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.