How to The Journey

The joy of jerryrigging

There are all kinds of positive aspects to motorcycling –– I wrote about several of them not too long ago –– but one of the lesser-known positives is the incredible sense of satisfaction that you get from coming up with a solution to a problem.

Sometimes the solution can be purchased. My shed is an example of that; it’s a solution to the problem of British weather. The Constands centre stand dolly I use is another example; allowing me to navigate the Strom through the tight corners of my courtyard so I can put it in the aforementioned shed.

Especially gratifying, however, are those instances when you come up with your own, homemade solution.

So, here was the problem I faced: there isn’t any particularly good place to mount a GPS (aka sat-nav) on a Suzuki V-Strom 1000. Indeed, the only place available on your standard Strom is on the handlebar. And because much of the ‘bar space is eaten up by switchgear, handguard mounts, mirror mounts, brake reservoir and heated grip controller, you have to attach the GPS low –– where the ‘bar bends down to the clamps.

This is less than ideal at the best of times. Placing the GPS so low puts it out of your immediate line of sight when riding, forcing you to take your eyes off the road and look down to follow directions (a). Meanwhile, if you mount a tank bag view of your GPS will be blocked completely.

This is my old setup. It may not look like it from this angle but the GPS was mounted particularly low.

The solutions currently offered by the aftermarket aren’t terribly good. Suzuki sells an installation bracket that bolts to the clamp. If you look at the bracket, however, it doesn’t appear it would raise the GPS more than 2 inches –– just enough to peak out from behind a tank bag, maybe, but still low and out of your line of sight.

Touratech sells something similar, but it looks particularly difficult to install. They also, however, sell a handlebar crossbar that is cheaper, less fiddly, and looks like it would allow you to mount a GPS just that little bit higher (probably half an inch to an inch higher than the clamp-mounted system).

When I say “cheaper” I say that within the Touratech context. The crossbar, which is nothing more than a piece of metal with some bolts, has a list price of £26.09 (US $41.08). Nonetheless, I ordered one.

A month ago.

The confirmation email said it would arrive in 10 days. But to my knowledge, it still hasn’t arrived. Thankfully, I did not pay for the crossbar and had simply scheduled for it to be sent to Touratech’s Wales location. This instance included, I have only dealt with Touratech twice, and both times I’ve been disappointed (b).

But, as I say, even that solution wasn’t terribly good. So, I’m happy fate ruled it out. What I really wanted was a bar that runs above the dashboard display, similar to what you see on the dashboards of the BMW R1200GS and Triumph Tiger Explorer. It is a ridiculously simple thing, but it makes a world of difference.

This is the view from astride a Triumph Tiger Explorer XC. Note the bar that runs above the clocks.

Then, last weekend, as I rode down to Devon, I had an epiphany: I could make a GPS mounting bar for the V-Strom 1000! I could do it myself, just like one of those old dudes that spends all his time on the ADVrider forums.

It occurs to me there might be, somewhere, another Strom owner out there who would also want to mount a GPS, so, this is how I did it:

First, I got a piece of plastic tube that Jenn’s grandfather found in his shed. He keeps various bits of tubing around for gardening projects. The tube is roughly 25 mm in diameter. Then I went down to the local hardware store and bought some 22mm steel tubing of the sort you might use for building a shower rail.

The next step was to cut both pieces to 300 mm using a hacksaw. My idea was to create something to bolt onto the two metal brackets that hold the V-Strom’s adjustable screen. There are several holes already drilled in said brackets, so I figured it would be easy enough to make use of them.

After that, I slid the metal tube inside the plastic tube, thereby creating a bar that’s extra strong (I suspect that either of the tubes would have been good enough on their own, but, hey, why not use two?)

Then I simply needed to hold the bar up to the screen’s brackets where I wanted to bolt it and mark my drill points with a Sharpie. With a 25mm bar, your only choice is to use the bracket holes for the screen’s highest setting.

I took a deep breath (I always get anxious when cutting or putting holes into things), and drilled bolt holes on each side of the bar.

I used a 5mm drill bit to make the holes, then pushed through two 5mm x 40mm bolts (i.e., 5 mm wide and 40 mm in length). From there, it was a simple matter of attaching the whole thing to the Strom’s screen mounts and reattaching the screen (on its lowest setting in this case, though I could probably also use the mid setting holes if I wanted).

And just like that I now have a bar that allows me to mount my GPS well within my line of sight.

I’ll be honest that I was actually surprised to have it work so well. More often than not, anything I do falls into the “Measure Twice, Cut Thrice” school of DIY. I suppose that’s an indication of just how easy this project was; if I can do it, so can you.

Odds are, if you do it, it’ll look better. But I feel there’s something beautifully redneck about that blue plastic. It is exemplary of the kind of ugly-ass fix that a true Texan would build. It’s straight-up Gulf Coast jerryrigging (c). But the most important thing is that it works.

Besides, it won’t stay that way for long. I have decided I will cover the bar with stickers from the countries I’ve ridden to. Before long, it’ll be a prized part of the bike.

Including the cost of hacksaw blades and a drill bit capable of going through metal, this project cost me £8.59 (US $13.52).

Meanwhile, the feeling it gave me to come up with and implement this solution is invaluable. As I was putting it together, I started singing to myself, “I am a genius: a genius who is amazing,” in the style of David Bowie.

How it looks with my GPS mounted

(a) One means of alleviating this issue is hooking up a Bluetooth device in your helmet and syncing it to your GPS so you’re receiving audio direction in addition to the visual direction offered by the map. Unfortunately, I do not have a Bluetooth device in my helmet, nor the money to buy one.  

(b) The other time was when I rode out to the Wales location to ask for advice on which was the best emergency tire repair kit to buy. The woman at the counter was baffled by this question and directed me to a guy whose only input was: “Well, I dunno, to be honest. I don’t really use ’em. I s’pose I’d go for this one by here, ’cause it’s cheapest.” Right. Thanks for the expert advice.

(c) I know the correct spelling is “jury rigging” but that’s not how you’d say it in Texas.