Page 2

Standard Bike

New GS? What you should know

This section is aimed particularly at those owners who have just got an R11GS. Here are a few things to be aware of.

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:

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: 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!

[ Beam me up Scotty! ]

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.

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:


Some practical rules:

Some owners find the most reliable method of determining the actual level is to:
  1. Put the bike on its sidestand just after you switch off.
  2. Leave it there for a minimum 30 minutes, better overnight.
  3. 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

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

[ Beam me up Scotty! ]


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.
  1. Drill holes.
  2. 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.)

  1. Undo the Torq bolts that hold the fuel cap assembly to the tank.
  2. Mark the two hoses, to identify the one drain the other breather.
  3. Carefully remove the 2 crimped clamps from the drain and breather hoses.
  4. Drill 3 holes, 1/8 dia, in the funnel section about 1/2 inch from the top. De-burr the holes.
  5. 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.
  6. 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:

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.

[ Beam me up Scotty! ]


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:

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:

  1. Stand on the exhaust side, insert key and remove rear seat.
  2. Remove tooltray lid.
  3. 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.
  4. Remove the special latch by pulling it up vertically.
  5. Turn the tooltray lid upside down and examine its large square hole.
  6. Fit the black plastic base of the special latch into the slots surrounding the large square hold.
  7. 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.

[ Beam me up Scotty! ]


Servicing is required as follows: For a breakdown of the tasks involved in each service see the R1100 service guide on the Internet BMW riders website.

[ Beam me up Scotty! ]


BMW Publications

Service Manual R11 RS/GS/R
  • English
    Original version - order no: 01 50 9 799 301
    6/96 version - order no: 01 50 9 799 421
    Comprehensive but expensive at over 100 USD
    Note that no wiring diagrams are included, they are in a separate document.

  • The BMW manual is also available (much more cheaply) on country specific microfiches e.g.
    01 51 9 799 291 GB - for country Great Britain

R1100GS Line image
Original version - order no: 01 50 9 799 300 around 120DM
6/96 version - order no: 01 50 9 799 420

Other BMW handbooks


BMW R-850, R-1100 1995-1998
ISBN 0-89287-720-0
Price around 40 USD.


Service and Repair Manual 3466
Covers the R11GS and other airheads 94-97
250 pages including many black and white pictures but color wiring diagrams.
Excellent value for money.
ISBN 1 85960 466 8
Also available in different languages eg German.
[ Beam me up Scotty! ]


A useful inlay diagram for the R1100GS fusebox is shown on the fusebox page. It also applies to many other oilheads.

[ Beam me up Scotty! ]



110/80 R19

150/70 R17

Metzeler (OE)

Enduro 4/Tourance

Enduro 4/Tourance

Michelin (OE)

T 66

T 66 X





TW 101

TW 152





Trailmax D 604 F

Trailmax D 604


Karoo Front *

Karoo *

* uses non-standard sizes.

The following tire information represents the overall wisdom of R11GS riders on the BMW-GS list. However, tires are very subjective and individual owners may disagree with some of the following. Tire life too is very dependent on the rider so only general comparisons are made.

Note that most owners stick with OE fitments, Metzeler Enduro 4 and Michelin T66.

Metzeler Enduro 4/Tourance

Road-oriented OE fitment
  • excellent road grip *
  • good in the wet *
  • good rear tire life
  • problems with front cupping *
  • not great offroad
  • more expensive than Michelin

In some markets Metzeler have introduced the Tourance as a replacement for the Enduro 4. It is an improved tire but still cups (probably like all knobbly tires).

* The Metzeler Enduro 4/Tourance is not the cheapest but probably the best all-round tire. The rears give good tire life without problems.
However, the fronts cup badly (i.e. suffer from deep grooves all the way round the tire). This shortens tire life. When cupped, cornering in the wet is EXTREMELY disconcerting and, in the opinion of some, almost dangerous. (Cornering in the dry is hardly affected).
Metzeler have claimed since 1994 that they know about the problem and their latest batch of tires overcomes it. However, while improvements may have been made, front tire cupping remains a problem.

