headed northwest and eventually hit FM580 at Nix. I had never ridden on 580 and it was a fantastic stretch of twisty road with almost no traffic. I’d definitely recommend that for a Butler Map! I continued on past Bend and then spied a nice gravel road on the right hand side. I saw on the GPS that that road was a loop, so I caught County Road 420 on its north side, turned off the ABS, and took the road east. Riding on the gravel roads is a lot of fun and I look forward to riding on some each time I go out now. I stopped at Colony Cemetery to take a couple photos and had a drink of water, then proceeded on the small loop east and then south.
It was tons of fun standing on the pegs and putting the training I got riding off-road to use. The gravel got deeper than I’ve ridden before but my bike and tires handled it with ease. There were some small hills to go up and down, and a lot of really cool scenery to take in. There was even a small water-crossing. It looked a little slick but was pretty short and wasn’t a problem.
The hill after that was rutted with erosion for rains, but standing on the pegs made it easy and actually a lot of fun! It was great just finding a relaxed stance and letting the bike wiggle underneath me, while keeping a light touch on the bars just enough to control the throttle but letting the bike just do its job. After riding like this for a while, I have a lot of confidence on gravel now. I remember being semi-terrified of the stuff before, but that seems like ages ago! I’m no expert by any means but I have expanded the limits of what I know the bike can do safely and that takes away a lot of the apprehension.
Back on the pavement I continued on to San Saba where I made a quick gas stop then headed north on 16, then followed the signs to Regency Bridge northwest on Ranch Road 500. After a few miles there’s another gravel road (yay!) that heads north to Regency Bridge. I met a KLR rider at the bridge and we talked for a little while about riding, bikes, and the bridge. He lived nearby and had a lot of great stories and told me the history of the bridge. I think we were very different people but because we were both riding motorcycles, and specifically dual-sports, we had some things in common and I enjoyed meeting him.
The bridge itself is pretty cool. It’s one of the oldest suspension bridges in Texas, with wooden planks to ride across. The “railing” was pretty low and you can see through the cables so it’s quite a hairy ride Especially because you’re up about 75 feet above the Colorado River! I decided to just get across, the park my bike and walk back over the bridge. Much safer that way! The view from the bridge is really great and riding across this old bridge is something I’m glad I did.
I continued on County Road 433 north, then east on 432. It was all gravel, with plenty of soft spots and a few stretches of dried up tire tracks to add a little excitement. I rode this for several miles and many smiles before finding the pavement again. By this time it was getting on mid-afternoon so I headed back home thinking about having a nice meal and a cold drink. Regency Bridge is a nice destination and I imagine I’ll be back again, not only to see the bridge, but to ride the gravel roads which there seemed to be quite a lot of!
Lone Star BMW/Triumph recently hosted an off-road clinic given by RawHyde Adventures, which is an official BMW training center. The clinic is basically a short intro to what you learn at the full RawHyde Camp, and it was free so I made sure to RSVP as soon as I could. The clinic was held at the Capitol City Trap and Skeet Club which was about a half-hour ride from my house.
The class was scheduled to start at 10am and I decided to go early. I arrived at 9:15 and was glad I did. I was a little nervous riding in since it was on gravel and I’m not so comfortable riding on the stuff, especially at slow speeds. By arriving so early, there wasn’t a huge audience to scrutinize my riding ability! I really didn’t want to drop my bike just pulling into the place. But it was all good since everyone seemed pretty cool and probably wouldn’t care. We’re all there to learn, after all! (I did just fine, btw)
I was maybe the fifth person to arrive and got to chat with a couple of the riders. The cool part was checking out the other bikes, which were, of course, BMW machines. It turned out there were a couple Yamaha TW200s that Robert Krull (one of the owners of Lone Star BMW/Triumph) had trailered over just in case someone wanted to train on a smaller bike. There were several 650cc bikes like my own, but most were the big 1150 or 1200 GS models with a couple 800cc bikes thrown in for good measure. Besides myself, there were several other newbies in the group. Everyone was really cool and the two instructors from RawHyde, Shawn and Lance, put everyone at ease and made sure everyone felt comfortable.
