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ADV BikesBuilding the Ultimate BMW F800GS RTW Bike

Building the Ultimate BMW F800GS RTW Bike

 Portuguese Adventure Rider Designs a Bike Custom Made to Circle the Globe.

Published on 04.03.2018

What’s the ultimate adventure bike? That’s like asking, “What’s the best oil?,” or “What kind of tires should I use?” Everyone has an opinion, and these topics often get heated.

A better question might be, “What’s the best adventure bike for what I want to do?” For Portugal native José “Zé” Duarte, the answer was a 50/50 on-off road bike. Something that paid homage to the great classic dual sports like the Suzuki DR650, the Honda XR650L, and the Kawasaki KLR650, but updated the concept with modern suspension components and electrics, higher horsepower, and comparable weight. Unfortunately, as Duarte explains, that motorcycle doesn’t exist. So he built it himself, with the express purpose of taking it on a one-year trip around the world that began March 19.

BMW Motorrad Portugal partnered with Duarte to jointly build a bike for his journey. “We decided to let our imaginations go wild and produce a very special 2017 F800GS to celebrate the last production year of this iconic GS model,” explained Duarte. The result? A globetrotting bike that weighs 456 pounds (207 kg) wet, puts out 100 horsepower, carries 6.3 gallons (24 liters) of fuel and is able to cover 310 miles (500 kilometers) between gas stops. It was a lofty goal, considering that the stock F800GS puts out 85 horsepower and weighs 478 pounds wet carrying the standard 4.2 gallons (16 liters) of fuel.


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BMW F800GS Round the World Adventure Motorcycle Build

Purpose-Built BMW F800GS

One thing that helped Duarte meet his weight goal was the idea behind the bike itself: a less-complicated machine with ties to the original mile-crushing dual sports. That made his decision to shed the ABS, traction control and electronically adjustable suspension components easy. He’s not opposed to electronic aids, but as he puts it, “It’s another part that can fail. Also, it’s OK to turn off all aids every time one goes off-road, but it’s not OK to do so daily, or multiple times a day, especially when you have a one-year journey ahead. You’ll eventually forget about it and get scared out of your mind when the bike does not react as you are expecting.”

BMW F800GS Round the World Adventure Motorcycle Build

BMW F800GS Round the World Adventure Motorcycle Build
Rear brake left-hand system with rear brake reservoir on the handlebar (rear brake is usable on the handlebar or on the foot).

His GS now sports 48mm WP forks with 10.6 inches (270 mm) of travel up front, and a Mupo AB shock in the back. Other cockpit mods include Renthal Twinwall handlebars, a Scotts steering damper, a left-hand supplemental rear brake system with the master cylinder mounted on the handlebar, and a custom instrument tower integrating a lightweight LED headlight with a BMW R1200GS windscreen.

Duarte put on a Rekluse auto clutch to reduce fatigue on big-mile days and for when the going gets rough. To bump the power, he modified the bike’s air box, installed a complete exhaust system from Italian manufacturer QD, and remapped the bike’s fuel injection.

BMW F800GS Round the World Adventure Motorcycle Build

BMW F800GS Round the World Adventure Motorcycle Build

Out back he modified the F800GS’s subframe, including small, easily removable footpegs that weigh less than the stock units and allow him to carry a passenger if the situation calls for it. (Duarte is traveling with his girlfriend who is relatively new to riding. She’s on her own Yamaha XT660R, which he also helped prep for the trip.) He also beefed up the frame at the upper shock mounting point and installed a stronger mounting bolt.

BMW F800GS Round the World Adventure Motorcycle Build

Details Worthy of an Adventurer

For Duarte, his bike will be more than a means of transportation. “On the road, the motorcycle will be my house, my garage and my support truck for the next year, and that forces some special and dedicated changes.” Some long-distance-riding touches throughout the bike include:

• Splicing into the fuel line to easily access gas directly from the bike’s tank. All he has to do is open a tap mounted on the frame of the bike, turn the key and the bike’s fuel pump will do the rest, providing gas for camp stoves or stranded travelers, and it’s an easy way to drain the tank should he get bad fuel somewhere on the journey.

• Outside plug to quickly jump-start the bike or give a battery push to anyone in need without having to take plastics off.

• Dedicated fusebox for heated gear and other accessories.

• Cooling fan bypass so he can switch the fan on and off manually if he thinks the bike needs additional cooling capacity.

• External plug for the onboard air compressor.

BMW F800GS Round the World Adventure Motorcycle Build

Finally, the bike is as pretty as it is functional. Duarte stripped the F800GS down, powder coated bits like the frame and swingarm, and put it back together with custom decals for a one-off look. It’s now got a purposeful, clean look that’s half adventure bike, half Dakar Rally racer.

Duarte cataloged the whole process on his blog Tea2Wine and YouTube channel, which is inspirational material even if you don’t plan to go to the lengths he did to build a bike. He’s got some great insights on bike maintenance, mods, planning and building. His whole trip, which has taken years to put together, is a lesson in patience and persistence. As he learned, if you can’t buy the bike you want, build it yourself, but don’t be in too much of a rush. Things get complicated when you deviate from stock.

➤ Click Here For Modifications List

Photo credit: João Krull

Author: Bob Whitby

Bob has been riding motorcycles since age 19 and working as a journalist since he was 24, which was a long time ago, let’s put it that way. He quit for the better part of a decade to raise a family, then rediscovered adventure, dual sport and enduro riding in the early 2000s. He lives in Arkansas, America’s best-kept secret when it comes to riding destinations, and travels far and wide in search of dirt roads and trails.

Author: Bob Whitby
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5 thoughts on “Building the Ultimate BMW F800GS RTW Bike

  1. Ultimate RTW F800? Doesn’t exist. Doesn’t matter what you do with it, it will still be just a fat pig. Sorry. It’s good enough to ride any maintained dirt road, but anywthing apart from that.. Unless you are a 10 year enduro pro, you can’t ride where you REALLY want to. So yes, you can RTW this pig if you don’t have time or real lust or time to do the really ULTIMATE remote parts ot the W. After all, the ultimate is very different to every each one of us 🙂 Best anyways of luck!

    • I follow this rider and he is doing just fine circling the world on this bike. And trust me, he ain’t no hardcore enduro pro.

    • Hey Sean, it is a custom made seat he ordered in Portugal, made with his specifications including gel memory foam. He adds “and that design to allow me to think of kids once the trip is over ;)”

  2. Pingback: Ultimate BMW F800GS RTW Bike Build Modifications List - ADV Pulse