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The saga of the seat

Like any self respecting LD rider, I needed a new seat.  The stock one wasn't going to cut it for more than a few hundred miles a day.

I did a fair amount of reseach about the various options out there, but in the end, I decided to go with Rich's Custom Seats.  Most of the reason was because they were local, but also because I knew a few people who had these seats and liked them.  

The saga starts with a trip to Rich's shop in Kingston, WA.  The day I picked for my fitting was also chosen by nature for a big rain storm.  So I was pretty much soaked by the time I arrived.

The process starts by Rich and the employee who will build your seat looking at you sitting on your bike on the center stand.  Rich then gives some instructions to his employee (Rich doesn't actually build the seat - he directs the process) who then tears down your stock seat and begins building it back up.  

About an hour later, they were ready for a test sit.  The seat felt comfortable, but I was concerned that the seating position was too far aft and was causing me to lean forward too much.  I went on a test ride and Rich's employee made some adjustments to move the seating position forward.  Thinking back on it, this is where I made a tremendous error.  Rich's employee was moving the seating position by inches when I wanted it moved by miles - I should have been adamant that, no, really - I want to sit that far forward. At one point, Rich jumped on the bike and told me that the best handlebar position would be with them moved aft several inches.  I already have a bar riser that moves the bars back and up as much as they can go without going the Heli bar route, which involves some modifications to the brake line.

At this point it was getting late, and I was getting tired.  I was also second guessing myself left and right and telling myself that I should trust that the position they're building the seat would work in the end.

I then made my second major mistake of the day - Allowing myself to be talked into a leather seat cover.  Even better, this mistake cost me an additional $200, but more on this later.

After second test ride It felt okay - I thought.  For whatever reason, It felt fine on the test ride.  Once the gel went in and the cover went on, things weren't so rosy.

As soon as I got on Highway 16 and headed for home, I knew the seat wasn't how I wanted it. It was really uncomfortable.  So much so that it surprised me that I didn't notice it when I did the test ride.  However, I was still thinking that the seat just needed to go through the break-in period.

Add to this, the leather cover on the seat was extremely slippery with my Aerostitch riding suit.  Every time I would brake, accelerate, or turn, I would slide around on the seat.  At least with this, there was a reason I hadn't noticed this before.  All the test rides were done before the cover was sown, so I was sitting on the foam of the seat, which is nice and grippy.

I'll be the first to admit that I should have been more assertive during my fitting.  However, at this point I was hoping the seat just needed to be broken in which Rich said would take about 1,000 miles.  

I did the BMRx rally a few weeks afterwards, so 1,000 miles went by in about a day.  At the end of day one of the rally, I knew things weren't getting any better.  Basically nothing had changed and i was still sliding all over the place and the only semi-comfortable position for my butt  forced me to lean so far forward that it caused back pain.

By the end of the rally, things were downright bad.  I had the absolute worst monkeybutt I've ever had.  (This coming from someone who rode a SaddleSore on a stock R1200GS seat. )

When I left the shop, Rich made it clear that the seat was guaranteed and I should come back if I didn't like it.  So,I made appointment to have it adjusted.   The good news was that they were able to make it better - basically it was rideable without immediate pain.  The bad news was the seating position was still so far back that it causes back pain and I was still sliding on the seat, but not as much as before.  Additionally, the angle the seat placed me at forced my hips to be rotated forward which placed a lot of pressure where pressure shouldn't be.  In short, it was really uncomfortable.  (See the video below for a good example of what I mean.)

At this point I was a little freaked out.  The Iron Butt Rally was in less than 6 months I had a seat that I couldn't ride comfortably for more than a few hundred miles.  Not good.  

Now, you may be saying, "Why don't you just take it back and have them fix it?"   Basically, because I read their website.  According to the Terms and Policies page on Rich's website (http://www.richscustomseats.com/process/terms):

  • Please read the fine print so we don't have to talk about it later.

  • An Adjustment is any change implemented to change the seat angle, relieve uncomfortable pressure, widen or modify pocket, create better ground reach, or slight adjustment in forward or aft position no more than one inch in any direction.(Must be able to reuse cover)

  • A Modification is any major change requested that constitutes a cover change or replacement. Or any Modification that was not originally requested during the fitting process. These changes are NOT considered warranty items and will be charged for accordingly!

Based on that, I would definitely need a "modification" and not just an adjustment.  The seating position was totally wrong and needs to be significantly moved.  The question becomes do I want to pay to try and fix this?

