Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Learning to ride an "R" type Beemer

I am sure that most of you know that it is not easy to ride a bike you are planning on buying. Some dealers let you try a demo, and some not. Private sellers may let you ride their bike with cash in hand. When I bought my Suzuki SV650 a few years ago the seller rode the bike in a parking lot to show me that it worked, it shifted correctly and it stopped. When I bought my V-strom I bought it off the showroom floor. I did not have the chance to ride it before it was ready for delivery after it was insured and transferred.

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On my recent acquisition of my "new to me" BMW R1200R, I did not ride it before I commited to buy it. The Prev owner rode it over to my home as it was more convenient for me. The paperwork was done and it was transferred into my name, all without even so much as a test ride. My confidante asked me if I tried it out to make sure that I liked the way it handled. I mean what is there to know. It has the usual controls with the clutch lever on the left and the front brake lever on the right. Is there something that I am missing ?

I didn't get to ride my "new to me" R1200 until the next day as I could not visit my insurance agent until the next day. When I got home I decided to attached the Cee Bailey windshield FIRST, then check the tire pressures which were very low (but I didn't know it at the time).

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Now I knew that this particular bike was much too low for me, it has the low seat option. I also knew that with the boxer engine the centre of gravity was also very low, which makes it easy to push around.

The time of reckoning had arrived. I put on my gear, mounted the bike and started the engine. Ahh, the sweet sounds of the boxer engine. I turned a bit wide on my first left turn. Nothing dangerous but certainly, NOT in the groove. The engine is so smooth and nearly silent, it changes gears like butter into 2nd . There is sort of a torque steer as you twist the throttle.

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My Suzuki V-strom is considered top-heavy but as you make a turn you only have to give a slight lean and the bike leans over by itself, then you add a bit of throttle and soon you find yourself in mid turn. Easy peezy . . .

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The female type jugs on my "new to me" R1200 are low down. I found that you have to ride it like a cruiser, put lots of attitude by aggressively leaning into the direction you wish to turn, otherwise the bike likes to keep upright, so you have to work at it a bit more. I also did a few "S" slaloms down an empty road swooping back and forth to check out the lean angles, and the "R" like to remain upright. As my confidante says, you have to move your "cheeks" a bit to make it easier to facilitate the turn

This particular model also has a steering damper. I couldn't figure out why my arms are getting tired. I checked the Beemer forum and there are pros and cons about leaving it attached, or not. But for now I will leave it connected as a safety feature to minimize "tank slappers".

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I have ridden this bike to work a few times and I think I am getting more accustomed to its different characteristics but the most difficult thing to master is the archaic German designed signal light system

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On the left handlebar there is a switch on the underside of the handgrip which is not visible from your riding position. This turns ON the left blinker. THERE IS NO OFF button to cancel the blinking

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On the right handlebar is the right turn switch, barely visible. And directly on top of that is the cancellation switch, which turns off BOTH left and right blinker lights. This is not the way it is done on any other bike I have owned and it does
take a bit of time to get used to. It is particularly hard to HIT the cancellation switch when you are also turning the throttle in mid-turn, when I like to cancel my signal lights. I am finding it just easier to not make any turns, nor change lanes, either that or just turn without signalling. What a S$%^%$$p system !

This model also has automatic signal cancelling. Signal lights are supposed to turn off after you accelerate to a "certain" speed, or in 10 seconds, and they do, except I think they remain on TOO LONG. It's not a deal breaker, but it's such an inconvenience to have to learn something new at my young age

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I bought some white reflector tape to make my footprint more visible at night.

31 comments:

  1. Congrats on your 'new' R1200R! I've had mine now for about 2 and a half years and I love it. I've done some long rides on it, and in fact went for a ride up to Campbell River today, and had a hoot, riding along the 'old' Island Highway.

    Perhaps we can get together and I can answer any questions you might have about the bike.

