Tag: Motorcycling

BMW GS Brake Fix

Last week, riding home from work, I used a little more rear brake than usual and it felt “crunchy.”  The BMW R1200GS has integral brakes, meaning that when you engage the front brake you automatically engage the rear brake as well.  I tend to be light on the brakes in general, using them mostly to signal motorists behind me.

When I parked the bike I felt the rear rotor–blazing hot. The front rotors were cool. I checked the inspection hole on the rear brake pad and found that I could see just a little bit of rotor. Fortunately it’s easy enough to replace the rear brake pads on an R1200 GS. I followed this procedure here and it was a snap.

The toughest part of the whole operation was getting the ABS mudguard back in place. The tricky part was aligning the steel positioner for the top bolt:

(Photo: Jim Von Baden. See his site for excellent tutorials.)

The secret…or what worked for me…was to loosen the Torx bolt that holds the positioner to the brake caliper, then thread the long bolt for the mudguard through the positioner and into its hole in the final drive bracket. (Leave the mudguard off for now.) Next, torque down the brake caliper. Finally, remove the long bolt, put the mudguard in place and tighten the long bolt in place. The two small bolts should be easy to align.

Test Ride

I rode the bike to work and back today and what do you suppose. The rear brake rotor is still getting really hot! After some research it seems that a hot rear rotor is “normal” for a BMW GS. Go figure.

Smoother Shifting: The GS Shifter Preload

gearboxFirst week I owned the Pig I found that I couldn’t shift it into first gear from neutral. I started freaking out but then I tried a few things. Wiggled the sidestand. Played with the ignition. Rolled the bike back and forth. Then magically it shifted.

 It turns out that this is a peculiarity of the BMW R 1200 GS…in the morning when the clutch is cold, if I roll the bike while it is in neutral I won’t be able to shift into first. What I discovered on my own was that I had to roll the bike backwards about 18 inches and then it will shift just fine. Somewhat tricky when you’re pointed downhill.

A friend tells me this might have something to do with a spline mismatch in the final drive. I’m not sure about that. (Later study says it’s the dogs in the gearbox.)

Consulting the oracle at Adventure Rider I discovered a helpful tip: preload the shifter. That means putting just a tiny bit of weight on the shifter before you depress the clutch. And I do mean tiny. Just touch the shifter with your foot. Don’t press it. Otherwise you wind up popping the bike into gear with the clutch open, lurching forward and killing the engine. Kind of embarrassing when you’re  at a stoplight hoping to impress the ladies in the VW convertible next to you.

Turns out this was a can of worms. Preloading. Some people feel that you should preload on the downshift to avoid the loud CLUNK that is characteristic of the GS. Others feel the CLUNK is part of the bike’s heritage. Some people feel you should preload when you upshift. But on the whole, a little light pressure on the shifter turns out to be a magic touch.

Riding with the Cycle of the Sun


Riding a motorcycle into the rising sun is like getting poked in the eye with a sharp red stick. You can wear a pair of Ray Bans but you’re still riding blind. Now I know why a lot of dual sport riders wear moto-style helmets with visors. I’d gladly swap my flip face lid for an AFX FX-37.

I know a couple of riders who tape their face shields with an inch gaffer’s tape along the top. (For those who haven’t used it, gaffer’s tape is stronger than duct tape and leaves no sticky residue.) This strategy helps somewhat in the canyons where you may be in the shadows one moment, and in the furious sunlight the next.

None of this will do you any good, not visors nor gaffer’s tape, when the sun is coming from below you. I found myself in that situation last week riding on the Camino Cielo ridgeline. When this happens all you can see is the sun. Target fixation being what it is, it’s near impossible to find the roadway, so you slow to a crawl, try to ride one-handed with the other hand blotting out the heli-arc that blinds you.

You can’t beat back the sun but you can control your ride. This means riding in harmony with the rolling spheres…and knowing when the sun comes up in the morning. The kind folks at the US Navy give accurate sun and moon data, tipping you on daybreak, actual sunrise, sunset and twilight data. A nitpick here, on their newly designed site you have to enter date on one screen and your location on the next screen. I found a sun and moon data widget that works just as well, provided you only want today’s data. Seeing that the difference in sunrise between one day and the next is only about a minute it works for me. For trip planning I’d use the Navy site.

It comes as no surprise, yet it still amazes me, that riding a motorcycle every day has made me much more aware of the world around me.

A Ball with No Chain

Because life is not complicated enough, hasn’t reached the fever-pitch of insanity with too many hobbies, I just bought a used BMW 1200 GS. I guess $4 gas pushed me over the edge.

I have to say, it was weird topping off the tank this morning and seeing the pump register 2.7 gallons.

Review: Accutire Talking Tire Gauge

Accutire Tire GaugeDo you really want your tools to talk back? Well, with the Accutire pressure gauge, sure. Why not.

The audible readout is handy when you’re checking tire pressure at night or in a dimly lit garage. The LCD display is a little hard to read in low-light conditions, making the audible feature all the more important.
This gauge feels good in your  hand and it has a little nubbin on top to help deflate tires.

My biggest problem with this gauge is that it is battery powered and has no low battery indication. Mine started to malfunction one morning–it took a pressure reading of 28 PSI and then wouldn’t clear. The battery is a button-cell, meaning that you’re not likely to have a spare handy and it’s pesky to remove.

My recommendation–around the garage this thing is a gem. But on the trail, I make sure I carry a mechanical dial gauge.