More Stainless;                                                                       22/02/2011

I have some time off work at the moment but plenty of other ‘jobs’ to do around the home and for friends and relatives, as well as playing with my new toy!  I did however find time today to visit a bolt supplier in Taunton. I’ve used them before. They are called Western Bolt and Engineering supplies.

I always find this a comical place to visit. It is like an engineering firm straight out of the sixties. The staff in the place are as ancient as the shop itself and the old fella that serves is a real hoot. He huffs and puffs when has to serve a customer.   I went in with a list and samples of different sized bolts that I wanted to replace with stainless items. I required around 50 bolts in total, some large, some small, all with Allen heads. Some had screw thread along their full length, some had straight shanks before the thread started, but there were only around 8 different sizes.

Below are pictured just a few of the rusty nuts and bolts that I wanted to replace. You can see why. Each one, small and insignificant on its own but collectively they make a huge difference to appearance.

You would have thought I was asking for the world! One at a time he took the bolts from my sample, picked up his micrometer, measured the diameter then, mumbling to himself as he walked away, disappeared into the racking shelves behind the counter. A few minutes later he would return, drop all the bolts he had just selected into a small seal-top bag then write down the items on an old-fashioned roll-out type invoice, then take the next bolt from my samples and start again. Each time his huffing and puffing became louder and more exaggerated and each time he returned the bolts were dropped into the bag with more gusto and an increasing sense of inconvenience. I was hoping that he wouldn’t have to have a heart attack with all the effort he was exerting. It wasn’t as if the place was busy with customers; in the 15 minutes that I was there no-one else came in to be served!

Anyway, he managed to source seven out of the eight styles of bolt that I had asked for. I could almost see the relief on his face when he didn’t have to add another item to his invoice.

Then I had to pay.  The total only came to just over £16 including the dreaded VAT, but I didn’t have enough cash in my wallet so I offered my card. Oh my word! The look on his face said it all. He just lifted the counter top and said. “You need to come into the office if you are using a card”. He turned and walked away from me, expecting me to follow. I smiled to myself and followed him into the abyss. I wondered if I would come out alive. He took me through to a small office area and as soon as he opened the door I could see a woman of similar age – I won’t insult her by guessing her age, but I reckon she must already have been drawing her pension for a few years.

As soon as the office door opened I was hit with the stench of stale cigarette smoke, filling the air. The old lady grabbed an ashtray from her desk, opened one of the drawers and hid it. As if I wouldn’t notice the foul smell and the brown, nicotine stained walls and ceiling. The smell was overpowering. How anyone could sit in that room let alone work was beyond me. Anyway, ‘Mr Happy’ typed my invoice amount and then placed my card into the electronic card terminal and handed it over for my PIN to be entered. I never said a word. Holding my breath was taking some effort. I daren’t speak until I was back in the open. As soon as he handed me my card back I made a dash for the door and then in my most cheery voice shouted back, “Thank you so very much for your assistance!” and left the shop. As soon as I walked out into the open I could smell that foul stench clinging to my skin and clothes. I felt dirty and really self conscious. I drove home with the car windows open, but 17 miles later I could still ‘feel’ the presence of that acrid smoke on myself.

Anyway, I was home. The bolts were in my hands and I went and washed and changed before starting the task of changing the bolts over.

As well as the ones I had already replaced I have now replaced a considerable amount of the rusty or discoloured bolts on the K1200RS. The front disc rotor bolts now look clean and shiny, the footrests, hanger plates, rear sub-frame support bolts, shock adjuster, front fork brace bar and gear change lever bolts are now all stainless. The appearance of the bike is transformed. It was lovely before, but these subtle little changes are discretely impactive making the bike very pretty!

The last photo shows the rear fairing bolts at the back of the tank and ther attachment for my tank bag, which when it’s not in use folds down and is hidden under the seat. Very neat!

