Day Nineteen


"Ride Them BMWs"

September 23, 2002

Mojave, CA -
Reno, NV

407 miles

6:15 riding time

Moonset over the High Sierras, just south of Bishop.

I don't like to admit it, but I own eight motorcycles.  Three are non-runners at the moment (Terry are you reading this? ... I sure would like to ride my CB350 this decade), but that still leaves me with five motorcycles to distribute my riding miles among.  Yet the BMW always collects the lion's share of these miles.  Why is this?

As we head for home, there are many empty miles to contemplate such questions.  And when you've spent the better part of nineteen days in a row riding the same motorcycle, every aspect of the bike seems amplified.  I've stopped riding my bike—I wear it.  And if that 'second skin' of a motorcycle you're wearing every day causes an itch you can't scratch, it will drive you crazy.  But the BMWs we're riding don't have many itches.  And that's one reason why my R1100S racks up eight of every ten miles I ride motorcycles, while the other five bikes fight over the scraps.  It just flat works.


Any long-term test in a motorcycle publication mentions this fact:  BMWs rack up high miles, I think more miles than any other bike make.  Part of it is that all BMWs have features that make them practical to use for more than one- or two-hour joy rides.  Virtually every BMW can be equipped with factory hard luggage, and most offer highly desirable options like ABS brakes and heated grips.  These features tip the balance to taking the bike rather than the car when you have stuff to carry or the weather is iffy.  And lockable storage means you can leave your helmet, riding jacket, and gloves in saddlebags when you're off the bike so you don't have to schlep the gear around when you get where you're going.  Most BMWs are shaft drive which means there is basically no maintenance to be done between six-thousand-mile oil changes.  The seating positions are kind to back and bottom.  I honestly don't know if the fact that most motorcycles offered for sale in the US don't offer these practical features is more a cause or a reflection of how we view motorcycles, but it would be nice to see them accepted more as they are in Europe, as legitimate pieces in the transportation solution puzzle.  Of course, other motorcycle manufacturers offer many of these features on selected models, but BMW does it across the entire product line; it is their gestalt.

So there you have the solid practical reasons why BMWs get ridden.  But there are some intangibles at work too.  BMWs, particularly R-twins like mine, have a wonderful mechanical presence and stability that instills confidence in the machine.  They also cover one's mistakes.  The telelever front suspension system is unusually forgiving of mid-corner line changes and while I try VERY HARD not to touch the brakes while cornering, occasionally a situation arises where I'm forced to.  BMWs handle such ham-fisted riding techniques better than any other bike I've owned.

BMWs aren't cheap but I think you get what you pay for.  The level of fit and finish is excellent and most parts have a nice substantial feel to them.  For example, the plastic bodywork on my R1100S is about twice as thick as similar panels on my ultra-lightweight Yamaha R6 and the paint quality is much better.  And BMWs stand up to lots of miles.  Except for sacked-out shocks, my BMW is running better at 24K miles then it did when new.  Gizmo feels the same about his.  They're not perfect by any stretch.  They have lots of quirks and while most are ultra-reliable, I hear more horror stories about lemon BMWs that I hear about lemon Hondas.  Both Gizmo and I are taking a hard look at the new Honda ST1300 sport-tourer,  but if I decide to get one, another bike will probably go while the BMW will keep its place in my garage.  It has earned it.

Today was a fabulously clear and beautiful day to be out motorcycling.  Worrying about afternoon heat, Gizmo and I rolled out about 5AM and polished off a substantial 400+ mile day from Mojave to Reno by 2PM when it was just starting to get really warm.  Our route home is up the eastern side of the Sierras and Cascades and the scenery so far has been spectacular.  Rather than talk about it ad nausea, I'll just comment on a few of the better pictures and call it a day.

Owens River Valley.  The landscapes have a very
'bleached' look.  Quite dramatic.
Abandoned gas station in Olancha between Mojave and Bishop.  The large pedestal structure on the roof looks like it was probably used to display a large sign.  We are NOT going to do a caption contest with this image!
Mono Lake.  Water rights are a huge issue in the Owens Valley and Mono Lake is gradually drying up as water is diverted south to thirsty Southern California. The smell of sage is strong throughout the valley.  We like the smells here much better than the Imperial Valley.
No, this is not my bike.  And I didn't ditch my bug yellow riding suit.  I met my double in Lone Pine; exact same bike and exact same helmet.  Ron is headed for Vegas via Death Valley.   Check in with us Ron! Moonset over the Sierras.  Yosemite is just to the north of this shot.
Another moonset shot.  The ridgelines of the High Sierras become whiter as they get taller. Mono Lake takes the prize as the most expensive gas of the trip (so far).
Another shot of the Sierras.  Death Valley (at -282 feet MSL) and Mt. Whitney (at 14, 494 feet MSL) are respectively the lowest and highest points in the continental U.S., yet are only about 90 miles apart—we rode between them. Gizmo grimaces as the heat of the day builds.
CA 120 from Benton Hot Springs to Mono Lake is a
roller-coaster ride through spectacular country. 
Highly recommended.
There is very little traffic IF you get off US 395, the main north-south route.  Detouring on lesser-used roads is an effective strategy and only adds a few minutes to the trip time.

One final note today:.  Remember Whizmo and Gizmo Passes?  Well, Gizmo and I want to extend a special W&G invitation to our readers to pay 'our passes' a visit.  In fact, if anyone actually goes to either (or both) and sends us an image of themselves with our pass plaques, we'd be tickled pink, so tickled that we'd publish said image and award a special non-trivial prize.  Both pass locations are documented in the pass table, and we're providing the following context pictures that give you some idea where the plaques are located with respect to the local surroundings.  Do you need a better excuse for a fall road trip?

Whizmo Pass plaque looking east from the road summit.. Gizmo Pass plaque looking north from the road summit..

Two days left.  Tomorrow we continue our journey up the east slope of the Sierras and Cascades to spend the evening in Bend Oregon.  We're smelling the barn.

Update -- Grand Finale Contest -- Pitch the Pitchmen

We're quite literally laughing our proverbial tushes off reading the great entries received so far in our final contest.  Everyone's entries so far are better than anything we could have come up with, so now, with your help, we're absolutely certain we've found the key to making W&G the advertising juggernaut that will put Martha Stewart's empire to shame.  But for any who haven't yet submitted an entry, we're going to leave it open ONE MORE DAY to be sure we get the best and brightest working on our team.  C'mon now, we know you have a great idea just waiting to bust out.  Don't be shy -- let it rip, make an entry, tell us the magic words that will have those sponsors lined up at our hotel room door!

We'll publish the entries tomorrow and then let you, our W&G readership have their say, American Idol style.  We can't wait!