dinsdag 24 september 2013

Morocco October 2013

Now that I have the bike, I unfortunately have to use it! You see, the bike is getting very unhappy if she is restricted to only bringing me to work and back.

After careful consideration, I decided to go to Morocco ... again.
I was in there in 2010 when I took part in an organised All Road trip. The bikes were transported to Almería, we flew there. In Almería, we were reunited with the bikes, crossed the Meditreanean sea and rode down and up to Merzouga in a week ... and flew back home. A truly magnificent trip where I learned a lot and saw a lot of the eastern part of Morocco. The trip was organized by Berrt.

This time, I wanna see more of Morocco and ride to and from the Mediterranean Sea myself.
I made a plan ... fully aware that plans are there to deviate from. Deviations can be caused by:
  • My mood, energy and stamina (or lack thereof)
  • Landscape and impassable roads or terrain that exceeds my skill
  • People I meet that have planned a 'slightly different' route

The plan

The route, the whole route and nothing but the route:

In a nutchell, the plan is to go to Nador as quickly as possibly,enjoy Morocco as long as possible while discovering as much as possible of the High Atlas mountains, and ride back home as quick as possible.

The Morocco part in some more detail

Especially the part around the waypoints F and G is gonna be challenging ... Google seems to be convinced that the road is closed around point G on the map ... I must investigate that!


For starters, I need to get more accessories on the bike:

  • AltRider crash bars (slightly modified)
  • AltRider Oil cooler protection
  • BMW Engine protection underneath the engine
  • Touratech Zega Pro Luggage system (31 + 38 Liter)
  • MachineArtMoto MudSling to protect the rear suspension against damage

Some personal protection:

  • AlpineStars Enduro boots
  • Body harness

Stuff to help me do what I wanna do:
  • Map of Morocco
  • Instant food
  • Water purifying tablets
  • Injections
  • Tools and Spare parts
  • Gelert Solo minimalist tent

That is it!
Let's do it!


Day 1 (saturday 28 sept): started the trip by riding 800 km to Zürich.
Day 2: did not touch the bike!
Day 3: rode to Monaco.
Day 4: rode to Barcelona.
Day 5: rode to Almería, had new tires fitted @ Tyre King in Antas.
Day 6: took the boat to Nador and rode to Driouch (47 km).
Day 7: (oct 4) rode to Fes (Fez) via the R505, through the Rif mountains.
Day 8: Fes - Arfoud
Day 9: to Kherifa
Day 10: to Zaouia-Ahansal in the high atlas
Day 11: to Marrakech
Day 12: stay put
Day 13: Casablanca - Rabat
Day 14: (oct 11) Asilah
Day 15: stay put
Day 16: Tangier Med - Algeciras crossing the Mediteranean sea to Europe
Day 17: Had bike serviced and rode to Guincho (Cascais, Portugal)
Day 18: Rode to Ourense (north-west of Spain)
Day 19: (oct 16) Rode to Santander to meet the British for one last time
Day 20: Rode to St. Étienne de Baigorry to stay in a nice hotel
Day 21: Rode to Graus in the Spanish part of the Pyrennees
Day 22: Rode to the beach near Perpignan (Sainte Marie)
Day 23: Limoge. A bit more west than planned, because of rain on the planned route
Day 24: (oct 21) Rode home ... 846 km. Had some very wet roads near Paris, but no rain!

So ... after 9750 km, 21 days of riding I am back home.
I may write something about it ... if I find the time ;-)

maandag 1 april 2013

Getting the bike

With my front wheel almost finished, I urgently needed a bike to use it.

Found it

I found a beautiful 2010 DOHC R 1200 GS.
The previous owner had driven 23811 km on it within 9 months or so. The bike had every acronym that BMW had to offer!

  • ABS: Stopping without skidding
  • ASC: Accellerating without skidding
  • ESA: Electronic Suspension Adjustment
  • RDC: Tire pressure monitoring
  • LED: Turn signals and tail lights

The color is 988 Dark Slate Metallic Matt (Schieferdunkel Metallic Matt in the original German nomenclature), a nice matte color between gray and anthracite. I believe this was actually a 2008 color, but apparently the buyer liked this color so much, he ordered the panels for this 2010 bike.

1200 GS
After the test ride

Bought it

I had the dealer fit some extra features:
  • GSA Beak extension
  • GSA Footpegs and break pedal
  • GSA Cylinder caps
  • Touratech thingy around the cockpit clocks that contains:
    • 12 V BMW socket
    • 12 V Car cigar(ette) lighter socket (to plug in a USB converter)
When I got the bike, I made a 200 km ride through the country that same day!

