Horizons Unlimited - The HUBB

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-   -   Has anybody ever seen a failure like this on an early F650GS or Dakar? (http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/which-bike/has-anybody-ever-seen-failure-38514)

khaylock 21 Oct 2008 14:42

Has anybody ever seen a failure like this on an early F650GS or Dakar?

That was on the Alaska Highway near Destruction Bay on the way back from a tour of Alaska. Forks fractured at 85mph, compound arm fracture, tortuous medevac back to Seattle for emergency surgery. Lucky it happened in the wilderness and not in heavy freeway traffic, though.


More here.

Crash in Destruction Bay, YT - ADVrider

I figure if anybody is going to have seen or heard of anything like that, it will be people going RTW on the bikes.

BMW uprated the design of the forks sometime around the end of 2002 and early 2003 after small spate of these, apparently - the new forks are much beefier than the old ones in the area that failed above, so if you ride a bike with the beefier forks you don't have anythuing to be concerned about as far as I know.

Mads.M 21 Oct 2008 15:21

Ive read the thread on advrider.com...All i can say is that im happy i dont own a pre-2002 GS, or id worry everytime i took it out for a spin.

What makes me furious is the way BMW handled the incident, simply stating: "you must have hit something"!!!

Ive never heard of anybodys wheel coming off at 85mph regardless of make, but i have heard of stress-cracks on different bikes mainly in the frame though.
But apparently at least one other GS-rider have experienced the forks disintegrating at speed...scary!

khaylock 21 Oct 2008 16:17


Originally Posted by Mads.M (Post 211823)
But apparently at least one other GS-rider have experienced the forks disintegrating at speed...scary!

I think we are up to about ten distinct identified cases in that thread now, with pictures in hand for five of them. Of the seven incidents where what happened is known, none occurred in heavy traffic (presumably this is why the riders are still alive to tell the tale), all bar one resulted in injury, and of the remaining six, the score as far as we know is one slight injury, four serious injuries and one very serious injury indeed.

Only one of the failures that details are available happened in any kind of collision - the rider hit a dog that darted into the road at about 40mph, the forks failed on one side and the rider was chucked off. The others have all been spontaneous failures, including the guy who had his forks catastrophically fail just like this on Ruta 40 in Argentina back in 2001 and suffered a broken neck for his trouble.

farqhuar 22 Oct 2008 03:06

This is just typical for BMW and I continue to wonder why they can't get the basics right. :(

I crossed the Sahara on a Yamaha RD350 in 1978, closely followed by 4 BMWs (2 * R90/6 and 2 * R90/S).

My Yamaha came out intact with no damage to forks or subframe.

Of the 4 BMs, 3 snapped their front forks off at the base of the lower triple clamp and all 4 snapped subframes.

30 years later and I watch "wrong way round" to see snapped subframes on GS12s, and now I read here about snapped forks on GS650s.

When, oh when will the BMW factory ever learn, and when oh when, will the poor suckers who keep buying their crap ever see the light. :rolleyes2:

Garry from Oz.

Linzi 22 Oct 2008 08:01

Good Info
Thanks for that last information. I was already put off BMW for many other reasons but now it's final and complete. Especially when Yamaha have the base covered. I can't be the only one who is shocked and more at the thought of the front collapsing anytime, anywhere! Then the company doesn't recall them?!!! Apart from this it reminds me not to take essential parts of any bike for granted. Linzi.

Threewheelbonnie 22 Oct 2008 08:28

First of all, glad the injury was a lot less than it could have been and best wishes for a speedy recovery.

In a past life I worked for an effectively German company with various branded European customers and dealt with some similar issues. My area at the time was brakes, so obviously the potential for huge issues when there was anything going wrong.

