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Advice for riders of new BMW R 1200 GS

BMW R 1200 GS safety recall
BMW R 1200 GS

Pump up your tyres and ride cautiously. That’s the advice to riders of the new water-cooled BMW R 1200 GS.

There is no doubt that the new BMW R 1200 GS  is a much-improved machine, especially its on-road performance. However, there has been some criticism of off-road performance because of the wider tyres. It has now emerged that some owners have been buckling the spoked rims more frequently than on previous models. Rims were damaged to the point of deflation on the Australian press launch leading writers to question the rim strength and one owner is on his third set after 12,500km. Unlucky? Probably. More vulnerable wheels? Maybe. A combination of both? Quite likely!

BMW R 1200 GS
BMW R 1200 GS wheel

We asked BMW if the spoked rims are as strong as the previous model and they are adamant they are and dismiss claims that a new designed rim is on its way. However, they do agree the rims may be more vulnerable to impact because of the lower profile and softer construction of the tyres.

The previous BMW R 1200 GS had a 110mm wide front tyre and 150mm rear. These have been widened to 120mm and 170mm. At the same time, the profile, which is the height of the tyre, has been lowered from 80% (front) and 70% to 70-60. What this means is the wider tyre presents more opportunity to strike a sharp object and the approximately 4mm lower profile means there is less cushioning protection for the rim.

BMW Group Australia motorcycle marketing manager Miles Davis defends the bike’s performance, but adds a cautionary note about riding off-road. In a written reply to my inquiries he adds some salient advice that he says is not only relevant to the new water-cooled BMW R 1200 GS, but also any bike with any rim and tyre combination.

“The lower-profile tyre provides significant improvements in performance on road as well as some off road situations. However, if riding over larger sharp-edge-type rocks or other obstacles the following three points are very important:

  1. Navigate at an appropriate speed, reduce speed if impacts are likely to be significant.
  2. Ensure tyre pressures are adequate. I would suggest increased from previous model. We run low to mid 30psi. (This is quite obvious, the same goes with enduro vs motocross rim/tyre sizes.)
  3. The rider selects a good riding line, absorbing the impacts and not chopping the throttle or braking into larger obstacles. (This sort of off-road riding technique will always give the best result when riding in rough terrain).”

He also believes the Continental TKC 80 has a lighter construction than the previous tyre. “For riders who are looking for improved performance in rocky terrain another tyre choice may give a better result, but may not provide the same on-road performance.”

BMW R 1200 GS
BMW R 1200 GS damaged wheel

Miles says they have so far sold only six replacement front wheels to dealers from 462 water-cooled models sold. “So you can see that this is not a significant issue for BMW. Some of these could have been for accident insurance repairs etc, not necessarily off-road related,” he says.

It may not be a significant issue for BMW, but it certainly is for owners at about $2334.25 per spoked rim. I also know that replacement rims have been purchased from overseas by owners seeking cheaper prices, rather than through BMW Australia, so there may be more than the reported six that have been damaged.

The problem could be exacerbated because consumer expectations of off-roading ability are very high on the BMW R 1200 GS. This is a result of several factors. Not least is all the hype around Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor who took the Adventure models around the world. The bike’s off-road expectation has been further backed by the proven off-road ability of the previous-model GS. The manual also advises to use the spoked rims for “severe off-roading”. Meanwhile, BMW continues to advertise the bike as “Unstoppable” with images of the GS in mainly off-road scenarios.

However, consumers will clearly need to adjust their expectations of off-road ability for this bike as well as many of the other heavy adventure bikes on the market. They may look like indestructible tanks, but you also need to exercise some caution.

  • Meanwhile, BMW is in the process of initiating a service campaign to repair or replace fuel pumps on some models at no cost. Bikes affected are all K2x models which includes R 1200 GS, R 1200 GS Adventure, R 1200 RT, R 1200 R, R 1200 ST, R 1200 S & HP2; and all K4x models which includes K 1200 S, K 1200 R, K 1200 GT & K1300 R, K 1300 S & K1300 GT; the K46 ( S 1000 RR); and K48 (K1600GT & GTL).

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  1. I ordered the spoked wheel option on my 2005 GS and for the 50K+ kilometres I had it was awesome without any mechanical issues at all. I planned 50% off road use on most trips and always used the TKC80s for those trips. Got to know my tyre fitter very well! From the Alpine High Country to Cameron’s Corner and everything in between. Riding fast gravel roads over cattle grates, a little air over some, down to reasonably gnarly 4X4 tracks the bike performed effortlessly.
    Shame the new one is just a shadow of it predecessor.