    Mike (BC Beemer)

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    1. Mike:

      Glad to hear from you again. It's probably been a couple of years since the Vancouver M/C Show, when you saw me oogling one. Somehow I knew that one day I would own one. I was thinking of riding to Campbell River in Mid October, if the weather is pleasant. I always ride up the scenic coastal route.

      We can always get together anytime for a hot beverage

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  2. Wow Bob your rear end is huge! Thats why you need 1200cc to hall that ass.
    Sounds like you've gotten used to the jap bike blinkers which I don't think theres anything wrong with how they are set up. I'm sure you'll get used to them and after a while you'll probably leave your indicators on when riding the Vee.

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    1. Chillerteck:

      Why thank you ! That's a compliment, I think . . .

      It's just one of those things that you have to get used to. I don't understand why the cancellation button wasn't put on the left side as I like to turn them off in "mid turn", otherwise I often forget to turn them off. They are supposed to turn themselves off when you accelerate to 22 mph. I did try this once and exceeded 22 mph and the signals did NOT turn off. But they did turn off by themselves after 10 seconds as it was supposed to do, but I find this too long. I want them to turn off in 5 sec

      I don't have any problems with my WEE as I can easily turn them off mid turn

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  3. Bob

    You must also now grow a beard - it's all part of the R series lifestyle statement and should help the cornering feel.

    Regarding the blinkers, the cancellation feature can be adjusted with a suitable PC linked up (a dealer job probably). Incidentally mine cancel after 300m. You can also buy a Wunderlich lever that fits over the cancellation button and this makes it easier to operate.

    N from England

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    1. Wow! I did not know the cancellation could be adjusted. Cool! Thanks!

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    2. Nikos:

      Must be your RR's training. You know everything. 300 M is one third of a KM, that's a long way. In the city I want the blinkers to stop blinking before I reach the end of the block, otherwise everyone will think I am going to make a turn (at the next intersection). If I am entering a freeway then it won't matter how long they blink.

      I am going to sweet talk my confidante into getting me one of those Wunderlich levers

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  4. Having ridden a couple of Beemers (my Dad had an 1150GS and a mate had a K1), I can definitely say that they are different to a V-Strom!

    Re: more steering effort and the steering damper (I hated the damper on my Dad's SV1000), perhaps a set of slightly wider bars would both lessen the steering effort and do away with the need for a damper?

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    1. Andrew:

      I have to check whether I can decrease the tension on the steering damper, but I think not. It is a safety item for rough roads to prevent tank slappers, from what I have read.

      My arms are getting fatigued more than I am used to and I thought it was caused by the steering damper, but it is easy to turn. Perhaps the bar risers are on the wrong angle for my arms which increases my muscle input. I am not sure . . .

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  5. Those rear cases are HUGE! You could carry all of your camping gear in them. I couldn't tell from the pictures but does it have electronic cruise control? What is the black cylinder mounted just to the right of the center of the bars? A power outlet?

    I'm not too sure about the lower center of gravity claim as the crankshaft seems to higher in the bike than on most other bikes. Maybe for more clearance when cornering. Are you planning on replacing the lowered seat?

    I found that the adjustable steering damper on my old airhead was only really useful when on bumpy roads. Otherwise it was left at its lowest setting and not very intrusive and doesn't seem to add any steering effort. But mine doesn't want to stay upright. It's lowest energy state is on its side leaning on a cylinder.

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    1. Richard:

      Those cases may look huge, but they seem smaller than the Kappa's on my V-strom. Plus I don't have a topcase mounted yet. I had to order the combo sidecase/top case bracket from BMW ($$$$)

      This bike has the safety package: ABS brakes, ASC:anti slip traction control, but no ESC or Cruise , but has TPI; tire pressure monitor and on-board computer.

      This model comes with one Powerlet outlet on the left side just under the seat, and I wired in a conventional Cigarette lighter plug on the bars to handle my Nuvi GPS, and perhaps use as a USB charger.