Michelin T66

Road-oriented OE fitment
  • excellent road grip
  • cheaper than Metzeler
  • good tire life
  • poor in the wet or on paint
  • not great offroad

Avon AV

The most common non-OE tire fitment
  • good tire life
  • cheap
  • "flops" into corners
  • can be difficult to get hold of
  • noisy on road

Bridgestone Trailwing

  • good onroad grip
  • cheap
  • not a common R11GS tire
  • noisy on road

Continental TKC80

Offroad-oriented - as used by BMW at their own Hechlingen Park
  • excellent offroad grip
  • cheaper than OE tires
  • poor tire life when used onroad
  • poor onroad wet grip

Dunlop Trailmax

One of the rarer tire fitments for R11GS owners on the BMW-GS list
  • poor onroad wet grip
  • poor tire life

Metzeler Karoo

An offroad tire with limited on-road performance.

  • excellent offroad grip
  • particularly good in mud and hard sand
  • poor tire life when used onroad
  • poor onroad wet grip
  • top speed on road limited to 105mph (170kph).
Recommended sizes different to standard fitments:
Front: MCE KAROO FRONT 100/90 - 19 M/C 57R M&S
Rear: MCE KAROO 140/80 - 17 M/C 69R M&S

[ Beam me up Scotty! ]


The wheels use the BMW patented cross-spoke design that allows the fitment of radial tires. They are assembled on a very expensive CNC machine in the BMW motorcycle production plant, Spandau in Berlin. Fine tuning is carried out by a craftsman using a sophisticated diagnostic tool.



The cross-spoke design means that you cannot pull a R11GS rim left and right by adjusting spoke tension as you can with a normal spoked wheel. Further, wheels are re-buildable only by experts with previous experience of this unique design.

As explained in the handbook, spoke tension can be assessed by gently striking them with a metal object, like a screwdriver. If they all have the same tension, they sound the same (or at least similar) notes. Spokes that are tighter have a higher note; loose spokes lower.

If you find a tight/loose/missing spoke, adjustment/replacement is beyond your dealer who will normally suggest replacement (not cheap).

However, if there are less than four spokes affected you may try some home DIY as explained in the following. (Given the sophistication of the construction process, if four or more spokes are affected a new wheel or expert rebuild is definitely required).

Tim (Bondo) Bond is a BMW-GS listmember as well as a professional wheelbuilder. Here are his instructions on spoke replacement on a R11GS cross-spoke wheel.

  1. Get the spoke, nipple and grubscrew (setscrew).
  2. Put it in until just tight.
  3. Ring some of the spokes with a wrench and torque the new one until it sounds like the others.
  4. Install the setscrew.
  5. DO NOT TRY TO ADJUST ANY OTHER SPOKES or you'll be sending the wheel to me for a big bill. The tubeless wheels don't adjust like any other wheel so please don't try it.
  6. Now give the wheel a spin and see how much deflection you have and maybe you'll see why the spoke is gone. Catch a twig on a trail? BTDT
  7. If the rim is within 1/8" not too bad on the rear for stump jumping. If more you've whacked something and it needs to come apart and be relaced. Ring all the spokes with a wrench and listen to how many sing and how many are dead. Older R11GSs with Akront rims were kinda soft in the torque dept and that might have caused the spoke to pop. In that case it may need a rebuild.
For more information and advice contact Bondo at
Wire Wheels Motorcycle Service .

[ Beam me up Scotty! ]


The stock R11GS suspension has the following adjustments: Set the preload first then the rebound damping.


is the static tension in the spring. It affects suspension travel, seat height and speed of steering but not 'hardness' or 'softness' of the ride (unless you hit the top or bottom stop).

The following ASCII art represents your spring when it:

  1. is uncompressed (e.g. on center stand with wheel off the ground)
  2. has low preload
  3. has high preload
  -    ----------------------     -    ------------------    -
  |                               |                          |
  |                               |                          |
  |  Uncompressed                 |  LOW                     |  HIGH
  |     spring                    |  preload                 -  preload
  |     length                    |                           
  |                               -                           
Front: Adjust collar on bottom of shock using hook wrench and extension from the toolkit.
There are 5 notches.
Highest notch is LOW;
Lowest notch is HIGH.
Standard setting: second highest notch
Suspension travel: 190mm (BMW claim)
Ideal preload: 1:3 i.e. 63mm of 190mm travel

Rear: Set with large black knob by exhaust marked HIGH, STD, LOW.
HIGHer is clockwise;
LOWer is counterclockwise
Standard setting: as marked STD
Suspension travel: 200mm (BMW claim)
Ideal preload: 1:3 i.e. 67mm of 200mm travel


  1. Sit on the bike wearing all your riding gear e.g. jacket, helmet etc
  2. Adjust preload front and back so about a third of your suspension travel is used up.
(Helps if you've got someone to measure or else use a plastic tie on the suspension to see how much the shock compresses).

