Bugger! I typed up this long post while Margus posted a shorter one that basically mentioned everything that I wanted to say!
Anyway – I didn’t spend half and hour typing for nothing – here is my advice:
I love crossing water! I own a 1200GS but I believe my strategy will be the same for your bike. I’m not sure exactly what info you want so I will tell you everything I know. (This is a long post, sorry)
- The maximum water height in a 'normal riding situation?
What’s normal? The air intake is usually just above the Cylinder heads. Don’t let water splash over the heads – it’s the wisest precaution.
That said… different speeds have different effects on the water. At certain speeds the water forms a v-shaped wave that allow me to traverse very deep rivers.
Sometimes the wave actually causes the water to wall up and I have to stop before it runs into the intake.
- Alterations that I could do to reach a higher maximum height? And when should I opt for a different route or solution?
You could always build a snorkel. A pipe that seals over the air intake can be run handlebar height. This works very well when crossing deep water but it’s a temporary solution. Don’t leave the snorkel on because it tends to hamper the flow of air.
Always look for a way NOT to cross through a river. If there isn’t one always walk through first (you are going to get wet anyway). Find the shallowest point to cross. Don’t be a cowboy – It might feel really good to throw caution to the wind and blast through a deep river but believe me, a ruined engine will make a grown man cry.
Solution? Once you are satisfied that your bike can make it, set off at the appropriate speed with your finger on the kill switch. It you fall you must stop the engine immediately before water gets inside.
If you fall you must unfortunately push the bike out. Stick your dry fingers into the airbox and feel for water. If there is (or you think there is) you must remove both sparkplugs and press the starter. If water shoots out the side you have more work to do… If not, ride away happy but stop every now and again to check that your oil does not turn milky white.
If you found water inside you must get a lift to a workshop op try the following:
Drain oil within 24hours (water will cause inside of engine to rust). Spray a few drops of oil into chamber through spark plug hole. Pour in cheap oil and press the starter button (no sparkplugs). Drain oil. Repeat several times until oil runs clear. Pour in good oil and insert sparkplugs. Start engine (this may take a while – don’t loose hope and don’t break the starter motor!) Engine will stutter to life with great billowing smoke. Congratulations! Don’t worry about the smoke… its just residual oil and moisture in the exhaust, it will go away. Ride to the nearest workshop and get a new air filter and oil filter. Have your dealer examine your bike if you are in the Netherlands or hope for the best if you are in the outer darkness.
- What I really should watch out for?
Crocodiles, Piranhas, Anacondas, Sharks!
When I walk through the water I start at the bike’s front wheel and walk in a straight line to my planned exit point. I shuffle my feet to feel where the rocks are and if there are any submerged ridges or holes that could through me off. I like to ride through rivers standing up (fast) because I hate getting my bottom wet but sometimes when the water seems tricky I sit down (slow) and use my feet to keep me upright. Practise in ponds or rainwater pools near your home (avoid swimming pools) until you are confident.
Don’t worry too much about the exhaust pipe being under water. If you keep the revs up the pressure will keep the water out, besides, if you travel at a good speed the wake will be below the exhaust.
Don’t be lazy and ignore the walking-through-the-water-first bit. I was lazy once when a saw a tiny little stream that I had to cross. I went in and the front wheel disappeared into a hole. I fell fast and nearly drowned in knee-deep water. My GS greedily sucked up water and broke down. It took me the whole day to find help and lots of money to get it working again. All because I decided not to do a little walk in the water!
Hope this helped Martijn – sorry again for the long post
P.S. There is also an issue with waterproofing the speedo cable seal that goes into the gearbox as well as the final drive seals that keeps the shaft oil in. Long periods in cold water can apparently cause these seals to leak but I know very little about those issues.