17 January 2017

The AltRider Eyebrow!

The what?

Oh, you'll see!

After a few years and more than 50,000 miles on motorcycles, I have heard some pretty good stories and seen some mind-boggling pictures of shit breaking on motorcycles. With a summer of off-road riding and coaching coming up, and a nine month trip into foreign countries waiting in the wings, I've been looking to protect that sizeable financial investment I made into my new, beautiful, BMW girl, Camille.

I have loaded up on the crash protection--which is not only protecting her, but making her look badass at the same time--and now I've got one more piece to add.

Lexan: Tough, Virtually Unbreakable. Challenge accepted! I'm pretty sure I'll be putting that to the test.

The AltRider Lexan Headlight Guard. One piece, and two reasons.

Reason one: I've seen some cracked/broken headlight pics in some posts. I DO NOT want to be in the middle of nowhere, Nicaragua, and have something shatter my headlight. First of all, that would suck and be dangerous. Second, do you know how much a new headlight assembly for a BMW F700GS costs??? A. Lot.

Reason two: I finally settled on a new windscreen for the bike in the middle of last summer. Let It Ride ordered it for me, and as soon as it came in, I had it installed and was playing with it within 15 minutes. It's a great windscreen that is adjustable, depending on the type of riding I want to do and the helmet I'm wearing, with the adjustable part able to be completely removed if I want to ride baby-heads and not run the risk of smashing the taller piece to bits. The downside to the new windscreen--my headlight reflects right back up into it, nearly blinding me at night.

I didn't notice this until I went back to work, and was commuting home after the time change. Suddenly I was riding in the dark, something I do pretty infrequently as it turns out. I'd turn the bike on in the parking garage, and the lower part of my windscreen was shooting light back into my eyes. What was worse, was hopping on the freeway and having not only the eye-level, blindingly bright headlights from pick-up trucks coming at me, but my own bike attempting to take out what was left of my vision.

Both of these problems were solved by installing the AltRider guard. I actually talked to Jeremy LeBreton, the owner of AltRider, before I bought this product. What I really wanted was the metal mesh-like headlight guard, but I could only find it listed on their website as being available in silver for the 700GS. It was available in black for other models, and I asked him why it wasn't in black for the 700. Jeremy was very honest in his answer, and in the small laugh he gave before he answered, I could tell this was something he may have been asked before. He told me his company is a small company that aims to be able to provide all they can in quality, American-made, products. But being small means they can't carry everything in every option.

It's funny to hear something like this. In this country, we can walk into a grocery store and have twenty options for ketchup. Hell, I can walk into a pet store and probably have an option for doggy ketchup. But these are mega-stores, with mega warehouses, and hundreds of retail outlets. Loads of room to store things. And honestly, I look at those twenty versions of ketchup, and I still go to a smaller store that has only two or three higher quality versions, and I pick one of those, or go home and make it myself. (True story, I'm weird.)

I did look at other companies for other options, and there is another high quality company that makes a black metal mesh headlight guard. But, as Jeremy explained to me, the AltRider version has something that makes it SO MUCH BETTER. Okay, my words not his. He just said his has an added bonus that makes it better. So I ordered the clear Lexan headlight guard, and waited for it to arrive. After I installed it, and rode around at night, I found out why it was SO MUCH BETTER.

I call it The Eyebrow. It's a simple piece of plastic that sits on top of the headlight guard, bridging the distance to the bike's headlight assembly, and preventing the light from bleeding upward, onto the windscreen. No more blinding night rides!

Installing the Eyebrow!

And, of course, the order came complete with easy-to-follow instructions, and it took me very little time to install it. (In all honesty, it took me very little time to install it because I didn't attempt to install it upside down the first time. I'm getting better...)

The clear guard has a nice looking, brushed stainless partial frame, which attaches to the mount with nifty, quarter-turn quick-release hardware I've never used before. Once the install is done, it is quick and easy to remove the guard to clean it and snap it back in place, without having to worry that it might pop off when I drop the big girl in a baby-head studded ravine. <----hmmmm...I'm starting to see a pattern here.

