Sandy’s 2014 F800 developed a hard shifting problem when going from 4th to 3rd and 3rd to 2nd back in October while traveling through mainland Mexico. It had gotten progressively worse as we made our way south, and finally while in Colombia there were times it took 4 or 5 attempts to go from 3rd to 2nd. I ruled out “rider error” as it was giving me the same trouble on the rare occasion that I rode the bike on short errands etc. Knowing full well the bike is under warranty but not having time to go through the process of BMW diagnostics in Latin America I chose to visit a highly recommended independent mechanic in Quito Ecuador near Freedom Bike Rentals. The goal was to preserve the trip and not get caught up in semantics. I had done a lot of reading and research to what remedy others found with similar shifting issues. All was pointing to the selector shaft being bent.

After arriving at Freedom Bike Rentals and was introduced to Diego, who ran his repair shop at Freedom Bike Rentals facility. A short explanation with our resident translator Jack, and he was sure he could solve the problem. We didn’t have the parts in hand to change, but opted to open it up anyway and see what could be done.


Nervously awaiting what would be found


Finally exposing the selector shaft all looked pretty good. I could tell the shaft was a bit out of form but not near what I had seen elsewhere online.


There wasn’t as much to this disassembly as I thought but I was glad to be in good hands here.

More bits removed for further inspections




Initially we were unable to duplicate the problem in the shop while turning the rearwheel and shifting through the gears. Another mechanic Diego spoke to on the phone pointed to the clutch being bad of which I kept my disagreement to myself. Diego being a bit like me when solving a problem went back to the bike later in the evening to give the situation another look. I received a text message with news that he was finally able to replicate the problem and expose the cause. As it turned out one of the “pins” on the shift gear that the selector shaft engages with was also slightly bent and was causing hard downshifts. A bit of straightening of both pieces had the bike shifting as good as new. It was well worth the money to be able to convey the suspected problem and have it solved while I stood side by side with the mechanic. Our trip south will be much more enjoyable through the twisties.

Part numbers effected:

23007706750 Selector Shaft
23007712973 Shift Gear

I hope this helps any others with similar issues on the F800.


Dance of a Big Bike Girl


Sandy Dance Article Photo











 Dance of a Big Bike Girl
By Sandy Borden
March 15, 2015

There’s something about a girl who rides a big motorcycle.  She feels a sense of comfort when swinging a leg over, knowing she will be taken care of in the journey though not always knowing the destination. She enjoys the power of the ride though respects it enough to not be too careless.  There’s an ease as she rolls back the throttle and leans into the turns.  My bike is a 2014 BMW 800GS Adventure.  It’s huge.  It’s powerful.  It makes me feel like a badass.  We move as one in perfect synchronicity, swaying from side to side in a dance all our own.  My name is Sandy Borden, and welcome to my perfect ballet.

I’ve always been a big bike girl.  I learned to ride on a 2000 BMW 1150 GS at the age of 36.  A late start, I know, but my time as a pillion had come to an end. My first bike was a 2003 BMW F650GS and remains a part of the family.  When it came to choosing my next ride, I knew I wanted something a little more powerful and willing to carry a load.  You see, I travel with my 13 year old son, Jack, and husband of 21 years, Terry.  We’ve been a motorcycle travel family for over 7 years and as little man grows, so does our load.  Anything I ride must be in it for the long haul, on and off road.  But, that’s not the only criteria.  It must move me from the inside out.

Choosing a bike is very personal.  Though many might try and sway you with suggestions or advice, they won’t keep you from what you crave.  I knew my next bike the first time I saw it in print.  Something clicked.  I knew it could take me from tarmac to talc without hesitation, creating a new dance for our journeys.  Some scoffed at the idea of a female riding such a large machine, but I didn’t mind.  Why would I?  It’s not their first choice, and that’s okay.  We all look for the one that moves us, and this little number was it.

Our first off-road experience left me absolutely giddy as the 800 GSA tackled the dirt and gravel as if it were blacktop.  My new ride was unwavering to whatever the challenge.  I was really going to like this new 21” front wheel.  The extra fuel capacity meant I could enjoy the ride longer without the constant search and fret for fuel.  To look down and see this powerful machine carry me over the road made me regret ever having to put the kickstand down.  It was time to give her a final makeover.  With the last accessory attached and a final thumbs up, it was time to go the distance.  This is when we were going to dance.

