I Got an Adventure Bike!
Ever since I rode the Ducati Multistrada a year ago, I’ve been keen on getting an adventure bike. You could say I’ve been stricken, stung, got the bug. Without the financial freedom of my 20’s, I couldn’t simply trade the Stratoliner in for a brand-new, faster steed. I either had to live with the Stratoliner until my other commitments were paid off, or…

I could trade my Stratoliner for an 1100 GS!

Using Craigslist like the frugal (desperate) person I am, I finally worked out a deal I could happily accept. 🙂 I tried selling the Yamaha on CL. I solicited dealers to make me an offer. All the while, I was looking at used motorcycles I thought I’d rather ride, hoping they wouldn’t sell before my Stratoliner did. I test rode a couple bikes, one of which would have been a fine idea and the other not. Being frustrated, I’m pretty sure I would have gone for the bad choice had the trade worked out. I’m glad it didn’t.

What did work out was trading my 2006 Yamaha Stratoliner S with a fellow on CL who had an unlisted 1995 BMW R1100 GS! We did a straight title transfer with no cash exchange. Yup, I traded for a bike that was 11 years older than mine with 100K more miles. My Yamaha was due for several maintenance items and the BMW was ready to go.

BMW features
Full service records since new
Jesse Aluminum Bags ($1000)
Freshly Rebuilt Wilbers full suspension ($1000)
New Yuasa AGM battery
New starter
Aux Driving Lights (Bosch)
New Shinko 804 / 805 Tires
Aftermarket wide foot pegs
Rebuilt Transmission with the updated BMW bearing Kit (by BMW dealer)
Newer Clutch (by BMW dealer)
Transmission to Frame reinforcement brackets
HID Headlamp
LED turn signals
Passenger backrest
Luggage rack
New Cam Chain Tensioners and pushrods
Valves Adjusted
New Brakes and Rotors
Braided steel brake line kit
ABS (the good system)
Both seats recovered and look new
No leaks, no burning oil
Plastic fuel tank with larger 6.6g capacity
Heated grips


But the real kicker was I enjoyed riding the Beemer more. It’s not a fast bike, but the handling and usability are much more enjoyable. I can lean again!

The plan of selling or trading the Stratoliner for another used bike was always to get me by a few years, until I could afford to get a new Ducati or KTM. That’s still the plan, but I’ve got to say, I do really like the Beemer. Power is really on the “okay” to “meh” spectrum. And I don’t like the lights — headlight, taillight, blinkers — they suck. But, overall, I like it enough that maybe I won’t upgrade as soon as I can. Maybe I can hold out on getting a super sweet street bike and add a dirt bike to the garage instead. 😀

I took this picture of the odometer on my ride home from the trade. Man, that’s an old-looking instrument panel! And man, that’s a lot of miles! From what I could gather, it sounds like this bike going over 200K miles is not uncommon. The most miles I’ve put on a bike was the 2007 ZX-14 Ninja. That was 46K or 47K miles in seven years. I don’t think it’ll be me adding 60K miles to the BMW, but never say “never.”

This is how it looked when I brought it home. Those stickers had to go.

There, that’s better. The stickers were easier to get off than I thought they would be. They came off without using any fluids.

Removing the bags lets you see more of the cool tire. I also put the passenger seat on. I think the bike looks best this way.

I’ll be replacing the camo handlebar guard. That’s just tacky.

Oh, the bubbles in the tank decal is from gas fumes coming through the plastic tank. Apparently, that’s just what happens with plastic tanks. BMW had metal tanks for this bike as well but they were a gallon smaller.

Well, what is this now? It’s my first adventure! I knew my bike was too big and heavy for tough off-roading, but I had to see how bad it was. Was it going to be just fine? Was it going to be tough and tiresome but still worth it? Was it going to be horrible? I knew that I would fall over. I wasn’t worried about that. I was only worried about how many times I’d fall over.

I set up a safe plan for myself. I’d start at the East lot and do the first small loop. That would allow me to either head for one of the exits or continue deeper into the trail.

What a pleasant beginning! At this point, I’m wondering if I’ll get real familiar with this road in the future from coming here so often. Well…


It did not take long for this to happen! After going around a hairpin, angled corner, I began my slippery journey. I was trying to be really careful but also felt really excited to be on this trail 2 hours from my home. It was much harder to avoid ruts than I imagined, but I was able to stay balanced enough for a short while. Finally, I powered up a small incline that, to my slight horror, lead to an immediate decline. I was focusing on that big puddle and thinking I should try to pass on the left side when the bike and I started teetering to the right. My instincts knew that more power would have just sent me down faster so I tried to simply counter-steer. Well, nothing works when both tires are sliding and you’re already off balance. I looked at the ground and then hit it!

