The BMW R1100GS page 2

14 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on The BMW R1100GS page 2


Page 2

Standard Bike

New GS? What you should know

About BMW

It seems that more than half of R11GS owners have never had a BMW before, so a few words about BMW may be helpful.

BMW is not like other bike manufacturers. They have a long motorcycling heritage that they are rightly very proud of and they continue to build quality motorcycles. However today, BMW is mainly a car manufacturer.

It is no coincidence that their technology is usually more closely related to mainstream cars than bikes e.g. separate engine and gearbox with single plate clutch.

Another factor is that BMW is very conservative. Their approach is to stick to their tried and trusted designs i.e. if it aint broke don’t fix it. So models evolve slowly during their life cycle (see model history ). The greatest example of this is of course their boxer engine.

BMW do innovate but nowadays these innovations mostly come from applying technology that they have become very familiar with in car design e.g. ABS. (Telelever is a recent exception).

Possibly because of their conservatism mixed with their proud heritage, BMW designs remain traditional. They continue to supply motorcycles with basics that some other manufacturers have let slip over the years e.g. a:

center stand

good toolkit with puncture repair outfit

large fuel tank that gives a decent range

proper passenger seat with footrests that fit normal sized people.

In addition BMW likes doing things their own way. A good example of this is their unique indicator switchgear.

Together, these different elements give BMW a unique approach that until you get used to it, can seem odd. However, this approach is responsible for producing a fine range of real-world motorcycles. Each has character, an indefinable something that on occasion can be annoying but provides riding pleasure and pride of ownership that lasts.

Funny noises

Let’s start with the funny noises when you switch the ignition on. The whir sound is the fuel pump (located in the tank) turning on.

There are more funny noises when you start off. There’s a sighing as you let the clutch out and start to move. The grating clunk is the ABS self-testing before turning off its red flashing lights. Note the self-test kicks in periodically when riding.

You notice it most after 10 or more minutes riding without stopping. Next time you stop the bike say at a junction then ride off, ABS self-tests. There are further funny noises when coasting.

One funny noise to avoid is running the bike in gear on its main stand (wheel off ground of course!). It makes all sorts of strange noises but it’s

a) normal for shaft drive

b) not good for the transmission.

Exhaust headers

Brand new oilhead? Comes with nice shiny silver exhaust header pipes. But they do not stay that color very long! They soon turn all sorts of shades of brown/blue/violet.

Try idling a warm engine at night. In the dark you can see the headers glow red hot! But they are good quality stainless steel. Just one of those BMW quirks, nothing to worry about.


Center stand

When unladen, the bike balances on its center stand. Great for tire inspection/ wheel removal etc.

Don’t let anyone (particularly owners who have had many BMWs) demonstrate their favorite trick on your R11GS. This one involves sitting astride the bike and putting it on its center stand. It is possible but the R11GS has more ground clearance than those older BMWs. Result more leverage applied to your center stand which bends it.

Usually you don’t notice until the next time you put the bike on its center stand by when of course the old timer is long gone.

General advice – don’t ride off the center stand . Sometimes, it makes life easier but over time the extra leverage of the R11GS longer stand (compared to other BMWs) will bend it. Replacement center stands are not cheap.


The sidestand can be deployed while sitting on the bike. Lots of owners do this as the bike is heavy.

The balance of the bike on its sidestand can be a bit precarious especially when fully loaded with fuel and luggage. This was improved somewhat for model year 98 when a redesigned sidestand with a bigger foot was fitted.

There are several ways to improve the situation. Check out page 3 Customization, Other Parts, Side stand foot.

Sidestand switch

Another BMW quirk! Most bikes have sidestand switches to prevent you riding off with the sidestand down. The R11GS not only does that but it also stops you idling the bike on the sidestand because it is not neutral switched. The R11GS must be left on the center stand if you want to leave the engine idling. Note that this is not recommended in the BMW handbook.

It suggests riding off shortly after starting the engine but not laboring the engine until it has reached operating temperature.

Some R11GS owners customize their electrics to make the sidestand neutral switched. Note that the R1150GS is neutral switched so can be idled on the sidestand.

While on the subject of the sidestand switch, check out simple faults .


Lots of R11GSs suffer from surging. This is the mild variation in speed when you hold the throttle constant, at say 3,000rpm. Later models suffer less but so far it has not been eliminated.

If it is a problem check out Rob Lentini’s Zero = Zero tune up.


