With about 85,000 miles traveled in over 60 countries, my trusty BMW F650GS Dakar, “Doc”, has been ridden hard and for the past 20 months, put away in a dark garage. Thanks to the great team at Vagianelis in Athens, I’m packed and ready to go.
Often people ask me why I don’t ride a 1200GS, a bigger bike. It’s simple. Smaller and lighter is better. I can count just a handful of situations where a bigger bike would be better: In some parts of British Columbia, Patagonia, and the USA. Maybe there are a couple other places, but doubtful.
Keep in mind, I pack that bad boy bike with a lot of stuff. Perhaps too much. Yet with my passion for photography and to keep up with this blog means it’s my choice to carry the stuff I outlined in a previous post.
So it’s onward, and the 650cc bike is just perfect for me. No need to go fast, best to motor slowly, take in the scenery, the locals and their culture.
The “tyres” from Avon arrived late yesterday. Today I’m back on the road.
The mud and dirt from my 2016 Iceland to Greece ride is still on the bike. However, the chain and sprocket are in good shape, thanks in part to the Nemo chain oiler from Cobrra. George, Panos, and the team at Vagianelis had to install a new battery and fork seals, change the oil, and ultimately put on the new tires.
Then there is the kickstand. Everyone at the BMW shop just shakes their heads when we took about the kickstand. “Problem, always,” commented Panos. “All the time this is trouble,” said George.
Ill-designed to support the weight, and especially on the Dakar with its higher suspension, the bike leans too far when setting on the side stand. Due to the weight of the motorcycle and the load, I’m carrying, the frame where the kickstand (side stand) attaches to the bike stressed to where it softened and continued to bend. Another factor that likely caused ongoing stress happened during my tour with the Travel & Adventure Shows in 2016 before I took off for Iceland. Many show attendees wanted to take photos while sitting on the bike—sometimes two up.
By the time I was north of the Arctic Circle in August of 2016, I could barely get the bike straight up after resting on the side stand. it failed completely while on a ferry boat to Mykonos in September. That’s where George welded the frame and side stand, so good that the bike barely leaned at all. So before storing the bike in 2016, when loading the bike after the beautiful weld job, the bike fell over when I pushed to close left side Jesse bag. I knew I would have to deal with this on my return.
The only way to fix this is to shorten the kickstand. Panos engineered a solution, and while the bike leans a bit more, I still need to be careful. At least it’s easy to get the bike upright, but setting and putting down the kickstand is still precarious. Be careful.
As I thanked the team and took a slew of pictures of my new friends, I geared up and straddled Doc for the first time in almost two years. Oh, I’ve been riding since, there is the “surrogate Doc” or “Doc II” in San Diego, the bike I rode for the pilot of my television show, “Food Explorer.”
But this is the original Doc.
On the bike, at first, I felt uneasy. I haven’t been this loaded in a while. Shaky and with wavering confidence, I pulled out of Vagianelis onto the busy Athens thoroughfare Par Leof Vouliagmenis toward the center of Athens. I tried to settle in and embrace the experience, but the whizzing by of taxis, scooters, trucks, and vans made me tense up. I look down at my instrument panel, the gas reserve light is on. Great. A reprieve, I pull into a gas station and fill up.
It takes about 20 minutes to get out of Athens and onto the National road toward the Peloponnese. At speed, I feel more comfortable. It’s hot, 100 degrees, or more. With my GPS set for Kiveri Beach, with each kilometer I travel, I get more comfortable. After an hour, I’m parched, dehydrated, so I pull over at a rest area, find shade and drink water.
I look down at the thermometer on my instrument cluster—115 degrees. Probably not that hot, heat from the engine a contributing factor, yet it is scorching.
Another hour later, I roll into the tiny village of Kiveri, just south of Napflio and get off the bike and order a beer. Phew. I’m here, and I’m ready for a wedding!