Thought that a good place to start with this blog was the form of transport. All sorts of other interesting things have come to light while preparing this trip, like giving up work, money, what to take, what not to take, fear etc. but I will start with Nancy.
Nancy is called Nancy because of it's number plate. All my bikes have names as I get rather attached to them, having spent many hours loving working on them and Nancy NAN 996X is no exception.
I brought Nancy in 2007 with the idea of doing some travelling. Jill and myself had travelled around Europe (Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal) on Lynford LYC 281 P, a BMW R1100 RT since early 2000 clocking up about 55000 miles. We really enjoyed it. Seeing places, camping and being apart of places that only travelling on a motorbike can give you. (Cars move the body, motorbikes move the soul) But the bike was very heavy, and although it handling was superb on tarmac, both motorway and alpine roads, it didn't do very well when you left the smooth black stuff. Nancy on the other hand weighed 100kg less dry weight and was designed as a on/off road bike.
I have to admit I am a bit of a BMW fan. When I was younger(not so long ago) I could never afford one. In my 20's I brought a shaft drive Yamaha 750 that was as near a BMW as I could get. It was at that time purely a visual thing, I liked the look of them, I didn't know much about the mechanics of the thing, but never thought a greasy chain as a final drive would ever catch on, so went for the shaft option. When I came back to biking, after a break for family I wanted a BMW and brought a rather rough K 75s called Robin ( not too sure why, some to do with batman I think). Lynford followed soon after and then I got thinking about getting a bike as old as I was, too grow old (hopefully) gracefully together. I managed to acquire Betsey, a 1951 R51/3 which I then rebuilt and drove to Romania doing 4000 miles in 2 weeks without it missing a beat. The engineering on BMW's is great. It all works very simply and if set up right, goes on and on. There was no real other manufacturer of bikes to choose from for our trip and the older monolever G/S didn't have the drive shaft problem that later paralever GS models have so a G/S it had to be.
The bike didn't come as standard, it had a super loud exhaust that sounded more like a Harley than a beemer. I kind of liked it for 10 minutes but after that I longed for some piece and quiet so that had to go on ebay and be replace by a standard stainless system that makes the bike purr.
It also came with a small twin headlight fairing that I liked. Everything I had read said never travel in the dark and then the teller would go on to describe a horrendous journey that they had to make in the dead of night. 2 headlight might come in handy at these times so I wired them up so that normally I could ride with 1 on but if necessary I could flood the darkness with 2 65W Zenon bulbs. This lead to the first problem. Electrical power. It's not much good having an amazing lighting system if it runs your battery down and suddenly you are plunged into darkness with a dead bike. The standard alternator is rated at 280W at 5000 rpm, going slowly much less so I got from Motorworks a 420W alternator that charge from 2500 rpm. Other drains on our electricity supply would be heated waistcoats, heated grips, GPS, charging netbook, camera, batteries etc., while rewiring the bike to accommodate 4 power take offs, I also wired in a voltmeter to let me know how the charging was going, a buzzer that let me know I had left my indicators on, a clock and the autocom intercom so we can talk to each other, play music through and also listen to audio books which I really enjoy while travelling on long straight roads. To accommodate all this I made up an aluminium plate that held all the dials and switches, tucked under the protection of the fairing.
Next problem was how to carry all the stuff that would keep Jill in the comfort zone she has become accustomed too. Managed to get some large (41Litre) Metal Mule panniers from ebay that when fitted to the standard sub frame but they made the seating\leg room cramped. The standard fuel tank is only 19 litres so I changed the fuel tank, seat and rear sub frame for the later GS ones increasing the fuel to 24litre and adding length and strength to the subframe. John T (01626 365340) in Newton Abbott made up some supports that spread the load from the sub frame to the foot pegs to aid with the touring weight. An aluminium Touratech top box was acquired, again from ebay, to finish off the hard luggage. After remaking the seat and inserting gel pads and extra foam, things were starting to look more comfortable.
The next problem was that the bike didn't seem to want to stop. The standard brembo brakes on the front were always very wooden and with the extra weight you had to put your feet down to help. I decided to purchase a very expensive Harrison Billet 6 pot calliper that fitted the original brake set up along with a braided hose. This sure stopped the bike but I started to become very concerned about the flexing of the rather light original forks. Heavier springs were fitted which stopped the diving but not the twisting, flexing and general wobble that was coming from the front end under braking. People had mentioned that you can fit Yamaha XT forks to the G/S but I wanted to keep as much as possible to one manufacture for the ease of spares while travelling so decided to fit a F 650 GS set.
I managed to acquire (yes from ebay) a set of forks with wheel spindle, yokes and front brake in very good condition that once I had changed the seals and oil and again added heavier springs I thought would do very nicely. The stanchion dia. is 41mm compared with 36mm from the original so a lot of extra strength was there. The only problem was that the head stock is 10mm longer than on the frame. Smith and Yeo the local motorbike machine shop was able to increase the thread length by 4mm and made up a 6 mm washer that I fitted below the bottom bearing to take up the extra length. The standard brake with braided hose and 13mm master cylinder works very well and the extra length of the forks adds to the trail making the bike more stable for touring. I used the standard 19in wheel as the load rating on this size are better than the 21in dakar wheel and I didn't want any extra height. I had fantasies of doing a lot of off road stuff while away and even took Nancy Green Laneing in Devon and very soon realised that a dirt road might be possible fully loaded, but more than that wasn't going to be on our agenda so the 19in wheel wouldn't be a problem. Fitted Avon Distanzia tyres that have a good chunky tread and very good grip in all conditions that I have used them in. Took the bike for a spin round the Picos mountains in Northern Spain last October and it handled really well.