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Thread: Advice needed on GS for Alaska

  1. #1
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    Question Advice needed on GS for Alaska

    I am a longtime BMW owner and MOA member. I have had many R bikes but never a GS. I am planning a trip to Alaska. Please help with any of the following or more: 1) What bike should I buy if I am going to ride from the Midwest to Fairbanks and on to the Artic Circle? I realize I can make it to Fairbanks on about any bike but not to the Artic Circle. Is a GS the best option? I want to buy the bike, ride to Alaska, return, and sell the bike. Is a used GS1100 the smart option? What about a R1200C since it is so light and easy to handle? I have had a R1200C and thought that might work. If I settle in on trying to buy a GS, is there anything I need to look for other than the usual (one owner, low mileage, acessories, dealer serviced, etc.)? 2) Do GS models have tubeless tires? Are tubeless tires a must? 3) What month should I go? July? 4)What about camping? Obviously, camping is a good option, but what type of places should I look for to be the safest? 4) Route? I have been in the lower part of Alberta and BC so that part is not much of a concern as to the route, so should I just go up the Alaska Highway and back or should I take a different route back? I will be entering and returning the US from Montana or maybe North Dakota. 5) Any other miscellaneous advice would be great.

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    There are often 3-4 trip reports over on Advrider and the Chaingang on people doing that trip. I'd suggest reading thru a few of those, they might help answer some of your questions. People ride it on what they have and are comfortable with - construction zones can be tricky but in general the roads are good.

  3. #3
    Luckiest Man Alive Timba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gharnden View Post
    Is a GS the best option? I want to buy the bike, ride to Alaska, return, and sell the bike. Do GS models have tubeless tires? Are tubeless tires a must?
    Any other miscellaneous advice would be great.
    First off, my qualifications to speak on this topic: I own an '02 1150 Adv, and have a fair to middling amount of experience, both dirt and street (10 years mx racing, 34 years of street riding, mostly sport bikes).

    I own the 1150 ADV because five years ago I moved into a house on a hill, set on 14 acres. This place has a 1/2 mile driveway that is steep, curvy, made of dirt & gravel, and when it rains, develops big ruts.

    I've ridden up and down this driveway on several different "street" bikes, including a cbr1100xx, and an R1150RT.

    The difference between the way they handled this "road" and the ADV handles it is night and day. The others have me feeling like I am barely in control, and nervous as a cat with seven kittens. The ADV has me feeling like I can fly up and down this road, and do it with great control. Everything about it contributes to making the rider feel comfortable and capable in all sorts of road conditions. I've done all the 4x4 roads in Big Bend without any trouble... It's not a "dirt bike" but it can handle almost anything thrown at it.

    I've taken the GS on numerous long road trips, and while the wind protection doesn't match that of an RT, everything else works fantastically.

    I think that if you buy one and ride it, you might decide to keep it.

    I think that some GS's do not have tubeless tires, although mine does. Tubeless tires are a breeze to repair on the road; tubed tires, not so much.

    Whatever bike you decide to do it on, do it! The memories will be well worth it.

    Good luck!
    Timba
    "You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it."
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    Thanks

    Thanks so much for the response. A couple of other questions you might help with are: 1) Is there an advantage to getting a Adv or a regular GS for what I am talking about doing? 2) I assume the 1150GS and 1200GS would be better than a 1100GS, but will I be fine and pleased with a 1100GS? Thanks, Greg

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by gharnden View Post
    Thanks so much for the response. A couple of other questions you might help with are: 1) Is there an advantage to getting a Adv or a regular GS for what I am talking about doing? 2) I assume the 1150GS and 1200GS would be better than a 1100GS, but will I be fine and pleased with a 1100GS? Thanks, Greg
    Speaking as an 1100 owner, you can't go wrong with the 1100. I went to Alaska a couple of years ago with one guy on an 1150 and another on a 1200, and I don't think the 1100 gives up anything to the newer bikes. The biggest problem we had with any of the machines was changing the rear tire on the 1200 and finding the 'tool' kit didn't have the necessary T50 wrench/bit to remove the &^%%# wheel. You can buy an 1100 and use the money you save to make it 'yours', e.g. new seat, different windscreen, etc.

    The specs for the GS models can be compared here:
    http://www.micapeak.com/bmw/gs/gs_chart.html
    Motor On '/,

  6. #6
    Luckiest Man Alive Timba's Avatar
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    I've heard nothing but good things about the 1100 as well, but I don't have any personal knowledge of them. However, you may want to read these folks' thread on their two-up adventures through South America on an older GS. South American Adventure - 2 up on a R100GS

    The reason I got the Adventure over the regular 1150 GS is the larger fuel tank (8 gallon vs. 5.8 gallon), and the additional standard powerlet plug. The plain GS would do just fine, although that extra 2 point something gallons sure is comforting when smack in the middle of No and Where!
    Timba
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  7. #7
    Registered User einnar's Avatar
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    If you are doing the alaska trip, or anywhere else far for that matter....

    1) get the bike you can pick up off the ground by yourself.
    2) get the bike you are comfortable doing repairs on. (Anything from flats on up.)
    3) get one that fits you, and has a decent aftermarket in parts and accessories. You're going to be getting a fair amount of gear for any bike you want to ride that far on.

    The GS line of BMW is a good line of bikes. They range from ~400 lbs to over 600lbs. (before you put your gear on them) You can get them in a single cylinder F650 up to a boxer twin 1200. Go sit on them, test ride them, and ask lots of questions. You can carry a spare chain for the 650, but a spare shaft drive for a 1200, not so much. Balance this with the fact that the shaft drive needs far less maintenance, and rarely needs to be fixed. (under normal riding conditions.)

    Personally, I bought an F650 for that exact trip. I have bad knees so I got a lighter bike. I also liked the simplicity, and ease of maintenance of the bike.

    YMMV.

    - Some say the glass is half empty, some say the glass is half full, I say, are you going to drink that? - Lisa Clayman
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    Thanks

    Thanks so much for all the advice and suggestions. This information has been really helpful and I would certainly welcome anymore advice.

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    I've been to Alaska three times. Once on a '75 R75, once on an '85R80 and once on a Suzuki 650 Dualsport. You can do the trip on a standard bike or do it on a dualsport. If you get rain and muddly roads, they all suck, but the smaller dualsport will be easier to handle. I would consider the ease of repair , as the other posters have mentioned, some sort of wind protection and hard bags as one of the main criteria for making a the final selection. Another consideration--a loaded 650 single just can't be ridden as fast as a bigger bike. That means your travel back in the lower 48 will be slower than you might be accustomed to--like 400 mile days instead of 700 mile days.

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