Staying Dry

On September 10, 2018 I left Gilford, NH on the F650 bound for Alabama. I put on my rain gear west of Hartford, CT just before the patch of blue and green and yellow (yes, yellow heavy rain!) on the radar.

Boot covers, rain pants and jacket. The handlebar muffs and 20″ Clearview windshield were already on the bike.


I could see on the radar that I would have to ride through a band of rain. Couple of hours. No problem.

Except I didn’t realize what was going to happen on the 11th. It doesn’t really show up on the radar, but you can get a dense, foggy mist with the air saturated with water. Not much of it hits the roadway. The road is wet, but there are no standing layers of water on it. No hydroplaning worries. But riding through that wet air will soak you just as much as a light rain. And it lasted most of the day.

I had a bunch of ink-jet printed maps in my tank bag. They were right where the water dripped off my helmet onto the front of my jacket and then onto the bag. Totally ruined. Threw them out. The maps were gone before they were ever used. I didn’t even get into unknown territory.

Quite a bit of other stuff in the tank bag was in plastic bags and was okay.

I had a few new rags to use to clean up things but they got soaked before I could use them. I knew I wouldn’t get them dry so I tossed them. Brand new.

Most of my clothes in the rear bag were in plastic bags and were fine.

My top box will admit water also, so really all three of my storage spaces got wet and only the secondary waterproofing saved things.

The boot covers worked well enough except the soles were slippery on wet pavement (you could drop the bike) and they are a bit awkward to wear into a convenience store to buy something or use the restroom after fueling the bike. But they are cheap, don’t take up much room and will keep your feet dry.


Boot Covers from Amazon. $18

So I learned a few things:

  1. If you don’t want something to get wet, keep it in a plastic bag.
  2. Your feet are the first thing to get soaked. Spray off the front wheel, I guess. Boot covers take care of it.
  3. The bottom of your helmet liner is going to absorb water and you will be  sliding this cold, wet thing over your head when you put the helmet on.
  4. Rain jacket and pants help, but where the water continually hits the fabric, it will saturate and pass some water through.
  5. The Oxford RainSeal Handlebar Muffs help, but some water is still going to get on your gloves or mittens. Enough to eventually soak through.
  6. I think $300 waterproof motorcycle boots would be better in the rain than boot covers. On the other hand, the covers will get you through a little rain just fine.
  7. A good riding suit or pants/jacket set would be ideal for extended travel in the rain.. The fewer separate items to deal with the better.
  8. A couple hours of light rain is one thing, but a whole day or multiple days of rain will get you pretty wet.
  9. The helmet clear outer faceshield gets wet, but you can see fine in the daylight. At night, the light refracts off the droplets and makes it hard to see. Don’t ride at night in the rain.
  10. Use radar to minimize your exposure.
  11. Traffic on the interstate will kick up a spray that will soak you.
  12. You have less traction in the rain, especially on the painted lines.
  13. Carrying extra weight on the bike is more dangerous in the rain.
  14. Run tires that are decent on wet pavement. Less to worry about.
  15. The windshield does generally keep the water off things behind it. The iPhone navigator is okay on the handlebars in a light rain or mist. It’s dry when moving but will get sprinkled on when stopped.
  16. Your face shield will fog up when stopped in cooler weather, but will clear out when moving. Opening the vents will help. You might need to flip it up until you get moving.
  17. How are you going to pay a toll in the rain? My EasyPass didn’t work reliably. In one case there was a bar in front of me that would’t lift until I backed up and took a ticket. Where are you going to put a ticket in the rain?

Face shield will fog when stopped

It’s possible to let the rain get you down, but an alternative attitude is to decide to get really good at it. Solve the problems. Plan better for it. Gear up for it.

And if you own a BMW, there is a de facto expectation that you are a competent rain rider. I don’t know why.





Windscreen for the ’97 F650

The original 16″ windscreen has a 21-year-old yellow effect and since I lowered the bike it has been sending air into the middle of my face mask. Noisy.

Also, I’m planning a 6000 mile trip in a few weeks. Time for a new, bigger windshield.

So I bought a 21″ high, clear, widened screen from Clearview, which seems to be the only supplier still offering a big windshield for the classic F650.