We started out with a general overview of the clinic, and then a demonstration of proper riding posture and technique. It was really interesting and neat to see some real experienced riders explaining how riding an adventure bike is properly done. Next came individual one-on-one bike inspections, where Shawn and Lance went to each bike/rider and evaluated the riding position, lever position, and made recommendations on any kind of upgrades we may want to make in the future. They also performed adjustments to pegs and handlebars right there and then if needed. It was so cool! When Shawn took a look at my bike, he recommended some lower pegs (which I knew about) and some guards for the radiator. He said that the 650 single’s radiator was prone to damage from the side if you dropped the bike. Other than that he said my bike was nicely equipped with the handguards, Heidenau tires, and bar risers. It was funny, but because I had taped over the Barkbusters logo on the handguards he asked what kind they were. When I told him about the tape, he (and the others standing around watching) said that was a cool idea. Apparently, other people felt like I did and would rather not have the big white advertisement on the front of the bike. We also aired down the tires to 25psi in preparation for the riding and learned how to disable the ABS systems on our bikes. Shawn showed me how to semi-permanently disable the ABS on the 650 by simply disconnecting the front sensor cable. Good to know!
After the inspections were done, we hit the course for some training. This consisted of riding as slow as we could over the dirt/grass. The point of this exercise was to keep your focus towards the distance (don’t look down), get proper riding posture, and get comfortable using the friction zone. It was pretty fun, and riding around the small range was really confidence inspiring. The instructors said that each exercise builds upon the previous ones and that we’d be learning about 5 of the 30 or so techniques they teach at their full camp.
There were a lot of bikes at the clinic (maybe about 30?) so the queue was a bit long. But I have to say that I learned a lot just being in line. Moving forward over the uneven ground for 20 feet, then stopping, then doing it again was nice practice. Especially having to turn, while scooting along over small rocks and washes was kind of fun. I thought for sure that I’d drop my bike at some point but I made it through the day without any mishap! While in the queue, there was a bit of excitement behind me. I’m not sure exactly what happened but I heard a revving of an engine, then saw a bike on its side. Then I saw another bike behind it on its side as well, running into the first bike. It was just a small collision but I think one of the bikes had a broken auxiliary light.
After another time around the range, this time with Shawn trying to distract each rider, it was time for a break. Burgers, beans, and iced tea were provided by Texas Rib Kings and we all sat at the covered pavilion and chatted about bikes and rides. It was fun and I met a few of the other riders. It was getting really hot out so the lunch was a good time to cool down and get hydrated. After lunch, there was another demonstration of how to pick up a bike that is on its side. The two ladies in the group each picked up the huge 1200GS on their own using the technique shown to us. It was pretty cool.
Back on the range our next drill was executing a “trail stop”, which is coming to a stop then accelerating again — all while standing on the pegs. We also were told to use only our front brake. This was really good because everyone got to put away the notion that you should never use your front brake on dirt. Sure, you can’t use it as forcefully as you can on the pavement, but it is effective. When I first did the trail stop, Shawn said I was stopping too slowly and that I should grab more brake. He said that if you come to a stop while deccelerating too gradually, you’ll lose your balance a lot quicker. So the next time, I braked a bit harder and sure enough, I had more balance and could easily do a trail stop. This stuff really works!
The next drill was the one I was really looking forward to: tight turns. This was an exercise in body positioning and counter-balancing, and also looking ahead to the next turn. I did pretty well at it although I did go through the turns a little fast. But the more I practiced, the better I got. There was a second part of this course which was a series of even tighter turns, but I wasn’t successful in pulling those off! Some of the other riders had a ton of skill and could do those turns on their monstrous 1200 GSs. It was really impressive! I did stall my bike’s engine a few times during this section of the clinic, but I always started it up while still standing on the pegs. I got pretty good at that!
