Drone's BMW G650 XCountry Mods

Discussion in 'Thumpers' started by DRONE, Apr 6, 2009.

  1. DRONE

    DRONE Dog Chauffeur

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    The front of my bike has a new look. The HID lights are gone, the Wunderlich screen is installed, new short stalk turn signals installed, and the big change are the new Solstice LED driving lights mounted to the HDB handguards.

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    There are several threads here on the Solstice lights, and there's a vendor thread too.

    The Denali lights are only available from Twisted Throttle. The kit includes two VisionX Solstice 10-watt LED driving lights with 24-inch pigtails (the Solstice sold directly from VisionX only has a 6-inch pigtail), a relay pre-wired to a wiring harness, and a switch.

    The Denali kit has a warning on the instructions saying that the circuitry in the lights will be damaged if you don't use the Denali wiring harness.

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    If you know anything about these lights, you know that this is, of course, rubbish. But I'm sure there are enough people who don't know what they're doing that Twisted Throttle wants to protect themselves from warranty claims for lights that somebody wired up the wrong way.

    Here's a pic of the full harness which is about six feet long and includes 4 plugs and a fuseholder--

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    A harness this size will not fit behind and under the instrument panel. Even after I cut it down to size and got rid of all the plugs, I still was barely able to wire-tie everything into place behind the headlight. Here's the harness, switch and relay after I "trimmed" it down to about 10 inches--

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    I might have gotten by trimming it to 6", but I have big hands and having a little extra makes it easier to do the connections. You'll note that there are 4 grounds coming from the relay--one goes to ground (duh!), two go to the grounds coming from the two Solstice lamps, and one goes to the switch. It would be nice to trim that down to one ground and then connect all the grounds to it using a Posi-Twist 1022 connector (the really big one) but I don't have any of those. I tried a Posi-Twist 1424 and it was too small. I wonder if there's something better out there? Because I also have grounds for my heated grips and my GPS and the main ground wire itself coming from the battery, so that's 7 wires to connect together securely but without solder so that I can take things apart when needed. A grounding block would be nice, but I don't see any room for something like that up in the headlight/instrument panel vicinity. Anyway, I just used several of the regular Posi-Locks.

    If you're going to do this mod using Denali lights, make note that the BROWN wire coming from the lamp is positive (opposite of what you'd expect.) I don't know what the deal might be with non-Denali VisionX lights.

    I fabricated a bracket for the switch from some scrap aluminum. I painted it black then mounted it to the left side controls. The switch itself mounts to the bracket with peel-off sticky tape--

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    I decided to mount the lights to my HDB handguards. My old HID lights were mounted to the side of the headlight, but I figgered that by moving them outboard I'll have improved daytime conspicuity. The only trick to this mounting point is that the handguards are not perfectly square to the direction of travel. But the Solstice mounting brackets are forgiving enough that I was able to bend the brackets to send the lumens in the right direction. If I decide I want more ability to change the aiming point on the fly, shouldn't be too hard to fabricate a "L" bracket to mount the lights to. Here's a shot of the mounting hole I drilled--

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    And here's the final look--

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    I think that looks like a nice clean install!

    This posting would not be complete without beamshots. I must apologize though for my lousy ability to take pics at night. While these pics are blurry and grainy, the relative brightness is accurate.

    I placed a pannier case on the road at 50 yards and draped a brown leather coat over it to imitate a deer crossing the road at night. I chose 50 yards because at 35 mph, you have three seconds to avoid something 50 yards away. At 70 mph, well good luck to ya then!

    All pics were taken with the camera set to "manual" and all other variables the same. The deer looks closer than 50 yards because I used the zoom.

    The 1st pic is the OEM headlamp low beam. The 2nd is high beam. The 3rd is low beam with the Denalis turned on (wow!). The 4th is the high beam with the Denalis.

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    In real life, night vision can be affected by oncoming headlights, your instrument panel and GPS shining in your face, moonlight, streetlamps, road signs, etc. But I can say that my subjective opinion is . . . yes, they're that bright. With the OEM high beam I could not see the deer at all. With the Denalis, I could see the deer with ease.