Clearview says you need to look over the top of the screen and be able to see an object on the ground 50 feet away. The problem is your windshield angles back and the original is 16″ along this slope, but it’s hard to know where the top of the new windshield will be. My new one curves upward near the top and so reaches higher than I thought it would.

But it went on fine. You leave the protective film on until you decide to keep it. I test rode it and discovered that my head got tossed around at 55 mph and above. Serious buffeting. Dramatically so.

It was looking like I would be sending it back, but I’m not one to give up that easily, especially after experiencing the seductive coziness of a big windshield.

Maybe I could shift the turbulence further back. I tried angling the screen back by effectively moving the two center mounting holes upward by making a 1/4″ x 5/8″ x 1 1/4″ adapter block out of black Nylon 6/6 (one for each hole) that has a flat head screw going into the rubber sleeve/nut in the dash and a tapped hole offset 5/8″ to receive a screw through the windshield. The screen pivoted on the outer two mounting screws, opening up a gap in the center. I also added some spacers on the outer mounts.

I could see over the top of it much better and the buffeting was somewhat improved with some air coming in under the lead edge.

But then I checked online and discovered the need for “lowers”. Baffles near the side of the gas tank near the front. At 55-60 mph I could put my hand right there and the buffeting would go away.

So I fashioned baffles from 1/4″ black acetal and screwed them onto the front fairing. I would have used 1/8″ but I didn’t have enough of that thickness on hand.

The buffeting is gone. What a pleasure doing 55-70 mph in relatively calm air. Still enough air moving through my helmet, though.



Cockpit view of windshield and lower baffles


Clearview Windshield and custom lower baffles



Baffle screwed onto the front fairing.

I’m definitely keeping the windshield.

Even angled back though, I still had to modify my bike shelter to accommodate the taller screen.


Drive the bike in and it stands up by itself. Pull the tarp over the back part of the bike. Minimalist, but effective.

2012 G650GS

I enjoyed taking a spin on a 2012 BMW G650GS, essentially the latest and final version of the F650 line that started back in the early nineties. My own bike is a 1997 F650.

The engine is pretty much the same with the notable exception of fuel injection. I looked for the enrichment lever to start the bike and didn’t find one. Give it a little gas, press the start button and it fires right up!

It has the same characteristic big-single vibration in the 4000-4300 rpm range although a bit more subdued. Nothing in the bars, a little in the pegs, nothing in the seat. I think it has slightly more power in the 3000-5000 rpm range. I rarely use anything higher than that.

The sound is different with more of a growl. The exhaust pipe feeds into what appears to be dual mufflers, but they are connected in series and the exhaust exits from the one on the right.

The geometry and dimensions of the G are identical to the old F, but it felt a bit more nimble, maybe because the fuel tank is under the seat. Or maybe the rear tire had less of a worn flat center section than my Metzler Tourance tires with almost 8000 miles on them.

The suspension is identical as far as I can tell and, by the way, having gotten used to 6.5 inches of travel front and rear, I don’t think I would be happy with the couple inches you typically get on something like a Sportster.

The gnarly headlight works for me and I like the idea of running tubeless tires on the cast rims. It was a cool day and I enjoyed the luxury of heated grips.

Overall, the G has that contemporary BMW feel of substance. It’s a great bike and could last a lifetime with the remarkable support BMW has for older bikes. But this one is essentially brand new with less than 6000 miles on it.

The G650GS got me to the local SlashBurger restaurant very nicely, but I felt like riding it further.  Say, to Deadhorse, Alaska.


A borrowed 2012 BMW G650GS and Bell helmet and my new Sedici jacket


My Maine Ride

The plan involved riding the F650 from Lake Winnipesaukee, NH to Millinocket, Maine, and then into the woods to the family-owned cabin near Mount Katahdin. Sleeping the night and then returning the following day. A total round trip of 585 paved miles and 40 on gravel, as it turned out.

I traveled light, but I wanted a little more luggage than the top box, so I used a zip-top, water repellent camp bag strapped on with bungee cords. It worked well enough and cost nothing.


Leaving for Maine at 7:20 AM

It’s a great feeling heading out in the cool of early morning for a multi-day adventure. You, your gear and your bike. Rolling down the road, sort of self sufficient, taking a break from your normal routine.


