The bikes and Gear for The big trip

The Bikes

Two identical G650GS BMW’s registered in June 2011

The bike choice was dictated partly by chance, my local bike shop just happened to have two in stock last winter and being winter they were at the right price. Alternatives I’d considered were the Yamaha Xt660 and Honda Transalp. In the end the 650 single BMW gets a reasonable press for this kind of tour and excellent fuel consumption. I have to say though these bikes are built down to a price and quality is not the best. Having said that and having had several issues fixed under warranty they are what we have so we need to keep the fingers crossed and get on with it.

At the end of the day the bikes got us round, we lost around 5 weeks waiting for various parts and help from BMW , I'd use them again but avoid going near any BMW dealers (Santiago & San Fran were good) I'd take a spare waterpump & tools needed to change it + gaskets. I'd take a spare fan also.

Extras / Mods

Aluminium belly pan Did the job OK, needed for the gravel roads and Topes in Mexico

Upper TT Crash bars Worked OK

Seats modified (standard seat comfort is really bad) Still bad, need to re think

Sheepskins fitted to seats (stops chaffing!!) Changed for Air Hawk Seats in March, better but basic seat comfort is bad

ARD bespoke Aluminium panniers & Bottle racks Fantastic, can't praise them highly enough

Holan pannier racks Did the job, mines broke twice, Fiona's once, not sure if any others would have been better? TT maybe?

Neoprene gaiters for front forks and rear shock Forks are still like new so full marks

Motobatt batteries (the original wet cell batteries are prone to evaporation due to position on top of the engine) Both expired on the trip, need to re think this, still think they are OK but maybe not up to extremes

Scottoilers fitted (thanks to the guys at Scotoiler for their help) Brilliant, 1 change of chain / Sprockets in 30, 000 miles full marks to the Scottoilers and the guys for their support

Winding roads Aluminium rad guards Did the job, not sure if they contributed to overheating but the alternative is a holed radiator for sure

Fender extender Did the job, needed

Mudflap on rear Did a job but fell apart, OK for £1.50 & the 10 minutes it took to fit

Handlebar risers to help with comfort Could have done with the bars being higher for the off road bits, will look at that for the next trip

TT GPS mount Did the job fine

Wolfman tank bags Excellent bit of kit , only issue was they knock the kill switch on full lock in towns when doing u turns, beware!


Sprockets front and rear 1 set used on Each bike

Brake pads front / rear Changed the fronts at 17,000 miles, the rears are still OK

Oil and air filters 6 oil filters & 2 Air filters changed

Washers/ bolts/ nuts not really neede but I'd take them again

Cable repair and zip repair kit  & grip glue(thanks Arthur) Zip repairs were great Arthur!

Scotoiler spares (various) Used 3 nibs on the trip and changed both units (supplied very efficiently by Scottoiler)

Plugs for puncture repair (12v pump also) + Honda tyre levers (thanks to Al Mackie) Never used thankfully, hooray for Metzler Tourances

Regulator/ rectifier Not used but I'll still carry it

Most important is the GS911 I’ll be carrying so I can interrogate the ECU in the event of problems!  ( ) Invaluable bit of kit, not able to tell you everything though, it needs a healthy 12v up its backside to work

Camping gear

Coleman Phad X3 Tent, OK a bit on the small side, Zip gave up in the USA and tent replaced

Xped mattresses Brilliant, must have, don't camp without one, a better nights sleep than on many beds

3 season sleeping bags Did the job, several repaires and given up to the Sleeping bag graveyard at the end of the trip, next time we will spend more for smaller, hardier bags

MSR whisperlite stove (major fire hazard!!) I cursed this thing often but after a complete rebuild by me (not cheap)  in Colombia it worked fine

Cooking pans and plates (minimum) Did the job, 2 plates is all you need,

Ex army Ponchos, good for shelter and for wearing! And covering the bikes if need be Used for everything, invaluable,

Electronic gear

Garmin GPS 60CSx (with maps for all countries on micro SD cards) Excellent

Nikon D40 DSLR Excellent

Nikon D3200 DLSR Excellent

Panasonic V700 camcorder Excellent

Go pro bike / helmet cam Excellent, so much so I bought another in San Fran

Kodak Zi8 Video cam Good

Panasonic TZ18 Compact camera Excellent

Sony Vaio mini laptop Excellent but not enough processing power for Pinnacle and video making was slow, lasted the course though

Android tablet Rubbish, replaced by an I pad

Cardo systems Bike – Bike intercom Fantastic, don't leave on a long trip without this, invaluable for keeping together in big towns and avoiding domestics around not stopping for breaks

Plus as you can imagine all the chargers etc for the above (mega space taker!)  

We have tried to keep stuff to a minimum, we will take Village coffee house blend tea with us (thanks Gavin) for a decent cup of tea when we need it! (and I want to throw a small amount into the harbour at Boston , read your history and of course watch this  song by the late great Alex Harvey  )


  1. You gotta make sure you get some video of throwing the tea in the harbor...

  2. That is some list, how many bottles of whisky can you get in the bottle rack? Never heard of that portable diag tool, so was very interesting. Look forward to seeing some of your video, hope you can get some of you blasting across the desert with your feet up having a cup tea, could go viral!

    1. Ha ha,using the bottle racks for water mainly, whisky I can buy on the road (although this morning I wish I couldn't) Blasting, more like paddling, trying to upload video but the connection is slow, takinh hours!

  3. At least you have a link at some points. Are you planning on seeing the Dakar?

    1. No it would mean missing other stuff, rather ride than watch someone else do it

  4. Fair point, that is one of my phrases "be a competitor not a spectator". Still its always great to see pros in action, I will catch it on Eurosport. Keep on trucking!!

  5. Sara and Daniel told me you are coming our way, Mexico City that is. If you want a place to stay please contact us at We´ll put you up and show you around. We are going south soon so I´d love to talk about where you´ve been and pick you brains.


  6. Gino, I'm heading up to Alaska next week on my Commando. The plan is to be in the Fairbanks area around the weekend of the 8th. If our paths cross you can ride the Commando for a stretch. You could probably use some civilized motoring for a break!

    email or PM at AccessNorton is best. I haven't gotten a handle on the profile issues yet.

  7. great trip! I am glad that your travels have given me the chance to meet you.
    Kevin Stratton

    1. Hi Kevin, looking forward to a beer or two with you on Saturday

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