Oh, and dance we did.  We journeyed many miles across highways and through cities, finding ourselves under the security of a redwood forest, touching the sands of the ocean in search of the perfect sunset.  Music sang in my helmet as I danced with my new partner.  We found our rhythm as I knew we would.  It was time to get her fully geared up.

She held the tools needed for our family travels with enough power to land us safely at our destination.  I could prepare and cook whatever meal my boys craved on this beautiful machine, never once hearing her complain about her role as the family gathering spot.  It really doesn’t matter the surroundings as everyone always ends up in the kitchen, right?  This bike had many roles to fill and she did each one with the perfect blend of style and good looks.   A few layers of earthy goodness were splashed on to remind us that sometimes the best paths are those less taken.

It wasn’t until I crossed international lines that I realized just how influential a girl on a bike could be.  It wasn’t until I received a standing ovation from a group of Mayan girls in Guatemala that I grasped the notion that a girl on a bike bigger than a 125cc may be a bit of an anomaly.  It wasn’t until I was gassing up in El Salvador and a mother insisted her two daughters have their picture taken with me that the whole idea of being a female “role model” for girls in other countries came to be.  It made me take in my surroundings that much more, noticing that there were no strong female role models for the young girls to follow.  As a girl on a big bike, you get to be that role model and watch the smiles on these young, aspiring faces as you roll by, arms waving in great hopefulness.  That is an image that will remain with me forever.

As a big bike girl, I am a bit of a different breed.  I tend to play with the boys though can easily land with the girls at the end of the day, wine glass in hand.  I like it like that.  Big bike girls like it like that.  How fortunate am I to be part of such a special group of riders?  Very.  To find your tribe is something quite special.  To find your dance, well, that’s something greater altogether.  And with that, I feel blessed.  Cheers.

February 20, 2015


We are now over 5 months into our journey to South America, and there’s one thing that has perplexed me for many months. No matter what little Mexican and Central American families own as far as material possessions, no matter how small their house or few dollars they earned, the vast majority is happy. Why is this when they have so little? Ah, but that’s the thing. Too many in North America (NA) feel that in order to be happy in life, you have to have more “stuff”. Whether it’s high-end clothing or that new car, plumped up kissers or a collection of Mont Blanc pens, we feel the need to accumulate. Through the magic of advertising, from birth we are programmed to believe that to have more “stuff” than the person next to you is to be happy. “You need this NEW and IMPROVED Twist Tie in order to be happy…until the NEWEST AND IMPROVIEST Twist Tie comes out next week.” Wait, are you sure about that? Because we’ve been traveling through some very, very poor areas of what some would consider Third World countries and these lovely people are not just happy, they want to share their happiness and homes with you. Most North Americans (NA’s) have more “stuff” than them, so why are we so, well, angry? Why is it that North America is considered the land of success and prosperity yet we seem to be so disgruntled and bitter for no particular reason? Let’s find out together. (NOTE: Though to date we have traveled through mainland Mexico and 5 countries in Central America, the values remain the same. Because of that, I’m going to focus on Guatemala as my Latin American example. Why? Guatemala is the country that really made us think…and, love…and, learn.)

Ladies Sorting Coffee Beans

We spent weeks living, talking with and observing many different cultures and lifestyles during our time in Mexico and Central America. And in that time we have come to this conclusion…They have it figured out when it comes to being happy. You know what they have that we don’t? Appreciation and respect for true simplicity in this life. Wherever we go, the same basic needs are always there. Food, water, shelter, family. That doesn’t change from country to country. But what they do embody is a genuine appreciation for all they have. Only packed down dirt for a floor? They sweep the leaves and pebbles off that floor every morning to make it look nice for the day. A freshly picked basket of garden veggies and some homemade tortillas? They’ll make sure you eat first as guests are considered family when in their home. They also have respect for their neighbors, their family and themselves. They have respect for their culture and what those who came before them created and achieved. Do you see where I’m going with this? Let me give you a much deeper example.