To answer Garry's question as best I can, BMW will get it right when their teamwork improves. The company I worked for and all the big German customers are run by engineers and have a blame culture that would have scared Julius Cesar. The engineers rule and God help any mere customers contact who suggests they might be wrong. The reaction in BMW to the fork issues will have been;

1. It's not our fault, we are great engineers it must be the user.
2. No one in Germany who we know really well brought us any busted forks.
3. We don't make the forks we buy them, let the supplier sort it out. Oh, by the way, don't change anything we designed.
4. Hmmm, an interesting bit of metalurgy/stress analysis, this will get me my doctorate. Lets keep it secret so only our company learn from it.
5. Ok, we did the campaign change, lets get back to proper engineering and design yet another weird indicator control.

The next people in the pecking order below the engineers and the accountants who want to know why you are giving away forks and scrapping stock.

The Japanese customers (and those who accept the Japanese system) worked as teams. The team member for Sales would have screamed about next years figures if the product is wrong, the purchasing guy would have taken it rather personally that he might have not given the external supplier all the right info and the engineers jump at the chance to improve the product within the whole teams major aim of staying in business. It makes life hell for the suppliers but the product is almost always right. It only goes wrong when people high up ignore their teams and usually try and keep things secret for the sake of the company image.

Even the small manufacturers do it better IMHO. It may take time to get info to the MD of say Moto Guzzi, but when you do, he'll go down on the shop floor in person and kick the **** of the guy going anything wrong.

The part number thing mentioned on ADV rider I don't consider sneaky. The lower fork leg part drawing can be changed and the complete assembly simply up indexes. This saves production and parts people hassle once the change is finished, they mod two drawings not a thousand stores and service documents.

The statement from BMW Sales "I/we never heard of this.." I'm not keen on but is probably true. Dealing with this sort of stuff isn't easy and most people don't make a career out of it. The guy who phoned and probably his boss won't have heard of it. The files on the subject will be well burried until you get to the right person in Munich. If a lawyer challenged it you'd get a simple "our employees used the information they had at the time" answer.

I never came up with a way to beat the system on this except repeated contact and threats to publicise issues. Even if every F650 owner went to the dealer on the same day to check the recall had been done, you'd only annoy the sales team not the people who run the show.

While I hate to bash BMW, in this case buying an XT could be a very good solution.


khaylock 22 Oct 2008 09:41

Thank you for the insight, Andy!

I think the big thing in this case is that yes they changed the design, and yes they put the new design into production for all future product, but there is no recall, not even a service campaign, for swapping the older design of fork to the later design.

To err is human and all that. To have a few organisational problems accepting that you have a fault and then dealing with it is definitely sub-optimal. But putting a design change into production specifically to resolve a safety issue and not doing anything about the installed base of product in the field gives the appearance of the very worst kind of corporate cynicism to me.

Let us hope that publicity is the answer and that BMW relents under the public spotlight and initiates a recall!

Threewheelbonnie 22 Oct 2008 13:19

Sorry, I mis read the stuff on ADV Rider. I thought there had been a recall not just a design change.

There are a couple of organisations in the UK who might convince BMW to sort this out before someone gets killed. The SMMT, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders monitor most recall actions in the UK. BMW UK is a member. I'm sure if they were sent the photo's and information noted here on ADV Rider and on the chain gang they'd be able to pass them to someone who might use the phrase "class action" in a call to Munich. BMF (and MAG) also have contacts at BMW UK and would I'm sure be happy to contact them.

Have you sent MCN the photo's? I'm sure BMW read this comic (shouldn't be nasty to them, they might help someone in this case). If you like this idea do it before the others. There are people in all such big companies who use letters from the likes of SMMT to be ready for when the journo's come calling.

I mailed a couple of contacts to try and get some names at the above, so will come back if I can get to the bike people via the truck ones.


pecha72 22 Oct 2008 13:46

F***, that´s a nasty one. Cant put into words, how much hate the thought of totally losing control at speed, because of a technical fault. A nightmare.

If this really isnt an isolated case, and there really is an issue with these, BMW should spare no expenses, and take care of it with maximum urgency. It would be a good idea to try to get some media to react also (but first confirm that an issue with the design does exist).

khaylock 22 Oct 2008 14:55


Originally Posted by pecha72 (Post 211962)
F***, that´s a nasty one. Cant put into words, how much hate the thought of totally losing control at speed, because of a technical fault. A nightmare.

