Graham or “GB”, as he likes to be called was late to the off road and rally scene.
He’s been riding for over forty years hence that’s the title of his “crap YouTube channel”. His words not mine. He came to this GS via other GS’s and two 701 Husqvarna enduros, there’s a load of other bikes owned since the late 70’s but we would be here all day to go through them.
At the end of 2013 he had a serious road accident on his second 1200 GS, which resulted in his upper humorous and his shoulder being replaced with a metal one. This has left him with limited movement and weaker right arm. After 5 months of recuperation he put the GS back on the road “I could ride it ok for short trips, but couldn’t push it or move it, it was just to big and heavy so I made the decision to sell it to a friend, as far as I’m aware it’s still going with over 90000 miles on it”
He looked for something lighter and found an ex BMW off road skills 650 XChalenge in Wales, it needed some TLC but he restored it back too original and rode that around for a few months. “My physiotherapy lasted 10 months, the 650 was okay but felt slow, I saw a picture of the prototype 701 which I really liked and when that came out I was first to the dealers to get one, then when the second generation came out with the extra balancer I was first to have one of them on the road in the UK. I had that a year but I always wanted another GS”
“I test rode the water-cooled GS Rally and loved it but didn’t have the funds”. GB sold his 701 and started looking for a GS. He wanted one with spoke wheels, quick shifter, LED lights and Keyless.
“I thought I might as well have what I want and be done with it”. His local dealer had a 2015 one owner bike come in with everything he wanted on it barring the spoke wheels. “It was mint condition, 2 years old and just 3000miles, it had an Akrapovic end can, crash bars everything I wanted bar the spokes and the price was good”
“I fitted some Pirelli rally’s and started riding it off road locally, I kept seeing the Wales 500 being mentioned on UKGSER website so I thought lets see what’s that all about, and that was it”
The following week GB picked up his water-cooled GS and proceeded to ride to the Alps for his yearly pilgrimage to BMW Motorrad days. “I loved the GS and didn’t dream of it taking it off road, it was so shiny and I didn’t have spoked wheels and didn’t fancy cracking a mag wheel”.
Once he found a set of spoke wheels that was it. “I fitted some Pirelli rally’s and started riding it off road locally. I kept seeing the Wales 500 being mentioned on UKGSER website so I thought lets see what’s that all about, and that was it”.
To use GB’s words “One of the best things I’ve ever done on a bike, up there with my first trackday, first time you get your knee down, just awesome”
The Road to Adventure Rallying
So the rallying has shaped the bike into the bike it is now. GB then did Kielder and a Cannonball event. “After Wales I was addicted, I got in touch with a friend of mine in Italy who is a F2R stockist and got a FB730 then I got the LED backlight off John at Rally Raid. With my weak right arm I couldn’t wind the lunch box (RallyMoto roadbook holder) on with my left arm and stay in control of the bike off road ”. GB works in engineering so he made a mount for the toggle switch so he could reach it with the BMW controller wheel still in place, he then fabricated a mount for the Roadbook holder to the Flexxbars. This can be easily removed for when not rallying and brought inside to load the road book if the weather is bad. He has also made brackets for his heated jacket controller and the bluetooth controller that controls the ICO app on his phone.
The bike has been fitted with FasstCo Flexxbars from day one, “I couldn’t do what I do without the Flexxbars, they really are a game changer. Cole at Fasstco set me up with a set on my 701 so I had to have them on my GS, I run the softest compression and rebound on them” He has also fitted their hand guards, if you don’t know about Flexxbars look them up, Jim from Adventure bike radio uses them as does Jimmy Lewis at his Rally school in the states any many others.
