The BMW GS series of motorbikes is seen as one of the most popular range of motorbikes in its class – the dual sport / adventure bikes. They are even extremely popular outside of their class, possibly losing out only to Japanese racing bikes and Harleys. If you own a BMW GS bike and have not yet taken it on overnight (or longer) trips, it's high time you do so because this is what they were built for. This article suggests five common accessories you can add to your bike, which you'll certainly appreciate regardless of whether or not you are already a seasoned adventure motorcyclist.
Motorbike Luggage carriers / panniers
Motorcycle luggage carriers are probably the first type of BMW GS accessories you should be looking at. Not much point in taking overnight trips if you can not carry any substantial amount of luggage with you, right? There are several options available:
Tankbags are placed just in front of you, between your seat and the handlebars. These are usually quite small bags, very convenient for storing items you need to get to quickly like your wallet or camera. Topcases are another option which are mounted on the back of the bike. You may or may not need to install a rack or adapter plate to hold the case, especially if you're installing a non BMW topcase.
BMW GS panniers or "side bags" as they are commonly called hang off the sides of the bike, at the back. Soft panners offer less protection to its contents, hold smaller volumes but are less bulky. Hard panniers are manufactured from metal (usually aluminum) can be costly and are definitely heavier and bulkier but usually offer excellent protection from crashes, water and dirt. They can sometimes hold up to 40L each, which ads the same capacity as a very large backpack right on the rear of your bike – get 'em if you can afford' em. If you can not fit all your stuff in a pair of these panners, a rollbag and tank bag then you seriously need to reconsider the amount of stuff you are taking.
Motorcycle lights are a useful addition which adds an element of safety to your riding experience. You can see better, and you're also seen better. Xenon headlights are available and these make your bike stand out more when you appear in other driver's mirrors – the extra visibility could save your life one day. Several companies manufacture additional light sets that are mounted on the front of bike, to be used in foggy or other low visibility conditions. These are ultra bright lights which allow you to see the road in front of you and any possible obstacles better.
Perhaps they should not be used only in low-vis conditions: I've heard car driver sympathetic to us motorcyclists say that (while being as attentive as they can) "I just do not notice bikes on the road. notice ONE light at all ". Anyone who drives a car through cities should be able to confirm this – a single light just does not stand out. A set of extra lights on the side of your bike results in a "triangle" of lights shining out of your bike: one main light with two extra lights below and to the side of it. If you've ever seen a big GS bike kitted out with this kind of setup you'll know what I mean. Although a little extravagant, these extra lights DO make you more visible in the rear view mirrors of car drivers. Hopefully they will realize a motorbike is approaching before the swerve out of their lane and nail you.
Finally, aftermarket brake lights are available that shine brighter and can be configured to blink or flash quickly when you brake. I'm not sure if they are legal, and they may be annoying to car drivers but they allow motorists driving behind you to notice you quick – very useful in case traffic slows down abruptly and you're worried about getting rear ended by inattentive drivers .
Motorcycle exhausts are toys for the boys. They rarely offer practical improvements, other than a great rumbling sound for that extra satisfaction when you're revving the engine at a red light. It has to be said that aftermarket exhausts are usually also lighter than the OE ones and may save a couple of pounds in weight – who does not want a lighter bike? These exhausts usually also give you a little bump in horsepower – not as much as with aftermarket car exhausts, but maybe noticeable nonetheless. One thing to look out for is that exhaust does not get in the way of any panniers or pannier racks you have hanging off the side of the bike. Exhausts are not cheap but will only widen your grin and give your bike more of an individual character.
Fairing & windscreens
Motorcycle fairing is the "shell" that's placed over the frame at the front of the bike and is designed to reduce air drag. It improves the aerodynamics of the bike and protects you from wind blast and debris flying your way. Assuming you have not mounted a fridge sized box on the back of your BMW GS, its aerodynamics are probably good enough for overnight trips. However, the protection from wind and debris offers a substantial improvement. Modifying the fairing on BMW GS bikes is usually done by the real pros and in rally conditions, but casual travelers can seriously benefit from an extended windscreen which can save strain on your body and neck when driving at moderate to high speeds during highway cruising.
For the real fanatics, Touratech is able to convert your GS motorbike in to a fully fledged Paris – Dakar clone. Their "desertio" range of bikes renders the original GS bikes almost unrecognizable. Conversions like this come at a price, but if the environment is appropriate you'll appreciate these full on make-overs.
It's clear that adding BMW GS accessories to your bike are a great way to make your bike safer, unique, better looking and more travel-worthy.
Happy trials and ride safe!