Lebanon, TN (June 12-16)
Each year, the BMW Motorcycle Owners Association puts on a rally for its members. Members register for about $50, and are given access to numerous seminars, demonstrations, music, local food, and to many/most of the vendors from whom we normally purchase accessories, and other parts.
I rode to the rally on Wed, and have returned home on Sunday, doing my best to avoid the rain. The scheduled distance to the rally was about 438 miles, but as I left my house before 7AM, I got as far as Rock Hill, SC before I realized that I forgot my wallet, and so, after a quick trip back home, I hit the road for a second time. This time, I made it to the rally, arriving at just after 5PM CST.
I stopped at the registration tent, picked up my packet, and started to wander around, investigating what was going on, and which vendors were open.
Tires, Tires, Tires
The tires on the bike were well worn, and in need of replacement. So, my first stop was the No-Mar tire changers, who were offering a 20% discount on the tires, with a mounting fee of $110. Now, for those of you with cars, who are used to getting free mounting and balancing, it may seem odd to have to pay to have tires mounted, never mind the price of $110, but removing motorcycle tires is more complex and time consuming than the same work done on a car, and I didn’t want to mount the tires myself, so I paid the man the money, and ended up with a brand new set of Michelin Road 5 tires, Michelin’s latest tire technology for motorcycles.
The tires were mounted, and my first big purchase of the rally was completed by 6:30 PM, the day before the rally even starts. Not a bad start to the rally at all, right?
As I’ve mentioned numerous times, there is no such thing as a motorcycle that is “perfectly equipped”. As it turns out, there are always innovations that solve some problem, which you may, or may not have known that you even had. And so it goes as I start to look at all of the new accessories.
I purchased a set of mirror locks, which allow me to relocate the mounting point for my mirrors to be about 2″ further towards the outside of the bike, and for me, a taller and wider rider, this offset will allow the angle of the mirrors to be a little bit more natural, with greater field of view. The mirror locks also have a loop lock, which allows me to connect a cable to either or both of the mirrors, locking the cable to the mirror. This allows me to run a security cable through my riding gear (Jacket, pants) and lock them to the bike without the need to put them in my panniers when I’m not on the bike riding.
The horn on the bike is often described as anemic, but suffice it to say that it is simply not very loud, and cannot be counted on to alert another vehicle in an emergency situation. So, while visiting Twisted Throttle, and Denali lighting, I discovered a new horn, called the Sound Bomb Compact, which which puts out a 120 db blast when called upon.
I ordered the part from Twisted Throttle, and expect delivery in short order.
The BMW GS adventure bike came with blinker lights which relied on incandescent bulbs which were not very bright, and had a slow reaction time. About 3 years ago, I upgraded my blinker lights to LED lights, which react faster, and were much brighter. But, here we are, 3 years later, and LED technology has improved significantly, and so I replaced those blinker lights with the latest generation of the Weiser Intelligent LED Blinker lights.
These new lights not only replace the existing blinkers, but they also connect to the information bus on the bike, so they can react to events, beyond simply engaging the blinker. Now, these new blinkers act as running lights when not engaged as a blinker, and in the rear, the blinker lights now illuminate not only for blinking, but also act as an extension to the Brake light, turning red, and illuminating fully when either brake is depressed.
I’ve inserted a youTube video that shows how bright the lights are. Find it below…
Dual camera (Front/Rear, always on)
As I rode through Patagonia, and across the US, I often found that I was riding somewhere that warranted that I take some video, but often in these cases, the event that I wanted to record was already started, or was behind me. So, I’d sometimes turn the bike around, travel backwards on the route, turn the bike around again, begin recording, and travel the same stretch of road.
I’ve often wondered if there isn’t a better way to record the videos that are spontaneous, without needing to backtrack, and stage the video.
Well, as it turns out, there is a dual-camera system, manufactured by InnOv that comes with 2 cameras, which need to be semi-permanently mounted to the bike, and semi-permanently wired into the power, and trigger lines.
This system is reasonably priced, and should be relatively easy to install. I’ll know more in a few days, but once installed, I’ll be recording video from the front and rear, each time I start the bike. The video will loop over a 20 hour recording period, creating videos in 10 minute segments, so that they are easier to manage, copy, delete, etc.
And so, whenever I come upon an event that I want to record, I’ll start recording using the camera on my helmet, but when I render the video for all of you to see, I’ll combine it with another front-looking POV, and a rear-looking POV. So, the video should be much more interesting.
The GPS Seminar
As I thought about attending this seminar, I considered whether I might want to be a contributor, rather than just an atendee, so I offerd to teach a class in the use of GPS devices. The MOA accepted my offer, and I was scheduled to offer the seminar at 8AM on Friday.