Adjust preload front and rear for:

Turn the adjuster:
HIGHer to: LOWer to: Fault finding:
  1. Suspension tops out, bike steers too quickly ("tucks") - preload too LOW so go HIGHer
  2. Not enough ground clearance, suspension bottoms out, bike turns too slowly - preload too HIGH so go LOWer

Rear rebound damping

resists spring extending. When the spring is compressed it goes to a minimum length then springs back (i.e. rebounds). Rebound damping stops your *wheel* from bouncing, not you. Affects traction and how the ride feels i.e. "hardness" or "softness".

Rebound damping is connected to compression damping and vice versa. This makes finding the correct settings difficult. If you make rebound damping HARDer, the ride becomes harder but also if you hit a big bump, you are less likely to bottom out (than if you had SOFTer setting) i.e. same effect as if you had increased compression damping.

The rear rebound damping adjuster is that little black screw on the exhaust side at the bottom of the shock. Adjust using the screwdriver and extension from the toolkit.

Only the last few turns towards HARD seem to have any effect.

Standard setting: turn clockwise to fully HARD then undo HALF a turn

Set up:

  1. Ensure tire pressure and tread depth are correct and preload is set.

  2. Carefully work out original setting and write it down (for reference and so you can change it back if all else fails).

  3. Find a bumpy road, the bumpier and the larger the range of bumps ie small to large, the better. (Riding fast around a bumpy corner is best.) A roadside observer can help as well.

    Now ride up and down your bumpy road. Start with one extreme setting (say HARD) then the other (SOFT) so you feel the sort of effect rebound damping has.

    Feel what the back end is doing - you want firm traction not skidding.

  4. Depending on the feel you got, estimate what initial setting to try (eg half way between the two extremes or more HARD than SOFT).

    Try many settings (quarter turn) then write them down with their results.

    The ideal setting keeps the back wheel most consistently in contact with the road. (It is NOT the smoothest ride, that's underdamped).

BMW shocks go off very quickly - they heat up then stop working until they cool down again. This means, they are different at the start of your bumpy ride to (say) 15 minutes into it. Give them time to cool otherwise you are wasting your time.

Adjust rebound damping for:

To check settings for luggage/pillion, load up and try your bumpy road again.

Fault finding:

  1. Tire won't stay in contact with ground on series of bumps - too HARD so go SOFTer
  2. Bike pogoes (bounces up and down excessively) - too SOFT so go HARDer or one or both shock absorbers are worn

Simple shock absorber test

To check the rear shock absorber: Try it a couple of times to get the idea.

Apart from the visual check, testing the front shock absorber is not so easy as it is more difficult to compress. However, if the handling deteriorates, the tires and rear shock are ok then suspect the front shock and seek expert help.

[ Beam me up Scotty! ]

