The Bikes

094 - Bikes After Dalton

The Bikes just after conquering the Dalton Highway, Alaska 2006

The bikes are unchanged: same two Mandarin Yellow, 2002-model, BMW F650GS that we took on the original Pan-American trip.  They were both 14-years old at the start of this trip with around 63000-miles on the clocks.  Both are in fair condition; they have been pampered and well looked after in the years back at home.

For details of the original specifications on the bikes (luggage / add-ons etc) and the story of how they performed on the Pan-American trip see

So why not change? Something bigger / more powerful / modern / less mileage?  Well, we know these two bikes and have been round the block a few times together so they shouldn’t hold any surprises.  Also with their age they are not that valuable so a carnet de passage (that customs document guaranteeing you will not sell the bike while abroad) was available at a reasonable cost.  The carnet is based on a multiple of the value of the bike so the carnet for a new £12,000 bike would be very expensive.  For the 14-year old 650’s we were able to value them easily at less than a grand so the carnets were not that expensive.

We have made a few changes for this trip:

Airhawk Seat:  The seats on the 650s suffer that common BMW complaint of not being  very comfortable on a long ride.  For Norm’s bike he decide to use an Airhawk strap-on seat cushion, which has made a vast improvement to comfort on the bike.  If you don’t know Airhawk, they are made by a company who specialise in surgical mattresses for the bed-ridden.  It makes the seat height a little taller but really alleviates sore saddle-bum.

Horns:  The horns on the bikes are pretty dire and we decided, in order to face the rigours of travelling in the horrendous congestion of Asia, a good horn was an essential.  We upgraded both horns before leaving home.  For Mags we fitted a Stebel Nautilus Air Horn.  We took the compact model (about £35) and then had fun and games splitting the compressor off the horn to facilitate better accommodation on the slim 650GS.  Worth it as it was mega loud…  Sadly it didn’t last – the Stebel just wasn’t robust enough of this kind of life and after about a year on the road the compressor died.  For Norm’s bike we fitted a small, compact, car alarm siren wired in parallel to the bike horn.  It only cost a couple of quid off E-Bay and gives a range of very audible screeches and chirps, especially useful when unwary pedestrians step out.  We have now procured one of these for Maggie’s bike and these sirens have proven to be much better on the road than any horn on the market.

Scorpion Exhaust:  On Norm’s bike the standard twin-can exhaust has been replaced with a single Scorpion.  This didn’t really save any weight but it has inner up a huge volume of storage space, where the second can used to be.  The Scorpion is loud and throaty and can get you noticed on the road, which isn’t a bad thing.  The other positive is the dummy can made from some plastic plumbing / soil pipe fixtures sprayed with silver paint.  This has proven to be an amazing stash for a thermos flask and in our hot travels it will keep a flask of cold water ice-cold all day long.

6 thoughts on “The Bikes

  1. I’m sure that your followers would like to know how you manage with all of your luggage. Maybe you can say what you think about the Hepco gear, assuminng that it’s favourable!

    Paul Binswanger (@Moto-Bins)paulb


    • Cheers Paul,

      We didn’t regurgitate / duplicate all the bike stuff on this website – instead we just linked it back to the Pan-American site (at, which details all the mods done to the bikes most of which were unchanged for this trip. Needless to say the Hepco and Becker Panniers continue to perform superbly, even after numerous attempts on our part to mutilate them! They remain watertight and are for my money the best panniers on the market out there!


  2. Pingback: PPS… (Post-trip Perspective… oh! and some Stats) | Adventures in Yellow

  3. Hi! We met briefly at Overland this year, I had the 2002 Dakar with the broken indicators. I’ve since repaired and broken the indicators twice more since Overland. At the time you mentioned there are Kawasaki (I think) indicators with a bit of flex that fit on the f650s. I’ve had a look but I couldn’t find anything that worked, could you point me in the right direction?
    Hope to see you at Overland never year!


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