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Riders urged to check motorcycle spokes

Blackstone TEK Black Diamond carbon fibre wheels for Ducati GT1000 project spokes

Riders have been urged to check the spokes on their motorcycle wheels more frequently in the wake of one rider finding his badly handling bike had 10 loose spokes.

The result of loose spokes can be poor handling and can cause rapid tyre deflation on tubeless tyres.

Brisbane rider Mark Taylor says he had loose spokes on his four-month-old BMW R 1200 GS tightened during a tyre change at 3000km.

He had only ridden another couple of thousands kilometres before 10 spokes came loose again, causing the rear end to slide around.

Loose spokes
Mark and his GS

“The bike nearly bucked me off coming down a mountain road and started to oversteer in the corners,” he says.

“It scared the life out of me. I thought I was going to buy the farm.

“The dealer confirmed it’s a faulty wheel with 10 loose spokes.

“BMW Motorrad Australia have no replacements, so my bike will be off the road for up to five weeks until a new wheel comes from Germany.”

Other riders on BMW internet forums have also complained of the same issue.

BMW R 1200 GS spokes
BMW R 1200 GS spoked wheel

We contacted BMW Motorrad Australia who advised there is no safety recall on this issue.

“However, there is a service campaign and owners are encouraged to contact their dealer if there are concerns,” a spokesman says.

Mark is not happy and has contacted the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission seeking a safety recall on the model.

“My main issue is that these bikes are not safe to ride and should all be recalled straight away to be checked for potential deadly faults,” Mark says.

RACQ Head of Technical and Safety Policy Steve Spalding says that if an owner finds a safety related problem with their motorcycle they should always alert the manufacturer and ask for it to be investigated.

“Not only is this a safeguard against continuing to ride a bike with a potential safety risk but it may also give an early warning to the manufacturer of a possible defect affecting a wider group or riders.”

Check your spokesBlackstone TEK Black Diamond carbon fibre wheels for Ducati GT1000 project spokes

All riders whose bikes have spoked wheels should periodically check them for loose, broken or rusted spokes.

It’s a simple process (unless you have a BMW with spokes that thread through the rim, allowing tubeless tyres).

Just lightly tap each spoke with a screwdriver or metal object.

They should all make a similarly pitched “ping” sound. If they make a lower, dull “thud”, then they are loose.

To tighten a spoke, turn the nut or “nipple” on the end closest to the tyre in a clockwise direction. BMWs require a more complex process of unlocking the spoke first.

Like tuning a piano or guitar, you need to get the spoke to make the same tone as the surrounding spokes. Don’t over-tighten.

  1. Wow! That is super unusual. Most of us who have been riding for a while will rememberer that part of the maintenance was to tap the spokes with a spinner to check the tension, you could hear a ‘loose’ spoke by a dull sound, rather than a ‘ding’ . Even back in the day loose spokes were very rare, and at most just required a tweak. Wonder if it was sabotage?

    1. Hi Robert,
      I think you might have misread the article: “They should all make a similarly pitched “ping” sound. If they make a lower, dull “thud”, then they are loose.:”.

  2. About time some of our fellow riders took a bit of interest in doing their own maintenance and safety checks and not relying on the dealer service. Tyres, brakes and spokes if you have them are the riders responsibility.

    1. Well mate I asked the dealer to check them at 3000.. (they weren’t going to) when they fitted new tyres. They found some loose spokes front and back. And they tightened them. No body would expect 10 of they to loose in just 2500 km.

      The underlying issue iS BMW have a problem and as is usual they don’t want to talk about it.

      Dealer has just rung to say new wheel available late next week. So just under 3 weeks off the pored is this info is correct.

      The fact that they want to supply new wheels rather than “fix” the existing ones suggests an issue to me.

  3. It is pretty sad that he has to wait five weeks for a part. I recently had an issue with my ride (Piaggio) and was told that it would take 2-3 weeks for the part to arrive if they had it in stock overseas or up to 8 weeks if it was on back order. Manufacturers should have more parts available here.

  4. Heard from the dealer today… in light of no available wheels, they are looking at rebuilding the bike’s rear wheel here in Brisbane.

    Saw that one guy in the USA had EVERY spoke loose.

    There appears to be an issue with the way they were tightened at the factory during build.

  5. I had my rear wheel (2018 GSA Rallye) replaced a couple of weeks ago. BMW Australia refused to acknowledge that there is an issue, but so many riders have encountered a problem.

    The spokes on my rear wheel were so loose they could be spun around with just two fingers….

  6. I thought everyone knew to check their spokes after all your life depends on it. Honestly it takes 5 mins… to check your spokes when you wash the bike.

  7. To be fair, looking at pics of the BMW spoked wheels, they appear to have no way of tensioning the spokes via the traditional nipple adjuster, so it looks like the pre-tensioning is done at the factory.

    Means that if a BMW owner does the “ting” test and finds a loose spoke, he/she has no way of tightening and must return to the dealer. What? For such a simple thing? Oh Lord spare me. >:-[

    1. The BMW R1200 nipples have a grub screw inside that needs to be loosened before it can be tightened, the grub screw is then tightened to secure the nipple.

  8. It is not as simple as tightening the loose spoke, all spoke wheels are trued
    …in other words are set to run true… Without warps to the rim…I would not attempt to fix the problem…… Leave it to a professional

    1. Too true. Given the prevalence of non spoked wheels these days, the expertises might be remaking with ‘some old guy in a shed’
      Truing a wheel is not that simple.

  9. It is not just BMW that has issues with spokes, ALL of the 2001 and on Triumph Bonneville’s are known to break rear wheel spokes of at the nipple end. I have had 3 break on my 2002 over 75,000 klms, in spite of regular checking. The issue is apparently gauge and angle of the spokes, in the US there was a recall and the spokes or rear wheel was replaced. In Australia Triumph Aust (Peter Stevens M/C) just advise dealer to check them at each service.

  10. Yes Mark ,Robert did say just that.
    The other issue here unmasked is one that appears endemic with all motorcycle spares .Namely the dealers and importers just will not keep on hand a sufficient quantity and variety of spares .It would appear the importers are all care and no responsibility , while the dealers are “not responsible” because they can’t get the spares from the importer.
    I waited three weeks for rocker cover gaskets for my MV Agusta when Peter Stevens serviced it , yet they want to sell bikes but no back up.

  11. That’s poor tightening advice. For a start an r1200gsw has a lock screw that must first be loosened before tightening.
    If you have more than a few loose you need an expert with appropriate tools to ensure your rim is still true.
    I had 8 front & 6 rear loose on my 2017 GS1200 Rallye. The dealer found more as well. The bike had only been serviced a few months earlier & ridden once on road. A mate found 6 loose on his 2016 GSW.
    I think this issue is bigger than BMW is letting on.

  12. I am based in South Africa, and I have a 2015 R1200GS Adventure that had 8600 Kms on it when I discovered loose spokes on the front wheel.

    I have argued with BMW South Africa who started off by saying the bike was used off road, and it should have come in to have the spoke tensions checked more regularly as per the owner’s manual, and then finished off by saying the rim was within spec.
    I then proved them wrong in all of those areas and they resorted to the statement that my bike is out of warranty and that’s that.

    I’m asking for some advice regarding this situation as BMW South Africa simply don’t care that their expensive motorcycle fell short and have simply brushed me off. I have all the service records and they don’t have a leg to stand on other than the fact that the bike is out of warranty. But I feel, given the super low mileage on the bike, BMW should honour a good-faith claim.

    Any assistance would be much appreciated!

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