Offroad Riding

Now click to see the bigger picture! BMW have their own Enduro park at Hechlingen in Bavaria, Germany. They teach you how to do serious offroading on an R11GS, either your own or one you hire there. (The R11GSs at the Enduro park are fitted with a Frame reinforcing kit.)
To prepare your own R11GS for offroad use.
  1. If you have an aftermarket seat (eg Corbin) swop it for the original.
  2. Remove:
  3. Slightly loosen both the left and right handlebar controls so that they are firmly on the bars but can be twisted with some effort. (This lessens the chance of breaking/bending a brake/clutch lever in a fall - can be left all the time like this if you want).
  4. Reduce tire pressure front and rear to 16 PSI (still handles ok on road but reflate asap when you return to tarmac. If it's a long way to an air compressor consider using compressed CO2 canisters).
  5. Depending on preference/surface, disable the ABS.
  6. Pray you don't have to shell out too much money for turn signals etc! (Note the R1150GS turn signal stalks are more flexible and can be retrofitted to the R11GS).
At their Enduro Park, BMW teach a technique for picking an R11GS up singlehanded when it falls over:
  1. Turn the handlebars to full lock so that the front wheel points uphill.
  2. Go to the side of the bike with the end of the handlebar nearest the ground.
  3. Position yourself:
    • facing the bike
    • so the end of the handlebar is:
      • central between your feet
      • just in front of your feet
    • feet shoulder width apart
  4. Grab the end of the handlebar nearest to the ground with BOTH hands. (So it feels that you are going to pull the handlebar into your crotch).
  5. Prepare yourself for lifting by bending your knees and keeping your back straight.
    Depending on the position of the handlebars and the layout of the ground, you may need to go into a full squat.
  6. Lift by straightening your legs WITHOUT BENDING YOUR BACK.
  7. Stop lifting just before the bike becomes vertical (to stop it going over on the other side!).
[ Beam me up Scotty! ]

Simple Faults

Here are a few simple faults and their cures together with some useful maintenance items that owners should be aware of. They have appeared on the BMW GS Mailing List.

(Reading the following list it's easy to think that the R11GS is fragile. That is completely untrue. It is well built and when properly serviced and looked after is very reliable. Don't get paranoid, your bike quite possibly won't suffer any of these!).

There is more useful info on the IBMWR website R1100 Tech Articles .

Tightening the switchgear assembly (throttleside)

The handlebars are easy to rotate back but sometimes the switchgear also needs to be rotated to suit. However, the screw that holds the throttleside switchgear assembly is difficult to find.
  1. Carefully examine the right turn signal switch. To the left of it (just to the rear of the brake hose fitting) is a recessed phillips screw. This secures the throttle/brake assembly to the handlebar.
  2. Unscrew this screw. Rotate the switchgear to a comfortable position then tighten.

Running out of fuel

As already mentioned, it's not a good idea to run out of fuel as it may damage the injectors but if you do, try this before you start walking or thumbing a ride.

Get off the bike and hold it over towards the brake pedal side. (The two lobes of the tank are not connected - the fuel leaves the tank on that side). Get back on and try starting - if you are lucky the engine will fire up and you can go another 10 or 20 miles and fill up!

Difficult starting/won't tick over

Especially common after the tank has been pulled back/removed then refitted. Check the throttle cable run very carefully, especially where the outer sheath ends on both injector throttle bodies.

What happens is that the cable gets pulled out of position which destroys the synchronization. The Motronic then tries every way it can in a vain attempt to re-synchronize and in doing so produces erratic engine performance.


Sometimes US models sputter and almost stall when the tank is filled to the very top. This is caused when the charcoal canister gets saturated with fuel from an overfilled tank.

Remedy - either don't overfill the tank or remove the canister. Gary Wasserman has details of carbon canister removal on the IBMWR website.

Note the charcoal canister is fitted to US models only not European ones.


ABS in cold weather
In cold weather, typically on first start up in the morning, ABS often does not initialize. It continues blinking while you ride. On later journeys ABS is often fine.

The problem seems to be the battery voltage is low (due to the battery being cold) when the test is performed. Low voltage prevents ABS initializing.

To overcome this, ride carefully until the battery has had a chance to warm. Then pull over, turn the ignition off and re-start. Normally ABS works then.

To disable ABS
When riding offroad on certain surfaces some riders prefer to disable ABS. To do so:

  1. Turn ignition off.
  2. Press and hold the ABS reset button.
  3. Turn ignition on.
  4. Release the ABS reset button.
  5. Start the engine and ride off.
  6. If the ABS lights continue flashing, ABS is disabled until the next time you switch on normally.
    The brakes work normally so now it is possible to lock your wheels.
    If no lights are on (and you hear that grating clunk as you move off) then ABS is still engaged - stop and try again.
  7. Press the ABS reset button to stop the annoying flashing and leave one red light permanently on. (You have to repeat this at intervals).
ABS Reset
Another situation that owners should possibly either know how to deal with or else carry a set of printed instructions for, is ABS reset.

In certain situations e.g. after an off, the ABS needs to be reset. You can see this because the red ABS warning lights flash not together as they normally do but alternately. The brakes are unaffected.