Iffy Brakes:                                                                                      20/2/2011

Today I decided that I needed to check the brakes for pad wear, or signs of any problems following my recent experiences of brake unpredictability. As you know, my bike has not covered many miles in its life so it must have spent some considerable periods sitting without use. I was concerned that the brakes, particularly the front ones may be suffering from sticking pistons or from pads not be able to slide either due to a build up of dirt or corrosion after being parked up and left after being washed and put away.

This morning I checked the rear brake. It was absolutely fine. Pads not even half worn, sliding freely and no corrosion or muck built up inside the callipers. The disc is clean and showing hardly any signs of wear.

The front brakes however were a different story. The pads are about half worn, the discs show signs of standing corrosion and the calipers were dirty inside. Not enough to cause a problem but what was evident was, as I expected, a build up of rust around the edges of the pad backing plate and through the retaining pin hole at the top. The retaining pins were not bad but were lightly rusted. I will replace these with stainless items in the future when I replace the pads at the next service time. The pad backing plates had rusted themselves onto the brake pistons and they were unable to slide freely under braking pressure.

Not a huge job. I spent a couple of hours removing the pads, cleaning the callipers, removing the surface rust and copper-easing the areas where the pads need to slide freely. Job Done!

Her Indoors; Biker Chick:

Sunday was a nice day. It was noticeably warmer and the sun came out. After a lot of rain over the previous couple of weeks it was a welcome change. Having fitted the top-box and checked the brakes, I was now happy to take the ‘boss’ out for her inaugural ride on the new machine.

It was her suggestion actually. We didn’t go far. We rode to the local fuel station, filled with Super Unleaded and I re-checked the tyre pressures. I’m still staying with the BMW recommended pressures of 36psi front and 42psi rear, at the moment.  I will experiment with increased front tyre pressure when I ride solo.

The fuel station is around 2.5 miles from home. That was long enough to get an early first impression from ‘her’, regards pillion seat comfort, hip and leg angle, foot rest position and possible cramping.

Early feedback was good. She felt comfortable! She commented that the seat was wide and there was plenty of room between my back and her front; enough room to place her hands in her lap, which she does when she’s relaxed. (When we’ve been touring before, she holds the camera in her lap for ‘snaps-taken-on-the-move’) The top-box was not too close to the back of the pillion perch so as to push into her lower back. This was another complaint she had about the Bandit. I think that there may even be room to fit a back-rest cushion pad on the ‘box for her.

This short journey did however highlight a problem with the ‘autocom’ system that had been left by the previous owner. This particular system is called ‘pro’. There are three audio leads, a jack socket for music and an auxiliary socket for a sat-nav, plus two positions marked ‘1’ & ‘2’ on a toggle switch and a Vox control knob. With no handbook I can only guess and play. The system has power. The ‘power-on’ LED lights up. When a music input is attached the sound can be heard in both the rider and pillion helmets. But, there is no voice connection between the two helmets. You can only hear an echo of your own voice when you speak. Despite plenty of fiddling and experimenting I couldn’t get the system to work properly.

All joking aside, when I take my ‘biker chick’ out for a ride I like to be able to talk with her. True, it would be quite advantageous to have a mute switch located somewhere discrete, but I would like the choice!

So we rode back home in silence. I quickly disconnected the power supply for the existing ‘autocom’ and connected my own unit back in its place. Not such a complicated or fancy system as the one on the bike, but mine has been on numerous bikes over the years and works extremely well. Now we had communication back.  I would tidy the wiring later.

So we went for a leisurely ride out. About 45 miles I guess. Some ‘A’ and ‘B’ roads and a little bit of dual carriageway. This BMW K1200RS is great! I didn’t notice any difference in handling at all. The bike was still smooth, effortless and bloody quick.

The wife and I were able to talk whilst we rode. The screen effectively keeps wind blast down to an acceptable level so that we could hear each other clearly without shouting, even at slightly above legal speeds. The bike is so deceptively quick that she had no idea just how fast we were going at times.