    I haven't tested them yet in traffic to see if I can get by without pissing off the cagers. We'll see. Also, with a combined draw of 20 watts, my voltmeter doesn't even flinch when I turn the lights on and off. Rode the bike last night with lights, grip heaters at 75%, and GPS and the voltage was up around 13.6 to 14.2.
  2. DRONE

    DRONE Dog Chauffeur

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    What's that? You want to know what they look like when they're running?

    OK, here ya go--

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    Yes, they're brighter than the headlamp, though smaller in diameter.

    Edit 4 months later--cagers do not flash their lights at me during daytime so I guess they're not overly bright. But coming up to a toll booth the other day the operator says to me, "Hey, those are some bright lights. What kind are they? I could see you coming a long ways off!"
  3. snooker

    snooker AttitudeIsEverything

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    Wow another great write-up Drone, thanks! As you know I've been eye-ing the Denali's as well and this helps me decide. Will be anxious to hear how the cagers react as there is no doubt you are much more conpicuous.
    So you have connected them independently from your high beams so you could turn them on at any time either with low or high beam, right? Just wondering.

    Does the kit include any way to mount them off the the front forks lower down or do you know of an option for this? Also wondering how adjustable the angle is, since you said you had to bend the bracket, I would have thought they would have adjustment on the mounting screws?

    Nice looking lights!
  4. DRONE

    DRONE Dog Chauffeur

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    Yes, I wired them up to their own switched and fused power line coming from my 3-fuse panel under the seat. I can turn them on and off with the thumb switch independent of the headlamp.

    To mount them to the forks, somebody more clever than me would have to design and fabricate a mounting bracket, or you could buy something like a LumaLink fork bracket, but then you'd have to deal with the exposed wiring possibly getting caught on brush etc.

    The Denali (and VisionX) mounting bracket allows you to point the lights in any direction you want as long as the bracket bolt is oriented at a 90 degree angle to the direction of movement. Like if you were to use the headlamp mounting bolts. Or, in my case, if I had drilled my mounting holes vertically down through the guards. But a 6mm hole vertically through my guards would have made them too weak.

    My ability to aim the lights is limited only because I decided to mount the brackets with the bolts in-line to the direction of travel. If I decide I want more flexibility, I can make an "L" bracket, bolt it to the guards where the lights are now, then mount the lights to the "L" bracket above the guards.

    In fact, the more I think about it, making a couple of brackets would be so easy, and would give me complete aiming flexibility, I think I'm going to cobble some up. Stay tuned for more pics.
  5. DRONE

    DRONE Dog Chauffeur

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    OK, I got around to making and installing these brackets. I took some scrap aluminum, made a rectangle, de-horned all the edges and corners, drilled 6mm holes, bent them, and mounted them up.

    1st pic is the naked "L" bracket (blurry but I'm not taking it apart again just to give you a non-blurry pic!)

    2nd pic shows bracket mounted to HDB guard.

    3rd pic shows Solstice bracket (OEM) mounted to the "L" bracket.

    4th pic shows Solstice mounted to the assembly.

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    Now I can aim the lights anywhere I want. Thanks, Snooker, for asking those pesky questions. I should have done it this way in the first place!
  6. snooker

    snooker AttitudeIsEverything

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    No charge just this once. :wink:

    Now you can adjust them "on the fly" until the cagers just begin to wince yet the deer are BRILLIANT !

    There is a de-motivational poster in my cubicle from Despair.com that says:

    QUALITY: "The race for quality has no finish line... so technically it's more like a death march."
  7. DRONE

    DRONE Dog Chauffeur

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    My complaint about the rear suspension is the weak spring. The OEM spring is about 11kg I think and just not heavy enough for me. All last season I rode with the preload cranked all the way and with the rebound damping cranked to about 75%. What I got was a very harsh ride. And I was still bottoming out on rough gravel roads and would even bottom out on pavement if I hit a hard dip mid-curve while leaned over.