Normally a dealer has to reset the ABS. However several owners said that the last thing they wanted after coming off was to have non-functioning ABS. The following procedure can also be used. It is useful to carry a short length of wire stripped at both ends.

  1. Turn ignition off.
  2. Remove pillion and rider seats.
  3. Locate the 3 wire plug by the toolkit and remove the blue termination. (It's for diagnostics so is not connected to anything).
  4. Insert one end of wire into the *middle* socket.
  5. Clip the other end firmly to ground.
  6. Turn ignition on. Note that the two ABS lights continue flashing alternately.
  7. Hold ABS button down for 8 seconds. The bottom ABS light should stay on, the top one off.
  8. Release the ABS button.
    • If the reset is successful, both ABS lights come on.
    • If you didn't count to 8 or your ground is not good, then the top ABS light stays off. Start again and/or try pressing the ABS button before turning ignition on.
  9. Turn ignition off, remove wire, reconnect plug and refit blue termination.

Rear brake failure

One owner reported riding in the mountains losing the pressure in his rear brake pedal. When checked nothing appeared to be wrong. The fluid was above the min but the caliper was very hot.

After pumping the pedal several times it built up pressure but after a short distance it lost it again. Then after a short coffee break the brakes worked fine.

The cause was boiled brake fluid due to water in the brake fluid. This was made worse by riding (downhill) in the mountains when the brakes are used more than normal. As soon as it cooled down the rear brake worked as normal.

The solution is to heed the BMW recommended annual brake fluid change.

Speedo Cable

Speedo cables usually last a long time. However incorrect fitting shortens its life considerably. Most common cause of misfitting is having a new front tire fitted.

The speedo takeoff has a ridge to keep it from turning. When mounted correctly, the ridge is in front of the fork, and the cable attaches at an angle almost parallel to the ground.

When mounted incorrectly, the cable attaches to the speedo takeoff (at the front axle) such that it angles noticably downwards.

Defective clutch seal

Some bikes, particularly pre-98, suffer clutch slip. You usually notice it first during high speed roll ons in top (e.g. accelerating hard from 70 to 90mph).

This is a known problem caused by oil on the clutch plates. This is due to a seal being nicked during gearbox/engine assembly and has been reported on 94-97 models. (98 on they fixed it).

(If you are really keen you can inspect for the problem. Remove the starter cover and see if oil has bypassed the seal and coated the inside of the housing).

The bad news is that it requires the whole engine and transmission to be removed to replace the damaged seal. The good news is that normally, if you work with your dealer, he can arrange for this to be handled like a warranty claim. This holds even if your bike is out of warranty because it is a known problem.

Puncture repair

  1. Put bike on center stand. Place rocks around wheel without puncture to stop bike rolling off stand. Retrieve the puncture repair kit that is stored with the tools.
  2. Find cause of puncture e.g. nail. Carefully mark its position (so you can find the hole later) and remove cause.
  3. With the tool from the puncture repair kit, vigorously ream the hole to make it large and smooth enough for a plug (i.e. a couple of millimeters across). Try wearing a glove to pad your hand from the thin tool.
  4. Hook one of the plugs onto the tool. It should be angled so that it extends back toward the handle.
  5. Apply glue to the end of the plug, the outside edges and to the inside edges as well.
  6. Apply glue to the hole and its edges with the end of the tool.
  7. Push the tip of the tool into the hole, then push the plug halfway in. This is extremely hard to do. It's easy to break several plugs before it goes halfway in.
    DON'T ROTATE the tool and plug, just push it straight in.
    It helps to:
    • squeeze the tire from the sides. This makes the hole larger and keeps it from deforming towards the rim.
    • if an attempt fails, use the other end of the plug for another try.
  8. When the plug is halfway in, pull the tool smoothly back out. It should come out and leave the plug in place.
  9. Use the small cutter from the kit to cut off the part of the plug that sticks out beyond the tread.
  10. Attach the adaptor from the kit to the tire valve.
  11. Put on gloves (as CO2 cylinders freeze instantly when pierced!). Push the CO2 cylinder into the valve adaptor to inflate the tire.
    Each cylinder is worth around 6-7 psi.
  12. Check the seal by dripping a little water on the plug. (If it leaks slightly, it might still seal when ridden).
  13. If the tire holds the pressure, ride home more carefully and slowly than normal. If you experience any unusual handling, stop and re-check. If possible, stop at a garage and reflate to correct pressure.
  14. This is a temporary repair only. As soon as possible take to a tire depot to have it properly fixed or replaced.