You can see the black mark where the cylinder head made contact. The bike and I slid a few feet after impact. I stepped off the bike and looked myself over, knowing that adrenaline might be hiding pain. Nothing was crooked or bleeding. Sweet. I then looked at my clothes, expecting to see some really cool mud streaks all over my leg and arm. Nope. Nothing. Looked at my hands. Nothing. Ha! I never touched the ground! I couldn’t believe it.

Casually, I took some of my gear off so I wouldn’t get too hot and looked the bike over. I wasn’t too concerned at this point. Remember, I pretty much knew I’d wipe out. And getting the bike up wouldn’t be a big deal. I’d just use the technique I’ve seen where you squat at the seat of the bike and then use your leg power to get yourself and the bike up. I saw a woman demonstrate it. It’d be easy. Well, that didn’t work at all. Huh. I turned around and tried lifting with my arms. No chance. I tried at the back where there’s a nice handle. Nope. OK, now I wasn’t happy anymore. I figured I would have to wait for one of the ATV riders I had seen to come around this section of the trail so I could ask for help. This is when I decided that I couldn’t trail ride alone on this bike.

I went to stand in the shade for like 10 seconds until I noticed a clear stream that looked like water coming from beneath my motorcycle. Oh, great! I hoped it was water somehow but ran around the bike and found that it was gas. Fortunately, it was coming from the overflow tube and not a seal or crack somewhere. I quickly started thinking of creative ways to pinch the tube. Could I split a stick and wedge it? After failing to come up with a solution after five seconds or so, I decided I had to act now. I did not want to have to ask for help hauling my motorcycle out of here in addition to getting it upright! I thought of what would make it most likely for me to get the bike up: grip. Deciding that bent parts could be replaced, I grabbed the right handlebar with my right hand and put my left hand under the seat. I turned the handlebar so my hands were closer together. I started lifting with full force. The bike came up a little and then stopped moving. I felt like I was already pushing as hard as I could, but when I hit this stage, I thought, “I HAVE to… get… this… UP!” And I pushed beyond what I thought was my limit. I got the bike all the way up! Oh, my God, I couldn’t do that again. I promised myself to never ride this bike off-road alone.

I precariously held the bike up while reaching for my gear I had tossed to the side. At least my forethought paid off here and I didn’t toss my stuff out of reach. After some more sweating, I got the bike turned around and mounted it to head back to the parking lot. The clay slime on the road was so slippery that even one of my boots slipped! “How the crap did I ride through this?” Now, I had to get my motorcycle back to the parking lot. Having fallen over and spent my adrenaline already, I was terrified of another spill. But I did remember how I got through it the first time: powering through it. Telling my fear to take a hike like we humans sometimes have to do, I twisted the throttle every time I slowed to a comfortable speed. Yes, I forced myself to ride harder and faster than I really wanted. It paid off. When the rear slid a couple times, adding power kept me moving forward.

My last challenge was getting through the banked, hairpin turn that lead to the parking lot. I just couldn’t get my bike to turn that sharply on that banked angle without tipping over… unless I came with a little speed and power slid the rear. Obviously, right? Well, this was my first time out and it was on a 535 lb. motorcycle to boot! I successfully managed the feat but didn’t enjoy it the way I did coming in!

I spent a little time refreshing myself and examining the bike before heading out onto the road. That cylinder head was the only thing that touched the ground. The blinkers, auxiliary lights, and even handlebar did not touch the ground. Sure, this bike is hell to get off the ground, but it seems designed to handle falls. I was very happy to see that nothing was broken.

When I opened my trunk bag to refresh myself with plenty of water and a protein bar, I saw the tools I brought, one of which was a vice wrench. I could have used that to stop the gas leak. Huh.

An hour later, so about half-way home, I came to a familiar gravel road and had to check it out. I was feeling better about the bike, accepting that it wasn’t a dirt bike, but I still wanted to see it do something the Stratoliner couldn’t have done. I rode down a State Forest gravel road, some parts of it that were barely road at all. Nobody was around to see me cruising much faster than I would have on the 800 lb. Yamaha. This is probably the sweet spot and the most adventuresome this 1100 GS should get.

About a month later, it was time to do a street ride. A very good friend and I did about 200 miles. It was great. In fact, I’ve concluded that the hybrid tires won’t get enough use to justify the lack of wet traction. I think I’ll put Michelin or Pirelli rain tires on next season.

Yup, this bike can ride the street pretty well!