At around 2pm, the clinic came to a close and everyone packed up their things, aired up their tires, and rode off. It was a fantastic day and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. I know I did, and I feel like I learned a ton! I know that I can trust the bike more and that by using the proper technique, some of the things I was really worried about can be overcome. In fact, that apprehension that I had about arriving in front of all the other riders is gone now. And I’d love to take the full RawHyde Adventure Camp sometime in the future!
The morning’s weather looked a little sketchy, but the rain held off and it turned out to be beautiful here in Central TX. I was itching to try out my new tires on some dirt but didn’t want to ride too far, so I decided to just wander and hopefully I’d run across some nice dirt roads. With that in mind I went north from my home in Cedar Park, up Reagan Blvd. and then took some back roads to Florence. I was a tiny bit worried about the front tire since I changed it myself, but it felt pretty good at highway speeds. When decelerating, the Heidenau K60 tire was a bit louder than the Tourance and there was a some vibration, but nothing crazy.
I continued up Highway 195 north and saw a sign for Sharp Cemetery. The road looked like it might be interesting on the GPS so I pulled off the highway and almost immediately there was a cattle guard and Sharp Cemetery Road turned into hard-packed dirt. Just what I was looking for! The road looked well traveled and smooth and the views were very nice. The sun was coming through the clouds and overhanging trees making it almost perfect riding, for me at least. The tires are well suited to this kind of road and I didn’t feel much wiggle. I have nothing to compare the tire’s performance to, but the reputation of them did instill some confidence.
I followed the road until it ended at the cemetery itself. I spent a few minutes there reading the historical marker and taking a break, then headed back the way I came. The weather was perfect, about 76F on my thermometer and a nice combination of sun and clouds. I flipped up the chin of the modular helmet and enjoyed the fresh air and smell of wildflowers. This was the kind of riding I really enjoyed! I wish the road went on for several miles, but I’ll take this little bit of heaven anytime.
Back on the pavement I headed west along FM2670 and then took a right on Maxdale Road. I rode over a cattle guard and the road turned to gravel/dirt and I saw a huge military transport plane gaining altitude in the distance. It occurred to me that I might have ridden into Ft. Hood and that I should probably turn back. So I made a u-turn and headed back south. I guess it was ok for me to be in that area as I found out later that it is the Killeen airport area. At any rate, I continued along Maxdale Road to Oakalla and then I saw on the GPS what looked like a fun road that headed off north. CR223 was another little gem of a road which wound past ranches and farms, then met up with the Lampasas River. There were a couple teensy water crossings (just enough to get your feet splashed) and lots of gorgeous scenery.
CR19 turned into hard-packed dirt again, and I enjoyed more of the perfect riding. The combination of weather, light dirt, and scenery was awesome and I was stoked.
But all-too-soon, the road met up with Highway 190 and I sped on into the town of Lampasas, then rode back home along 183, then across to Andice and back south along Reagan/Parmer and home. I have to say, this was one of the best rides I’ve ever had. Might not seem like anything special to anyone else, but I do remember letting out a couple “woohoo’s” along the way. 🙂
Odo: 135.11 Miles
Moving time: 3H 12M
One of the things I really enjoy about owning a motorcycle is the modifications and farkles you can add on to it and one of the more functional things you can add to the bike is storage. Why would I want storage on the bike? Well, I like to carry some basic tools and spare parts, including inner tubes. It would also be nice to carry the warm gloves (and balaclava/neck scarf), an extra light jacket that I can wear under my riding jacket, and the alternate face-shield in case I am riding when it is getting dark.
For a dual-sport, there are a few popular options including tankbags, top boxes, and saddlebags. The pinnacle seems to be a set of aluminum panniers. These have the advantage of being lockable and waterproof. (They also make nice places to slap stickers onto!) The problem with these panniers is their initial cost. Not only do you need to buy the boxes, but you’ll need a rack to mount them on. I’d say that a decent set would cost $500 at the bottom end, and the sky’s the limit at the top end. For now, there’s no money in the budget for a set of hard panniers. In the meantime, I am going to go the way of upgrading my makeshift Quiksilver backpack that is mounted to the pillion/rack with a larger duffel.
