Well, while my bike was being repaired I decided to enact some upgrades instead of just take the "factory default" replacements. I asked around in the forums, local shops, read AV_Mech's report on his changes to his bike, and even had a chance to talk with Shawn from Rawhyde I was able to put together a wish list of things to change. Today was my first "real" ride on the bike, post upgrades. (Technically I did a quick run up 8th street and then a freeway ride down to Twin Falls prior but I consider those just warm-ups to what I did today.)
The upgrades I had done were Wilbers shocks tuned to my weight and riding style, Remus headers and exhaust, K&N air filter, Sargent seats, and some misc things such as BarkBuster brush guards and oil radiator protector.
Today's ride consisted of a approx 4 hour ride through the "mountains" south of Twin Falls (locally called the South Hills). The terrain was mountain roads in a variety of different states of disrepair. There wasn't any single track or ATV trails but you certainly couldn't have taken a Toyota Corolla on some of them. My father-in-law and brother-in-law came along riding an F650 and 800 Dakar PD respectively. If you didn't know I ride a 2010 R1200GSA.
So, now to the meat of what I want to report.
In summary: "HOLY SHIT THAT WAS F'ING AMAZING!" (Sorry, I just had to do that.)
In detail: My bike has transformed. I truly feel like I now have an untamed beast between my legs. Instead of fighting the bike to "stay on the road" I found myself fighting myself to not do anything too aggressive. The tuned shocks kept my tires in constant contact with the ground whereas my old shocks had me bouncing around the road like I was on a pogo stick. Washboard, rocks, gravel, loose gravel, slightly slick dirt (it rained yesterday pretty hard) didn't phase me a bit! In fact I was revving it up and intentionally causing my back tire to break traction FOR FUN. Previously I wouldn't have done that. I now see why turning off ABS on dirt is a good idea. It now makes sense considering my tires stay on the ground.
Speaking of revving... The K&N air filter along with the Remus headers and exhaust have changed my riding as well. Previously I would typically keep my RPMs in the 3000-4000 range. I would only break that on the freeway when I was doing 80mph or so. Now I find myself maintaining my RPMs in the 5000 range and on several occasions going up to 7000 RPMs! Now, do I think Remus is somehow doing that? No. What I think is happening is that the old exhaust system would make the bike "feel" weird if I exceeded approx 4000 RPMs. Now that weird feeling is gone!
I have to admit that I don't like how loud the Remus exhaust is but I sure love actually using my power band now!
Lastly, the new seat is comfortable to sit in. Maybe my old seat also played into that weird "feeling" I had in the 4000+ RPM. On the new seat I cannot complain after sitting for something like 4 hours. I did stand here and there but mostly sat. Speaking of standing, I have to report that the Sargent seat does dig into my calves a little when I stand. It isn't horrible but I isn't comfortable either.
What would I do different? I wouldn't change anything I've already done. In fact I think that if/when I get another bike I'll immediately make the changes I've made to this bike.
What would I do more? Well, Shawn from Rawhyde mentioned that I should either get my handlebars raised or I should get different foot pegs that would lower my overall body. Prior to the upgrades, I didn't really understand why but I think I do understand now. Since I'm not fighting the bike any more I've noticed that when I stand up I'm hunched over more than what I consider comfortable. So, my next "upgrade" will probably be a set of foot pegs that offer a larger area for my foot as well as lower the overall position of my body.
So, IF you are not 5' 10" and 180lbs I would STRONGLY suggest you consider changing your shocks system to something that is tuned to you. If you feel like your 1200cc bike just isn't giving you the punch you expect from such a large machine I would suggest you give it more air and let its exhaust flow more freely. If your ass is sore and you are tired after just an hour or two in the saddle then I'd suggest replacing that stock seat with something that allows you to ride the whole day in comfort!