The need to get home meant that our first trip wasn’t that long, either in terms of distance or time, but was long enough to get the big thumbs up from the ‘biker chick’. She enjoyed the ride and found it to be a very comfortable bike on which to be pillion. We are now looking forward to brighter and warmer weather to try a weekend camping break. Later, after we had returned I completely removed the mal-functioning inter-com and fitted my own unit properly. I tidied the wiring and at the same time installed a fused link for a trickle charger.

My own autocom neatly fitted inside rear left seat panel. The leads are routed along the frame members and exit on the right side of the bike. When not in use they are loosely rolled and held with a hairband thenplaced in a convenient place out of the way. The riders lead lives in the side of the tool tray compartment and the pillion lead fits nicely in the space under the tail piece!

Rusty Nuts:                                                                             19/02/2011

I have now started to replace some of the original BMW fixings with stainless steel ones. The rainy journey to Sussex really showed up one of the areas of weakness of this lovely machine, as with every other BMW that I have previously owned. Rusty nuts and bolts!

I cannot understand why such a prestigious manufacturer who demands high prices for their products thinks that it is okay to save a few quid on decent fittings? The standard nuts and bolts rust quickly and spoil the entire aesthetic of their machines. I ordered some specific replacement, after market stainless steel nuts and bolts from an on-line supplier and I’m just about to go and fit them. Update later.

I have now replaced the rear drive torsion bar bolts, the front and rear brake caliper mounting bolts, the fairing fixing bolts and also the sump, bevel box and gearbox plugs. These were expensive items but well made and very nice quality from on-line supplier ‘shawstainless.co.uk’

What a difference a few new shiny nuts and bolts make!

750 miles in:                                                                           10/7/2011

Well, I’ve just completed a two day turn-around trip of around 400 miles, from home in Devon to Sussex and back, with a little bit of riding around at the other end. The weather was great to start with but turned out to be bloody awful. I rode the return leg in torrential rain. Not the first time I’ve ridden in such weather, but it was pretty bad. My ‘gear’ doesn’t normally leak and my boots have never let water in before, but between Chichester and the New Forest I rode in some of the worst weather I’ve ever experienced. The rain and spray on the motorway reduced visibilty and my speed dramatically. This effectively cancelled out the benefits of having a fairing and screen as the rain just saturated me because it wasn’t being defelected away. By the time I reached Ringwood my feet were wet, I could literally pour water out of my gloves and my outer high-viz jacket had been completely soaked through, through the three layers of my normally waterproof all-season bike jacket to my long sleeved sweatshirt underneath. Not pleasant. Not pleasant at all. But the bike didn’t miss a beat!

Before setting off from home I had adjusted the rear suspension setting to a point mid-way between ‘soft’ and ‘medium’. This setting works well for me. It is comfortable, soaks up the bumps and is not so hard that the back end feels like it jumps around as it had before.

I got hold of the specific K1200RS mounting rack for my Givi Maxia top box. It took a couple of hours to fit it properly to the bike. I removed the rear side under-seat fairings so that I could access the necessary fitting bolts and so that I didn’t scratch the paintwork. My only disappointment was that I had to remove the ‘sexy’ looking little BMW rack in order to put the Givi rack in place. Having said that though, the Givi rack is purpose made and it does fit well and doesn’t look out of place on the bike. I have found that having the top box on the back makes day-to-day carrying of anything so easy. I can easily pop into the supermarket and pick up several days shopping just as easily as packing an overnight bag or two. The big box is also large enough for two full face helmets and waterproofs, gloves and the like, which mean you don’t have to lug all that stuff around the shops! It also gives the better half her confidence to sit on the pillion seat and relax.

On my journey back to Sussex I found the throttle a little slow to respond at times, as described before. I am wondering if the cables just need lubricating. A job I will do soon.

The engine is mainly smooth and powerful under acceleration but I found that coming ‘off throttle’ then back on again could sometimes produce a momentary lapse or hesitation. I don’t know if this may be down to the possibility of a sticky throttle cable or whether this is an inherent trait of the power take up. No matter.

