Motorcycle Crash Bars
Motorcycle Crash Bars Installation on a BMW
by Chris B. for webBikeWorld.com
| Owner Comments (Below)
mentioned in my
BMW R1150GS introduction, this bike has me looking for goodies
to install. Most of them have a practical use, but not all
One of my first concerns was to
protect those huge cylinders that stick out on each
side of the bike’s frame -- what I’ve come
to refer to as “my foot warmers”.
The GS came with a set of
plastic BMW cylinder head guards which are attached to
the outside of the valve covers and are a popular
accessory. These guards can minimize the damage
to the light alloy valve covers during a slow speed
slide or a tip over, but I was interested in
something more robust.
My search yielded several crash bar
the R1150GS and I settled on a set made by SW-MOTECH,
a manufacturer well known to BMW owners for quality
accessories. SW-MOTECH does not sell items
directly from their website, but the products are
distributed worldwide (see summary table below).
So why did I choose to go with this brand and style
over some of the others? I was looking for
something that would protect the engine should I have an “incident”
(otherwise known as an “unintended get
off”); that fit in well with the GS’s go-anywhere
attitude; and, of course, did not cost a fortune.
As I was searching for the
perfect set of crash bars, I would check out any GS I
found at the local dealer or
elsewhere that had crash bars installed to check out their shape and location.
I ended up choosing the SW-MOTECH bars based on
their shape, the level of protection they appeared to
provide and the price.
The fact that this design had
a bar on each side that ran back just above the
valve covers led me to believe that the heads would
get added protection, something I had noticed that not all
brands included. The SW-MOTECH bars seemed
strong enough to reduce the
possibility of one of the bar being forced/bent back during
a crash. So the order was placed and the bars arrived
promptly in just a few days.
The box that held the crash
bars had taken a beating during
transport, but everything inside was well packed and
arrived unscathed. The SW-MOTECH crash bars
are made from "heavy-duty mild
steel". I’m not sure what gauge steel tubing is
used, but they measure 27 mm (1-1/16”) across the
the SW-MOTECH bars and brackets have a metallic silver powder-coated finish (which went perfectly with the
color on the bike) with a high gloss clear top coat
for added protection, all of which was flawless. The
welds were a pleasure to look at too.
I have to admit that at first glance the
instructions had me a bit puzzled, but it all made sense
once I laid out all the parts and hardware,
comparing each piece to the “instructions” and parts
descriptions. There were no narrative instructions;
just a picture of how the components were to be
fitted together or bolted to the frame.
has a number in the diagram which, when cross
referenced with the materials list, gave its
diameter and length. All of the bolts are standard
grade 8.8 with a bright finish, but not they are not stainless
It was necessary to remove the fuel tank to access
the two upper most mounting bolts, but since the
tank comes off in about 3 minutes on a GS, this is a
breeze. With the tank off, all bolts relevant to the
installation were easily removed.
One of the two, high-strength steel cross brackets
on the SW-MOTECH crash bars locates over the top of the plastic fan belt cover on
the front of the motor using the supplied longer
bolts installed in place of the stock bolts.
bolts secure the brackets that support the dash and
the prominent GS “Beak” to the bike’s frame, and the
bracket would provide the front upper anchor point
for the bars themselves.
It was necessary to lift up
on the “Beak” a smidgen to take some stress off of
the side brackets so the bolt holes would line up
and allow the bolts to be threaded correctly.
One drawback I could foresee was that it would be
necessary to remove this upper bracket anytime the
belt cover needed removal.
Another cross bracket goes under the stock, oil pan
bash-plate. This required replacing the original
front mounting hardware with the supplied bolts and
spacers. My concerns about having to remove this
bracket each time I drained the motor oil
would prove to be unfounded since the bracket and
plate come off in mere moments.
Next was the rear anchor/mounting point for the bars
onto the frame. This would be the only point where
the bars are directly bolted to the bike’s
frame/motor assembly. On each side there’s an Allen
head bolt in a tubular recess that secures the rear
sub-frame assembly to the motor itself. These were
removed, one at a time, and replaced with a spacer
and much longer bolt.