The speedo reads more than the speed you are doing. Seems to vary but can be up to 10% faster.

By the way, the speedo cable bottom fitment must be correctly installed. For more details see under Simple faults, Speedo cable .

RID, Rider Information Display

The RID is not essential but useful and most owners tend to order it when they buy a new bike. It displays:


current gear

oil temperature

fuel level

Oil temperature display

When the engine is warm, oil temperature normally shows 5 bars (half way to max of 10 bars). Most displays go to 6 bars when sitting in traffic in warm weather but rarely go over 6.

However the R11GS has no thermostat (unlike the RT and R1150GS) and so the display can drop to 2 or 3 bars when riding in the rain or during cold weather. Some owners fit a simple radiator blind over the oil cooler to restrict the airflow when riding in cold conditions.

Fuel display

Another 10 bar display. Normally when the tank is full it takes about 60 miles (100km) before the top bar disappears. From then the display falls more quickly.

Around the time that one bar is shown the reserve light comes on.

Plastic head protectors

The R11GS comes with black plastic cylinder head protectors. Many owners have reported that they have saved the engine from significant damage in a fall or a crash where the bike slides. After such incidents the protectors often need to be replaced but they have done their job and are reasonably priced.

However these protectors only protect from below. If the head itself hits something or the bike rolls, they offer no protection. For some alternatives see Protection parts .

BMW paint

The BMW paint on its solid colors (e.g. Marakesh red, Avus black and Alpine white) does not have a fixing coat. This means that although it is thick and well applied it comes off when rubbed.

For this reason don’t let anything rub against it e.g. a loose tank bag strap.


The front and the rear both have two mudguards. At the front, the top painted mudguard is really just an ornament although it is supposed to funnel air to the oil cooler. It can be removed if you wish.

The lower one is the traditional mudguard although many owners think it could be longer at the back – a lot of dirt gets thrown onto the engine by the front wheel.

At the rear there is a funny little black plastic mudguard bolted to the rear hub. This is only a way to get round German law that requires the rear mudguard to have a maximum distance from the ground! It is not very effective as a mudguard but can be useful for putting badges on e.g. country identification or BMW.

However, it can easily be removed.

But, as mentioned previously, don’t let these things put you off. You soon get used to these little BMW idiosynchracies!

Oil Level

One area that lots of owners grumble about – the oil check window. Difficult to tell what the REAL level is. The manual advises you to leave the bike for 10 minutes before checking.

However, there are many horizontal oil feeds in the engine that trap oil and mean the oil level window is not a reliable indicator!

One owner had the bike on its center stand with the oil level apparently just under red dot.

He started engine and let it warm to 5 bars on the RID, switched off and left it undisturbed on its center stand.

He came back days later to find oil level had RISEN! As before he started engine and let it get to working temperature then switched off and left it undisturbed.

When he came back several days later this time there were no oil leaks and NO OIL IN THE OIL CHECK WINDOW.

The bike was on its center stand completely undisturbed in his garage throughout the entire time. The bike was never moved, not even rebalanced from one wheel to the other. It’s just one of those character-making foibles.

Apparently if you fill the bike past the red dot in the center of the oil check window, oil can overflow into the airbox. This is why there is a black plastic plug in the bottom of the airbox!

To make things worse, until breaking in is completed the engine can use quite large amounts of oil. Check very carefully .

The general advice is don’t overfill or underfill the engine with oil. Difficult but VERY IMPORTANT. BMW state that should the ACTUAL level:

rise above the top of the window (due to overfilling) or

fall below the bottom of the window or

cause the oil light to illuminate


Some practical rules:

Always keep track of oil level, especially during break in.

Judge the level based on several readings, not just one.

If the oil level disappears always check for leaks.

Only add small amounts e.g. 100 or 200cc at a time then re-check the level.

Some owners find the most reliable method of determining the actual level is to:

Put the bike on its sidestand just after you switch off.

Leave it there for a minimum 30 minutes, better overnight.

Put the bike on its center stand then check the oil level in the oil sight glass.

[ Beam me up Scotty! ]


Yet another quirk about these motors is their break in period. Officially everything seems like all other bike manufacturers i.e. there is a break-in period with break-in rules followed by a break-in service at 600m (1000km).

Sure you can ride them like normal after the break-in service but these engines have not yet finished their break-in!

Oil consumption on new oilheads can be high for a considerable period. They suffer what owners refer to smokey startups and the end of the exhaust pipe is covered in black soot. Consumption varies from bike to bike but what would severely worry an owner of a new japanese bike can be quite normal on these R259 engines.