    Solution? A heavier shock spring. I sent the shock to John at Moto-Pro Suspensions --this is a local suspension shop near Seattle--and he agreed to do a custom shock spring for me. He removed the OEM spring and replaced it with a 15kg custom-wound spring powder-coated black.

    Total cost $150 plus shipping.

    I'd post a pic except there's nothing to see--the new spring looks exactly like the old spring except black. But ride quality is WAY different! I've reset both the preload and the rebound damping to the middle of the range and now my rear suspension is much more rider-friendly for ordinary riding, while I'm confident I'll be able to push the bike harder on rough stuff without fear of bottoming out.

    Must admit though that I just got this done and have not yet taken the bike into the woods.
  8. plumber mike

    plumber mike Highdive Deepened

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    How 'bout a long(er) term update on those lights. I rode home on a deer riddled 2 lane last night in the rain.My heated jacket sucks up what little power I have, so these seem like the hot ticket for the X bike. These lights have jumped to the front of my "next" list...providing they come with the Drone seal of approval:wink:
  9. DRONE

    DRONE Dog Chauffeur

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    I have to admit that I haven't used them yet at night. First off, I have a new Moto Guzzi "toy" that seems to be getting most of my attention this season. Also, I ride 99.9% in daylight so my lights are primarily for conspicuity. I have them aimed directly in front of me as daytime running lights and, though they seem really bright to me, I haven't had any cagers flashing their brights at me during daytime hours as if to complain about getting blinded. Have also encountered any number of LEO's without a problem.

    The only problem I can report on is not really a problem but more of an "issue". Off-pavement riding will cause the lights to lose their point-of-aim. I can prevent this by tightening up the bracket locknuts. But I also want the brackets to be loose enough so that I can reach over the bars while riding and adjust the aim (I can do this now.) I just need to find the sweet spot on those locknuts between too tight and tight enough.

    As for voltage, I don't wear heated gear, but I can run the Solstice lights with my heated grips on "HI", GPS turned on, and headlight on "HI", and keep my volts at or over 13 at normal revs. Turn off the grips, and my voltage goes up to around 13.5 and seems unaffected by turning the lights on or off. So really there seems to be very little draw.

    I will hold off on giving my seal of approval until after they've been used for an entire season. And after I've done some night riding.
  10. plumber mike

    plumber mike Highdive Deepened

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    I can't think of any other light that would put out more for less...so I think I'll get some:freaky Thanks Drone!
  11. pyarnall

    pyarnall Adventurer reborn

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    Hi Drone,

    Really appreciate the effort you have made to show your Xc mods. I just took delivery of a new '09 and many of your additions have been on my mind to add.
    I am particularly interested in how you like the Wunderlich screen. After visiting the site and looking at their photos I get the impression that may be you shortened yours. True?

    In any case what is it like behind the screen? I want to take the blast off my chest but I don't want my helmet to be in turbulent air.

    I am not afraid to modify a screen but really hate doing $200 experiments, so, are you pleased with the Wunderlich? I am 6' tall as a reference and may mod the seat a bit to sit a bit higher.

    Thanks very much for your great posts!:clap
  12. DRONE

    DRONE Dog Chauffeur

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    I didn't modify the screen--that's the stock height. It does a good job taking the wind blast pressure off my chest, making for less of a death grip on the bars at highway speeds. I especially noticed it recently travelling westbound in eastern Washington at 65 mph into the usual 20mph headwind.

    Also, I'm not getting any buffeting, but with my handguards and lights the wind tunnel tests might be a little different than others. Not to mention the helmet and the size of the rider. I'm 6"1".

    My range has also improved a little - about 5% - not the 10% I was hoping for! To improve my range more, I'm going on a diet.
  13. waspp

    waspp Been here awhile

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    Drone

    I just purchased a set of HB racks for my xcountry and have followed your thread on the mods and wondered how your bag set up has worked? It seems like you did your homework so I planned on doing the same thing to mine and figured I would ask if you would change anything.

    Also lets hear about the Guzzi. i have a couple and have done my own work on both the old bikes and the fuel injected ones. They are a great motorcycle.