In MapQuest, I selected the “Avoid Highways” option and got the route shown. Google Maps gave me a slightly different route but I liked this one better. You don’t use any  interstates in either case. The route was good although I ran into some serious road construction between Fryeburg, ME and Bridgeton, ME. Now in hindsight, I see the Google Maps route avoided that bad stretch. Oops!

I roughly knew where I was going and I looked at the names of towns I would be passing through, and headed for them via the road signs I encountered along the way. This worked quite well with an occasional look at the map.

If you are navigating using the “towns” method, be aware of three kinds of towns. Towns you are passing through, towns you are turning at, and towns you are turning at just before actually entering the town center. I should have turned towards Skowhegan just before Farmington, but wound up riding straight through Farmington and had to jog over to get back on track quite a bit north of Skowhegan. Didn’t add much mileage but the roads weren’t as good.


Just kidding. I encountered this mud hole deep in the woods a few hundred feet from the cabin. It was worse than it looks because the ruts were maybe 8 inches deep and there was no shoulder to get around it. It was a bit slick, but not soupy. I couldn’t ride down in the rut because my foot pegs would have dragged, so I rode the highest, widest flat part but if I had to put my feet down, they were over ruts, so I would have tipped over. I was tired and had a cloud of deer flies on me. I should have stopped and studied it more and cleared some sticks off it, because running it straightaway was risky and I was deep in the woods alone.

I made it.

I lashed the bike to a tree for the night, worried that a bear might tip it over trying to get at some crumbs, letting fuel and oil drain out onto the ground while I slept. But the night was uneventful.

Coming out was easier. I was rested and the deer flies weren’t around. I started the bike about 6:45 AM. Noticed fresh moose tracks in the gravel as I got going. Later, saw a young moose disappearing around a bend ahead.


Mount Katahdin in the distance, northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail

By the way, I got less than 30 mpg in the woods. Carried an extra 1.5 gallons just in case.

This bridge was pretty decayed. Can’t ride the middle in any case. And no side rails. You have to know what the bike is going to do, same as you would if you were walking across it, because if you lurch toward the edge, you can only hope you wind up dumping onto the bridge and not over the side.


The bridges are designed to handle large flooding during spring runoff, so in the summer you are going to fall a long way before you hit something. Hopefully water and not rock. This was taken from the bridge.


The 30 mile stretch from Millinocket to Milo is through forest. No buildings or services of any kind. I was zipping along when all of a sudden a deer appeared on the shoulder ahead to my right. Very noticeable velvet rack. He started running parallel to my travel and I eventually went by him. Thankfully he didn’t dart out in front of me. Then I noticed another deer a few hundred feet ahead on the same side of the road. I thought, “Pay attention!” I hadn’t even considered deer at 9 AM.

Going south I missed my “turn” at Turner, ME. Duh. Wound up in Auburn and meandered home via Sebago Lake, Cornish, and Ossipee, NH and Wolfeboro. This latter route was actually an alternate proposed by Google, so it was fine. However, the “towns” method of navigating failed me this time. Too many little towns and a cobweb of little roads.

I just bought an $11 on-board charger so I can navigate with the iPhone next time.

Well, the bike now has 12,850 miles on it. Had 3600 when I got it two years ago.

I can’t really explain why someone would want to ride a motorcycle all day long, but I am already itching to get going on the next big adventure.


Sandwich Notch Road

I needed a ride on my motorcycle.

My wife was targeted for special security search in Madrid while I waited to board the flight to Boston, pointing to the security closet she had disappeared into when a burst of Spanish included her name. After that, the flight annoyed me, which turned out to be nothing compared to the disdain I felt for the entire re-entry process in Boston. It was just too much regulation, inconvenience and bureaucratic arrogance for me. Hopefully, I won’t be flying for a while. I needed some space that I could deal with on my own terms.

The F650 started a little hard after sitting for three weeks and me forgetting to turn the petcock back on. I tried to buy a map at Walmart and failed so I headed up through Meredith, Holderness, past Squam Lake (On Golden Pond) to Ashland where I stopped to buy gas. They had some maps but the scale was too small for my purposes. I got on 93 North and ran up to the Thornton exit and stopped at the information center with a lovely barefoot woman about my age sitting outside: Chamber1024 She followed me in and found me looking closely at her maps. I asked about the Sandwich Notch Road and she said it was “three miles up the road by the Smokey The Bear sign. The road is very rough. I used to take it to get to the Sandwich Fair.”