The only complaint I have, and it's a tiny one both literally and figuratively, is about the screw which holds the eyebrow in place. The instructions list the hardware that comes with it as being a T15 screw that you use to attach the eyebrow. The one that was sent to me was actually a size 1 combo screw. I don't know if it's because I'm girly and delicate (heh) or because I am not as experienced with tools as other people who do their own wrenching, but I found that screw difficult to use. On the plus side, I don't think I'll ever have to remove it in the life of the bike.

So, headlight guard--with eyebrow--in place, I stepped back from my bike and looked at it. I'll admit that initially I had been bummed about what I considered "settling" for the Lexan guard. It wasn't because I had concerns about its function--as it is "Tough, Virtually Unbreakable"--but more because I thought I really wanted the look of the black mesh. NOPE! Now that it's installed and I look at it, I love the clear headlight guard, and wouldn't trade it for anything!

Check it out!

DAAAAANNNNNGGGG!!! This bike is sexy!


South America Bound!

Getting ready to start the rest of the trip, ticking off this hemisphere on the bikes. Thank you Santa for the globe, and thank you Scott Henkel for the toy bikes!

I know that for most people traveling, nine months out seems an awfully long time away to start planning a trip. When one plans to pack an entire life on a motorcycle, put her household items into storage, and bail on her life for nine months, planning should have started long ago. In a way, it did. I can remember riding into Denver at the end of the Alaska trip and saying...

"Why are we stopping?? Oh right, we work in the performing arts. We have no more money or time."

The decision was made, right then and there, that five years later we would make a trip in the opposite direction

So...four years later, here I am. That trip to Alaska was my first motorcycle trip. Since then, I have made several more, found a love of off-road motorcycling, and started coaching. I LOVE motorbiking in a way that few get the opportunity to experience. I cannot wait to start on my southward journey. In the last few months, I have followed a number of people as they head south, enjoying their happiness and stocking up on helpful tips from them as they pass from country to country.

So, where do I start? Well, Josh and I started saving $$$ four years ago. A little bit every paycheck at first, then as it seemed it wasn't adding up fast enough, a little more each paycheck. I got the bike of my dreams (ish) last January. Did I love it? On the street, YES! On the dirt...well, it took me a little longer to love. I didn't love it at first. In fact, I didn't even like it. But now, I do love it.


But, Camille is still pretty bare bones. I've now got more protection on her in the way of crash bars, exhaust guard, etc., but there's more to do. So much more to do to my bike, and I haven't even decided on luggage. I suppose the actual "easy" part of preparing for this trip will be what to take in that luggage. Passport, sleeping bag, a map or two, iPad for blogging, appropriate layers, four pairs of underwear, and four pairs of socks. My favorite thing about making the last part of that statement is that my non-moto friends will think, "Only 4?" And my moto friends will think, "Seriously, you're taking 4? I only need 2."

Packing will be the relatively easy part. Getting the bike prepped for 20,000 miles of unknown terrain and unpredictable weather is taking a little more time and energy. I've gotten a fair amount done, have some accessories ordered and in the garage ready for install, and still have a lot of research to do.

In my mind, there is always the struggle between what I REALLY need versus what might be helpful, or isn't needed at all, but darn it, I WANT it. I mentioned I've been following some people as they ride south (and one amazing couple who rode north) and soaking up tips like I needed three sets of my paperwork at this border crossing or at minimum, ladies, take five pairs of underwear. I've also scrutinized what they have on their bikes, what broke along the trip, and what needed regular maintenance.

I'm not going to lie, it is often exciting and overwhelming at once. I'm tackling the bike, a few items at a time. Pretty soon, I will do like I did for the Alaska trip, and start throwing things on the bed in the guest room. That will start the process of what gets packed to go, and what gets chucked out every couple of weeks as I go back in and review what I thought seemed necessary.

But, speaking of the guest room, that is a whole other matter. We've decided to rent the house out for a year. I know, the trip is only nine months, but it seems a better idea to rent the house for a year--we'll figure out where to put ourselves for the other three months once we get there. That means, though, getting the house into a rentable state. With a little work, we can rent the house for a good deal of money, covering not only the mortgage, but also our storage unit for all our stuff, and having a little safety net money left over. Sweet deal, but that means we have yet another list of things to do.