When I’m doing the cables I will check the air filter to make sure no little nasties have crawled up and made a nest while the previous owner wasn’t using the bike, just in case. That could be a possible reason for the hesitation. I’ve seen that before; a mouse had used the air box on an FJR1300 as a nesting place!

Fuel consumption on this longer journey was around 46mpg. I found that from full to reserve warning light coming on was approximately 150 miles, giving a tank range of about 180 miles. I think that on even longer trips this can be improved on. I would anticipate that a 200 mile tank range would be possible.

I found the seat to be extremely comfortable, the heated grips work extremely well, particularly with the handle bar muffs fitted. But, even they didn’t keep out the rain that I experienced on this trip!

Due to the large handlebar mounted mirrors, which I must say work extremely well, large and clear and no vibration, I found that I had to measure and then make a small hole in the correct position on the top of each muff, in order to pass the thread of the mirror stems through. The mirrors then securely keep them in place, however they still need some attention. I found on this higher speed journey that the wind pressure forces the ‘muffs’ back towards the clutch and brake levers.

I had this problem once before. It was solved easily by securing the outer edge of the muffs using the screws that held the handlebar end weights in place. The K1200RS doesn’t have end weights but I see no reason why they can’t be fitted. I will do some research. In the mean time I just have to extend my fingers inside the muffs and push them away from the levers!

I realise that they look awful, but looks in cold weather are a mere insignificance compared to warm hands! I will be removing them in the Spring, as I do every year.

The bike is still heavy to move around particularly at slower speeds. I have read somewhere on one of the websites that increasing the front tyre pressure to around 42psi gets rid of this problem and dramatically increases steering response. I shall experiment with the pressures over the next few rides.

I do very much like the way this bike so effortlessly accelerates. Overtaking is so easy! The lower screen position is good for town work. I found that the high position was better for the longer, faster roads.

I will need to check the brake pads for wear as I found that on a couple of occasions the front brake seemed a little slow to ‘bite’ and then when it did, it ‘grabs’ hard, making smooth progressive braking a little, er, interesting. The pads look okay, but I need to get them out for a closer inspection and check that they are moving freely in the callipers and that the pistons aren’t binding.

The low centre of gravity allows for sure footed handling, even in the wet. I had to remind myself on a couple of occasions that the roads were very wet as the bike is very confidence inspiring around the bends. The Metzeler Roadtec Z6 tyres seem well suited on the bike.

I put the bike up on its main stand and decided that I would drain just an egg cup full of engine oil as checking the level was not easy to see through the sight glass. Removing just a tiny bit of oil makes seeing the level so much easier.

So far, so good. Still liking and enjoying.

Fuel consumption on the K1200RS appears to be okay. I haven’t checked the handbook but the tank is smaller than I had imagined it would be. Either that or the fuel light comes on too early and the fuel gauge shows empty too soon! I have worked out that I’m doing about 43mpg, riding solo over mixed roads and at combined driving speeds. I am not too disappointed with that.

The seat is large and comfortable for me. I will have to wait for ‘her indoors’ to give me her opinion on the pillion perch  at a later date, but sat on the back in the garage she has said that the seat feels comfortable and her leg / foot positions on the rear pegs feel good too. Let’s hope that with all her riding gear on she still feels the same way.

I haven’t used the panniers yet. They are the same as previous BMW cases that I have had. The right pannier has more capacity than the left due to the lower indent for the exhaust. I guess that will be mine then! I do have a Givi Maxia top box which I will fit soon.

At the moment my only niggle is that the rear suspension seems to be too harsh. I have set the rebound to a softer setting but I think that the spring rate may need to be set lower too. I’m guessing that the previous owner had it set for two-up riding with luggage. At the moment I am riding solo without panniers.