The rooms hold about 100 people or so, and for this presentation, we filled the room, and there were about 15 – 20 others who were standing in the back. And so with a great crowd, I started my presentation.
The presentation covered some very advanced topics, but I tried to deliver it in a way that allowed everyone to get something out of it. It may not be obvious to those of you who do not ride and who do not use a motorcycle GPS, but these things are much more capable than the GPS in your car, and they are much more complicated. The difference mostly lies in the fact that motorcycles plan their routes carefully, while auto drivers simply want to get from point A to point B. This primary difference means that for a motorcyclist, routes are usually designed on the computer, and then loaded to the GPS prior to riding.
I spent an hour talking about how to organize the data, which it turns out is at the core of anything that you’d like to do with your GPS. Regardless of your intentions, or whatever destination you want to go to, it is critical to organize your information properly.
The folks in the room were really attentive, and asked a lot of great questions. Unfortunately, I did not get to complete the entire presentation, so I’ve decided to post the presentation, and offer for those of you reading this post, to be able to download it here. If you download it, and find it useful, please post a comment.
CLICK HERE to view the presentation in PDF format
Note: I’ve decided to update and improve this presentation over time, so keep checking back for updates. Once the presentation has been substantially improved, I’ll publish another post that specifically calls it out.
In the end, listening to the comments I received after the presentation, and then throughout the next two days, I found that the GPS, and all surrounding topics are areas where the folks really welcome seminars that really strive to deliver something useful. When they are about the GPS, a device that is both beloved, and hated, it seems that everyone has 10 questions. So, I’m going to try to get to the rally next year, and deliver a few different seminars.
The BMW heritage is long, and although the bikes have always been manufactured in Germany, the MOA was able to get a number of these heritage bikes to attend the show. Below, you’ll see some examples of bikes from the 30s, to today. You’ll even see a BMW outfitted with a sidecar, with machine guns mounted, and ready to fire.
A quick tour of the rally…
Russia, who said anything about Russia?
For the past 6 months, I’ve been planning my World Tour trip. During the planning, I’ve spoken to many folks who know a thing or two about the problems that I need to familiarize myself with, maybe even solving these problems.
And so, I met Alex Nikonov. Alex and a few others own a motorcycle tour company that operates in Russia called RusMotoTravel. They offer tours around the whole of Russia, even a tour that travels on the Road of Bones on the way to Vladivostok.
While I’m not traveling to Vladivostok, I am visiting several key cities, of which Alex has great knowledge and experience. And so, when I learned that Alex and his wife will be attending the show, I offered to have them stay at my home, as they leave the rally, and head back to Russia. So, I’ve invited some friends over, and we’ll be sharing some good southern BBQ with our new Russian friends, learning a bit, and listening to stories about a country, for which most Americans know very little. As for me, I’m excited to hear about Russia, and to better understand how to enjoy myself, while staying out of trouble.
A stunt show. Whaaaatttt?
The rally is organized, and funded by the BMW Motorcycle Owners Association, which is an organization that is not affiliated with BMW Mottorrad, the motorcycle manufacturer. However, BMW can certainly see that the demographic of a group like this is an extraordinary opportunity for them to market their products, and produce some good will. And so, BMW really stepped up and brought about 20 motorcycles that could be ridden as demos, and they also brought their very own stunt rider, Chris, Teach McNeil to perform for us.
If you’ve never heard of Chris, then you’re in for a treat. He’s one of those folks that can do things on a motorcycle that the rest of us would assume are simply impossible. That said, he regularly delivers the impossible to the folks watching his shows.
In this case, Teach did a show at 11Am and another at 2PM. I’ve combined some video into a highlights real to give you a good feeling for the kinds of things that Chris can do. Enjoy…
The ride home
With scattered rain expected throughout the drive home, I opted to take a direct route, using mostly highways, with the hope that I’ll make my way home in the shortest time possible.
The ride took me exactly 7 hours to cover 400 miles. I stopped and stretched my legs every 100 miles, and took on some food, water, and/or Gatorade, at every stop.
In the end, I averaged about 60 miles per hour, including the stops to stretch, etc. I’ll use this travel rate as a benchmark to estimate travel time in Europe, when the roads are similar.
Summary of the rally
Well, I traveled about 950 miles to attend the rally, and found it to be time well spent. Meeting the vendors, listening to stories from other world travelers, and meeting new people is always fun, and it’s great to be surrounded by 6040 other enthusiasts.
And now, with the rally behind me, its time to focus on the World Tour. Time is running out, and there is still much to do…