As with any assembly that has multiple interlocking
pieces, all bolts should be left loose until they
have all been installed and correct fitment and
alignment has been confirmed.
With all of the bolts started it was time to tighten
everything down and see what the SW-MOTECH crash bars
looked like fully bolted in place! What written
material there was (in both English and German),
recommended using the OEM (Original Equipment
Manufacturer) torque specifications for each bolt.
But should you not have a manual on hand (you don’t
have a service manual?) SW-MOTECH is kind enough to
include suggested torque seetings depending on the bolt’s
diameter. They also recommended using a medium
strength thread lock compound.
I chose to use Loctite #242 blue, medium
(removable strength) thread fastener. I use this
compound frequently both at work as an Automotive
Tech and at home and have found it to be a reliable
thread lock that allows easy disassembly without
damage, provided you don’t go overboard upon
application, yet keeps things from vibrating loose.
Upon final tightening, everything fit like a charm
and looked great! The crash bars extend out far enough to
provide additional protection for the heads and
valve covers while blending in nicely with the frame
and shapes of the bike itself.
The bars themselves
do not have to be removed to perform a valve
clearance adjustment; only the cross brackets need
to be removed for servicing -- the lower bar for oil
changes and the upper bar whenever the fan belt covering is
in need of removal.
As a bonus, I found on my trip to and from the Green
Mountains of Vermont that I could stretch out my
long legs and rest them on top of the bars and
therefore saved myself the trouble of devising some
sort of highway foot pegs. The bars are also a
common point for mounting auxiliary lights with
other GS riders. Brackets for mounting
auxiliary lights onto the bars are also available from
The GS was getting closer to looking like it was
ready for a ride to the ends of the world, even if
this rider lacks the skills necessary to do so,
which would become evident. Little did I know that
the bars from SW-MOTECH would soon be pressed into
Taking detours down unpaved roads was becoming
commonplace. After all, I was on a GS, right?
riding friends would look at me in disbelief when I
described my route to work. But, as luck would
have it, while zinging down
one of these back roads one day, I drifted a bit wide on a
left turn and got myself tangled up in the loose
gravel that collects at the edge.
Before I realized
what I had done wrong, I had low-sided the GS in a cloud of dust. The impact promptly tore
off the left side case (remember, I bought it used,
thank goodness, online) breaking the mount bracket,
scratching the crash bars, marking up the left valve
cover a little and scratching the daylights out of the
top and side bags.
As the pictures show, the finish
on the new crash bars was removed in places, but I found
no bending or displacement. All in all, I feel the
SW-MOTECH crash bars did a marvelous
job protecting the bike and engine, while suffering
only cosmetic damage.
Since I’m a practitioner of A T G A T T (All The
Gear All The Time), my
Olympia AST jacket and
Motoport Kevlar Police Pants protected my body,
receiving only a light scuffing. It was my ego that
suffered the most injury.
Despite how well we train and practice, unpleasant
things DO happen to us as riders whether on or off
the road. A set of crash-bars can not
only protect your motorcycle from considerable
engine and/or body damage, they can also provide
protection for your legs in the event of a crash.
Beautifully built and finished, the
SW-MOTECH crash bars just look
natural installed on the bike. I know they certainly
saved “Beeker”, my GS, from suffering anything
further than some cosmetic damage. They were well
worth the investment in my opinion.
Stay tuned for more stories about further upgrades to “Beeker”.
Motorcycle Crash Bars
(Germany with worldwide distribution)
||List Price: $189.99 USD;
Mounting instructions for the R1150GS from the SW-MOTECH website
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From "C.P." (4/10): "As is usual
with me, I've just found the write up about
installing the bars on a BMW R1150GS, AFTER I've
spent an hour or two this afternoon fitting a set to
my own GS.
Wish I'd taken the time
to search this nugget of information out beforehand,
as it would have saved me a bit of head scratching
You are right on the
money about the lack of clarity and guidance from
the SW instructions, but like wise, I checked off
all the fasteners according to the list and did a
dry fit/assembly on the floor before committing to
Now they are on, the
bike does look a lot better with them, and I feel a
lot happier with the peace of mind they provide.
Well done on a very useful and helpful article."