Don't get me wrong--I am NOT complaining about the prep for this trip. There is a lot to do, but I am incredibly fortunate to be able to do this kind of trip at all. A lot of work has been done, and a lot more is ahead. I hope you'll join me for whatever part of it is interesting to you, and travel along with me. I've been doing that with people like Kevin, Laura, Daver, and Daniel and Polly. Even though I wasn't doing the physical traveling, I have gotten to experience cool places through their pictures and stories. Now it's my turn to share!


Really quickly, I mentioned following people on their trips up and down this hemisphere. I've found a number of blogs, Facebook pages, and Instagram pages to follow, including those of Daniel and Polly, also known as "motosurgicaldiaries". Daniel and Polly are a young English couple who flew their 1984 BMW PD to Argentina, rode to the southernmost tip, then turned north and rode as far as was possible, to Deadhorse, Alaska. I found them on Instagram through another friend, Mark Ferguson--ExploreTheDirt--began following them, and as they got into the states, I messaged them and said they were more than welcome to stay with us if they came through Denver. It was a little selfish on my part, as I wanted to meet them and hear about their trip. To our joy, they stopped and stayed with us, and we had a small dinner party along with my friend Mark and his family.

It was truly a joy to meet them, especially after following their trip and seeing some of the beautiful places we will get to see ourselves. Hopefully, as they follow along with us, my pics and stories will remind them of the joy and experience of their own.


03 January 2017

South America preparation--More AltRider Protection

When I bought Camille earlier in the year, I made some immediate decisions about what to put on her for protection. The BMW GSs have a large number of offerings in this department, with protection made by BMW, as well as a number of other companies. My company of choice--AltRider.

Picking out my brand new bike, I had to start making the decision about what pieces I wanted to put on, and which company's offerings would suit not only my riding needs, but my installation capabilities. On Thumper, I have parts from many different companies--a veritable hodge-podge of protection. Some pieces I installed myself, and some pieces really required help from Josh. Some of the pieces came with instructions (YAY!) and some came with none. (BOO!)

After doing a fair amount of research on products, including reading reviews and and even interrogating--I mean, interviewing--some friends, I decided to start with just a couple of pieces to get me started. They would be an AltRider Skid Plate (black), and AltRider Lower Crash Bars (silver). As I installed those pieces, I took a quick couple of pics and wrote a blog post about it. (March 20, 2016)

The blog post went something like this: These pieces are awesome and they were SOOO easy to install!!

Here is Camille with the bash plate and crash bars, early in the summer at the top of Pike's Peak. I met up with the Sisters Centennial ride to commemorate the first female motorcycle ascent of the mountain 100 years ago, and rode up with a huge number of badass women riders!

Okay, I wrote a bit more than that, but that is the basic gist of it. Now, after finishing up a season of riding here in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, I started looking ahead to next year's riding season, and our nine month trip through Mexico, Central America, and South America. I'm looking to give myself the best possible opportunity to have my bike stay intact and rideable, no matter what kind of terrain and weather I put it through.

I put those original pieces through some rocky hell this summer--riding over big loose rocks getting tossed into my bash plate, dropping the bike in a nasty baby-head filled ravine, and even having my bike slam to the ground on concrete when I put my toe down to stop in an oil slick, and that foot slipped right out from under me.

Those pieces, other than having a few (ok, a lot) of dead bug bodies and some scratches, still look pristine, and my bike is in perfect condition--not a single scratch on those pretty plastics. All of the pieces are made here in the USA, and they're made completely of shot peen stainless steel. They don't rust, which is so awesome. The crash bars on my 650 have loads of scratches from our rocky terrain, and every scratch shows rust. I love, love, love that the AltRider ones don't.

All that and stickers too!

So, I ordered a few more pieces, and when the box showed up, it was like Christmas for Camille! I ordered the matching Upper Crash Bars (silver), the Lexan Headlight Guard, an Exhaust Guard (black), a Rear Brake Master Cylinder Guard (black), and an Exhaust Heat Shield (silver). Seriously, Christmas!!

Each AltRider part comes with complete install instructions. Most even have pictures for visual learners like myself. Beer, however is not included.

