July 13, 2007 GMT
The Bike

One of the first things you need if you are intending to ride a motorcycle around the world is, of course, a motorcycle. For some reason we had purchased a BMW 1150 GS Adventure over the Christmas break. What possessed us to do that is not entirely clear looking back, but perhaps we had some unspoken thoughts about the possibilities. Perhaps it was just time for a change from our trusty but aging Kawasaki.

Whatever the reason, in the driveway, was one 2006 Beemer GSA, complete with Hepco and Becker luggage, waiting patiently for us to discover the obvious. Mind you, our relationship with the Beemer was slow to warm at best. Compared with the Kawasaki it replaced, it was rough running, down on revs and power, uncomfortable and downright difficult to maneuver at slow speed.

Some changes were needed!

Top priority was a new seat. If we were to sit on this thing most days for a year, then something better than the picket fence that came with the bike was needed. Andrew Morehouse from Motor Cycle Trimming showed us a stack of old BMW foam and seat covers and told us, with all due earnestness, that making BMW seats more comfortable had kept his business going and that he was very happy that the Germans hadn't sorted a decent seat for the modern machines. After taking deliver of a spare seat base, Andrew knocked up a new seat which we trailed on a seven hour ride around the forestry tracks of northern NSW.

First problem sorted.

Storage is at a premium on the Beemer so some quick action to sort some extra hidey holes was needed. A small dashboard was fashioned from stainless and mounted on the bars to take the GPS, phone and sunnies. The bead breaker and tyre levers were stowed in a PVC tube behind the left side box and a larger diameter tube behind the right box provided quick access to the bike cover and tent fly.

A rush job over three weekends fashioned a "hard" tank bag from fibreglass that would lock onto the tank using a special bracket screwed to the filler collar. Despite the mad dash to get it finished, it was not ready before the bike shipped. Still, enough was done to confirm that we could have a secure, waterproof tank bag and we would just have to take the finished box with us and marry it up later. We knew that the tank box still had all of the problems of a prototype, but there was not too much risk in the plan. After all, we would have about eight weeks in Western Europe to sort it out and if it was a failure, we could always buy a BMW bag to go on with.

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As part of the tank project, we purchased a pair of cycling bags normally used pannier-style over the front wheels of the bicycle. By changing the fittings and organising a harness system on the Beemer, these sat nicely on either side of the tank. The thinking was that these small bags would be our day packs that we could easily disconnect from the bike and carry with us with a shoulder strap. The advantage of this set-up was that we could take the small day bags and leave the rest fully secured and locked. This had never been possible with the traditional tank bags we had had previously.

A final trip to the auto electrician to get the intercom, gps and phone connections hard wired and to get some extra power points front and rear, and all that could be done in the time was done. A weekend spent building a crate from scrap steel and covering it with plastic core-flute preceded a couple of frantic nights cutting it up and remaking it 150mm shorter. Fortunately I remembered at the last minute that the bike needed to go sideways into a standard container and took the trouble to roll out the tape measure!

There was still one last night of crating, packing and strapping. We had put as much bulky stuff into the Hepco and Becker boxes as we could. Our riding suits, suit liners, long underwear, neck warmers, tool kits and spare parts were all jammed in and locked down. The bike was strapped down and the sides screwed in place. It was ready.

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On a Thursday morning in late May I drove the crate to Brisbane and dropped it of at the shipping agent and it was done. We stood staring at the empty garage that afternoon and for the first time we knew that we were really going.

Posted by Mike Hannan at 01:08 AM GMT

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