Modified it

The R 1200 GS is a lovely machine. The only thing bad about it is the windscreen. The person who invented motorcycle windscreens should have been fired for even thinking about it! The turbulence from the top edge causes unbearable buffetting on my helmet! The 2007 GS I had had a Wunderlich FlowJet which let the turbulence hit my chest in stead of my helmet. Another option could have been the Slipscreen. This time, I thought I would try something else: From my previous GS, I still had a windscreen sitting in the attic. I thought it would be nice to chop the windscreen.

The first attempt was to shorten it 10 cm (4 inch). After a test drive, I noticed some improvement, but I needed even less noise. After removing another 7 cm (almost 3 inch). Almost right! 3 more cm did the trick. Riding the bike sitting down now produces just a smigin more noise than standing up! I removed more than half the hight of the screen! This solution is even better than the FlowJet that I had on my previous GS, because it is wider and removes some of the air pressure on my chest.

Chopped windscreen

Also done the following upgrades:

  • I need a spoked rear wheel to match my spoked 21 inch front wheel.
  • BMW Engine Protection. This protects the engine and exhaust pipes.
  • Kahedo comfortable seat.

I am already working on a 21 inch front wheel, but there are more changes that I am considering:

  • Use pre-2008 handlebars, as they are some 5 cm higher than the standard post-2008 handlebars. That would make riding that much easier when standing up!
  • Carbon 'boomerang' side protectors. The aluminium ones really do not fit the dark bike.
  • Crash bars
  • Oil cooler protection
  • Head light protection
  • Adventure style luggage cases.

zondag 31 maart 2013

First things first, the front wheel.

I have been pondering about what R 1200 GS to get ... One like the the 2007 I had before, a slightly newer one, or the new and improved water cooled R 1200 GS LC. I didn't even know if I'd go for the regular 1200 GS or the Adventure!

When I talked to my friend Berrt about riding a GS or GS Adventure off road he said that the difference between the two is fenominal ... in the way that a GS Adventure is 3 times more difficult to handle in sand than the GS. This difference can be partially compensated by using a 21 inch front wheel, he said. I had seen that the wunderful people at Wunderlich.de had a 21 inch conversion in their catalog, but the price tag of € 1500 did not help much. Berrt however told me that it was possible to build your own for approximately € 700. It should fit in the original fork without modification and even the ABS should still be in working order as long as the brakes are not of the power assisted kind, so if you have ABS, the all bikes of model year 2007 and later should be OK, if you don't have ABS, I do not see why this could fail (no guarantees though). So, even before I have a 1200 GS, I decided do a 21" front wheel conversion on it.

Let's build my own 21 inch front wheel.


  • 1200 GS hub for a spoked wheel
  • 21 inch R 100 GS rim
  • 21 inch R 100 GS spokes
  • 1200 GS hub nipples and grub screws
  • A healthy dose of elbow grease


  • T-40 key for the spoke nipples
  • Allen key 2 mm for the spoke nipple grub screw


As I did not have a 1200 GS yet, let alone a spoked wheel for it, I decided to get one from the recycling industry. I found an injured front wheel with a near perfect hub for a fair price.

Perfect hub with imperfect rim

The previous owner obviously did something to the wheel that the rim was not prepared for. Lets hope nothing serious happened to the person!  I'll have the BMW dealership replace the bearings, cos they might have been damaged in the mishap!

When I got this wheel in the mail I just had to take it apart immediately. All the spoke nipples came off easily, that was a relief! The nipples will be reused when spoking the wheel.


After a bit of searching and bidding, I got meself a nice, straight and shiny rim on eBay.
I decided to not order the spokes from BMW (chromed steel), but order Stainless Steel spokes from Haan Wheels.

What is wrong in this picture?

As I wanted to have black rims, I tried to find out if a chrome rim can be powder coated. Unfortunately, that is not possible unless the chrome is removed from the rim first. The powder coat does not stick to the chrome well enough! I found a powder coater who claims to have a good process to remove the chrome, apply an epoxy bonding layer and give the rim a beautiful black coat!

Powder coated rim, new stainless steel spokes
and a hub with new bearings


With all the ingredients in my possession, it is time to get spokin'.
It took me about an hour to put the spokes in and tighten the nipples by hand. This is where I found out that each nipple had a tiny little allen screw/bolt (called a grub screw) in the head to secure the nipple.

Assembled wheel

The next step was to think of a rig where I could see if the wheel was true (straight and centered). I could have built a rig, but I had a rig standing in the garage ... 'cos in the mean time I bought meself a GS.

Rim in fork as a rig to work in
sorry about the light

After maybe 4 hours of tensioning and releasing the spokes, I think I have a pretty straight wheel. I read somewhere that BMW accepts a tolerance of 1.7 mm on spoked wheels, I believe this wheel now has a bounce and wiggle of less than 1 mm. I made the mistake of wanting it even better, which made things only worse ... so I had to start from the beginning ... twice.