At this point, I didn't have much confidence that the seat will ever be how I want it without sinking more money and time into this seat.  Even then, I was still doubtful it would ever be right.

After thinking long and hard about it, I decided to give up and go a different direction. I read the fine print, so I haven't even bothered calling to talk about it.  I'm not willing to sink any more money into this seat, nor continuing to waste Saturdays riding up to the shop.  

A few inches can make a big difference.

I bought another stock seat pan and made an appointment for a ride in at Russell.

While the stock seat is pretty bad, at least it allowed me to sit where I felt comfortable reaching the handlebars.  

Fast forward four months and I was ready to have my ride in appointment at Russell.  I made the 560 mile trip down and got a hotel so I could be at my appointment at 8:00 am the next morning.

Similar to how Russell does the mail-order seats, my seat builder Chris took pictures of me sitting on the bike on the stock seat.  One difference I noticed was that this was done with someone holding the bike up for me - NOT on the center stand.  Whether or not that made a difference, I'm not sure.  But the bike is definitely oriented differently on the stand.

From here another difference -  they gave me a loaner seat so I wasn't stuck at the shop.  A nice touch.

I came back from my ride about 3 hours later for a test fitting.  Like Rich's this was done with someone holding the bike up.  One other difference I noted was that Rich insisted on me doing a test ride.  For what ever reason, Russell didn't.  I'm sure I could have gone on one if I'd asked though.  

The fitting went well, and I actually didn't have anything I wanted to change.  It felt pretty good and positioned me forward like I wanted.    I left for another ride around town and came back a few hours later and the seat was ready to go.  

Given all the issues I had with sliding on the leather previously, I chose to go vinyl for this one.  And I'm really glad I did.  The vinyl looks really good.  I really have a tough time telling that it isn't leather without a pretty detailed inspection.

I did have a few issues while the seat was being broken in.  However, I think some of this is due to my butt being already sore from riding down to Russell on the stock seat.  In the end, I'm glad I went with Russell and can whole-heartedly recommend a Day-Long Saddle. 


Pros - Rich's

  • The seat looks gorgeous. It's like a work of art. I can't say enough nice things about how it looks. I can definitely recommend Rich if you're looking to get something recovered. His upholsterer does amazing work.

  • It's an hour an a half away if I need to have an adjustment done.

Pros - Russell

  • Very comfortable. The break-in period had me a little nervous, but in the end I really like it.

  • Your seat builder (at least from the customer's perspective) is the expert and in charge of your build. (At Rich's, Rich was the one directing the process, but not actually building the seat.)

  • Having a loaner seat for ride in was a nice touch.

  • The seat looks great.

  • The seat fits with the stock passenger seat in place

Cons - Rich's

  • Quite frankly, it's just uncomfortable. I just can’t recommend a Rich's seat for an FJR to be used for long distance riding. No matter how good it looks. I spent $650 on something that is sitting on a shelf in my garage. To be completely fair, I know two other FJR riders who were very happy with their seats, and other one who was not. Based on what I've read, that seems to be the case in general: Some people love their Rich's seat, others have a poor experience. It seems to be about 50/50. (Like this thread at AdvRider)

  • I would call it "Hearing but not listening." I thought I made it pretty clear that I wanted my seating position to be further forward. I should have been more assertive during my initial fitting that the seating position wasn't where I wanted it. I trusted that they were steering me in the right direction. In my opinion though, It shouldn't be up to the customer to try an convince someone making them a custom seat that they know where they want to sit. At the end of the day, a customer paid for something that doesn't work for them. In my book, that's a problem.

  • I didn't have the passenger seat in place when I went to have the seat built, however the seat is built up so high in the back I can't get the passenger seat on. It's not even close.

Cons - Russell

  • It's a long way away and any adjustment is going to require sending it in, or two days of riding.

  • Ground reach is now something I need to think about. Previously, I was able to get to the ground with both feet flat. Now, I'm on my toes. This is made very clear on Russell’s site, so it’s not like I didn’t know this going in.


Post IBR Update

Regardless of anything written above, I’m very happy with my Russell seat after sitting on it for 11 days straight. It was VERY comfortable riding the IBR and I’m glad I spent the extra time and money to make my butt and back happy.

It did take longer to break in than they said, so keep that in mind. (One definite disadvantage of the ride in service!)