    Hal
  14. DRONE

    DRONE Dog Chauffeur

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    WASSP-- PM'ed you.
  15. DRONE

    DRONE Dog Chauffeur

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    First of all, I've had to add threadlocker to the mounts. Without it, over time they loosen enough to change the aim.

    As for throw and brightness, they are way too bright to use at night on the street. If a car appears suddenly on a curve coming in the opposite direction you'd blind him bad. So I'm using these as daytime running lights, and for night riding only when I'm in the straights and have no traffic coming at me.

    As daytime running lights I'd say they are a huge success. I honestly feel that I have fewer cagers rolling their wheels at me since I installed these lights. Used to be I could not do a one-hour ride without some idiot making me pucker the sphincter, but I haven't had a shincter moment now in months. At first, I thought it was the hi-viz AST jacket I bought last winter that was getting noticed by the cagers, but when I switched to my plain old red-black mesh jacket for summer, still no wheels rolling at me. So I'm thinking it's the lights.
  16. DRONE

    DRONE Dog Chauffeur

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    Have lightened my load by 50 pounds. No noticeable change in range. Gonna see if I can lose another 50. Stay tuned.
  17. DRONE

    DRONE Dog Chauffeur

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    The hard cases I used last summer had a couple of drawbacks. First, they are hard to close. Second, with my big size 48 Combat Boots there's a tendency to get the foot caught between case and ground when pushing off or paddling on dirt. Couple of times I really squashed my foot and was lucky to not break something.

    So I changed to a set of soft bags from Ortlieb--the Bike Packer Plus. I got the idea from Colebatch who used these bags on his 2009 Sibirsky Extreme trip. His only complaint was that the mounting system was not robust enough for his purposes so he devised a permanent mounting system. But I'm not riding across Siberia and they looked like a decent alternative so I plunked down $190 for a pair, plus another $14 for two extra lower hooks to keep the bags more steady at speed.

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    They hold a lot of stuff, are waterproof, they ride fairly low, they mount to the HB racks in about 20 seconds per side, and are removed in 10 seconds per side. I also think they look OK. Have used them on two trips so far and they are working out perfect.

    One thing, though, is that they're not really designed to carry a lot of weight like the hard cases could. So I've moved my tools and CPAP battery (the heavy stuff) to my tailbag and I use the Bike Packers for clothes, sleeping bag, downmat and other soft stuff. Fully packed, each pannier weighs about 16-18 pounds and can handle that load easily.
  18. DRONE

    DRONE Dog Chauffeur

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    Last weekend I ran down the 25 Road from Randle to Carson fully loaded for a trip. Last year when I did this same stretch of road, I bottomed out the shock at least 5 times just in the section from Rt. 12 to FS 99. This time -- no bottoming!! Not once!! Hurray!! And once I realized I wouldn't be scraping the frame in the corners, I was able to let loose a little and have more fun.

    Have also noticed a huge improvement in handling on dirt, especially over washboard and potholes. Have the preload and damping set at about 3/4 and I'm thinking I might be able to back that down a little more. Still experimenting.

    Very happy with the new spring.
  19. DRONE

    DRONE Dog Chauffeur

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    Got my right knee replaced last February. Last summer it got so bad I couldn't stand on the pegs for more than 30 seconds. This weekend coming back from Hood River I was standing for 5 minutes at a stretch! Then I had to sit only to rest the quads, not because of pain. Glad I finally got this done, though the recovery and the first three months of rehab was a bitch! Of course, rehab is ongoing. Will probably be a year or more before I get back all my strength. Still can't run or jog more than a few steps at a time, but walking and hiking is no problem. Here's a gratuitous pic of me on a hike earlier this summer--

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  20. pyarnall

    pyarnall Adventurer reborn

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    Hi Drone,

    Does your tank bag interfere with riding and maneuvering when standing on the pegs? If not, which brand and model are you using?

    Did you use the Tourtech mounts for your modified rear plate?

    The G650GS has a 4 gal capacity. Anyone determined if it can be retro'd into an X Country?

    Thanks!