Terry Doing Dishes_1

We stayed for a week with a lovely Mayan family in San Juan la Laguna on Lake Atitlan. This was a home-stay that Terry found on Air B&B, the lure being that you are essentially coming to live with and be a part of this traditional Mayan family. When we swung open the front sheet metal gate, this is what we found: a perfectly swept dirt and rock path that led to 4 separate, small buildings that housed a husband and wife, their 3 year old son, their 20 day year old daughter, the grandmother, a sister and her husband, 4+ dogs and countless chickens. Oh, and one cat. Yes, you read that correctly. A newborn. Our Mayan family welcomed us with glasses of purified water, freshly sliced watermelon, and a charming room with 3 beds and a private bath. While the young family of 4 stayed in one room, we were given the ‘suite’ while the grandmother stayed in the smaller home in the back with easy access to feeding the chickens. I set up our camping chairs in front of our ‘home’ and chuckled as the grandma pronounced it her seat and settled right in for most of our stay. Our young hostess, Esmerelda, quietly nursed her daughter while standing at the stove making sure dinner was coming along nicely. Terry and Jack sat at the front of the yard with our host, Pedro, and his son, Pedro Antonio, as they attempted to fix a problem on Pedro’s 125cc motorcycle, the family’s only method of transportation. Esmerelda shared with us many traditional Mayan meals and special teas made from leaves grown in the region. The home was very clean, very small, but filled with something too many American homes have lost – pride. Not an arrogant pride that haunts many egos in our culture. But pride in what they have, not in what they have not. Pride in walking the streets of their small town and introducing us to their friends. A smile and “Buenos dias” was shared with every local farmer as they carried enormous sacks of coffee beans or sticks uphill to be weighed and purchased at the mill, the strap of the sack pressing tautly along his forehead as it beared the bulk of the weight, the hands free to carry a machete or sickle. No matter the circumstance, there was always time to smile and greet each other on the street. Always. This was appreciation for the new day you were given. This was respect for your neighbor and the family the next generation they were raising.

Working on Guatemalan motorycle



So, let’s highlight a few things and see if we can’t get out of our own way long enough to make a few changes to our daily lives:


  • Stop with the “stuff”. “Stuff” won’t kiss you goodnight nor will it be there for you when you’re ill. Besides, who wants to have more to dust or clean?
  • I don’t care how much it hurts, crack one open for the man sitting across from you on the train. Shoot a big grin to your kiddo when they least expect it. If they smile back, you all win. Spread the good instead of the toxic.
  • Don’t love your life? Do something about it, and please stop your whining.
  • Stop for a minute and do a history lesson. Did your great grandparents need 4 TV’s to stay entertained?
  • Slow down. Why are we in such a hurry? Maybe it’s time to lighten the calendar instead of cramming in more. Who cares if the family next door juggles careers, kids and an attempt to make it look like a darn good time! Which leads me to…
  • Spend more time with yourself. How are you going to know how to take care of you if you don’t even know who you are?
  • Surround yourself with family, blood or chosen. They make us laugh and are honest enough let us know when we’re doing things right or wrong. They know how to keep us “real”.
  • Finally, you get what you give.

Grandma in The Chair

Trust me, all that I have described are lessons that all 3 of us have had to learn along our journey. A choice to change means you have taken the time to listen to yourself instead of being driven by the actions and suggestions of others. Choosing a life with less “stuff” means a lightness that you’ve craved though never knew just how much until you took the chance. It’s been quite nice this 2-wheel classroom we’ve been rolling through these past several months. Who knows where we’ll be in another 5 months! Stay tuned. There’s a lot more to learn, and we’re ready for the challenge. Cheers.



I’m sitting this morning, sipping Guatemalan coffee on the couch of a friend’s house, just me and the cat wondering what the day will bring.  I know what we HAVE to accomplish this lovely Saturday, but there are too many things yet to do; finding Jack a new pair of shoes is one of them.  This is one of the first mornings I have been upright before 8AM.  It’s not because I’m lazy or on “vacation”.  The truth?  This family motorcycle travel thing is soooo much more than we ever expected.  It’s not just the time together, the lure of the road or showing Jack how to bargain for a fixed-blade knife.  No, there’s a whole other level of survival and exhaustion that comes with this kind of family travel.  It’s been an education in itself, taking several months to find a groove that translates from border to border.  Now that we have our groove, let’s just see how and why we had to relearn and readjust everything we thought we knew up until September 13th.  And here we were, thinking that we’re some kind of experts or something…..

