22 , 2010
"Anyone know where I can find a left-hand side System case for under $200? It must have fallen off at some point of a 200-mile leg and didn't realize until I stopped for gas."
Coming back from the BMWRA rally last year I was on a small road in West Virginia and right after a big seam in the road I saw a BMW System Case sitting on the side of the road. I pulled off to take a look - it was unlocked and inside was nothing but a heap of anonymous dirty clothes. With no way to ID the rider I left it there where it could be seen, hoping the rider might come back looking for it.
BMW cases are strong and secure, but once in a blue moon, especially if the locking bracket is left unlocked, they will decide to liberate themselves from the bike and take up a new perch on the side of the road. Often a lucky rider will notice this and go back for it, equally as often however the rider will not notice until he is far down the road with no idea where it might have gone. The rider might get lucky and someone may find it, break it open and be able to ID the rider by the contents, more often though this is not the case. The same is true of any of a number of things we keep on our bikes, from dry bags stuffed with camping gear to the front pocket covers on RT bikes. You can minimize the chances of this happening by locking bag mounts and locking the lids, and maximize the chances for recovery by putting contact information on these things.
The best way to ID your hard cases is to either buy a silver autograph pen from a Hallmark or other stationary store and write your phone number and e-mail with "Reward for Return" on the inside portion of the bag under the frame rail, or affix a label in the same spot covered with clear packing tape to protect and waterproof. In this location the information is completely hidden from casual onlookers and protected from the weather - the info is only seen when the bag is off the bike. Should you decide to sell the bike, the marking is removable with a rag and a can of WD-40 or simply by removing the tape and the label.
Here is your hard case on your bike:
Now, where to put the contact information? It should be somewhere completely out of sight of anyone while the bag is on the bike. It should be protected from the weather, and it must be clear of anything that might constantly rub against it.
Voila! See the red arrow. Completely hidden, protected from the weather, free of constant rubbing (that happens on the side and above!)
Now you can either write it in with the paint pen or affix a piece of paper or sticker (Avery #2160 1"x2.5" works great) with a piece of clear packing tape over. Here I have printed Avery Labels with: "IF FOUND PLEASE CALL 703-XXX-XXXX -- REWARD FOR RETURN", then covered with the clear tape, trimming with scissors to just enough to overlap about 1/8" all around.
When this is on the bike it is completely invisible, but as you can see quite visible should someone find it on the side of the road.
OK, what about the 22-Liter topcase? The perfect spot is along one of the bottom rails to each side of the pin that holds the case to the mounting plate. This spot is again completely invisible while on the bike, protected from the weather, and though it looks like it might rub the mounting plate, mine hasn't yet.
Battery covers! Correct ones are hard to find in decent shape, and even harder to find in the correct color. Be careful taking these on and off, the low mount can get brittle over time. As you can see from the inset, if you have a low seat K75 you don't have any battery covers -instead you have a big rubber thing (technical BMW term.)
Front Pocket Lids!
These are not terribly expensive to replace but once purchased you will also need to buy a lockset and then either deal with multiple keys or go through the process of keying for your bike (the red arrow below points to the hassle and expense of losing these...)
Marking these things will only take a few moments and can save a lot of hassle.
The following sounds like a bit of an undertaking but should you ever need the info you will never regret having done it. Losing a wallet or pair of prescription eye glasses can stop a trip in its tracks. You can minimize the hassle of dealing with such a loss with a little preparation. Start by typing the following in small font - your credit card numbers and credit card company contact numbers; bank account number, debit card number and bank contact info; any important prescriptions with doctor and doctor's contact info, exact prescription with issuing pharmacy prescription number and pharmacy phone number; and cell phone provider contact number. If you are worried about having account numbers like this all in one place just use a simple code, for instance you might end each account number with a "u" reminding you that the last digit you've written (or all digits) is actually one less - a "4" instead of the actual "5", so you have to go up one. In practice, an account number "545-3031" would be listed as "545-3030u", or for all, 434-2920u".
Print this out so it is all in the top left corner of the paper. Stop by a Kinko's or other office supply store with your important documents - you'll want to have your current registration and insurance information, passport if you are going across the border, eyeglass prescription, and anything else you might need. If you have fax/scanner/printer like I do this can be done in the comfort of your own home :) Spend some time on a photocopy machine so that the front of a sheet of paper you have your typed-in info in the top left corner and the rest of the page the front and back of your drivers license, front and back of your insurance card, eyeglass prescription, and passport (use "reduce" if you are having problems getting things to fit.) On the back of the piece of paper have your registration and insurance documents (front and rear) and things like roadside service cards.
When you are done, go back and make sure your social security number is blackened out with a sharpie if it appears anywhere (for some reason health insurance companies love to put this on your card!) Take this sheet of paper and seal it into a small zip-loc baggie, then tape it with wide black cloth tape on the underside of the storage compartment lid under the seat where it is hard to find and well disguised (then keep your seat locked!)
It sounds like a bit of an undertaking but in practice it took me about 30 minutes - 30 minutes I am pretty sure I will be very happy to have spent should I ever lose something and need it - like the time my prescription glasses broke in Montreal and I had to pay $100 at a mall optometrist to get a new prescription because I didn't have a copy with me.
Here is mine with just my personal info smudged out:
(Ha ha - though seriously, that really is it.)
Have a spare key made and zip-tie it to a zipper on the inside of your riding jacket - makes for a great zipper pull and you'll never be left roaming around a campsite on your hands and knees in the rain looking for a key you might never find (thanks to Chiba for this one!)
It is inevitable that at some point you will lose your camera, either leaving it on your bike as you speed off, at a restaurant table, you name it. An easy way to help ensure it will be returned is to fire up your computer and open up your word processor, maximize it so it takes up the whole screen, then type in something like the following (this is mine, with info smudged because this is the Internet after all...)
Turn off your flash and take a picture of it. In your camera settings you will see a selection for "Protect" - select Protect, then select this photo so you will not accidentally delete it. As you cycle through images in time this will be the first photo that pops up when you turn on the photo view of the camera. I use my cell number first and home second. This has worked now twice with neither "finder" asking for a reward though in both cases a bottle of red wine was warmly received (as you might guess, after once leaving it on the tail case when leaving a scenic overlook and another time leaving it on a restaurant table.) A detailed step by step is here - this was done with a Canon point and shoot, but most cameras are similar.
Aside from putting a sticker on the bottom with owner's info I also include a text file in the top left corner of the desktop called "OWNER'S INFORMATION" with similiar info. You can also tape the info underneath as mentioned above with the bags, just make SURE not to cover any vents!
That's it for today - Happy Motoring!
(Thanks to Mike for this one :))