Generally, the list wisdom is that somewhere between 12,000 to 20,000 miles (20000 to 32000km) most oilheads stop using oil and produce full power. They have finished their break-in then and not before!

Type of oil

Mineral or semi-synthetic SG (or appropriate grade) oil from new, and all services until the engine stops using oil liberally

Fully synthetic SG (or appropriate grade) oil afterwards

Note that oil in the R11GS engine is separate from the gearbox. As such car engine oil (of the appropriate grade) can be used.


Tank capacity

Originally the tank was plastic but this suffered problems with leaks, paint and stickers. This was replaced by a steel tank made by Behr who also manufacture the wheels. Very few bikes still have plastic tanks as most owners took advantage of the free upgrade.

The plastic tank had an official capacity of 6.6 US gallons (25 liters). However, the fuel pump is in the tank and the fuel pick up is above the bottom of the tank which reduces the useable capacity. Worse there is only one pick up and no connection between the two lobes.

So, useable capacity is only around 5.8 US gallons (22 liters).

The metal tank is slightly smaller and suffers another problem. It has a 1-1.5 inch metal seam sticking up from the bottom of the tank that makes sloshing fuel from one lobe to the other difficult. Plastic tanks do have have this seam.

The capacity of the metal tank was officially 6.3 US gallons (24 liters). It’s useable capacity is around 5.5 US gallons (21 liters).

(BMW eventually came clean with the R1150GS. The official capacity for the R1150GS (that has the identical metal tank to the R11GS) is 5.5 US gallons).

Note that if the pump is misaligned in the tank, for example when serviced, then the useable capacity is reduced even further.

Filling up

It takes quite a time to fill up completely. The last gallon or so has to go in very slowly – the opening is restrictive.

One thing to avoid when you’ve just filled up is leaving the bike, particularly on its sidestand particularly on hot days. If you do, you risk getting a pool of fuel underneath the bike from the overflow pipe. It’s best to fill up as you are leaving if possible.

Running out of fuel

You can hear the fuel pump squealing when the fuel level gets low.

The fuel low warning light comes on around the time the RID drops to 1 bar. Mileage varies with riding but it is around 180-220 miles (290-350km).

You can run out of fuel and still have some useable fuel left in the tank! It is most common when travelling on straight roads or on long downhill sections. It’s rare when riding twisties as the fuel swirls in the tank.

The problem is due to the fuel line leaving the tank quite high up at the back on the brake pedal side. No, there is no connection between the two lobes of the tank!

So, when you are running low, make sure to swish the tank around. (Sometimes when you do this the RID bars increase). Try to avoid the engine cutting out due to insufficient fuel as it is not good for the injectors.

If you do run out, try holding the bike over towards the brake pedal to get any remaining fuel in the other lobe across before restarting.


The tank is held on with a single bolt underneath the black plastic sidepanel. Once this is undone, the tank can be lifted which is useful for a number of tasks e.g. removing front suspension unit. To remove completely, disconnect the two rubber tubes.

(One rubber tube is for the overflow, connected to the hole on the inside edge of the filler. The second cannot be seen without dismantling the filler. It vents on the inside of the tank.

Both tubes exit through a plate on which the fuel pump is mounted).

Do not mix up the tubes when reinstalling the tank. It causes a vacuum in the tank. Plastic tanks have been known to collapse; metal tanks hold up better but it makes opening the filler cap difficult!

To simplify disconnecting the rubber tubing, fit quick release fuel-line connectors. Then you can pull them to disconnect and push them back together to connect. These are available from BMW dealers as they were standard on K-series bikes but are also obtainable from auto stores.

You want 5/8 inch internal diameter.


Filler neck

There are two modifications owners make to the filler neck.

Drill holes.

Slightly increase capacity.

1. Drill holes – Some owners take out the filler neck and drill holes in it as this speeds filling up.

2. Slightly increase capacity either by fitting the slightly shorter filler neck from the R11RT or raising the float stop.


Before removing the cap assembly, make sure you have a Torq 25 bit and buy a new rubber o-ring gasket and clamps.

(If the gasket is less than three years old it can be re-used. The gasket absorbs fuel and expands so needs time to recover. After removal, leave the old gasket somewhere warm and drafty.

A gasket up to one year old should be back to normal in the morning. Older gaskets can take a day or two.)

