Column: Are you ready for an adventure motorcycle?
Apart from the hardcore enduro motorcycles from KTM, Husqvarna and Husaberg which are “Ready to Race” straight out of the box literally, the majority of ADV bikes, often touted as continent-cross machines, come actually biased towards road use. Agreed, they are compromise machines, that need to deal with both highways and gnarly trails at the same time, but the way the dealer releases them from the showrooms has a significant tilt towards highway use. So if you are going to use the big multi-cylinder in the mountains, on gravel tracks and through water crossings, you need to setup the bike in order to successfully tackle the hazards that are waiting to seek you out.
The first change starts at the ground contact. Tyre pressure! The factory recommends 42psi at the rear and 36psi up front. Great for the highway, great for mileage per litre, but absolutely ridiculous in the wet or on loose gravel. The thin contact patch hardly leaves a trail 2 inches wide. Reduce it to somewhere between 42psi (Road) and 22psi (Off-Road). I normally have the rear at 32psi and the front at 24psi. For a day spent on rocky gravel in Zanskar or Spiti keep the rear at 28psi and the front at 22psi. The result is softer, more pliable tyres which will actually resist punctures because they can absorb attacks from sharp stones instead of being cut through!
Moving up, the next port of halt is the ‘footpeg to gear lever relationship’. Whereas the factory settings allow track boots to easily slide under the lever and change gear the moment you slip on your fatter enduro boots changing gears becomes a nightmare. The boot cannot go under the lever easily, or at all! Adjust the height of the gear lever so that it is slightly higher than the footpeg. Fine tune this adjustment with the lever linkage to suit you. You will be happier immediately!
On the other side, still low down, lies the foot brake lever. Set for road riding, its level is normally below that of the footpeg. For off-road we need to raise the level to at least that of the footpeg. Otherwise on loose downhills one will lean too far over the handlebars when engaging the brakes at their factory settings. At this point you actually want to be fairly back on your seat instead. If the adjustment is not enough, an aftermarket riser can be installed over half the brake lever. This folds down over the brake lever pad adding height and allows a ‘two stepped position” which compensates for both road and off road situations. One needs to fold back the add on when riding the road. The aftermarket considerately provides the fold down arrangement from the factory for the BMW R 1200 GS Adventure.
At the top lie the handlebars. Their position will decide your riding stance. Straight out of the box they are set for comfort and an upright sitting position. However, off-road riding requires us to have elbows raised and this setting does just the opposite. We need to rotate the bars forward till both sitting and standing positions are facilitated by this angle to raise the elbows. However the resultant steepening of the clutch and accelerator yoke angles, as a result of this change, need to be corrected by loosening the bolts and easing them back. A position that doesn’t bend the wrists too much is to be targeted. A compromise point between standing and sitting wrist crank angles needs to be reached to effectively deal with all sorts of riding conditions.
Lever protection with Barkbusters is all very well but we need to ensure that the clutch cable is not getting bent at an unnatural angle. If not done right the cable rides on the handlebar mounting post of the Barkbusters and using the clutch becomes a mammoth task. Another compromise adjustment required here. On the other side ensure that the Barkbuster mounting bracket is not squeezing the front brake hydraulic pipe.
Adjusting throttle play to a minimum on the accelerator comes next. However, once done, ensure that the side to side movement of the handlebar as it goes from lock to lock doesn’t cause the revs to change. If so, return adjustments to the original position.
Suspension setting id critical. The suspension comes set for two up riding with minor luggage. If fitted with adjustment options - use them. The Tiger 1200 comes with electronically adjustable suspension, BMW has electronically adjustable suspension on most of its larger twins and Ducati on its Multistrada 1260 S. Experiment for the best settings and the ride characteristics will change dramatically. Harder for the tarmac twisties and softer for the rocky riverbed. Increasing the damping will be dramatic for rough roads but you need to dial back to default for the tarmac. When the load is increased or suspension softened, the headlight will start pointing towards the sky instead of the road. Learn to raise or lower the beam accordingly.
Setting up a bike right is painstaking, but rewarding. The payoffs will be evident!