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Multiple Bike Syndrome Part II: My BMW R 1150 GS

BMW R 1150 GS

Review Summary


Frequent webBikeWorld visitors will remember my “Multiple Bike Syndrome” article, where I described some reasons for owning two motorcycles rather than only one.

If you recall, I had just purchased a brand-new 2006 Yamaha FJR1300A to add to the stable.

I was tickled with the new ride and proceeded to install a few “farkles”, most of which were reviewed on these pages (see the links in the right-hand column).

So what happened?  Well, the “Yammy” and I got along just fine for nearly 18,000 miles, but something happened that made me start having doubts about my “judgment” every time I straddled the beast.

This was a problem, because as an Instructor for the Motorcycle Safety Program in my state, I’m bound to follow our motto: “Lead by Example, Ride Responsibly”.

We also teach that “a motorcycle is only as dangerous as the person operating it”, and I agree.

But I frequently seemed to go through some type of Jekyll and Hyde transformation when I had all of that power available at the turn of a wrist.

Yeah, there are bikes with a whole lot more power out there than the FJR, but it had more than enough for me. Enough anyway that I found myself riding, shall I say, a “tad” over the legal limit on too many occasions, for starters. And the bike’s fairing and electric windscreen gave me very little awareness of the extra-legal speeds I was running;  the bike simply purred along without effort.

But that wasn’t all. There were one or two other concerns I had — for example, the weight on my hands from the leaned-forward riding position was starting to bother me, and my back was also complaining. And I never really did find a windscreen that felt correct for my height…

So, the decision was made to sell the FJR. But what to replace it with?

The BMW R 1150 GS

Well, after thinking about it, I realized that I recently had an urge to explore some of those unpaved roads. But neither the FJR nor my BMW K1200LTC is the appropriate mount for that type of riding.

That’s not to say the LT has only seen pavement under its wheels — my wife has guided me down many roads that have turned to dirt and even gravel on occasion. We even ended up on what I would call a “Jeep Trail” once that was a challenge, to say the least!

BMW R 1150 GS With Top Case

BMW R 1150 GS Ready to Roll

So I eventually narrowed it down to two choices: The Suzuki V-Strom 650 with ABS or a used BMW R1150GS. Both are referred to as a “Dual-Sport” bikes — efficient for use on paved as well as unpaved roads — but are also very popular with the Sport-Touring crowd and even with some Long Distance Riders (LDR). And with a 100 mile round trip commute every day, ABS brakes are a required feature on any of my bikes.

As it turned out, the price of a new V-Strom and a used GS were pretty close. But what pushed me in the direction of the BMW was the fact that the GS had a large alternator capable of powering goodies like heated grips, heated clothing, electronic gadgets and auxiliary lighting — and still have some Watts left over “just in case”.

The V-Strom has maybe a 110 Watt total surplus, which is just not enough to meet my demands. Oh, and by the way: the Beemer’s shaft drive pretty much sealed the deal.

So the decision was made to say goodbye to the FJR and find a used BMW R1150GS with ABS — but without the dreaded Servo-Assisted System, thank you.

As it turned out, I never even had to advertise the Yamaha. I was surfing around the Internet one day and I discovered upon a from a guy who just happened to be looking for an ’06 FJR. Wow, imagine that!  And he lives only 45 minutes away!  Too good to be true?  We exchanged e-mails and the deal was done.

As the FJR — which, by the way, had been the most powerful bike I’ve ever owned — was ridden away by its new owner I had to wonder if I was making a HUGE mistake. But the deed was done. Besides, I had to hurry to pick up my “new” ride, a 2002 BMW R1150GS — with only 4,200 miles.

So what’s the verdict?  Well, I very quickly put 6,000 more miles on it, and I can tell you that this was one of the best motorcycle decisions I ever made. The more I ride it, the more I enjoy it.

Riding the GS

The big GS seems to eat up any type of roadway I can throw at it. I even rode it up the East Coast to visit my brother in Vermont, and with the long travel suspension it ate those Green Mountain frost-heaved roads with aplomb.