In all honesty, I don’t see myself going on a long moto-camping trip anytime soon where a set of panniers would be key. I do see myself taking a weekend or 3-day trip out somewhere though. When doing some research, it seems like a 50-70 liter duffel would be a good option. This would be way more than enough space to fit what I am stuffing into my backpack-tailbag right now and I could also put in a change of clothes and more camera gear. Plus, in the future I can still use the duffel in addition to any panniers I might get. Since I ride solo, I can run the duffel lengthwise from the pillion seat to the rear rack. There’s about 24 inches of space back there.
The choice of duffel came down to two candidates. First is the Ortleib Duffel. This is a tough, waterproof bag that is hard to beat. It comes in a bright yellow color and has four lash points for securing it to the bike. The second candidate was the popular North Face Base Camp duffel. This one is not 100% waterproof, but has a bunch more lash points to attach other items to the bag itself. It also has straps for using the bag as a backpack, although this would only be useful for short hauls. I decided on the North Face, and chose the 69-liter medium size in yellow. The small size would have probably been ok too, but I saw a video where the traveler recommended getting the bigger size since you can always collapse a soft bag in the case where you don’t completely fill it with gear. The medium is 24 inches long, and 15 inches wide and fits nicely onto the rear seat/tail rack.
We’ll see how the new bag works out over time, but I’m confident that the bag will last for many, many miles!
I finally got my tires mounted on my wheels. The original Metzeler Tourances lasted 600 miles which I hear is pretty good for Texas roads. I opted to have the motorcycle shop mount the new Heidenau K76 to the rear wheel since this is notoriously difficult to do by yourself. It’s possible but takes a lot of muscle. It has to do with the shape of the wheel which doesn’t have such a deep channel in the center. Anyways, the place I took it to charges only $26 if you bring in the wheel by itself. I really enjoy working on the bike as much as I can. I think it’s fun to figure out how stuff works; many times things turn out a lot simpler than originally thought. That’s the case with the way the wheels mount to the swingarm on the little GS. It’s very similar to my old Honda C70.
The Heidenau K60 Scout front tire I decided to mount by myself since it is supposed to be easier. I also wanted to make sure I knew how to do it in case I needed to on the road. Even though it is easier than the rear, the front still takes a bit of elbow grease, but there’s nothing magical about it. It’s just a matter of using the tire irons and getting leverage. Speaking of tire irons, I have a 16-inch Motion-Pro tire iron and two smaller 8-inch generic tire irons. The 16-inch is excellent and helps a lot. I highly recommend having at least one. I might get another one if I can find one for cheap.
I also use a lubricant on the tire called Ru-Glyde. It makes the job much easier! The tire will slip over the rim easier saving you a lot of time and power. I also heard that a warm tire is a bit more pliable than a cold one, but it was about 50 degrees today and I didn’t feel like putting the tire in the oven! But I finally got the tire on. Woohoo! The most difficult part was fishing for the valve stem!
The next thing I need to do is balance the tire as best I can. I actually didn’t know that the tires have markings on them to show you where to line it up with the valve stem to get it closer to balanced. I might need to break the bead again and shift the tire a bit, then rig up a homemade tire-balancing solution. There is a guide on the f650.com site which seems to work well so I will give that a shot.
I can’t wait to try out the new tires on some dirt. It should be a bit more stable than the Tourances. They won’t last as long as the Metzelers, but I’m expecting to get about 7-8,000 miles out of them which I will be happy with!
I bought a 3/8-inch rod from the hardware store and used it to balance my tire. The BMW wheel has flat (non-tapered) bearings inside which supposedly make using a plain bar possible. Sure enough, it worked great. The tire easily rotated around and it wasn’t difficult to find the heavy spot on the tire, then affix the proper amount of weight on the other side. BTW, I went to CycleGear to buy some weights, but the guy there just gave me a strip of them for free!