Tag Archives: morocco overland

BMW F750GS in Morocco • 1200-km review

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After ten successful years, in 2018 BMW Motorrad replaced the 700 and 800GS parallel twins with all-new ‘750’ and 850 versions. As before, the two models share an identical 853-cc engine but, along with other aspects, are significantly different. According to this detailed BMW press release (click and it downloads; worth reading if this bike interests you) the 750 makes 20% less power (77 / 95hp) but only 10% less torque (83 / 92Nm; see graph, right). It also has a lower seat, a little less weight and suspension travel, better fuel consumption as well as cast tubeless wheels with a smaller 19-er on the front. The 750 will also run stock on 91 RON fuel (unlike the 850 unless modified) and is significantly cheaper: in the UK it currently goes from £8225 vs £9875 for the 850 which makes it cheaper than an XT700.
I’ve ridden the old 700 and 650 twins in Morocco and for me, these lower, mildly less revvy, 19-inch and tubeless shod bikes have always been a better, real-world travel bike option to the flashier, taller 800 and now 850, even if the ‘bigger’ bikes probably outsell them.

Like many P-twins these days, the new engine uses a 270-degree crank to give an impression of more torque – or maybe just because it’s fashionable. They are no longer (or cannot be) engineered to sound like a 1200GS, but even at basic levels, both models come with an array of electronic rider aids and position the fuel tank back up on top, so lifting the centre of gravity.
I rode a bottom of the range 750 (LED dash; no quickshifter, connectivity, ESA and so on) for a week, on winding Moroccan mountain backroads and easy desert trails, covering some 1200kms or 750 miles. The bike had 6300km on the clock (114 hours running time) and was fitted with a thick Givi bashplate, crash bars, handguards and rear racks.
In Adventure Moto World you might say it’s competitors include the KTM 790, Guzzi V85TT, XT700 or just updated Tracer 700, the V-Strom 650 (£6500 discounted new) or a 1000cc Africa Twin. The BMW is cheaper than all of them except the ageing Suzuki and the Tracer, new or old.

What they say

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It keeps your engine running, every day. Your heart beats to the rhythm of the BMW F 750 GS. It’s your ticket to the adventure. Because with the balanced Enduro all-rounder, you will master all paths, regardless of the road surface, and expand your horizons – because you want more. The F 750 GS gives you more power, more comfort, more spirit of GS. Feel the strong-charactered engine and enjoy the ease of handling of the F 750 GS. While you’re off discovering the world, you have the bike with the automatic stability control (ASC) and the ABS safely under control. And with the ex-factory option Connectivity, the 6.5-inch TFT-display shows you among other things which junction you have to turn off at or who is calling you. Clear and concise – without distracting you from the road. The entry into your next experience is – also thanks to the low seat height – easier than ever before.

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  • Compared to the 850, at just £8225 it’s a very good deal
  • Enough real-world power to get the job donef75spex
  • Great brakes with ABS 
  • Great suspension too. HPA shock with rebound damping
  • Stable in corners. Long and low, just like the old 700/650.
  • Turns better than old 700 – must be down to the higher CoG plus rake and trail changes.
  • Tubeless tyres with easy-access side valves
  • Traction control (‘ASC’) plus a rain mode
  • LHS scrollable menu with all the essential metrics
  • Seat – no complaints this time.
  • BMW-style 12-v power outlet on the dash
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  • Heavy With the added metalwork mine probably came in at 230kg wet, but only felt it when pushing around or trying to pick up.
  • Windscreen? More a small transparent plate which does nothing much.
  • Engine lacks character compared to a Yamaha CP2 or even an NC750.
  • Fuel consumption worse than the 700 – averaged 70mpg (but only measured twice).
  • The thin digits on the LCD dash were hard to read easily or if not in direct sun.
  • Remaining range (400km when full) proved a little optimistic when pushed to the limit.

Review

As do-it-all gravel travel bikes, the old 650 and 700 twins were both better than most people thought. With some K60s, I took a 650 quite a way out of its (and my) comfort zone back in 2012. So I expected to like the new 750, even if I’d be held back by stock road Anakees.
The 750 retains what looks like a long wheelbase; there’s a cubic foot of collector box packed in behind the engine and in front of the back wheel. Initially, I found the cable-less, electronic throttle lacked damping and the steering had that sports-tourer ‘self-leaning’ thing (like my old TDM). It must be a calculated consequence of weight, rake and trail but as the miles passed by I soon didn’t notice either, instead revelling in the bike’s more positive attributes.