The more rallies he entered the more he enjoyed it, “After the Hertfordshre Cannonball the suspension was feeling tired, I emailed Touratech and Tractive and decided on a set of ESA Touratech shocks” A few phone calls to Cliff at adventure bike shop and a deal was done on a set of shocks set up for him. “I fitted them myself over a weekend and after some fettling the differences amazing, I can still use the electronic preload control for when I go touring or take the wife on the back and the high and low speed compression adjusters mean I can tailer the ride just for my liking”
“The more rallies he entered the more he enjoyed it”
The list of mods to his GS is extensive but not bling for bling’s sake. “If anyone has ridden a GS for any distance they’ll know the seats are appalling, they make a bike to ride around the world with your Scottish actor friend but you can’t stay in the saddle for more than a couple hours” His choice of seats was Seat Concepts “I had one on my 701 and loved it so was an easy choice for me’
The protection parts on his bike are from different suppliers, the heads are protected with Machineart X-head covers, while the rest is from Twalcom in Italy. “I met Mario who owns Twalcom in Garmische at BMW Motorrad days, I liked his stuff so I ordered the final drive guard and side stand switch protector from him, the switch protector is a must as I don’t believe you can bypass it on the later bikes if it gets knocked” He also has his sump guard “I was Touring Europe so decided to ride to Mario’s workshop in Italy, there we fitted the sump guard and I ordered the extra fan for the other radiator as the GS only has one fan fitted as standard, just cools it a bit quicker when riding slower stuff”
Although a watercooled 1200GS doesn’t need more performance for the off road, GB has done some upgrades in that department as well. “Luckily the previous owner fitted the end can so I just added the matching headers, the biggest benefit is it removes the extremely hot cat from near your foot, it also picks up really quick as I had it remapped as well”. The downside of this extra power and more and more off road use was the clutch was getting a hard time. “I was on my way back from the Kielder 500 and went to overtake a truck in a crawler lane, I opened the throttle and the revs rose but the speed didn’t” He managed to limp it home and then starting looking for another clutch. “I did some research on GS wet clutches and a few people have had to change them on 1250’s at mileages less than mine, mainly those ridden hard off road”. There was only one choice for GB and that was a Reklus torq drive. The Reklus clutch has 50% more surface area than the stock clutch and stronger springs. “The clutch is amazing, I never liked the stock clutch, this has made the bike come alive even more”
There are lots of other little mods done, a GSA folding brake lever to make it easier to operate when standing and an adjustable gear lever. “I had to cut the shift rod down to lift the gear lever up higher as I couldn’t get my foot under wearing Tech 7s!” The footrests are Touratch works. “Ive had loads of difference footrests on this bike, started with SW Motech, then had BMWs Centre sprung ones which I broke two sets off, then Pivotpegz, I had them on the 701 but I didn’t like them on the GS, then went to IMS core, these are bomb proof and super grippy but I wanted something lower for longer trips so I went for the Touratech works which I think are a good compromise”
“If you have a GS I can’t tell you enough how much fun these rallies are, if I can do them anyone can!”
MADE FOR ADVENTURE
GB rides to all events and hopefully rides home. All the RallyMoto 500 events are over 5 hours from where he lives on the east coast so he has to carry all his camping gear. “I have touratech metal boxes covered in travel stickers for that ‘ride the world’ look but I only use these if going away with the wife”. For rally events he uses Kriega’s OS Adventure pack connected to Twalcom heel plates designed to take the Kriega straps, at the back he has done another subtle mod most don’t notice. The rear rack is off the BMW rally models, they only have a single seat and apparently you can’t fit this rack with the passenger seat fitted.
“I was at a dealership and one of the mechanics had one fitted to his GS but he didn’t have the rear seat fitted, I got talking to him and he said you can’t fit it with a pillion seat… That was like a red rag to a bull. They had a few old ones in stock so I measured one up against my bike and thought, yeah I can make this fit, with careful cutting it fits nicely and looks so much better than the plastic racks” The bike is also an unusual colour, it originally came in red but now it is Nardo Grey, “There are only two body panels on my GS so I bought some rough secondhand ones and got my mate to paint them for me, I also got him to do the front subframe black after seeing the GS trophy model in Berlin at Motorrad days, not everyones taste but I love it”.
The GS comes with LED headlights as standard but GB has added a pair of Denali DR1s mounted on a mount from A Bike thing. “I begrudged paying for the mount but I know how difficult it is to draw and design stuff from scratch, it moves the lights in tighter away from crash damage and looks better in my opinion, not the best quality but you can’t see it and it works” After doing the RallyMoto Dark Skies event he is thinking of upgrading the DR1s to DR4’s. The other end has a Denali rear light/brake light fitted under the number plate as you can’t see the stock brake light in full sun very well, especially if covered in mud.
There are lots of other little things done like the stand off brackets he’s made to keep the Kriega’s off the hot exhaust, the list goes on and on.
If you have a GS and see GB at a rally, go chat to him, he is happy to talk GS’s till the cows come home!
“I’m not a good off road rider being late to the party but I love it, the bike is great but I’m not, its got nearly 50000miles on it now, half way to my target of 100000miles.
If you have a GS I can’t tell you enough how much fun these rallies are, if I can do them anyone can!”