      This bike wants to stay upright more than lean. If you rode it you will see what I mean. It is very easy to move around. I need a higher seat but the problem is in deciding which one. There are several choices. In the meantime I am using a throw on, GEL pad

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  6. Stop trying to cancel in the MIDDLE of a turn! All of you attention and control should be on the bike and road. Never lifting a finger off for something like canceling.

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    1. Lori/Steel Cupcake:

      Yes, Mom ! Imagine you are in mid-turn, the handlebars are turned (either to the left or right) and you are turning the throttle a bit to accelerate "out of the corner". This moves your fingers farther away from the cancellation button. Try it and you will see what I mean.

      Your left hand does not move from its holding position, so it would be much easier to push the cancellation button mid turn using your left thumb, as is what I usually do when turning.

      Try this with your "NEW TO YOU" dual sport. You know the one you haven't posted about yet. (OOPS, let the cat out of the bag)


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  7. I am glad you are getting accustomed to the differences in the bikes. I think it would be odd to hop on a bike and have the turn signals be that different. You'll get used to it I'm sure.

    Oh and just an FYI - In Oregon if your turn signal/indicator isn't on all the way through a turn, you can be ticketed. I wonder if BC is the same?

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    1. Trobairitz:

      Oh, Oh, I guess I have to wait for Troubadour's opinion on this one.

      I always thought that you had to signal in advance of a turn to show your intention to turn, but once "in the turn" signalling won't matter as your intentions are clear to everyone. So I don't know what the law is, but over all these years I have always cancelled my signals "Mid turn" so they are OFF before I complete the turn.

      Also up here, if you have your signals on "too long" after the turn, they will fail you on the test. The signals on the "R" turn off by themselves after 10 seconds, or upon reaching 22 mph (as per the manual). I think this is too long. They should be on a 5 second timer.

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  8. Bob,
    Is there any real need to lean into the corner.... isn't countersteering sufficient with those bike bars?

    I'm a bit surprised at the number of riders in Canada and the U.S who buy bikes without a decent test ride - is it difficult to get a dealer or a private individual to let you try it? I think back to the time I ended up with the Street Triple. I was actually set on getting a Thruxton Bonneville but after having test ridden it, it just wasn't right for me, whereas the Triple was.

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    1. Geoff:

      countersteering works great while you are moving. I am talking about being stopped at a light, and making a left turn when the signal turns green. I have to start turning immediately by shifting weight . . . the Strom leans immediately as it is top heavy.

      there are few demos bikes here. If you are serious they let you take out a showroom bike but they don't like you to put many miles on it as it has to be sold as new. The demo rides come from factory teams who bring truckloads of factory owned bikes to various dealers during the year. You sign up for a ride and get a time slot. You are in a group riding a predetermined route. You are all together and you return to the dealer together, as a group.

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    2. In the US only Harley and BMW will allow rest riding of a bike. All other bike models don't have oil/fluids until they are purchased by the new owner. So it can still be sold as factory new 5 years after it was made. And not many private people allow test riding. I didn't get to test ride my R either.

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  9. Fun stuff getting to know your new bike. They all have their little quirks don't they. Hopefully it will all become second nature soon.

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    1. BlueKat:

      The signal light switches are the most challenging, as they are different than any other bike I have owned, and I just checked . . . I have owned 17 bikes. I am getting used to them but the Cancellation switch is in the wrong place

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  10. Bobskoot...you've bought something from the Teutonic side of the world, crafted...per Mr Riepe....by elfin magic deep in the Black Forest....oh wait, I'm referring to the vintage Airhead Beemers, not those darn modern, think for you oilheads... :P

    Seriously though, yeah, those signal buttons are weird but you'll get used to them...I like to cancel my turn signal as I initiate my turns at intersections, then concentrate on collision avoidance from that point on.

    Play with the rotational angle of the bars, in other words, loosen the bar backs, rotate up and down, it might help with the shoulder fatigue, just watch for enough cable play of course.