The gearbox has an uncharacteristic slickness for a BMW, easily tapped without the clutch, and I sure appreciated the correctly positioned foot controls after the well-used Sertao I rode the week before which needed foot lifts to brake or change gear. With a few accessories my bike probably weighed not much less than a GS12, but like the 12, it sure feels less once on the move.
A big difference between the 700 was locating the slightly bigger 15-litre tank back up front. This raises the mass of the bike, but as mentioned in the 700 review, too low a CoG can make a bike hard to turn easily. and on the dirt, including loose hairpins, the 750 didn’t exhibit the resistance I felt in the 700.

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The 750 and 850 are oddly fitted with a, to me, anachronistic telescopic steering dampers which I’ve not seen since the 70s and which to me signifies a way of disguising a bike’s instability due to poor frame design. It’s not mentioned under that name as in the long press release pdf. A few years ago there was a new version of the 1200GS which was soon recalled or somehow hampered with an unpredictable steering shimmy fixed by retrofitting a steering damper, iirc. Perhaps the 853-cc twins are set up with the same angles and weight distribution. I couldn’t see any way of adjusting the damper and it didn’t have any electronics attached to it.
Road or trail, out of the crate the 750 retains the same excellent suspension without masses of baffling adjustments. For the first few days I left the rear preload as it was, then gave the HPA (left) several cranks (maybe 5 full turns) which stopped my boots dragging (and even being dragged off) on some bends. (I had the same problem with the Sertao the previous week; I’ve never had feet dragged off the pegs before, but they did point down at 45°). Once firmer up and raised a bit, much less boot dragging though I felt I should have increased the rebound damping a tad, but could not be bothered to meddle as it worked fine.

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One sad day I’ll count them up, but the circuit I use in southern Morocco must have over a thousand bends. By the end of it I was confidently swinging through the less gravelly curves, never needing to rev over 5000 rpm (about 120kph) to make progress at a location-related pace (ie: not going berzerk).
On start-up it produces a cleverly engineered bark, but like the weight, that soon dissipates on the move and there’s little impression of the off-beat crank’s charismatic throb, even if the torque is all there. For a 270°, the motor lack the character of Yamaha’s CP2 700s (which make 10% less power) and even the NC750 I briefly owned.
On one very steep, rough and loose switchback climb I made the conscious effort not to slip the clutch (done to minimise the risk of stalling and then falling over) and the 750 managed to chug its way at walking pace round most bends until I lost my nerve or ran out of space. You’d not manage that on a big thumper, though next week I’ll try the same test on a 310. I only got to log two tanks to accurately estimate the fuel consumption which averaged 70mpg (58.2 US; 25kpl). One reading was 10% higher, the other 10% lower and pretty similar to the 2012 650 (68.2) but much lower than the 700 (81mpg) with 100,000 on the clock. This reading closely matched the displayed average of 4L/100km (25kpl).

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This was my second chance to get to grips with traction control (or Automatic Stability Control: ‘ASC’). On gravelly tarmac the TC light fluttered briefly on the dash, and trying to activate it on the dirt, occasionally the power was notably constrained to hold the back-end in line. But this was me throttling on like an idiot; normally I’d exercise my own traction control to keep wheelspin as I want it. On the dirt letting the back-end step out is usually intentional, either because it’s fun or to rear-wheel steer and square off a tight corner. This is as opposed to the front, which once slipping usually ends in a fall. That’s what you’re really trying to avoid, especially on road tyres but there’s no way electronics can manage that; it takes better tyres or less speed.
It’s likely that on a long, steep and loose climb the TC would beneficially constrain wheelspin, but only up to a point. On low-traction slopes of sand, mud or wet grass I bet it would soon tie itself in knots. Only momentum and knobbly tyres work here but would take quite a nerve piloting nearly a quarter on a ton of 750GS.

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It seems to me that TC and modes are nifty but non-essential riding aids which – at negligible weight penalty (unlike ABS) – have become inexpensive enough to throw on to bikes which don’t really need either but which help give the impression of added safety getting more for your money. If they’re serious about safety, I’d sooner see TPMS included as stock, but you can buy a kit for 30 quid. TC and modes might suit riders without decades of pre-electronic riding experience under their belts. As with GPS or smartphones, you either merely find them handy; or you don’t know how or can’t see the point of managing without them.

They say the cast tubeless wheels have been strengthened. Good to know and I like the easy-access valves (left) which eliminate grovelling about with an inflation hose. Fitting a TPMS cap might make it a bit vulnerable to flying rocks, but the valves at least can be easily replaced. On a long trip I’d carry spares.
The ABS was never an issue on the dirt (though I didn’t do any emergency braking). I did find the brakes – or associated fork dive – a bit grabby, but better too much than not enough and the ABS safety net is always here. On the Sertao the previous week, the ill-positioned brake pedal saw me lose the back brake on long descents. No such problems on the twin.