Now I had to insert all 40 little allen screws that go inside the nipples. These screws go inside the head of the Torx nipple.

Now it was time to get some rubber on the wheel. I ordered a Heidenau K60 21 - 90/90 tire for the front wheel (and a K60 Scout for the rear) and now that they were on the wheels it was time to see if all would fit.

Yep it fits!
With enough space between wheel and mud guard

When I first put the complete wheel in the bike, I noticed that the space between the tire and the mud guard was enough ... for normal use. I did not modify the mud guard in any way! I can imagine however that when riding this combination through dirt and loose rocks, the space can become clogged and I'd ruin my mud guard at the very least. It might be worth looking into solutions to raise the mud guard a bit.

All I needed to do now was to build the brake discs onto the wheel. And we are done!

And we are done!
Center stand is barely tall enough for this wheel.

Hints & Tips

Valve stem

Beware that the valve stem for the new 21" rim is not a very popular size. The hole in the rim is 8 mm, and that was smaller than the tire-guy had on stock. I had to get my own at the BMW dealership.

Brake disks

For the model year 2008, BMW revised the way the brake disks were mounted on the hub. They used different bolts of similar length and they used different mounting rings.

In 2010 BMW started using longer bolts ...


If I do it again, I would probably order new Stainless Steel nipples (with grubs). This can be done at Motorworks BMW Motorcycle Specialists or at any other shop that has 'em.
This time I re-used the original 1200 GS nipples and grubs, but one can see the difference between the color of the spokes and the nipples.


The original R 100 GS spokes do fit, but it leaves just a tiny bit too little room for the grub. I would order the spokes 1 mm shorter than the original ... to allow the grubs to disappear into the nipple completely.

Tensioning the spokes

Don't be too demanding about the 'true-ness' of the wheel. After the first time I tensioned the spokes, I still thought that 1 mm of wobble was too much. However, trying to fix that made the wobble only worse. So I loosened all spokes and tried again. First iteration was OK, improving failed again. The third time I was wise enough to be content with 'almost right' and on the road the wobble is not noticable.

Mud guard

The distance between the new Heidenau tire and the mud guard is some 12 to 13 mm (half an inch). I believe that for normal road use this is enough. But you don't build a 21 inch wheel for road use, do you? I am afraid that when dirt and rocks get jammed between the two, the mud guard may loose the fight. I have not tried to find a solution for this, but Wunderlich sells a bracket and mud guard that are especially made for the 1200 GS and their 21 inch wheel ... but that would cost some 800 Euro's (or 2050 € including the 21 inch wheel).


In some countries or states it is forbidden to use tires on your motorcycle that have a lower speed and/or load rating than 'what the bike is originally fitted with' (or something). As the front wheel of the GS is usually fitted with a 59V (59 for 243 kg, V for 240 KM/h), I tried to find a 21 inch tire with the same rating. I could not find one. I only found 21 inch tires with a 54 weight rating (212 kg). Well, I did find the Dunlop GEOMAX MX51 FA TT with a weight load of 57, but that is a true dirt / off road tire, not for road use.
Maybe next time I try the ContiEscape ... that tire is slightly less offroad than the TKC80 and the K60, but has a 54H rating (210 KM/h, the fastest 21 inch dual sports tire that I could find)

Test ride in some easy grassy, sandy terrain

Center stand and side stand

Now that I have temporarily mounted my standard wheels again, I must say that it is noticeably easier to put the bike upright from the side stand. Also when the bike is on the center stand (with the 21" wheel), oftentimes both wheels touch the ground when the ground is not perfectly flat.
You might wanna do something about that ... perhaps use the stand(s) from the GS Adventure.


It was a lot of fun building this wheel. For approximately 600 Euro (700 US Dollars), lots of time browsing the internet (mostly eBay) and perhaps 8 to 10 hours of actual work, I have built myself a wheel.

Wunderlich offers a 21 inch front wheel for the 1200 GS, for 1400 Euro (1500 for the black version), so I saved myself a bundle.

I learned that by replacing the hub in a R 100 GS wheel, I could do a 21" wheel conversion for the BMW R 1200 GS. Everything fits and everything still works (if installed).
I learned that spoking a cross spoked wheel is just as hard (or easy) as spoking a wheel for a racing bicycle. I did that years ago.

As the distance between the rim and the hub is different from the original 1200 GS wheel, and the rim is not as wide, the angle between the spokes and the hub are not the same as in when the original 19 inch rim was used. I expected to notice this, but I did not. Everything fit beautifully!

On a test ride, I found a patch of grass / sand / dirt where I could test ABS and ASC without too much risk and they work like a charm! After half an hour or so, a warning light comes up 'saying' that the RDC is not working, but that is only logical when the wheels are not fitted with the sensors.