Esmeralda's Mayan Kitchen1

 (Our hostess Esmerelda prepares another fabulous meal in her modest Mayan kitchen)

Coffee Beans 1

(After many hours spent meticulously picking coffee beans they are hauled to the organic processor)

Man Carrying Sticks With Donkey

(Some are able to be more efficient with the help of livestock)

Okay, we all know that basics of survival.  Food, water, shelter, warmth, we get it.  In Guatemala and many other poorer countries around the globe, daily survival is daily life.  Having spent a week with a traditional Mayan family, we were up close to the action and learned what it takes to raise a family during a traditional Mayan day.  Let me see if I can paint a better picture of the day in the life of a Mayan woman – wake up at sunrise, start breakfast, spouse off to work in the coffee fields/construction/forest, get kids dressed, clean up breakfast dishes, start laundry, head to the market for fresh ingredients, feed the animals, start lunch, feed kiddos again, hang laundry, clean lunch dishes, gather eggs, start dinner, fold laundry, spouse home from day of carrying bags of coffee/swinging a hammer/hauling bails of wood, feed family, bathe kiddos, get animals fed again, get ready for bed, fall into bed.  Aside from the daily search for water that occurs in most countries, this is a rough sketch of their every day.  It’s an arduous life though no one complains.  Everyone smiles throughout the day, and they even find time to take care of sick guests who can’t even get out of bed let alone help with the laundry.  Yes, yours truly.  Interestingly enough, we have found that this outline (aside from the chickens and other barnyard friends) has become more or less our daily life.  Crazy true.  Proper shelter, whether it be tent or a room PLUS secure parking for two BMW’s is the first constant.  As any rider knows, even if it’s the best of rooms or apartments, if there is no secure parking for the bikes, you move on.  Why?  These are our “homes”, our only mode of hauling our wears and getting all of us safely from country to country.  Fortunately for this family, we’ve been quite blessed with most of our accommodations.  Remind me later to tell you the story about our German host and his attempt to back his vehicle in the lake.  That was one of the more odd experiences.

Sandy and the Baby_1(Our Mayan hosts had a 3 week new addition to the family of which we enjoyed helping take care of)

Trio Disaster

(The contents of both bikes tend to explode once we hit the room)

Safe Bike Parking

(Secure parking is priority)

Jack and Terry by the Tents_1

(Camping with a view at Lake Atitlan)

Food.  Glorious food!  Solo travel means you can carry a can of tuna and a box of crackers and be somewhat satisfied most of the day.  Two-person travel gets you an extra can, spare crackers, and someone to unpack the gear while the other prepares the meal.  Two riders plus a teenager?  That gets you an argument as to why they have to unpack now, where’s lunch, a mom feeling guilty she hasn’t fed her family as of yet, and a dad that mediates all the madness.  Okay, this is not every day, but doesn’t it make the situation seem more ‘normal’?  I do what I can to provide lively entertainment.  Unlike Terry and I who can survive on a few granola bars and a lime, Jack requires more of a meal than a snack.  Jack’s least favorite days?  When we have to make up the miles with only a bag of chips and a Coke for lunch.  This kid wants a meal.  And, you know what?  Keeping the pillion happy means another 50 miles in our day.  What’s stopping at the roadside cart going to cost us really in the end?  Having mentioned that, there are many choices for street food in every country.  Guatemala seems to be big on pollo y papas (aka ‘fried chicken and fries’).  This smell emanates from most every town you roll through.  If you find yourself closer to the ocean, roadside ceviche is an excellent choice.  With so many culinary roadside options, we’ve narrowed down our list of “What it must have before we’ll stop” list.  One – Tablecloths.  Not joking.  This little added touch lets us know that they’ve taken the time to class up the joint thus attracting more hungry bellies.  Two – There must already be people sitting down eating.  No people equals no Borden’s.  A crowd does psyche one into thinking it must be good.  Three – No drunk customers, garbage lying around or pack of dogs.  Nuff said.  Four – If you try and flag me into your establishment, I’m moving on.  MAN!  That gets very annoying very quickly.  You may have one or two of your own to add, but this formula has worked out pretty well so far.

Roadside Ceviche

 (Some of our best and most interesting meals are roadside stands)

Typical Mayan Dinner

(Typical Mayan meal prepared by our host)

Grandma in The Chair

(The mother of our host was fascinated with the camp chairs. This is where we found her each time we returned from town)

Finding a balance between riding, writing and enjoying our surroundings has plagued us this entire journey.  You go into this thinking, “I’m going get so many pictures and have so much time to get the blog done!”  Wrong.  “I’m going to just hit the road every day and get to South America before Christmas!”  Wrong, again.  There is no right way to travel, but you do need to find YOUR right way to travel.  Charging headfirst and thinking we were going to accomplish all this work is just not happening as we had first thought.  We are now at the point that we’re setting aside work hours, WIFI pending (WIFI is a mere suggestion in Central America, not a guarantee).  We’ve claimed the mornings as our work time, watching the clock carefully as it’s very easy to let time slip away.  Jack does his online work as well as some reading and writing, Terry does trip planning and research, I sit at the computer and attempt to come up with something witty.  There’s also the chore of getting footage off of 4 different devices.  Because that never causes a squabble over cords and computers…  This, too, was a groove we had to allow to come into its own, letting it take shape with time and patience.