FJR Front End Wobble

At about 2,000 miles on the odometer, I decelerated from 60 coming into a town.  I took this opportunity to stretch a little bit and took one hand off the bars, loosely gripping the bar with my other hand.  As I my speed decreased through about 40 mph, the handlebars started shaking back and forth.  As soon as I placed my other hand back on the bar, it stopped being as violent, but I quickly found a place to pull over.  I was sure that I had a flat tire.

Upon inspection, however, there was nothing wrong with the tire.  Hoping back on the road, i began to experiment, and discovered that while decelerating through about 40 mph with a light touch on the bars would cause a violent front end wobble.  As soon as the speed was below about 35, it would go a way.  It also didn't happen during accelleration.

Once home, I asked my father-in-law about this, and he (along with many other people on the internet who have had this problem) thought it was due to loose front steering bearing.  I also talked with fellow FJR rider Bill Lynes and found he also had this problem.  His theory was that it was the stock tires on the FJR.  As soon as he switched to Michelin PR4s, the problem went away.

Another theory I read was that the problem was caused by the stock Bridgestones in combined with low air pressure.  I checked my air pressures and they were down slightly, but only like a pound or two.  Nothing major.  Since I was getting a small amount of cupping on the rear wheel, I decided to increase the air pressure on both wheels and took it for a ride.

Changing the air pressure COMPLETELY solved this problem.  I was amazed and a little releaved that I didn't have to disassemble the front end to deal with the bearing!

Injinji Toe Socks

On the Five and Dime Rally I had a big problem with my feet.  I'm probably lucky it wasn't more serious.  The skin between my toes basically completely peeled away leaving my feet vulnerable to infection.  After I got home, what started out as a small problem with athlete's foot quickly spread and was exacerbated by an allergy to the anti-fungal cream.   For several weeks after the rally, my feet were in bad shape.

During the rally, I was using DryMax socks sold, but not made, by LDComfort.  The material of these socks was really good.  However, their downfall came that they were normally shaped socks.  Wherethe sock material touched my foot, I was fine.  However, in between my toes was absolutely destroyed.  It made sense when I thought about it.  Why did I expect this sock to magically pull moisture away from somewhere it wasn't touching?

Full disclosure: the boots I was using were leather and really don't breathe at all.  That being said, unless you're going for some really expensive GoreTex boots, its likely that it will be difficult to get a boot that is both breathable and waterproof. 

Enter Injinji.  I found these socks at REI for $10/pair.  These socks have individual compartments for each of your toes.  Think gloves for your feet.  Because of this, they take a little longer than normal socks.  You have to put each of your toes into its place individually (or at least, I do).  You also have to make sure you are getting the sock on the correct foot, as there is a right and a left.  However, the benefits of these socks totally outweigh spending a little extra time putting them on.

Since each toe is separated from the others and wrapped in fabric, the socks are able to wick the moisture away from your skin, leaving your toes nice and dry.   While these socks use CoolMax instead of DryMax, they still do an amazing job of moving moisture away from your skin. 

Kaoko Throttle Lock

Part Number: 044-2300

Prior to the GS, I had a KLR 650 with a throttle lock, which I used, but not really all that much..  After I got the GS and started riding longer distances, I quickly realized this was a very important piece of equipment.  

First and foremost, it gives you a chance to get your right hand off the throttle.  Having the ability to rest your right hand without having to decelerate is makes this a worthwhile purchase. However, with the Kaoko, you can also set it so it will still let the throttle off but providing enough resistance to make it much slower than normal.  I found this very useful while riding in traffic.  It really decreases the amount of pressure you have to put on the throttle and greatly reduces fatigue on your hand.

Installation was pretty easy.  The one catch is that you'll have to locate a T-55 Torx bit somewhere.  Its the only Torx screw this big on the bike and most sets go up to T-50.  Thanks BMW!  I found a set at Harbor Freight for $12 that also has a T-60 in it, not that you're going to need it.  

Pretty much all you have to do is pop off the right side handlebar weight and put this in its place.  Then adjust the set screw on the lock itself and you're done.  

The only thing I find myself wanting on this is the ability to immediately release the tension on the throttle. (My cheapo KLR lock had this) However, that's a pretty minor beef.

Touratech Handlebar Risers

Part Number: 044-1067

This is one of those things you don't know you need until you have it.   On the 2012 R1200GS, these bring the handlebars up just a little over an inch (30mm), but wow, it really makes a difference.  Mostly I noticed it in my lower back.