Some LED dash figures like the clock were too thin and therefore hard to read at a glance, but once I got my head around it, the menu on the left bar displayed some useful data including 3 trip meters (including daily), average and live L/100km (hopefully changeable to another metric), ambient and water temperatures and remaining range. I can confirm that the bike I was riding had logged 114 riding hours in 6300kms.
I didn’t cover huge distances in one sitting but the seat on the 750 felt a whole lot better than previous iterations (not hard to do). I think it may even have been height adjustable, but though I took it off a couple of times for other reasons, this was not obvious.

I can’t say the same for the near-useless piece of clear plastic screen (left) which just gives the mounting bolts something to do until you fit something actually useful. I did notice the slimness in the bike’s waistline did make standing up much more comfortable than on the older underseat-tank models. The bars were the usual 2 inches too low for me (6′ 1″). Under the seat there’s some useful stash space, partly because of the skimpy, three-piece toolkit (right).

Summary
On the road and easy trails there really is very little to dislike about the 750GS. I know everyone will ignore me but it’s got enough of everything you need in a travel bike with maybe a little too much weight and electronics. The looks are subjective but I’d say are an improvement and in line with the current humpbacked GS look, all the way down to the 310GS. It’s got a potential 400km range, plus the brakes, torque and stock suspension to do it all. Essential additions would include an actual screen, a centre stand plus pannier racks for your luggage and probably a bashplate and other protection. Having tried it, I could live without TC and a rain engine mode (which I forgot to try) and settle for a similar bike like a mechanically proven Tracer (old model from £6700; 2020 model £7400 claimed) or 19-inch V-Strom for less weight and a lot less money.

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Tested: Michelin Anakee Wild review

Supplied by Michelin for review

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HimBikespread

Michelin’s Anakee Wild came out in 2016, replacing the venerable T63 which we used on Desert Riders in 2003 (with similar patterned Mich Deserts on the rear).
Since then, adventure motorcycling – aka: touring on big trail bikes – has become a thing. The Wilds address the need to give heavier, more powerful machines some genuine off-road ability – or looks – without resorting to expensive competition tyres like the famous Dakar-inspired Michelin Desert.
I ran these Anakee Wilds tubeless in Morocco and Western Sahara on my Enfield Himalayan130/80-17 M/C 65R TL on the back on a wider, sealed Excel rim, and a 90/90-21 M/C 54R TL on the front, initially with a Tubliss core, then tubed. Both wheels were initially Slimed, too. Best price new in the UK is £85 for the rear and £66 for the front.
Unlike some new knobbly-ish tyres, on my Himalayan the Wilds rode and cornered normally from new, with no odd, K60-like squirming until bedded in. With the aid of Michelin’s new TPMS, I ran them at around 28 psi or 2 bar, dropping only a couple of pounds for long, multi-day off-road stages.

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Let’s face it, there’s no great mystery in tread patterns – you can see the Wilds will work well on loose surfaces, while the shallow knobs won’t flex disconcertingly on the road. The Himalayan may be heavy for what it is, but it hasn’t got the power to put these Anakees in a spin. On good mountain roads I pretty much forgot about the reduced contact surface of the knobs and was able to swing through the bends up to the point of grounding the centre stand or the soles of my boots. They never budged.
On the dirt it was the same feeling of reassurance tempered by a riding style aware of where I was (when riding alone). The Anakees never made any unpredictable moves, just bit down through the gravel and grit to help make the Enfield easy to manage.
Perhaps the tyres’ biggest test was having to ride 250 clicks on a flat front when the Tubliss core packed up irreparably in the desert. To be fair the punctured core helped keep the tyre on the rim, making straight-line riding easy. But to keep the tyre from over-heating I kept the speed down to 30mph. I’m not so sure a non-premium brand tyre would have survived such use so well. It also suggests that the firmer carcass of a TL tyre is more robust, even if it weighs substantially more than a tube type tyre. On a long rugged ride with a heavy, tubed bike like a one-litre Africa Twin, there may be something to be said for running a heavy TL tyre, even with inner tubes. The extra meat will provide added protection against flats.