  2. I feel the 3 points above are rubbish if setting out on a western tour with speeds at 100km. The line is often picked for you by the road conditions etc etc. pot holes are often unseen. That’s why the previous models are excellent as they can take severe bottom-out situations . The earlier 1200 GS has one major issue in the ABS system is made so it cannot be fixed. Mine stopped working at around 30000 km. BMW motorcycles have lost a lot of appeal for me. Very disappointed in my ABS which I cannot afford to repair.

  3. This is just another example of BMW Australia, in practice, treating its customers with contempt, whilst engaging in dishonest spin. If BMW really thinks there is no problem with the new wire wheels, they are not listening. These new wheels are, without doubt, a problem. But the first reporters will be denied and subtly denigrated.
    For those with older 4Vs, you will find the same stonewalling when your $3,900 ABS unit dies. That will make many older models virtually worthless when it happens. Does BMW care?
    Definitely not the company it used to be.

  4. As an owner of a new GS and a past owner of an old GS I ride cautiously and use common sense when riding. In addition I am cautious with tyre pressures and keep the pressures up and do not lower them as I did on my older GS.

    My old GS that has some 80,000 km and has not suffered any damage to rims. This bike has been on some tough roads where other manufacturer’s bikes suffered damage.

    I ride approximately 50% dirt and have always taken the advice in the BMW manual to spend the extra dollars to buy a wheel with spokes, as these are more suited to dirt roads.

    My new GS, while riding the same roads as my friends with the older GS, I am the one to arrive at the same destination with damaged rims and loose spokes. I took my old GS everywhere – I would not like to do the Walker Crossing track and the Birdsville track on my new GS where you encounter the stony and gibber terrian unless BMW set up a wheel and rim replacement station along the way! There is a lot to like about the new GS but the spoke wheel and rim combination is not one of them and certainly in my experience the new GS is not as “unstoppable” as earlier models.

    If planning to do dirt roads please take heed of Mark’s wisdom and be extra cautious and also be sure to carry appropriate spoke tools so you can tighten the invariable loose spokes – as it will happen.

    Certainly, I hope no one experiences:
    – What happened on the Australian press launch when rims were damaged to the point of deflation; or
    – A total failure or collapse of a Wheel/rim.

    As with all riding, you need to check your wheel and rim regularly for loose spokes and damage. Also, make sure you have signed up for the BMW roadside assistance or similar so your bike can be collected in a worse case situation.

    I also agree with Michael’s and Okanui’s comment on the ABS. The ABS on my old GS had to be replaced but luckily I was able to get it under warranty. With all the electronics on the my new GS I will certainly be taking out the extended warranty or perhaps I will just sell it and settle for a much simpler bike to maintain and perhaps one with stronger rims.

  5. I’ve owned a ’13 GS and now a ’14 GSA, and have had to replace the Front rim at my own cost. The real issue is, that these bikes are very capable machines, and you can get carried away riding it like an enduro bike when it is really a 270kg beast. The bike performs amazingly on dirt and gravel roads, and should be noted that when the tough gets going, and the rider gets tough, things break. Simple.
    The GS’s are designed for off road travel, not fanging through rutted tracks, over jumps and smashing over rocks.

  6. I have just completed a 7000km outback trip on my 2014 GSA. I carried a set of TKC80 with me from Brisbane to Bourke and had them fitted there. From Bourke I went to Cameron corner, down the Strzeleki, on the Oodnadatta to Hamilton then to Dalhousie, Finke and Alice Springs. From there I travelled on the Sturt to Cadney Park then to the Arckaringa Hills, Oodnadatta, back to Marree, up the Birdsville track and home to Brisbane. I came across a range of different conditions ranging from soft sand near Dalhousie, heavy corrugations on the Strzeleki, loose stones across the painted desert, the only time I was struggling was in soft sand, I am a heavy bloke (100kg), not particularly fit and with limited off road experience. On the main tracks I was travelling at 80-90kmh slowing down for dips and bulldust, I have had no problems what so ever with the spoke wheels and no punctures. I got worried on the Birdsville track when I hit a large rock while travelling @ close to 100kmh (the track was the best during my trip) I heard a very loud bang, the bike kept its line with just a slight wobble. I didn’t find any problems with the rim or spokes but monitored tyre pressure after that expecting a puncture but nothing happened.
    So far I have travelled 25000km since October 2014 and I really like the bike. My previous bike was a R1200RT and before that a Vstrom.

  7. I have a new 2017 r1200gs Rallye. Front rim cracked after first 100 mi. Front telelever horrid for more than a flat dirt road. Wishing i bought an Africa Twin. No wonder you see a majority of these in a starbucks parking lot. Im having buyers remorse!

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