    By the by....they make kits to attach a sidecar to the 1150R versions of your motorcycle....I wonder...

    dom

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    1. Dom:

      The Beemer is part of my plan to increase my radius, and of course it has to be a real BMW with protruding Jugs, a real boxer engine, not like that wannabe sewing machine-like "K" model.

      I like to cancel my signals mid-turn, just like you. I have always done it this way. Signals are only to signal intent to turn, once in the turn your intent is obvious. I find that if I don't turn them off within the turn, they will be blinking for miles . . .

      I was also thinking that the bars are turned the wrong angle. I am getting fatiqued more than usual. We have our last BBQ bike night next week (for this season), I'm going to be looking out for handlebar angles. I think the cables are long enough, it already has bar risers installed.

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    2. The only thing you will need to consider with angle is if the cables are original. Those bar risers may or may not allow much angling depending on if there is much more lose play in the cables. Some bar risers are extreme enough that cables have to be replaced with longer ones and you won't have any issues with rotation.

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  11. Bob, I have an R1200RT. I hardly ever try to lean the bike, just countersteer. If I was going to turn left from a stop, I would start by going ahead for a very short distance to begin reaching the centre of the road and begin counter steering. The bike will lean very nicely with no need to shift weight (really does not do anything anyway - you just imagine it does).

    I read in Riepe's blog you are thinking of riding East. I'm just west of Toronto's airport and have a bed for you if you are coming this way. Might also meet you and ride a bit with you. Let me know...

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    1. Edward:

      sorry we missed you when you were over in Vancouver Island. I thought about coming over but you know how high the ferry rates are. Sometimes you don't have the luxury of going ahead, and you are on a cambered road and having to make an immediate turn from a standing stop. I'm getting used to it the more I ride it. The rear tire is also squared off a bit which doesn't help. I don't want to install new tires until next Spring

      My parents used to live at Weston & Shepard and I worked downtown one summer. I parked at Islington (Park and ride) and took the subway to Bay & King, across from the TD Tower.

      I am still planning my route but thank you and I may take you up on it. Depends a bit on Jack's route as he is heading to Salem, OR and I wanted to meet up with him on his way out. It is just too early to finalize anything, but we are heading towards the Atlantic Ocean

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  12. Bob I was lucky that the dealer here (where I bought my Star) allowed me to take a test ride (the sales rep road road along on my Suzuki). It wasn't an over-nighter but it was long enough to know it was a great bike for me. You'll get used to it ... but will it get used to you?

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    1. Karen:

      I think I could have taken a "test" ride if I wanted to but it felt fine when I sat on it. The seat is a bit low but things can be changed. Nothing is perfect right out of the box. It currently has the low seat option, but I sat on a normal seat, and it felt better.

      I was talking to my "new to me" R12 tonight, and he wants to meet you next year

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  13. Bob, do check under the front seat. The barbell looking thing the seat clamps to just behind the tank should have a low and high set of cups. This allows the low seat to be in one of two positions. It may be in the low position.

    On my RT, I have the regular suspension, the low seat. I use Low in town, High on long highway trips. I also have a peg lowering kit to give knee relief.

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    1. Edward:

      Unfortunately, the R12 does not have an adjustable plate below the seat like some other models. They offer 3 different seat heights, NO charge options from the factory, and most opt for the low seat. My knee is bent but if I had some highway pegs to stretch once in a while I may be okay. Otherwise I will keep a lookout for a used normal seat.

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  14. LOL. I'm a signal canceler, too! The first time I rode a BMW, I was confused. So were others in our tour group. For about 3 days at least one person would honk when they tried to signal a left turn. It was pretty funny. I can barely remember how to do it the old way anymore.

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    1. Kathy:

      I'm still not used to the signals. I pushed the Horn again the other day. I was riding along and I wanted to change lanes but didn't as it was too stressful to use the turn signals. I was laughing inside my helmet.

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