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I did experience one flat on the front while running a cheap, paper-thin tube. I get the feeling a rocky off-road stage may have benefitted from slightly reduced tyre pressures to allow the tyre to form around the sharp stones, rather than press hard into them. It did seem to be a genuine puncture, not a result of hasty kerbside mounting (above), remnants of Slime or a duct tape rim liner. The rear also picked up a nail early on between the knobs, but I’ve left it there.
By the end of the 3,700-mile trip, the last week guiding a tour of mostly 310GSs, the back had 5mm in the centre of the tread and the front a few mils more. It suggests at least 5000 miles from a rear with about 30% off-road use. As the miles have passed it feels like the smooth, stable edge has come off the ride in corners – normal with any ¾ worn tyre I’ve found – but the front knobs have no evidence of vibration-inducing cupping. The Himalayan’s front brake hasn’t got the bite to achieve that. The Anakee Wild is a harder-wearing 60/40 tyre than the ubiquitous, soft and similarly all-road performing Conti TKC80.

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Himalayan: Out of the Western Sahara

Himalayan Index Page

dig treeWith back up from Mark in a 4×4 sat alongside Colin on a Nikon, we set off for the 1100-km ride from Assa through the Western Saharan interior to Dakhla via Smara and the Digtree (left), a fuel cache I had buried in 2015.

The fuel may have been getting a bit ripe by now, but all was going well until I hit irreparable tyre troubles just 100km from the Digtree. I limped back 250km to Layounne, got fixed up and, now out of time before I meet my tour group, we settled for a leisurely drive north up the windswept Atlantic coast. Not for the first time, my Sahara plans slipped through my fingers.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHooning about on a clay pan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe century-old Aéropostale base at Cape Juby (Tarfaya).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInside the base.

him-capjubyCap Juby in its heyday.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATojo wheels + jerries – the only windbreaks for miles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWatchtower on a berm just 50km from the Mauritanian border.

him-steamHot steam and rubber. Cleaning out the Slime.

him-sarawi‘Moto – Landrover – Layounne?’ I point to each and try and persuade a Saharawi to transport my bike to the coast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChurned up, sandy gorge at MW6 KM246. The Himalayan meets it’s limit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey like the word Sahara out here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACrossroads where MW6 joins MW7. Came from the left on the WR in 2017.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKhnifiss Bird Lagoon.

him-jerryTopping up for the day. A can will do me at least 500km.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADesert dawn near Gueltat Zemmour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA Dakar Rally mound. Pushed up every kilometre or so as landmarks right along our route to the Digtree and beyond.

him-chatMost of the riding is easy, as above. But it only takes one lapse in concentration.

him-blissRemoving the punctured Tubliss core in Layounne.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAColourful beetle.

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Ex-Dakar track.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe mouth of the Draa which rises near Ouarzazate in the High Atlas, but very rarely flows in its entirety the 1000-odd km to the ocean.

him-fbj-route.jpgOut of Tiznit we took an interesting track along the Oued Assaka to Fort Bou Serif ruins for a spot of lunch and some filming.

WR-ing about in Morocco – 7

Leaving Tan Tan Plage. Up the coastal highway to Guelmim, then inland into the mountains where the skies are about to drop with a big crash.
I Rukka up. Not in a £1000 two-piece suit, but a classic 1980s PVC onesie off ebay for 40 quid.
If you positively, absolutely do not want to get wet (other than what runs down your neck), classic Rukka PVC is the best. Just be careful what you search for – some uses of Rukka PVC onesies are unorthodox and NSFW.

I start climbing. It looks grim up there.

 

No PVC onesies for these two. Woollen jelabas rubbed with goat fat does just fine.

Between the downpours you can smell the scent of the herbs off the hillsides.
Riding a bike all day makes it easy to dodge food, but at this little village shop I pull in for some bread, cheese and yogs.

Laughing Cow – one of the great travel foods of Africa. You’ll find it all the way to the Cape and back.
Rumour has it Damien Hirst got his idea to pickle a cow in formaldehyde after finding a 15-year-old packet of Vache down the back of his sofa one night while on the munchies, and finding it tasted unnervingly fresh.

 

After Tafraoute the road climbs steeply onto the western Anti Atlas. It gets bleak and darn chilly.
I watch the elevation rise to over 1900m or 6200’ and get colder and colder and colder.

 

Back again at the basic Igherm hotel – 7 quid rooms. If the footie was on there’d be standing room only in the bar, but it’s just some bint reading the news.
Luckily, hot chorba (soup) is on. I get two bowls worth then retire to my cell to warm up from the inside.

 

Next morning – chilly – but WR fires up on the button. I love that about efi.

 

Down the road towards the High Atlas.

 

In Taliouine I decide I’ll try the Jebel Sirwa transit (MH7), seeing as I’ve not done it for years.

 

I ride the switchbacks up to Askaoun. A few kms out of town is a rough sign for Anzal.