Undo the Torq bolts that hold the fuel cap assembly to the tank.

Mark the two hoses, to identify the one drain the other breather.

Carefully remove the 2 crimped clamps from the drain and breather hoses.

Drill 3 holes, 1/8 dia, in the funnel section about 1/2 inch from the top. De-burr the holes.

To slightly increase the tank useable capacity, bend the fuel float up slightly so that it just fits below the top of the tank when fitted.

Re-install the cap with the new o-ring and clamps.

Now go down to your gas station and be amazed at how quickly you can fill up the tank without any of the previous bubbling and burping!

Note that US owners should not fill the tank right up unless they have removed the charcoal canister. For more info see simple faults .

Removing stickers

Those annoying statutory stickers e.g. fuel grade, can be removed with care and patience using a combination of:

hair dryer

Goo Gone (or similar citric acid based solvent for softening various adhesives e.g. floor tiles)

razor blade/thumbnail

soft cloth to clean up the area afterwards.

Fuel filter

The BMW fuel filter is fitted inside the tank so that if it splits, fuel is not dropped on to the hot engine. BMW had problems with their fuel filters splitting on K-series bikes and similar problems have been reported on oilheads. Some owners recommend replacing the filter at 18,000 miles before the BMW recommended service life of 24,000 miles.

However, other owners point out that fuel filter technology is not exactly cutting edge. Most fuel injected car engines run at higher pressure with longer service intervals and do not suffer split fuel filters! They have replaced their BMW filters with commonly available car filters e.g.

Deutsch FF401 or Fram PH3614.

The filter can be moved to outside the tank. This not only makes replacement significantly easier and cheaper but also increases tank capacity slightly. For more details and instructions see Rob Lentini’s External Fuel Filter Modification R1100 on the excellent BMW Internet Riders website.


The R11GS comes with a toolkit in its own compartment under the passenger seat. The tools are laid out in their own slots on a tooltray. BMW diehards grumble that the standard of the tools is not as high as it was on previous models.

However the tools are good quality.

Some points to note:

There is an empty slot for a small screwdriver – no you didn’t lose it! The original was included in previous BMW toolkits but has no use on the R11GS.

(It is a yellow handled chrome vanadium 6cm stem 3mm flat head screwdriver that is still available. BMW part no 71-11-9-090-147, cost around 3USD).

More usefully you could fit the similar sized BMW lighted test screwdriver. This has a green handle and is handy for roadside diagnosis (BMW part no 71-11-1-237-863, cost around 12USD).

Look out for the small black plastic part in the toolkit. It fits neatly around the spark plug cap for simple and quick removal.

The tooltray lid and hinge are both plastic and very easy to break. Never force the lid down – if gentle hand pressure is not enough, carefully repack the tooltray contents.

The toolkit includes a puncture repair outfit. The glue tends to dry even in its sealed tubes so replace every two years. See under Simple faults, puncture repair for instructions on use.

Riding without the rear seat

Simple DO NOT! At least not until you’ve fitted the special latch.

Without its special latch fitted, when you ride without the rear seat the flimsy plastic tooltray lid flies off as soon as you hit a bump. Then you start losing your tools, one by one!

To fit the special latch:

Stand on the exhaust side, insert key and remove rear seat.

Remove tooltray lid.

Examine the opposite side (i.e. shaft side) of the tooltray. Between the long C-spanner (marked R-GS) and the wheel nut wrench is a small plastic protrusion with a short metal shaft at its tip. This is the special latch.

Remove the special latch by pulling it up vertically.

Turn the tooltray lid upside down and examine its large square hole.

Fit the black plastic base of the special latch into the slots surrounding the large square hold.

Refit the tooltray lid.


a) You have to remove the special latch from the tooltray lid before you can refit the rear seat.

b) The tooltray lid is so flimsy that if you leave your bike unattended while out without the rear seat, anyone armed with a screwdriver can get to your tools even with the special latch fitted.

Additionally, you can fit one of the aftermarket accessories available that use the rear seat mounting points.


Servicing is required as follows:

Break-in service at 600m (1,000km)

Minor service at 6000m, 18,000m, 30,000m etc (10,000km, 30,000km, 50,000km etc)

Major service every 12,000m, 24,000m, 36,000m etc (20,000km, 40,000km, 60,000km etc)

Annual service (if no service in last 12 months).

For a breakdown of the tasks involved in each service see the R1100 service guide on the Internet BMW riders website.

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