So to summarise so far:

I have had the bike for 10 days now. The K1200RS is a beautiful bike. I know that is a subjective statement, but it’s my blog and my opinion! I have covered approaching 300 miles so far. A couple of short journeys and a longer ride out on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The longest ride so far was about 130 mile round trip in rain, fog then finishing in glorious sunshine. It’s been cold and icy in places. I have ridden in town, on motorway and dual carriageways. I have ridden on ‘A’ roads and some badly potholed ‘B’ roads.

My experience so far, living with the K1200RS as an everyday bike is favourable. I like the look of the bike. I like the comfort, the riding position and the power. The fuel consumption is okay. The rear suspension is not. Not yet, at least. I like the fact that the bike will commute, tour and do whatever I want it to do. I like the fact that the luggage is easily fitted and removed and that it has discrete rails when the cases are off the bike so that its flowing lines are not spoiled.

The bike is easy to keep clean. Shaft drive, no oily, messy chain adjustments and easily cleaned fairing panels. The wheels are also easy to clean too, apart from having to contort one’s hands behind the front discs.

It could do with a rear hugger to keep the road dirt off the rear suspension unit and off the exhaust collector. I would have liked it to have been fitted with an alarm and immobiliser as standard, but that’s probably expecting too much. I will source and fit a system as soon as I can afford to.

Overall I am very happy with my choice so far and I look forward to bonding with the bike in a way that I have not previously managed to do with previous bikes. At the moment I cannot find any reason why this should not develop into a long-term partnership. I may even join the BMW owners club for the benefits of cheaper spares, insurance concessions and forums for exchanging knowledge and advice…..

 

Wish list for future additions;

Alarm / immobiliser

Aerofoil screen.

Rear Hugger

Stainless steel bolt set.

The higher screen position, oddly, at slower speed causes more wind to be directed into my face at and causes more buffeting, but at higher, speeds is better at deflecting the wind rush over the top of my helmet and away from my upper body.

Both screen positions are effective at keeping the rain off my upper body with just minimal road spray dirtying my lower arms. I personally prefer the lower screen setting and may try an additional aerofoil spoiler fitted on the top edge of the screen at a later time.

The heated grips have two heat settings. Bearing in mind that it is still January and the outside temperature has been hovering around 3 – 4 degrees for a couple of weeks now, the heated grips work well. I have found that the higher of the two settings is required to feel any real warmth through the gloves, but warmth it is and very grateful I have been!

As I ride all year round I am not one for fashion accessories. I like to use handle bar muffs in the winter. These are laughable to look at and are scoffed at by some Sunday fair weather riders, but they are SO effective. They keep the rain, road spray and wind chill at bay and used in combination with the heated grips are absolutely fabulous. Now they are fitted, I have found that I only need to use the first heat setting on the grips as the second setting actually makes my hands TOO hot!

The headlights on the K1200RS are very good too. They are big and bright with a decent main beam that actually lights up the road ahead. Better than some cars I have owned.

The horn is also good. It is loud and can be heard above the traffic. The sound would get you noticed if you need to use it.

The ABS system is well integrated and apart from the warning light on the display it would be all but invisible if you didn’t know the bike was fitted with it. The system checks itself as you move off, the light goes off and you forget that it’s there. I have practised a few slow speed emergency stops to see if it actually works. It seems to work well at slower speeds. You can feel a very slight juddering motion as the brakes flick on and off as it brings you to a controlled stop.

The brakes themselves are linked front and rear. They are powerful and effective. I have heard people say that they don’t like linked brakes, but I have no problem with adapting my riding style to suit. The only time they can be annoying is when slow manoeuvring. You just have to modify your rear foot braking technique. I do not find this hinders me at all.

The only un-nerving thing that I have found with the braking system is that the ABS / powered assistance to the braking forces only operates when the engine is running and AFTER the brake function check has been carried out. After picking up the bike and returning home I wish I had known this BEFORE I tried to wheel the bike backwards off the trailer and down the ramp. Trying to hold 266kgs rolling down a hill with no brakes is no fun! The brakes do have a very small amount of braking pressure but you need to be able to squeeze the front lever virtually back to bars before it works. Lesson learned!