 

Last time I did this route I met two locals in a VW Golf, but the track is a lot rougher than I remember – a bad sign as it means it’s no longer used by locals. Sure enough I get to the gorge and the track is now a streambed. A fourbie could crawl over this in Low 1st and so could I, but alone, I decide not to risk it. As many of us know well, it takes just one unlucky fall-over to do in a shoulder.

Instead, back at Askaoun I turn west. They’ve sealed the other half of MH7 – a lovely spring afternoon’s ride down to…

 

… the dam which is brimming over with a winter’s rain.

 

Another £1 vache stop at the village shop. A couple of KTMs and a DRZ shoot by. The first bikes I’ve seen.

It’s pizza night at the Bab Sahara in Tazenacht! The staff dress up like pantomime gondoliers and Pavarotti booms from the speakers. “Just one Cornetto… Give it to meee”.

 

Tazenacht is a normal market town and a great place to buy Berber carpets at good prices and zero hassle. I can’t resist a couple.
That’s £120 quid’s worth – a lot of money really, but all dyed and woven by hand.
I only hope the women who weave them out in the villages on the Issil plane get their fair share, but I doubt it.

 

Just another photogenic ruined mudbrick kasbah off the Oued Draa valley.

 

The dam up at Ouarzazate releases water daily to irrigate the gardens and palmeries all the way down to Mhamid on the Algerian border. Produce, eggs and meat as fresh as you like (vachish excepted).

 

I pull in at Tamnougalte. Tomorrow I’ll try a gnarly new way over Jebel Sarhro, then over the High Atlas and home.

 

Part 8  > > >

WR-ing about in Morocco – 2

WR250R 4000-km review
WR Introduction
WR250R Stage 1
WRing about in Wales
WR250R ready for the desert
Morocco 4000-km trip report, 1–9
Fuel log

West to Tata I ride the stony reg alongside the road. The WR takes the transition like a duck to water

Why is the chain so slack? Because you fitted a 13T, idiot! The old brane is going.
I pull in at Tagmout to blag an open 12 which I forgot too. Barely accessible chain adjusting lock nuts look cheap. Bring back snail cams!

A lovely spot up the road to Igherm I recall from 1999 in our HJ61 (below), before it was a road.

Nightfall in Igherm. But within an hour a riot flared up and the whole place got torched. Crazy!
I buy a 12mm for 80p. Morocco is easy like that.

Been looking forward to doing the lovely MW3/8 route again via Tazalaght.
Last did it in 2008 on the XT660Z.  It was the so-so cover of the original edition of Morocco Overland.

My camera has got better now. You ride the river bed past palms and folded rock strata. It gets narrower later on, with big trackside boulders – not the best piste to ride on a flat twin on road tyres.

Up on the Tizkhit plateau.

I come across a new haul road and get totally confused. I follow it anyway – a good fast ride. Amazing western Anti Atlas; you can keep your Erg Chebbi ;-)

Ah ha, that clears it all up then!

I back up to a tap to refill the hydrator while eating yoghurts and bananas. I am a master of multi-tasking.

The lovely, tranquil gite at Igmir.
We were last here in a dog of a Merc 190D.
Took an hour to get out of the steep gorge, to let it cool down.
The road is sealed by the time you read this, but still a spectacular climb.

Tea and bix are served and the day’s writing up begins. Notice my sunburned hands; need to wear gloves.

Nightfall in Igmir. But it’s a Thursday so an hour of repetitive chanting from the mosque ensues.

Now that’s what I call a Full Moroccan brekkie!

Trying a tank bag for the first time in years. I think they might catch on.

They’ve nearly finished a road through the MA2 Smouguene valley, but it now bypasses the villages so takes the soul out of the original route. Same story all over Morocco but locals won’t be complaining.

The bike is on a steady 84mpg, with one burst up at 95 on that slow, over-Atlas day from Demnate. But then last year’s Honda CB500X RR did about the same AND could sit on 80mph, gale or no gale. The real (only?) benefit is 60kg (or some 30%) less weight. On the dirt that is a big, big plus.
This is why we want a ‘CRF450L’ but based on a detuned RX (or Dakar) motor.
Or a WR450R. Or a modern injected DRZ450. Or…. or…
550km to a tank is dead handy. It means you can wing it up some unknown track like that haul road just to see where it goes.

Some days I feel more gazelle than jackal.

I light out to Zag on the off chance, but as expected, get cordially turned back at the checkpoint (closed section of border road too close to Polisario HQ in Tindouf, Alg).
Should have left him the passport and had a quick look in town, anyway.

So I swing in down MW6 for Smara. Too risky to try this one alone in this heat, so I camp a 100 clicks in.
I realise it’s my first solo moto desert camp since Libya ’98 on a Funduro. I need to get out more.

Part 3   > > >