Frequently Asked Questions
about the BMW R1200GS

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Last updated: 2006.11.11

November-2006: This is the first cut at a FAQ for the BMW R1200GS, GS/Adventure and HP2. If you have one or more question/answers or subjects you'd like to see addressed here, email them to HMarc.

This is a "FAQ-like" document — it isn't organized as a list of questions and answers as a traditional Frequently Asked Questions document would be. Instead, it's organized by words and word phrases. Mostly nouns, and a few verbs. I think you'll find it just as useful being organized this way.

Quick Links (listed alphabetically)

Adding electrical accessories    Online parts fiche    Technical information
Battery Charger   R1200GS Mailing Lists   Tool kits
Gear Indicator failures   R1200GS online forums   Vendors of R12GS stuff
Oil filter   Recalls   What R1200GS owners think


 General Subjects

R1200GS online forums

The three best places online for a daily fix of chatter and discussion about the R12GS as of November, 2006, are:

R1200GS Mailing Lists

Micapeak.com has a fairly active BMW-GS list which these days which is about half oriented towards the R1200GS. You can subscribe via an online form, or the old fashioned way via sending an email request. The list name is BMW-GS@micapeak.com.

What R1200GS owners think

There is a Registry of R1200GS bikes at micapeak.com, and as of May, 2006, there are roughly 200 entries where owners describe themselves (where they live, what experience they have, when they bought their bike, etc.) and their bikes (what modifications they've done, problems they've had, etc.). There are also Registries for several other BMW GS models and competitive models (KTM 950 Adventure, Suzuki V-Strom, Ducati Multistrada, etc).

Vendors of R12GS stuff

There is a fairly current and comprehensive vendor list right here at R1200GS.info.

Online parts fiche

Max BMW Motorcycles has an R1200GS Parts Fiche online, though as of May, 2006 it was a little bit out of date (BMW often updates their fiche every month). Here you can see the same diagrams and part numbers that the parts counter person at your local shop sees.

 Service & Repair

S-1) Technical information

There are two good online sites with technical info (three, if you count R1200GS.info): the first is the Internet BMW Riders site, which has a good collection of tech articles on the R-bikes -- though most of them are for the pre-1200 models. All computer literate BMW owners should have the IBMWR site bookmarked.

The other good site is the Hall of Wisdom at the Adventure Rider Website (there's a "Wisdom" link at the very bottom of the page). ADVrider is another link most all BMW GS riders should have bookmarked.

S-2) Gear Indicator failures

The gear indicator on some R1200GSes goes weird when ridden in heavy rain, and often starts working normally again after "drying out". This was a problem on the older R and K model bikes as well. There are two likely causes, both involving water getting into where it shouldn't be: either the side-stand lock out switch, or the transmission gear position indicator (TGPI) connector on the back of the engine. See the IBMWR article.

This problem won't affect drivability of the motorcycle, but it is annoying. It will not show up on the BMW shop's diagnostic computer either, as there is no 'fault' for the Gear Indicator.

S-3) Battery Charger

The R1200GS has an AGM (absorbed gas mat) type battery. They have all the advantages of a gell battery, but can take more abuse (temperature variation, vibration, holding charge when sitting unused, etc.). Theoretically, they cannot "spill" since all the electrolyte (acid) is contained in the glass mat, which *should* make them non-hazardous (for shipping purposes).

You can use a regular battery charger *IF* you hook it directly to the battery (NOT through the accessory socket). The ECU on the bike thinks it's smarter than the owner, and shuts off the accessory plug a minute or so after the ignition is turned off. It delays this if there is a charger attached and charging the battery, but once it detects no current on the socket, it will shut it off. [You can tell if the accessory outlet is "active" because the round red light on the top of the left handgrip housing will be lit.]

A conventional charger will charge it ONCE, provided you plug it in within a minute or so of turning off the bike, then be forever blocked from re-charging it when the battery gets low.

The OEM BMW charger sends a "signal" up the wire (someone on ADVRider put a strip-chart recorder on it and figured it out, I think it was 18v for 40ms or so, repeated a few times) to tell the ECU to "open" the accessory socket so the charger can test the battery's voltage, and begin a new charging cycle if necessary. That's the magic of the OEM BMW charger. Plus a fancier "shape" to the charging program. There's a bit more battery charger info on this Website.

Recent ECU upgrades have apparently affected how the OEM BMW charger works, and several report their chargers can't "open" the aux socket anymore to charge the bike after it has sat awhile. I plan to re-wire my aux socket directly to the battery which will prevent BMW's screwups from affecting my charger.

S-4) Recalls

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the USA publishes recalls as they are announced. There is a fairly current list of R1200GS recalls here.

S-5) Oil filter

The R1200GS uses a different filter than the R11xxGS series. It's shorter, and has a different pressure relief valve. The older filter will screw on, however, and in a pinch one could be used. However, the stock filters are available for about $10US on the Internet if you look around, so why take a chance?

Unfortunately, BMW chose to change the fluting on the end of the filter which means the older filter wrenches don't fit the R1200GS filter. The BMW filter wrench is quite expensive. There are after-market alternatives, some quite reasonably priced. See the build your own toolkit page for examples.


 Equipment & Accessories

E-1) Tool kits

The first few production runs of the R1200GS included a modest toolkit. Later production bikes came with a much simplified version, hardly worth the name "toolkit". You deserve better. Here's an article explaining it all and showing how to build your own toolkit.

E-2) Adding electrical accessories

For the most part, you don't attach stuff directly to the CanBus. You can add any electrical or electronic accessory you want (within reason) if you attach them directly to the battery — ideally via a switched relay to isolate them from the CanBus and to insure that they only receive power when the ignition is on. This article will show you how. There are also other articles here on installing specific accessories, like auxillary lights.

 Can't find what you want?

If you want to help make this FAQ better, and you know a question and answer that aren't covered here, send them to HMarc and I'll add it here, giving you full credit by name if you desire. More subjects, questions and answers is a Good Thing™, right?

Copyright © 2006, by H. Marc Lewis. All rights reserved.