I said I thought I would be okay on my manly motorcycle, added my dollar to the donation box and was on my way. As I pulled past on my way out, she was sitting as before and we waved to each other. Already, the world was getting more pleasant.


Sure enough, there it was. I got off the bike and took this picture. A guy in an old pickup stopped and yelled something about the road being too rough. I think he was coming down the road. I finished my shot and went over to see what he was saying.

“Did you hear me?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“I said the road is too rough. You don’t want to be taking that bike up there. And the cell service is not too good. You don’t want to get stuck in there.”

“Well, the bike is an old F650, a dual sport.”

“Oh, well, that’s a bit more reasonable. I have an old Honda CB350 and I’ll take it up a mile or so but that’s it. Where are you trying to get to? There are other ways to Sandwich.”

“I just wanted to take this road for the fun of it.”

“Don’t think you’ll have much fun.”

“How long is it?”

“Nine mile.”

“Well, I can always turn around. Thanks for the tip.”

I got the feeling the guy didn’t want me on his road. It’s a common sentiment in rural New Hampshire and I can’t say that I blame him. Who wants more people, regulation, rules and bureaucrats?





The road was bad but no worse than the road into our camps near Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Bullet holes in the sign didn’t bother me. About halfway to Sandwich I passed the only house. In front of it were three Deliverance guys. I waved and got back a wave and a decayed Jack O’Lantern smile. These north woods characters are down to earth and I like them for that.

You couldn’t do it in a car,

A big new cruiser wouldn’t get you far,

A four wheel drive might do just fine,

But on the F650 that road is mine!

I rolled into Sandwich, on to Moultonborough, Center Harbor, back to Meredith and home. Took me about three hours. The F650 ran flawlessly. The Labor Day weekend weather was perfect. I feel a lot better now.

Throttle Magic: Part Three

How are you going to get your 450 lb. bike moving without stalling, bucking, jerking, or shooting across the road into a ditch and falling off? This scenario is a real possibility for you, but here is some information that might help.

It’s useful to know a bit about the characteristic way your engine delivers power to the rear wheels. The following is a torque and horsepower graph for the F650GS. It’s very similar to the older F650 that I have and in fact almost identical to other 650cc dual sport singles as well. Other bikes, including multi-cylinders, aren’t much different in principle either. An exception is the enormous low-rpm torque available from a big V-Twin..


The torque is shown in the upper curves and the horsepower in the lower one. My bike idles at 1400 rpm, and the graph shows that I need to approach 2500 rpm before I can expect to see the beginnings of the power needed to accelerate, about 15 horsepower at that point.

As I am sitting stopped, I have the engine idling and the clutch “in” (disengaged) so the engine is disconnected from the transmission. I have pressed the shift lever down into first gear, but I can rev the engine and the bike doesn’t move. If I let the clutch out with the engine idling, the engine will stall. If I let the clutch out while simultaneously twisting the twitchy throttle, I get the unstable behavior mentioned earlier. By the way, forget the kill switch. You won’t have time to hit that before you are on the ground.

The basic idea is to rev the engine up to at least 2500 rpm and hold it there while “throttling” on the power by partially, then fully, letting out the clutch. When I do this I end up travelling at 15 mph in first gear without moving the throttle at all. Let the clutch out just enough to get the bike moving and then let it further out gradually to speed up. With practice, the procedure becomes more fluid and you can smoothly add some throttle after the bike gets moving a bit. But the basic idea is still the same – get the bike moving with the clutch. In fact you can “ride” the clutch partly out and travel pretty much as slowly as you want. That’s how you get through the parking lot riding test when you get your license.

Unlike a car with an automatic transmission, you don’t start off with the accelerator. You hold the engine revved a bit to get some power and then use the clutch to get it moving.

A very common difficult startup scenario is turning onto a road at an intersection, either turning left by crossing the near lane to enter the far lane, or turning right into the near lane. You can’t afford to overshoot or undershoot. After the bike starts moving, remember to look where you want to go not straight ahead. As the bike picks up speed with traffic in the turn, you begin to transition from clutch to throttle and you can get confused if you need to slow down or speed up. With experience, it becomes easy to execute this maneuver. Until then, go slow enough to stay in control. Most cars will give you plenty of room to do  your thing.

As Peter Egan says, “Ride your own bike”.