So a couple of weeks before I left for Baja, I was talking to Brad Barker, from The Ride of my Life. When he found out that I had not yet switched out my skid plate for the Black Dog Cycle Works skid plate, he insisted that I needed to do that BEFORE I went to Baja… not after. So I agreed and within 5 minutes, Brad had ordered me a skid plate and it was on the way. He’s awesome!
A few days later it arrived, and James and I installed it on my ’09 BMW 1200 GS Adventure.
The directions were very straight forward, and it went on with no trouble. One interesting thing that we discovered when we took off my old plate, was that one of the bolt housings had actually been broken in half, illustrating the results of having the skid plate screw into the motor.
So with my new skid plate on, I headed to Baja. Before we even got to the dirt, we hit some Vados (which are fords… or low spots in the road where water can occasionally pass over the road). Imagine you are 250 lbs, and you and your 600+ pound bike and all your gear are riding along at 80 MPH and hit one of these vados. The result is that your nearly 1000 lb mass becomes airborne, and then gracefully touches down a few yards down the road. This happened on more than one occasion, and believe me, the landing isn’t that graceful. The funny thing is that I figured I would need a solid skid plate for off-road, but never imagined that it might also be useful for highway use.
The next day, we did hit some dirt, and I found out that even off road, they have vados. The difference is that off-road, you might be ripping along and suddenly you hit a dip, and as you begin going up the other side, there is a concrete pad (I guess to help with traction and prevent erosion) that is about 5″ higher than the dirt track you are riding on. First, your front wheel takes a massive hit, then as you reach the top, you become airborne. But now when you land, you might be landing on big rocks and ruts. On days 3 and 4, I had the pleasure of riding with some of the guys from BARF. These were some of the greatest guys I have ever ridden with. All of them were on dirt bikes, and they had a good time razzing me about where I was going to find a Starbucks in Baja. But I did ride with them, and was determined not to fall too far behind. Now while the 1200 GSA is a tough bike, it is NOT meant to keep up with expert dirt bike riders in Baja. The result was a lot of bottoming out, a flat in my sidewall, and a REALLY good test of my new Black Dog skid plate. Tom even commented that he thought my skid plate was a part of my suspension, because it was absorbing so much impact when I landed. In my case, after 5 days of off-road riding, I think I hit some of everything. The new skid plate was getting a workout. On my oil cooled GS, Black Dog makes a center stand guard that lines up behind the skid plate and actually works with the skid plate.
On the second day on dirt, I actually tore 3 of the 4 clamps holding the center stand guard in place, so I had to stop riding and take the plate off for the remainder of my trip.
When I got down to Mulege, I sent a message to Kurt and Martha of Black Dog Cycle Works and let them know I was in the area. Before I could get a reply, I took off to ride. About an hour later, Scott and I stopped for a burrito, and who walks in the restaurant but Kurt Forget of Black Dog. How bizarre is that? After eating, we found out that Kurt only lived about 100 yards from where we were eating, so we went over to take a snapshot at the International HQ and get one of the coveted Black Dog South stickers.
My trip to Baja was incredible, and I can’t thank Brad enough for urging me to get the Black Dog skid plate on before my trip, or to Kurt, for making such a remarkable product.
I have no doubt in my mind, that without this skid plate, I would likely have torn the bottom half of my motor off on some of these rides. Not only would I have been stranded 50 miles from cellular phone service, but I would have done $1600 in damage to my bike, and have been stranded in Mexico. The fact that this plate attaches to the frame, instead of screwing into the motor is all the difference in the world. Look at these “after” pictures of my new skid plate and decide for yourself. Could YOUR skid plate sustain these deep impacts?
Look at the crease INSIDE the skid plate! Can you image a stock plate standing up to that? How many bolts do you think I would have sheared on a different plate?
If you are still on the fence about whether or not Black Dog Cycle Works makes the best skid plates out there, let me assure you that you can not find a better plate. I give this the highest rating and urge you to invest in one if you plan to ride off road.