Some higher mileage engines sometimes pink (or pre-detonate) when accelerating hard in top gear even when using quality fuel. This is often caused by carbon build-up. The solution is to use a fuel injector cleaner. BMW market Techron but the commonly available car injection cleaners, like Red Line SI-1, are also perfectly suitable.

Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions. One recommendation is to add the cleaner immediately before filling up and going on a trip that uses up most of the fuel in the tank.

Sidestand switch

Several owners reported that their sidestand switch failed for no obvious reason (usually miles from anywhere!). They had to trace the wiring and short the switch.

BMW evolve models during their life but they don't fix what aint broke. So the fact that BMW fitted a re-designed switch for model year 98 indicates pre-98 models do have a potential problem.

So it's probably a good idea for owners of pre-98 models to either learn how to short the switch or to keep the printed instructions with them, just in case.

When ignition switched on:

First get right down and examine the switch carefully for trapped stones/other debris. If you find something, remove it and try the ignition again. If it still won't work, short the sidestand switch:
  1. On the gearchange side under the front seat there is a plastic connector.
  2. Pull the connector apart.
  3. Short the green/red and green/yellow wires.
  4. Re-assemble the connector.

Alternator belt

A screeching noise from front of the engine is usually caused by the alternator belt.

To check the alternator belt remove the black plastic cover in front of the engine and see if the belt is correctly tensioned and in good condition e.g. not frayed.

Radiator blind

If the engine does not reach 5 bars on the RID in cold weather try a radiator blind. Cardboard is easiest to use but perspex is more durable and less visible.

Small perspex off-cuts are available at most DIY shops very cheaply. 2mm (3/16") thick is ideal. Approx 200mm length (7 7/8"). Indent along bottom edge keeps perspex from damaging paint on mudguard. Rough ASCII art:

                 Length 200mm (7 7/8")
 |                                               |
 |  Various heights                              |
 |  to suit weather                              |
 |  e.g. 20mm, 30mm, 40mm                        |
 |                                               |
 |   _________________________________________   |  2mm thick
 |__|                                         |__|
       10mm shoulders at bottom on each side
Various sizes can be made up e.g. 20, 30 and 40mm deep. The colder the weather, the bigger the perspex piece required to let engine reach working temp.

Alternatively you can buy a neater radiator blind.

Split Fuel Filter

Symptoms: The cause is a split BMW fuel filter, often due to water in the fuel. The fuel filter is in the tank and replacement is fiddly. Best to take to BMW dealer.

Alternatively, see Rob Lentini's External Fuel Filter Modification R1100 on the BMW Internet Riders website.

Sight Glass Blow Out

It has been known for the engine oil sight glass to blow out. Seems to be on higher mileage bikes (over 50k) particularly those with cannisters still fitted. Happens mostly on engine start up although some sight glasses slowly leak over time.

(To know what a blown sight glass sounds like, start the engine and briefly remove the oil filler cap - same sound.)

The sight glass is actually plastic, inexpensive and easy to replace yourself. It's simply a friction fit with flat sides - it's amazing that it stays in place at all!

To replace an old/leaking sight glass

  1. Make sure the oil level is below the bottom of the sight glass e.g. drain some oil out or securely tilt bike.
  2. Drill a small hole in the plastic.
  3. Insert a small sheet metal screw (self-taping) into the hole.
  4. Use a claw hammer or similar to pull the sight glass out.
  5. Clean the surface.
  6. Smear a thin film of high temp engine sealant over surface.
  7. Find a suitable object that is the same diameter as the sight glass. For example, a large socket or one inch length of PVC pipe.
  8. Carefully use the object to tap the new sight glass into position.
  9. Top up oil level.
  10. If possible leave overnight before starting engine.
On journeys to remote parts some owners carry a spare oil sight glass and suitable object to mount it. Just in case.

[ Beam me up Scotty! ]
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    Updated the 03 January 2001