One thing I would recommend to every manufacturer of any motorised vehicle is a stint of road testing in Australia. Our road conditions and climatic varieties lend themselves remarkably well to breaking things, having radiators boil dry and air intakes clogging up with varieties of grasshopper. On top of that, Australian riders have a habit of thrashing their bikes over Iron Butt distances – on sand or gravel. Just follow them to see if your bike will break. Most do.
Honda used to do a lot of testing here, to the point where one of the motels in Broken Hill (in Outback New South Wales) was known as Honda House. If you wanted to get a look at the next Goldwing or Civic but one you only had to hide behind a rock (there is no vegetation large enough) on the Menindee Road and you were bound to see one whiz past.
BMW Motorrad learned to its detriment that Australia is the place to test. When the first K100s came out, it was not unusual to see a rider sitting by the side of the road on his nice new bike while he waited for the fuel to cool down in the tank. Engine heat would boil it and stop progress – much to the annoyance of the owner’s friends, who would usually abandon him after this happened a few times.
I raised the subject in Munich over lunch in the cloverleaf building, only to be told, “But we tested the bikes in South America!” Yeah, right. Not good enough.
Sometimes expectations are a little high. One owner of a later K Series bike with a CD player complained bitterly when he discovered that the CDs would skip on the 600km ride from Alice Springs to Rabbit Flat to attend an Off-Centre Rally. The road was corrugated sand, rock and gravel: a typical Australian Outback track.
When I discussed product testing with the people from Wunderlich in Germany, they were keen to expose some of their equipment to Australian conditions. They gave me carte blanche to choose from their catalogue (and yes, the parts were free of charge). I have written about equipping my F 750 GS for remote rides, so I’ll just mention the bits that were especially effective.
Just before I do, let me write a few words about the bike. The 4000km (2500 mile) ride to the Flinders Ranges and back that I used as the initial proving trip showed me one thing: I probably bought the wrong bike. For one reason only. The combination of the relatively small fuel tank at 15 litres (4 US gallons) and the pessimistic distance-to-empty indicator meant that I was worried about running out of fuel far too often. Had I bought the F 800 GS Adventure with its 24 litre (6.3 US gallons) tank I would have been a far happier bear. I should have remembered that Outback ‘fuel stops’ sometimes have no fuel. On the other side of the ledger, the bike’s cruise control and (at eight degrees, or 46 F, in the mornings) the heated grips came in, er, handy.
On to the Wunderlich accessories.
The Aktivkomfort seat was probably the best piece of equipment I fitted. I know that a 500-mile (800km) ride without a major break is not really very long, but many motorcycle seats will turn into torture instruments over that distance. The original BMW seat was not bad, but the Wunderlich seat was better.
I could draw the same comparison between the windscreens. The Extreme screen is high and wide enough to offer protection on the highway. This helps with temperature control – I didn’t have to change gloves or jacket between eight and 18 degrees. Unfortunately, the 750 is quite a noisy bike and the screen did not help there. The Vario wind deflector on top of the screen allowed me to control wind pressure on my helmet, which was welcome.
I am pretty sure that the Radiator Guard, the Sump Guard and the Headlight Protector would have paid for themselves (if I had paid for them). Some of the tracks were rough and a few times on the gravel I was showered with rocks by other traffic; the bike sustained no damage. I did not ride in the dark except for a short stretch, but then the Aton LED Accessory Lights with their Protector Grilles were welcome (maybe they scared away the ‘roos? Yeah, nah.) I tested the Protection Bars only once when I dropped the bike at a fuel stop and there was no damage.
Accessories from other sources that worked out well included the Barkbuster hand protectors, which I sourced directly from the manufacturers in Australia although they are available from Wunderlich. The Rocky Creek Phone Holder/Charger was useful on the road, but I was too worried about losing the phone to leave it in the holder on corrugated dirt. It would quite likely have been fine. The Aerostich Tank Panniers have proven to be effective not only for carrying stuff, but also as protectors for my lower parts. Beyond that, they helped protect the bike when I dropped it. Like an idiot I used bungee cords to secure my camera case, and nearly lost it. Andy Strapz for me, next time.
I cannot tell you how glad I am that I did that trip when I did. Australia is effectively shut down now by the plague and will be for the foreseeable future.
[All of the equipment mentioned above was supplied free for testing by the manufacturers, and I have provided reports to them.]
(Photos The Bear)