Choosing the best motorbike to travel is the most important desition you need to make. In this post, I will go over the pros and cons of the BMW R1200 GS/A for traveling so you can make an educated decision if this bike is the best option for you.
Let’s be frank, it is possible to take any motorbike for traveling but it depends on your situation and personal goals.
Here are a few points to consider
- Cost – What budget do you have for the motorbike? More bike lest travel, or the other way around?
- Weight/size – Can you handle the weight a bigger bike in difficult terrain?
- Riding Style – Do you ride mostly sealed roads or love going off-road?
These are the main considerations when choosing a motorbike to travel. Other important factors can be solved with add-ons. A good example is fuel capacity, its cheap and easy to get aftermarket jerry cans or tires to suit the conditions.
BMW R1200 GS
This is the motorbike I took to circumnavigate Africa. The choose to take this bike was based on two main things. First, will it be a good bike to use after Africa? I ride a lot in Europe and the GS 1200 a great option for the old continent.
Second, can I go wherever I want to go on this bike? This was the most important factor in choosing this bike. I didn’t want to be limited by the bike but empowered by it. All the fancy electronics put me off at first but once I realized they can be turned off (Enduro-Pro Mode) and a with test ride off-road, it proved itself to be more than capable.
One thing to note, these big bikes CAN go offroad and do it well, it is 90% rider capability and tires selection.
As a 185cm (6.1ft) tall guy the size of the bike less of a problem. But consider the weight with a full tank (+30L) of fuel and all the gear needed for long distance travel. It adds up.
You will probably need to take an extra 80L plus to fit camping gear, food, clothing, and spare parts. This makes a massive difference! Test it out first and load your bike with weight to see if you are comfortable riding with that much gear. I took soft luggage to save some weight and went with the bare minimum kit. Going light is always the best. Take a test trip and see what you really need to take with you. Spread out everything you need for the trip, then half it. You can get most stuff on the road, even in remote locations.
Service and Parts
Although not an issue in most continents, Africa is different and access to qualified mechanics and spare parts is something to consider. In Africa, there is only one “authorized mechanic” on the West coast, in Togo. But I wouldn’t trust them to work on my bike, for a simple service ok, no problem.
Check out www.bmw-motorrad.com/dealer/ to see the options for services and spare parts. The bike needs a service every 10’000 km so plan around that.
The next option is over 10’000km away through 8 developing world contrys in Namibia. If something brakes, you will have to fix it yourself. Not an easy task without proper tools or knowledge. Luckily, the BMW R 1200 GS is low maintenance and build well. Most people will not have problems.
If there are problems, spare parts can be shipped in with DHL within days, and with some searching, a reasonable well-equipped workshop can be found in most main cities. Look for services outlets for BMW/Volkswagen/Toyota etc and keep your bike well maintained and cleaned.
Apart from the initial cost of the motorbike, money is an important factor. If you need a Carnet De Passage, you may need to leave a large deposit behind, sometimes up to 100% of the bikes value. I applied for my Carnet with a low value so I didn’t have to pay 100% value of the bike, an easy, less expensive workaround.
Other things to consider
Do I want to have a $20’000 bike to look after? If it is stolen (Not likely in developing worlds) or a write-off crash? Be prepared to have this on your mind as you cant get full coverage insurance in many countries. You do get used to riding without insurance.
Also worth considering is fuel economy, spare parts, and services. It all adds up and can be expensive in some countries. Make a spreadsheet with service, tires, fuel, and shipping to get a good estimate of what if will cost you.
I took the BMW GS because it’s an awesome bike, and every time I get on it, I felt good… And it looks bad-ass. Vain maybe but love your bike because it will be your home for the years to come.
For if you are looking for more options on what bike to take for your round the world adventure, check out these options the public are voting one for the next Long Way Up series http://the-long-way.com/long-way-up-bikes/