Vijay Parmar column – How to protect your ADV bike from the elements
So you bought your shiny new ADV bike! The neighbours are in awe that it weighs 250kg fully fuelled and punches out 160bhp on ‘mad mode’. It’s a dream to ride once out of first gear – but till then it’s a nightmare.
You ease out the clutch tentatively, and begin the cornering routine you’ll one day perfect. But not yet. Right at the apex of this slow parabola, the engine, not fully warmed, cuts. The bike is canted already, the weight unmanageable at this angle, and so it arrives on the ground with an impressive clatter!
In a second you’ve lost the indicator light, clutch lever and maybe a rear view mirror. The ‘wind/brush protectors’ masquerading as hand-guards were so fragile, there was no chance for the lever to survive. The plastic hand covers simply popped out of the holding screws, shattering with not even a show of resistance. The brake oil pot is also part of this arrangement in the Ducati Multistrada. Drop it on the right and you’re basically without front brakes, besides the onerous fact that the first day of ownership could bring you a 20k bill!
So what should we do?
Big bikes keel over – repeatedly, breaking plastic, glass and chrome. The solution is protection. Essential protection starts with the handlebars. ‘Barkbusters’, are a boon to the off-road community. Fit them after removing the original hand protectors and never worry about broken levers. Ever. The metal spine protects not just your bike, but also your hands, against impacts that would happily shatter your metacarpus!
The next vulnerable point of impact on most ADVs are plastic side covers on the fuel tank. Hepco and Becker tank protection bars can help you breathe easy for a long time. High-speed crashes can rupture a tank that’s been scraping the asphalt and these bars ensure that doesn’t usually happen.
Headlight protectors, available over a handful of quality suppliers, are the next area of interest. Travelling behind other ADV bikes on gravel can easily put you on the spot for flying pebbles shattering your headlamps. Whether you choose clear acrylic or woven welded mesh, remember to protect your lights. They can be upwards of 30k for most bikes, with BMW sometimes even breaching the one lakh rupee mark! Protection is cheap insurance for sure. Additional lights are a necessity at night and Rigid, Clearwater, Denali; all make fabulous lights and accessorise equally good protective covers. Invest.
Another critical area is underbody engine guards. Several ADV bikes have either fibre or plastic protection – the G 310 GS is a case in point, and protecting the usually forward facing engine oil filter with this facetious plastic plate is usually hopeless. Similarly, the top of the pack BMW R 1200 GS, its cylinders sticking out, is extremely prone to damage to the head covers which are made of a composite fibre metal material for weight saving purposes. Protecting them is critical if you don’t want your epic ride terminated after a freak tip over.
What is required is a sturdy frame-mounted plate and not rubber mounted to the oil sump itself, as with the Triumph Tiger. KTM are masters of the slider plate with aeons of experience at enduro events like the Romaniacs, Erzberg Rodeo and even the Dakar. In fact, aftermarket plates improve on them as well! SW - MOTECH seem to be the go-to guys for aftermarket protection items that can save the journey.
We now move even lower. The side stand is an engineering miracle, which when deployed can easily take the weight of a mammoth rider using it as a tripod as he swings his portly form over the saddle. Once aboard, he kicks the stand back, engages gear and rides off into the unknown. Except when he is off-road. Sand, mud, snow – all strike back by causing stands to sink into the earth, unseating the rider and depositing him onto the floor. Considering the size of the bike and its intimidating heft, one would have thought that the manufacturers would’ve been more generous with the foot of the side stand. Not so. Immediately order a ‘duck-foot’ side stand foot enlarger. Voila, you can park the bike in sand, snow or mud, everywhere a centre stand would fail to hold a bike up.
Once these basic parts are added, head out for the gnarly trails with no fear, except the damage to yourself – protection for which we shall cover some other time soon.