The throttle is quite stiff. It is not so ready to ‘blip’ and ‘rev’ as had been the case with my Bandit. It does however allow for a smooth, progressive increase in power delivery when moving.

The acceleration is, quite simply, stunning. Looking at the ‘stats’ printed on a document, 125BHP and a top speed approaching 160mph doesn’t mean anything in the real world. This is a heavy bike. It was never going to be a bike for wheelying away from the traffic lights, but I wasn’t expecting such rapid, smooth, linear acceleration. From a standstill this bike just flows like liquid. It reaches 60mph in a matter of seconds in 2nd gear and if you keep the throttle open it reaches 100mph in third a couple of seconds after that. It is all so effortless. I don’t know what the stop speed is likely to be, but on a test ride on a ‘private’ road 140mph was shown on the speedo, it was still accelerating and I still hadn’t selected top gear!

The engine braking and torque effect of the shaft drive when coming ‘off throttle’ when slowing down takes some getting used to, but once mastered becomes a real benefit. I have found that I can brake later going into a corner than on a chain driven bike. The shaft drive take up is smooth and quiet.

It is also very stable at speed. The wind has no effect on stability and it feels planted and secure. There is a steering damper fitted, but at the moment I have not investigated how this effects handling as it all seems so ‘right’ the way it is.

The first 300 miles:

At 266kgs this is no lightweight sports bike. My first impressions on riding this bike were that it was heavy and has the turning circle of a small ship. Full lock feet up turns in the width of a normal road are a no-no. With just a little practice and careful clutch / brake / throttle control turning becomes easier, but you still need a field or a car park to turn on full lock.

Slow speed manoeuvring has always been one of my favourite ways to demonstrate skill and control on a bike; it doesn’t look so good when you have to put your feet down, but fortunately, with the seat height being low on this bike and with a low centre of gravity it is easy to ‘paddle’ the bike back and forth while still seated, if it becomes necessary.

The clutch is light and unlike my previous BMW experiences, the gearbox is silky smooth. First gear is selected without fuss, so much so that you have to check that the ‘neutral ‘ light has gone out and that the digital gear indicator actually shows that the gear has been selected. The gear ratios are well spread. The engine torque belies the weight of the bike of the move and I found that I had to check the gear indicator frequently to remind myself that this bike has six gears. Fourth gear could effectively be used for everything from pulling away to cruising at legal speeds, so is the effective combination between the engine and ‘box.

The typical BMW anomaly of providing indicator selectors and cancel on three separate control buttons is easily adopted. In fact, I personally prefer it once you get used to it. The buttons are large, easily used with gloved fingers and thumbs and feel strong and well made. The position of the buttons on the bar grips prevent undue amounts of water and damp getting into the electrical connections as they are mounted and protrude from the underside of the bars.

The ergonomics of the bike are well laid out. Everything falls easily into place. The bars are adjustable for reach, the seat is adjustable for height and the footrests and gear selector can all be adjusted to suit each individual riders own physique.

The previous owner was of shorter height and smaller build than me. He was around 5’8” tall and probably around 11 stone, compared to my ‘manly’ 6’2” and 14 stone, but I found that the positions in which he had tailored the bike suited me immediately. I have found everything to feel ‘just right’ without the need for adjustment.

The cockpit display has everything I need and look for. I don’t want fancy, electronic gadgets and computer displays. I want a large speedo and tacho, a clock, fuel gauge and trip computer as my minimum requirements. The RS has all these and the bonus of a temperature gauge and the digital gear indicator, which on this bike I find absolutely necessary. The displays are clear, easily read whilst on the move and are well illuminated in the dark.

The screen can be manually adjusted while stationary. It is easy to move with gloved hands. It has two positions. I find that the lower position is fine for riding around town and up to around 40-45mph with my helmet visor up. Above this speed the wind is pushed over the top of the screen directly into my face requiring the helmet visor to be shut down.