How To Carry Groceries

(Packing a few days worth of groceries to feed our crew)

Now, finding time alone has become a tricky little goal to attain.  Traveling within the confines of a very tight budget means a lot of time spent in a small hotel room with two double beds and just enough floor space to line our luggage, making nighttime trips to the bathroom just that much more exciting.  (Note:  Don’t get too excited when the ad says ‘king size bed’.  You’re going to open the door and find a full size bed.  Just deal with it.)  Terry and I are getting accustomed to sharing bed space whilst Jack gets his own to flail and kick as he pleases.  Trust me, it’s better to let the boy have his own space instead of becoming his Size 13’s newest kickball buddy.  We have the camping thing down with the whole two tents action, but sometimes you just need some time away to sit, read and let the farts fly without the threat of snickers from the Testosterone Twosome.  Brutal honesty here, folks!  We are adjusting to our room situations, absolutely enjoying any outdoor space that provides a little extra room to spread out.

Bumpy Fuzzy Tuk Tuk Ride

(A quick Tuk Tuk selfie while bouncing down the cobblestone streets of Antigua Guatemala)


It’s amazing what you learn about yourself once you’re forced out of your comfort zone.  We chose this path, so we know we must ‘own’ any repercussions.  Knowing this trip could mean total Trio inhalation or love fest, we went for it anyway.  Many have claimed to be on a soul-searching journey, trying to “find themselves”.  Hell, I know where I’ve been for 40+ years.  I just want to have control over where I spend the next 40+.  This is part of what this journey is about, trying to figure out the next chapter of our life.  We’re still learning more about what makes each of us tick, but I must be frank when it comes to a couple of things.  Jack has by far been the easiest personality when it comes to change and just rolling with it.  Terry has learned to leave behind the 80-hour workweeks, and quite well I might add.  Myself?  I didn’t realize I was such a miserable coot most days.  I was so accustomed to GO! GO! GO! all the time that I was a bit hard to live with the first couple of months.  I can admit it now that I’ve owned up to this new realization, finding myself apologizing to my boys more than once for making their lives a tad hellish.  It’s tough pulling a Type A personality from a controlled world into a realm that cannot be put into a time slot on a calendar.  “Hi.  My name is Sandy, and I’m a control freak.”  All three of us will continue this change with each border crossing.

Boat Ride

(Jack grabbing a quick shot while trying not to rock the boat)

Armed Guards

(Police in San Juan ready to escort us around Volcan San Pedro where robberies are known to occur)

Okay, one more thing…  Sometimes, being the only female on this adventure can be, well, lonely.  As much as I claim to LOVE being with my boys, sporting a dirt mask and bragging about doing my own pedicures, a girl once in a while does need a little ‘girl time’.  Roll your eyes all you want, but this is a real fact when it comes to being a female in a male-dominated sport.  A while back our friends Simon and Lisa Thomas ( spent a fair amount of time with us at our home in Northern California.  They’ve been on their global tour around the globe for over 11 years.  You’d think they were in need of nothing.  But, what was Lisa’s biggest request once she landed at Chez Borden?  Getting out for some girl time.  Seriously, do Simon and Terry look like the luncheon and shopping type?  It takes a girlfriend to understand your need and fill it.  So, Lisa and I walked slowly through our little town, stopping at various shops, enjoying some time away from our constant companions.  As much as we love our boys, we still need our girls.  Along this journey, I’m finding myself craving this same girl time.  Fortunately, I’m discovering that much needed time away as we make our way south.  Trust me, it’s good for all parties involved if this member of the Trio gets out to play once in a while.

Girl Time With Mishka

(Some girl time with our new friend Mishka)

So, there it is.  Out in the open for all to read and judge.  I’m not joking when I say this is much harder than it looks.  Yes, we have many years of family motorcycle travel in the books.  But, long-term family travel is a learned art form especially when rolling on two wheels.  We know it’s not for everyone nor should it be.  But it’s us, it’s different, and it’s the way we like it.  Cheers.

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