One night after work, I headed to the garage, beer in hand, and got to work. I installed the crash bars, exhaust guard, and exhaust heat shield. Just like the pieces I installed earlier in the year, each of the pieces had super clear, easy instructions. AltRider even threw in a small bottle of Locktite, so I didn't have to worry about whether I had any in my garage. (Which I didn't...yay, AltRider!) Within an hour I was done. That includes having to do the heat shield twice, since I installed it upside down the first time...yay, beer! Josh did help me install the upper crash bars, since four hands were really useful in that process. But, the install instructions that come with them give good tips for how to do it by one's self also.

Re-sealable bottle of Locktite. Yes! I didn't have to make a special trip out to buy any.


Heat-proof foam strips keep the shield from scratching my muffler, and my luggage from melting. Win-win!


A screwdriver does work, but why not use a little battery operated power? The drill made quick work of a tedious job!


Uh...yep. That happened. Thankfully, I noticed almost immediately and could right it before anyone knew. Sssshhhhh...don't tell anyone!



That's better!
If you'll refer back to my mention of a baby-head strewn ravine, I have to say my muffler took a pretty good hit on a big sharp rock. A sizable dent and a few scratches were a constant reminder of that day, until I put the heat shield on. Not only does it protect my luggage from burning, but it hides the unsightly blemishes! Brilliant!

Honestly, I love how badass my bike looks. I love that it took very little time to install these pieces. And, I really love that they are American made. I know my bike isn't, but considering the financial investment I made in the bike itself, I feel good protecting her with such great quality.

Here she is with that badass, burly upper crash bar installed. I love it!

Stay tuned for the next post which talks about the headlight guard. It's "virtually unbreakable" and looks awesome!



Keywords: BMW, F700GS, 700GS, 800GS, R1200GS, 1200GS, AltRider, engine guards, crash guards, fall protection, off-road, trail, overland, farkling

How Do You Like My Cones??

I need to make a stencil. I think it will say "agirlonamotorbike"
Then I will spray paint that on each of my ten new cones! I don't know why, but I have always been moderately obsessed with traffic cones. And, I now own some!
Figuring out where and how to buy them was slightly tricky. I mean, have you ever thought about where you would purchase traffic cones, if you wanted to purchase some? Well, I hadn't either, and I suddenly wanted some. I quickly searched online to see what kind of stores would come up locally, and the first two hits were Home Depot and Lowes. They would be my last resort.
I found a local construction supply company, looked through the offerings--there are a lot of choices in traffic cones--but couldn't find out if I could just buy them, or if I had to have an account with the company.
Then my lunch break ended.
So, I sent Josh the link to the site, told him what I was looking for, and asked him to figure it out. He is really good at that sort of thing. We would have had to open an account with them--which we could have done under Powered Productions, Llc.--but ain't nobody got time for that. And as it turns out, they can be ordered from Amazon.
They showed up Friday and were on the porch waiting for me. They were cleverly disguised so no one would steal my awesome cones.
A TOTAL of 10 cones arrived in these three giant boxes. The two smaller boxes each had one sheet of packing paper laid over the top of the cones, and the larger box was completely stuffed with paper packing materials, keeping my cones safe from harm...?
Seriously, there were three to a box in the two "smaller" boxes, and four in the bigger box. In case you're wondering how small the smaller boxes were, just know that I could ship myself and my cat quite comfortably.
The morning following their arrival, I loaded the cones up onto the back of my bike and rode an hour and a half south for a Colorado GS Girls skills and games day. It wasn't a super comfy ride, but they only added about 25lbs. to the bike. Now, that 25 lbs. is no problem when it stays where you put it, but as my friend Greg Cocks found out, it feels a bit funny when it all slides to one side. Our whole group got some good laughs when he came riding back to us with the full weight of ten traffic cones all sliding to one side, telling us the tale of wondering why his bike kept pulling to the left!
Just a girl and her cones! I rode from Denver to Colorado Springs sitting in that little space between my tank bag and that pile of cones...with very good posture! Pic by Greg Cocks


The "right" way to strap cones to a bike, vs. the "other" way...


As Greg was riding around the park, he couldn't figure out why his bike started pulling to the left. Slippery, slide-y little suckers! Pic by Greg Cocks


Well, the weather is beautiful here today. I think I'll go outside and ride around my cones. Because, well, because I can!

Have you played with the Prisma app? It is so much fun, and Greg Cocks thought this was a perfect pic to "app" into fine art!