Like pretty much everything at Touratech, its not inexpensive.  However, after 15 hours in the saddle, I think most people would GLADLY pay $80 for these.

They go on fairly easy, once you figure out Touratech's always interesting directions.  It does have a nice bonus that you end up replacing some E-Torx bolts with hex bolts.  (One less tool to carry!) However, you still need the damn E-hex to get the handlebar off, but hey, they can burn in hell after that.

The directions have you (sort of) reroute the throttle cable with some black rubber spacers and some zip ties.  It seems like a rather chinsy solution, but it works.  

Sena SMH-10 Bluetooth Headset

I started off buying this as a gift for my father-in-law.  When he sold his bike, he re-gifted it back to me.   Prior to the re-gift, I bought myself the SMH-5, which is the smaller  version of the SMH-10.  Without going into a full review of the SMH-5, I really liked it too.  The only complaint I had about it was the CRAPPY speakers that came with it.  However this could be easily remedied by buying the SMH-10 speakers for the SMH-5.

But, back to the 10...

I really like this headset.  It allows me to listen to music and audio books while on the road and even (gasp) make or take a phone call.  While I'm sure someone out there just had a minor coronary about me admitting to using the phone while riding, I really don't think its that big of a deal.  I pair the SMH-10 to my Garmin 660, and it really makes it easy to deal with the phone and audio.

Since I've had the SMH-10, there have been 5 major firmware revisions, the most important of which was bring voice prompts.  (Prior to that, you had to decipher a series of beeps and boops)  Audio quality is very good, as long as your are using the A2DP protocol.  If your device has to use HDP, its going to sound about like a phone call. 

On a long distance rally, I ran into a slight problem regarding battery life.  It only lasted for 12 hours.  For any normal person, I think 12 hours would be way longer than necessary, but I managed to max that out.  My solution, as of yet untested on a rally, is a second SMH-10.  On Amazon, you can buy only the control unit, without a second set of headphones, mic, etc.  I've paired both headsets to my GPS and it seems to work swimmingly.  I'll update this after I've had experience on it during a rally.

Another slight problem I've had to work around is the boom mic.  I use a Shoei NeoTec modular helmet and I haven't found a really good way of mounting the unit so the mic isn't awkwardly fished under the chin of the helmet.  Its definitely not a deal breaker, but its sort of a pain all the same. 

Bottom line.  Go buy one.  Well, buy two.


UPDATE: Yeah, the boom mic is a major pain in the rear with the convertible helmet.  Luckily there is a different base that allows you to attach the boom mic to the inside of your helmet. 

NoNoise Ear Plugs

I'd had a similar set of ear plugs that I used for shooting that I really didn't care for.  I thought they were uncomfortable and they didn't lower the sound level that much.

When I first got the NoNoise plugs, I liked them.  They seemed to work pretty good and were fairly comfortable.  They seemed to perform as advertised and I was able to hear my SENA SMH-10 just fine.

However...They had a very different personality when used for a long period of time.

The first day they were okay.  The second day, they started to get a little painful.  The third day, they hurt so much I had to abandon using them.

I'm also reasonably certain that I ruptured my ear drum.  This may or may not have been as a result of these plugs.  When I removed them after the third day, it was very painful,  there was blood on the plug, and I had a lot of ringing my ear.  Upon returning home, my doctor speculated that I had ruptured my ear drum as it was very thing.  By the time I had the appointment (one week later) it had healed.  

I my eardrum had, in fact, ruptured, it was probably because I was going over some very high passes and the seal in the ear canal is very tight.  

I didn't use them the remainder of the rally and will not be using them again.

EZ Touring Wanderer Full Motorcycle Cover

Size A

This was the cover that I took on my first rally.  The cover itself did not disappoint, however, there are a few things I'd probably do differently in the future.  First, the positives of this cover:

  • Lightweight
  • Compatible - It comes with its own stuff sack which a cylinder approximately 5 inches in diameter by 12 inches long.  I'd be willing to bet in a compression sack, you could get it even smaller.
  • (Apparently) Heat resistant.  For five days in a row I put it on the bike after the engine running around 18 hours a day.  No melting or other indication it was reacting negatively to the heat of the exhaust.

I really like this cover.  However, if I had it to do over again, I'd probably buy a different cover.  Specifically the Traveler Half Cover.  Originally I thought I'd want the entire bike covered, however, when it comes down to it, who care about the lower half?  One of the reasons I put a cover on the bike is to discourage people from poking around on it and potentially stealing accessories.  A half cover does that fine.

