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BMW R 1200 GS

I'll be updating this page over the next few months. I picked up this bike from a friend in January 2011 with about 52,000 miles on it. It had been sitting for a while, so the first maintenance task I did on it was to drop in a new battery - and then I rode it home in the rain with snow on the ground.

W00t.

I'm not your typical "adventure" rider. I have a bad leg from getting run over by a car in 1999, so I like a bike that has a very upright seating position like the big GS. Mine is a 2005, so a lot of the later refinements BMW made aren't present yet - which gave me a lot to do.

Here's a list of the things that I've done in my quest to make this the perfect bike over the last 2+ years.

  • I use Mobil1 synthetic oil at every oil change, usually 10W40 or 15W50. I also use the Mobil1 M1-102 oil filter; it's taller than stock but fits inside the bash plate. If I didn't have a bash plate on this bike, I'd run the stock filter, as the Mobil1 filter sticks out below the engine slightly.
     
  • I use Mobil1 synthetic oil in the transmission & final drive, too - 75W140. BMW doesn't spec this oil, but I use it anyway, always have on all my BMWs.
     
  • FutureVision HID WD-M35 "Mini" Work Lights are my aux driving lights. They're very bright, but have a fairly focused beam so they don't irritate drivers coming towards me at night. When I got the bike, it had two sets of PIAAs on it - a smallish set and the typical giant pie-plate lights you see on a lot of adventure bikes. They worked just fine & I liked them, but I was asked to write a review of the FV HIDs, and once I had them on there, I liked them better than the PIAAs. (June 2011)

    Here's a link to my review of the WD-M35 lights. (coming soon)
     

  • Hammerhead Designs CNC Shift Lever (June 2011). Because of the damage done to my left leg when the old lady ran over me in 1999, my left foot doesn't quite point straight any more - or at least it's uncomfortable to make it point straight for any length of time. Hammerhead gives you the option to get a longer shifter toe on their CNC Shift Lever, so I got the +20mm one, which makes it a lot easier (and less painful) for me to ride for a long time. I went ahead & got it in blue, to match the bike.
     
  • At the end of July 2011, with only 55,500 miles on it, the final drive shit the bricks. This was (is) an uncomfortably common occurrence with the early-generation 1200s, ignored by BMW but widely discussed among riders. It can most likely be attributable to a combination of some engineering or manufacturing fault plus poor loading practices on the part of riders.

    No matter what the cause, the only thing BMW really did to address the issue was to update the spec on the final drive fluid - from a "lifetime" fill to periodic (6,000 miles) drain/refill (which they changed from 230 ml to 180 ml). BMW added a drain plug at one point, but to drain the FD, you have to remove the rear wheel and partially detach the final drive from the bike; refilling it is also a giant pain in the ass - you have to remove the ABS sensor (carefully!) and squeeze in the 180 ml of oil through a tiny, tiny hole. They also, from what I understand, changed the machining on some of the internal parts of the FD.

    At any rate, I can't see how my final drive failing was my fault, as I only had the bike for 3,500 miles before it failed. I can't see how it failing was the previous owners' fault (I know both of them), as they are skinny little guys even when dripping wet. No matter - luckily my ace mechanic, George at Beemers Über Alles, happened to have a couple of spare final drives sitting around, as it was just after the running of the 2011 Iron Butt Rally.

    I got a used final drive from an R 1200 RT that had just 11,000 miles on it when it was wrecked. This changed a lot about how my bike rides, especially at high speeds, as the RT final drive is geared more for speed & distance than going up a hill littered with giant rocks.
     

  • At the same time I got the used final drive, George also replaced my rear wheel carrier, which had developed cracks in it - another issue that BMW has continued to ignore - and a new rear brake disc.
     
  • The stock seat on the GS should be registered as a deadly weapon, or at the very least as a medieval torture device. I've yet to find the perfect seat, but so far I've tried seats from Sargent, Corbin & Saddleman, but nothing has turned out to be perfect yet. Next stop is Russell - they're ugly as hell, but I know from a previous bike that they work quite well.
     
  • Jesse aluminum side cases instead of the stock (expandable) Vario cases. The Varios are nice and they look great, but it irritated me that I couldn't put my briefcase (with my laptop) in the side case, which meant I had to either wear it (in a messenger bag) or put it (in a sleeve) in the top case, then put a bag in the side case and do a lot of juggling. The Jesses settled that problem. They're not the most elegant looking panniers in the world, but they're sturdy and my briefcase drops right into the right (uphill) side case with ease.
     
  • The bike had Öhlins shocks on it when I bought it; I'm planning on having them rebuilt in summer 2014.
     
  • In addition to swapping the seat, I've also swapped out the windshield a few times trying to find the perfect height that offers good weather protection and reduces wind noise as much as possible. It's an ongoing quest. One thing that did help was bolting on the "slipstream protectors" that come stock on a GS Adventure. I just drilled holes in the right spots and bolted these puppies right on.
     
  • I've replaced the headlight bulb (H7) twice; the 2nd time it blew out I didn't notice for 3 days because of how good my HID driving lights are.
     
  • I tend to like street tires - as opposed to dual-sport tires - on my GS. I liked Continental Road Attacks; I do not like Bridgestone Battleaxes. My next set of tires is Metzeler Tourance "NEXT" - purported to be a 95/5 (on/off road) tire. We'll see how well they hold up.
     
  • At almost 68,000 I had George rebuild all the brake calipers. The front brakes make a terrible squealing noise when I stop (unless I'm doing a very rapid emergency stop) and I can't figure out why. I've tried different pad compounds, several types of "stop squeal", I even carefully & thoroughly sanded down both sides of each front brake disc. The rebuild got rid of 90% of the squealing noise, but that last little bit makes me crazy, too, so we're going to try some other tricks before I drop $400+ for new brake discs.