Riding a Yamaha Virago 1100 was a fun way of exploring the roads. Years ago, I enjoyed riding a BMW 600. While the Virago is reliable and has a lot of power, I now feel that serious trips are best taken on a serious machine.
One day, I was cruising along on my Virago beside two BMW riders - Norm and Linda Babcock. They invited me for dinner and I began to realize that the bike I REALLY need is a BMW. Norm and Linda basically live on their bikes. Shortly afterwards, I met another rider, Daniel Cohen from N.Y. Daniel is also an avid rider and has covered 200,000 miles in the last 3 years! He too is a loyal BMW fan and would never have considered covering such distances on anything other than a BMW. Norm, Linda and Daniel are currently tour leaders for Ayres Adventures. By the time I got back home, I had every reason I needed to trade in my Virago for a BMW.
Coincidentally, Daniel and Linda were in town, servicing their bikes at the same shop that I have mine serviced at. They were there when I purchased my BMW R1150RT. Thanks for your advice guys!
Getting accustomed to the new bike took a while, but it did not take long until I fell in love with it. According to the many Internet articles that I've read, it is the best bike ever made. While the model you choose to purchase is a personal choice, one thing that remains certain is that it is one of the most exciting riding experiences I’ve ever had. However, I had to customize the bike to suit my personal needs. Firstly, I replaced the windshield with a taller and wider one. The original one simply wasn't “tall” enough for highway riding. I am 6'3" and had never experienced such difficulties with the wind.
As well, the seat had to be adjusted. I found myself experiencing the 'sliding forward' syndrome. Apparently it is a well known problem with this bike in particular (Tip for BMW: Why aren't you correcting the problem?). It requires nothing more than a couple of minutes to add two adjusters under the front of the seat.
The next thing that I installed was a ThrottleMeister. Hopefully one day, all bikes within this class will come equipped with cruise control. Until then, I will have difficulties sleeping at night due to my sore wrists. The ThrottleMeister allows you to "lock" the gas handle and give your wrist a rest.
I also installed a lighter style, triple power socket. Most of my ancillary equipment comes with the regular plugs. The GPS, radar detector, cell phone and tracking device all use regular plugs. I wired the GPS directly to the bike. To operate the rest of the devices, I found an inexpensive and nice unit, which I installed under the left airflow outlet. Using a BMW style plug, I hooked them to one of the bike power outlets. The other one is connected to my new electric jacket. Hey, it's cold in Edmonton!
For my trips I use Garmins' Street Pilot III Deluxe GPS. I found this device to be life saving on some of my recent trips. I installed it using a special bracket on the handle bar which is wired directly to the bike. I also use the 'traditional' paper maps, however, the addition of the GPS is invaluable.
For communication purposes, I currently use the ChatterBox!, which enables me to speak to other riders, listen to music, and also serves as an intercom to the passenger helmet (when I have one).
To protect the paint and other sensitive areas (i.e. gas tank, lower fairing, ignition), I attached transparent stickers. I have yet to determine what needs to be done in order to prevent the lose of bolts from the (bottom) side fairing.