This leads to a disadvantage of any full sized cover - it sort of a pain to get in when you're tired and just want to go to bed.  Mind you, its NO WHERE near as much of a pain as the BMW Cover, however, every time I've put it on the bike, I couldn't help but thinking, "Gee, a half cover would be really easy to get on..." At some point to secure it properly, you're going to be laying on the ground.

One other thing that I would do differently - I wouldn't get black.   It occurred to me in a parking lot that it would be reasonably difficult for a person in a car to see the cover in a dark parking lot as they were pulling into, what they believed was, a seemingly empty parking space.  I'd probably get the silver in the future.

A few other (potential) negatives about this cover:

  • Only one set of securing grommets.  The stock BMW Cover has two.  Honestly, I don't know how much of a disadvantage this really is, but it seemed like this was something that could be added without adding significantly to weight or bulk.
  • Loose Fit.  If you read my review of the BMW Cover, then you know I whined about it fitting too tight.  Well, I just can't be pleased.  With that said, there are lots of opportunites with this cover for water to pool on the top.  It is waterproof, so it shouldn't matter.   It did also occur to me that the loose fitting nylon could very easily be turned into a sail and possibly knock the bike over in a very strong wind.  This may just be another argument for the Half Cover.
  • No reflective tape.   Anything to help visibility in a dark parking lot I think is an added bonus.

All and all this is a great cover, though its not cheap.  I would just determine whether you really want a full sized cover before you buy it.

BMW All Weather Cover

BMW Part Number: 71602346633

The factory cover for the R1200GS definitely lives up to its name as "all weather."  This thing is built like a tank and probably would be great if you had to leave the bike outside in a hurricane.  It has features such as:

  • Expandable sections to accommodate the factory panniers and top case;
  • A reflective strip about halfway up;
  • A little window in the back for easy viewing of the license plate;
  • Vents which....vent;
  • Two bungees at the bottom to secure the cover around the bike; and
  • Very heavy duty construction.

If you are using this cover in a garage as a dust cover, its probably a bit overkill and you could get something less expensive.  The best use case for this cover would probably be if you had to store the bike outside - and you had somewhere to store the cover when you took it off the bike.  The sheer bulk of this cover is its biggest downfall.  The cover comes with a storage sack that measures about 12" x 20", which by itself is pretty big.  However, the only way the cover is going back in that bag is if you carefully fold up the cover and force it back in.  Its not something you are going just wad up and shove in - its way too big.  

And don't even think about using this on a trip.  Even when carefully folded, it takes up a good portion of a pannier.  I tried putting it in a compression sack, which did reduce volume.  However it was such a pain to get in, that I went with another cover.  

The other downside to this cover is that its pretty difficult to get on.  In true BMW fashion, this cover is made to precisely fit the dimensions of this bike.  With the Adventure Panniers on, it really took some effort to stretch the cover around them and get everything in place.  In fact, putting the cover on actually exerted enough force on one of the mirrors that it was able to move the nut holding it in place.

No matter what, unless you really want the BMW name, you can probably find a better, less expensive cover.

Beemer Buddies

Item Number: OBB-AB-SS

Apparently I wasn't the only one to notice that the handlebars on the R1200GS feel a bit smaller than they should.  After a big of searching I found the Original Beemer Buddies, which are piece of neoprene that wrap around the grips to enlarge them to a more comfortable circumference.  

They are pretty easy to install.  There is a piece of double-sided tape on one end which you stick on the grip, then wrap the neoprene around the grip and stick it to the tape.  Easy-schmeasy.

I found they actually made the grip a little bit larger than what I would prefer, however, this wasn't that big of a deal - they made my hands much more comfortable.  There is a big downside for me though, which after I discovered it was pretty obvious.  By installing a piece of neoprene on your grips, you've also installed a very effective piece of insulation as well.  The effectiveness of my heated grips was greatly diminished.  On low, I couldn't feel anything and on high you could barely feel the heat.  Not so great in the winter.

Also, they looks like you've slapped a piece of neoprene on your handlebars.  It wasn't a very clean install.  However, I could have definitely gotten past that if they didn't cut down on the heat transfer from the heated grips.  

I had them on for about a year, but ended up removing them.  The double-sided tape left some gunk behind, but Goof-Off removed this easily.