Sure, it has a few rough points, but I discovered one sweet feature: this bike finally has the smooth throttle roll-on I craved, and that the FJR was sorely lacking.

I’m not a guy for gadgets and lots of Farkle, as I’ve mentioned before in some of my reviews, but the GS has me scanning the Adventure-Touring websites, looking for bargains and goodies for what I now call “Beeker”.

My first priority, as always, is seeing and being seen, so I installed a set of Hyper-Lites, just as I had done on the FJR. The install was nearly identical to the FJR, and I hope to write that one up soon, so check back.

I also had an older set of fork-mounted Motolights left over from another bike, so with a little elbow grease and a 3M Scotch-Brite pad to clean everything up, they now grace the forks looking nearly brand-new.

That gave me the “light triangle” — the headlight on top and two lights below — that’s supposed to help the human eye and brain to calculate the distance and rate of approach so others can see me coming. And, of course, they also gives me a bit more light on the roadway.

BMW R 1150 GS - Rear View

An Internet search located a set of used BMW hard cases for less than the cost of a single new one and about half the cost of a pair of aftermarket cases.

They had a few scuff marks on them, but as things worked out it was for the better, because I quickly added a few more scuffs after tangling with some loose gravel.

I also had some 3M reflective tape left over from the FJR, so that was applied to the rear of both side bags, along with three strips on the top case.

BMW R 1150 GS - Crash Bars

The “Boxer” motor that most people identify with BMW has those two big old cylinder heads sticking out on each side, and they’re probably going to take a hit should the bike tip over or fall. Although this one already had a pair of cylinder head guards installed, I felt it would benefit from a set of crash bars.

Besides, it’s a GS, the bike that globe-hopping riders use to circumvent the planet. It’s got to look “tough”, ready to take on the world, right?

As it turned out, it’s a good thing I installed them — but that’s another story… So stay tuned, I plan on more installments and I install the rest of the goodies on what many have referred to as the “Swiss Army Knife” of motorcycles.

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From “R.S.M.” (July 2011):  “I very much enjoyed your column on your new (used) GS. I bought a similar low-mileage 2002 in May, flying into Reno/Tahoe to pick it up, and riding for four glorious weeks across the Great Basin, into (and up and down) the Rockies and, finally, across Kansas, Missouri, and Tennessee to arrive at home in Alabama.

The bike performed absolutely flawlessly . . . except, that is, for one peculiarity that baffles me, especially after reading your remark about the smooth throttle roll-on that graces your GS. My bike, is, alas, notchy, even lurchy — if that is a legitimate term — at lower speeds especially. I’ve been told that this is characteristic of the 2002 single-plug GS 1150s, a problem BMW corrected with the two-plug engine of the later GS.

Yet your remark about your smooth roll-on makes me think I am overlooking a correctable problem with my bike. I’d be most grateful for any advice you might provide. Thanks so much. And thanks for the excellent writing on the machines we love.”

Chris’ Reply: Glad to hear you enjoyed the article & love your GS too. If could resolve the windshield buffeting this would be the perfect bike.

Yes, I did mention the smooth roll-on and I was comparing it to the Yamaha FJR1200  and my 2000 BMW K1200LTC, both of which suffer from a very annoying “jerk” when re-accelerating after a slowing as for a turn.

That’s not to say it’s perfect, just a whole lot better than they are/were. I can imagine it’s difficult for the manufacturers to tune that out completely and be fully emission compliant.

Mine does have the dreaded surge, but nowhere to the degree that the ’99 R1100RT I had a few year ago did. That one drove me crazy, along with the (not very good) 5-speed gear box, so I sold it.

The best way I’ve found to deal with the surging is to pick a higher gear so I have to use a different throttle setting. It’s worst at slow speeds such as driving through a small town. I sure as the dickens wouldn’t want to ride it in a parade.

I’m sorry if I haven’t provided any real solutions for you. The best I can say is make sure the valves are set right, the throttle bodies are synchronized both at idle and with the throttle opened slightly and “ride it like you stole it”.