There’s a saying in the motorcycling world that the perfect number of bikes is always one more than you currently have, also known as the “N+1” formula. A lot of time it’s a matter of having different bikes that serve different purposes. Sometimes it’s simply that each machine is its own special joyous unicorn of form and function—embracing the different experiences of sound and sensuality that each one delivers.
So what I’m about to say borders on blasphemy in the “N+1” motorcycling mindset. I don’t like having multiple bikes. There, I said it. Maintaining them and switching back and forth is a complete and utter hassle. It sucks. They take up a lot of space. Every one needs different parts, maintenance, insurance, documentation. It’s more work than it’s worth and it grates on my minimalist tendencies. It’s too much mental overhead.
Even if I remove the sidecar from the discussion since it’s really a different beast from a two-wheeled machine, I still have two motorcycles that I fumble between and have to keep up with. Owning two bikes only arose out of my living between Georgia and Nevada for awhile. Now that my life is consolidated in Nevada, I truly have no need for the complication of two bikes that fill essentially the same niche.
So sell a bike, Val.
I know, it seems that simple. Clearly I ride and travel on the 700 way more than the Guzzi. It’s certainly the better bike for what I do most of the time. But there’s more to the story.
As great as the 700 has been for me, there’s a lot of room for improvement. Much of that has to do with my body and its challenges in the post-crash era of my life. On top of the unavoidable physical issues of getting older, I’ve got a lot of issues I manage that are the result of the tremendous injuries I suffered. I’m almost four years post-crash and my new normal is now fairly well established. I know what my body will give me, I’m settled into what brings aggravation and what brings relief, and I know what my strengths and limitations are. The 700 got me this far but I’ve maxed out what it can do for me.
Combined with my physical issues, my riding and travel have evolved to the point where the 700 isn’t the optimal machine anymore. Its size, wind protection, and ergonomics—once assets—are now holding me back. So here I am reevaluating my adventure fleet, its limitations, and the potential for improvement with other equipment, instead of simply selling one bike.
But wait, there’s more!
Let’s look at the larger picture of our household shall we? Because my dear man also has three bikes in the garage. If you’re doing the math, you’ll see that we actually have six different machines that need all of the things that bug me about my three.
His motorcycles have a wider variety of uses across the dirt-to-street spectrum but he really only rides his Yamaha FJ-09 these days. Though it does have its limitations. It’s a sporty-ish bike that doesn’t handle dirt and rough riding the way my 700 does. His KLR 650 is the bike for that job. But it’s basically an old tractor, not a great choice for big-mile days on good pavement. And it’s so underpowered that it’s completely mismatched for riding together when I’m on the 700.
Now throw into the mix the fact that of all the machines sitting in the garage, my Moto Guzzi is the only bike both my dear man and I can ride comfortably. Hence, it’s the only one we can pair with the sidecar for traveling. So if I sell the Guzzi, we end up sabotaging the whole point of the sidecar rig and being able to travel with the adventure dog and share motorcycling with non-riding friends.
Hence, the motorcycle conundrum. What we need is good all-around bikes that have similar capabilities and ergonomics that suit both of us. Which brings us to scrapping our entire two-wheeled fleet in the name of simplicity and function. Because if we’re both riding the same bikes, it doesn’t get much simpler than that at home or on the road.
The next bike
I first sat on a BMW R1200GS two years ago in a dirt-riding skills class at the BMW Rider Academy, in South Carolina. I’d trained hard all day on an F700GS. Toward the end of our class, the instructors encouraged us to at least try the R1200GS that had intimidated we smaller-stature women. As I threw my leg over the 1200 one of the coaches asked how long I’d had my 700. “Six months,” I replied. He chuckled and said “Sorry, you’re going to be trading that in after you try the 1200.” Sure enough, after some brief exercises on the 1200, we all wished we’d been riding it the entire day.
The second time I sat in the saddle of a 1200 was at the national BMW rally, in Salt Lake City in July of 2017. I did a demo ride on a lower-suspension model. Struggling to keep from becoming misty-eyed over it, I convinced myself I couldn’t justify the change when my F700GS was perfectly fine at the time.
Yet here I am—having resisted going to a 1200GS for two years—making the leap. The turning point? A culmination of the realizations I’ve mentioned. Attempting to solve the motorcycle conundrum.
- I’ve made huge ground in regaining my riding abilities.
- My travel has evolved such that the smaller 700 isn’t enough bike for how hard and long I ride while on the road.
- My post-crash body has reached a point of stability and known long-term limitations.
- I need to simplify the distractions of too many motorcycles.
- My dear man has realized that the 1200 would be a good bike for him, too.
- The 1200 fits both of us well enough that we can easily swap machines while traveling with the sidecar outfit.
Gotta be sure
Realizations aren’t enough to jump into such an investment, though. The R1200GS is not an inexpensive prospect. There’s also no such thing as the perfect bike. As legendary as the machine is, it isn’t necessarily a good bike for everyone. I needed to know that it would be worth it for me and what I needed to accomplish in reworking my fleet.
So my dear man and I rode to San Francisco to rent two 1200s and ride the California coast for a few days. We were hinging our decision process around several days of saddle time to determine if having two 1200s in the garage, instead five other mismatched two-wheeled bikes, was the answer we were looking for.
Is the 1200GS the answer?
Short answer: Yep. It filled all of our needs and some we didn’t know we had. Like a boss. Flat out, it’s an incredible motorcycle and there’s no question why it’s so popular.
Even amongst my female rider friends, the bike gets rave reviews. For us inseam-challenged ladies, there is a constant struggle to manage height and what seems like a huge bike. But women riders I’ve spoken with have unanimously said they’ve never looked back after taking the plunge because the 1200 just doesn’t feel as big as it appears to be.
None of this is news to those who already ride 1200s, of course. I’m just a little late to the party. The height and power is intimidating at first. With a left leg I couldn’t trust until now, I simply wasn’t ready for the 1200 when I was getting back to riding. I needed the Guzzi to help get me back into the saddle. I needed the 700 to work through the next stage in regaining my moto mojo. It was a process that needed to happen before I embraced the power and performance of the 1200.
Each bike was the right choice at the time. But times have changed. Cheers to simplicity and progress!
I’ll dive into the details of my new love affair with the 1200GS next time. So stay tuned for that as well as the unveiling of my new adventure beast. She’s being tricked out by the phenomenal folks at Sierra BMW so I’ll be ready to tackle a whole new set of motorcycle travel adventures.
A special shout out goes to the absolutely wonderful folks at Dubbelju Motorcycle Rentals for a truly fantastic rental experience.