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Old 17 Feb 2002
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BMW R1100GS ABS, too high tech?

I currently ride an R1100GS with ABS(94) and dream of RTW, however it worries me that EFI, ABS and chips might be too black box for this sort of thing.
For those of you that have done the long road home, is this the case or are mods in order. I have promised myself that once she doesn't owe me anything anymore I might get her rebuilt on simpler lines.
Your thoughts and feedback are eagerly sought?

Stationary for now
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Old 17 Feb 2002
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My take on this would be - leave it alone!

The R11xxGSs have proven to be reliable, and failures of the electronics are not common. It can be argued that properly done electronics are more reliable than mechanical components. Certainly better at adjusting for altitude and bad fuel.

Also by the time you redo it, I suspect you could have bought a new bike. If you really want simple - and I have no argument with that as an airhead rider - go for the old bikes - R80/100GS. Of course they have their flaws too, which need fixing.

These flaws were fixed on the later series bikes, so you could always go for one of those - oh wait, you've got one!

In other words, don't mess (too much) with a good thing. Your bike has some flaws, but they are well know now. Deal with them and enjoy the ride. Sure wish I had your brakes, ABS, handling, suspension, power... and glad I don't have the weight, but not sure it matters much!

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Old 17 Feb 2002
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I bought a GS new in 94 and did 60000 miles on it. During this time I became friends with the dealer technician who serviced it, which was useful, because a surprising number of things went wrong with it.

Based on my experiences, and what my technician friend has told me, I would say don't worry about the EFI - it never goes wrong. The ABS almost never suffers a problem that you can't fix yourself - and if the control unit packs up, no problem. You just have a non-ABS bike with "ordinary" brakes!

There are a few other things to check before going RTW however. Many boxers of that era had manufacturing faults in their gearboxes. I needed mine replacing twice. But if yours still works OK after 8 years I reckon that proves you got a good one. If they go wrong it tends to be at low mileage.

My starter motor and fuel pump also packed up - but that's unusual. My clutch also wore out - this is fairly common, and you might want to replace it before you go. How about a ceramic one from Touratech? They are said to last forever, even after prolonged abuse in soft sand. I'm going to get one for my 1150 before I set off.

You might find info about other things to look out for if you talk to the folks at www.gsclubuk.com.

I don't want to sound negative though - fundamentally you have a great bike, which will go on for ever. And I imagine you are one of the lucky few with a plastic tank - more crash resistant than a metal one, looks better, doesn't freeze your nuts off when you fill it and you can get the full 25 litres from it. The metal ones don't seem to let you get more than 22 litres - unless you lie the bike on its right side to move the gas in the left "bulge" over to where the fuel pump is.

Have a great trip.

P.S. If you want your bike checked out I can recommend a technician in the London area! His workshop comes to you, in a truck. And his rates are lower than a dealer's.

If a thing is worth doing, it\'s worth doing to extremes.
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Old 21 Feb 2002
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Stephen, I've got an 1100GS ABS at home in Australia, an air head R100R in Canada, (last of the series) which I have ridden through Mexico and up the Alaska Highway, and I am part owner of a New Zealand tour company that has a fleet of BMWs, F650s, 1100 and 1150GSs, and R850Rs, 28 BMWs in the fleet.

I love the simplicity and light feel riding on the 'old' R100, troubles have been zilch in 56000Kms. All two-up. It just bops along so easily.

The 1100GS also has been trouble free, but is cranky to ride slowly in traffic, much more so that the R100. I rode one in Southern Africa and found it way too big and heavy for me in sand. But I've had absolutely no problems with the electronics, except for the ABS occasionally needing resetting. Which it does itself every stop.

The BMWs in the tour fleet get a hard time. The elctronics are very reliable, and the few problems we've had have always been traced to things like wires jammed under the seat, or pulled out. Actual failure is unknown and that's saying something in a fleet situation. If there are any weaknesses they would surely show up sooner or later.
Speedo cables are a problem and the most common failure.

I would not consider messing with the electronics, you could end up with something really unreliable.

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Old 2 Mar 2002
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I have a R1100R which is fundimentaly the same machine (gearing, etc). In 52K miles, I've had no problems. I'd have no problem taking it's GS cousin (or it for that matter) RTW. The 1100 series may even be a better choice than then the new 'Adventurerer' which BMW has decided needed power brakes among other things. I can't figure that one out. They seem to be chasing the American Bigger Is Better SUV market I suppose: Bells and whistles, looks good and tough.

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Old 19 Mar 2002
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I also have '94 GS1100 ABS. Zero problems with electrics. If your battery level gets low, the ABS lights will alternate when you start the bike, as the ABS unit registers that there is not full power available.
I'm also on my third gearbox. I broke the first one's case and the second one kept doing bearings. Early gearboxes had tapered bearings on the input shaft. It's been replaced with a '99 version with straight bearings which has been trouble free.
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Old 19 Mar 2002
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As an interesting note, HPN has started to install later model rear drives from the oilheads onto their airhead specials, thus circumnavigating the early Paralever problems of the R100GS series. Sometimes time and technology does improve things!
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Old 21 Mar 2002
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Because of the ABS's sensitivity to low voltage, the next time I replace the battery, I think I'll go with a sealed unit. The stock batteries have been sensitive to discharge and also have been problimatic in cold (< 30 degree F) weather. THis isn't really a huge problem as without ABS you still have a very good set of brakes but those flashing lights are kind of distracting.

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Old 24 Mar 2002
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If you want to stop your ABS lights flashing, just switch the ignition off and start the bike again. This works 99% of the time.
If a thing is worth doing, it\'s worth doing to extremes.
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Old 6 May 2002
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I binned my GS in South Africa, not serious, the bike was still rideable, but the ABS just switched itself off. It doesn't affect the bikes braking efficiency and is easily re-set at a BMW dealer.

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