You and me both!


If this really isnt an isolated case, and there really is an issue with these, BMW should spare no expenses, and take care of it with maximum urgency. It would be a good idea to try to get some media to react also (but first confirm that an issue with the design does exist).
Well, here's the pretty obvious design change...


...and here is what the guy who crashed on Ruta 40 in Argentina in January 2001 had to say on F650.com in 2005 about why BMW changed the design...


Front forks total failure on '00 F650GS.

I own a F650 GS that I received new in June of 2000. After about 5,000 miles, I experienced a catastrophic failure of the castings on both side of the front forks. I sustained major injuries.

BMW has admitted to knowing of 3 nearly identical failures before they redesigned the forks, adding more material. They decided not to notify owners.

I'm wondering if any Chain Gang members know of similar failures.



I forgot to mention that as both sides of the forks snapped, the front wheel departed the bike leaving the bike and me doing 3 flips as the forks dug into the dirt. By the way the front wheel is in almost perfect condition. I didn't hit anything.


I bought the bike new in Aug 2000. Put about 5,000 miles on it mainly on blacktop and probably 400 on gravel/dirt roads. The failure occurred in Jan 01 on a dirt road in Argentina. Normal dirt road. No pot holes or obstructions - just 3 tracks.

The casting on the forks where it holds the wheel is the part that snapped - first on one side and then the other.

I have a lawsuit pending with BMW (the wheels of justice move slowly) and they have admitted to knowing about 3 failures other than mine that happened before they redesigned the part, adding material. I'm wondering if there are other failures that BMW doesn't know about or isn't talking about.


...and here is what a witness to the crash on Ruta 40 had to say about it here - alaska and back with one bad accident - BMWSportTouring Forums - after reading the Advrider thread...


Yup, exactly the same thing happened to one of those GSs on my South America trip in 2001. I looked at the bike afterwards, the axle mounts fractured, pathetic design, you could drop a KLR650 off a roof and it wouldn't break like that. My fellow rider broke his neck among other things, we were out of helicopter range and the first ambulance that made it there wouldn't take him because his injuries were too bad. He ended up on a bigger vehicle then having two airlifts and spent several months in hospital down there and a couple more in Chicago but as far as I know he recovered OK. He sued BMW and I believe they settled, the lawyers talked to us all and I told them what I thought of that design, don't know any more details as it was obviously all hushed up by the lawyers. This was on the infamous RT40 in Argentina but the road wasn't to blame for this one.
Nobody has managed to trace 'Gertarg' yet, but there are very motivated people working very hard to do so. It has been confirmed to our satisfaction that his silence was a condition of the settlement he received, but he will be traced.

So anyway, I'm thinking that BMW certainly have at least a couple of teensy little questions to answer from all that. There may not be quite enough evidence in hand to actually hang them, but plenty enough to build the gallows and uncoil the rope!

*Touring Ted* 22 Oct 2008 19:15

Add it to the list !!!

I still cant belive how many people chose to use this god awful bike..BMW sure know how to market a product.

I know I sound like a broken record but i'd rather travel on a chinese scooter than an F650 GS.

BMW's response is also no shock.. Its the same old "Iv'e got your money now so i dont care" attitude people are used to.

khaylock 22 Oct 2008 21:19


Originally Posted by mollydog (Post 212005)
Jeeesus! As the condemned BMW "Basher" of HUBB, I must say, of all the things I've seen go wrong on the bikes, or read about on the forums ..... I never had heard about the broken fork issues.

To say that BMW have been somewhat backward in coming forward about this issue is to understate the case somewhat.


I'm hoping current RTW riders on F650's will have a close look at their forks and inspect them for cracks, maybe do a Magnaflux test, which may show sub-surface cracks?

A very helpful metallurgist on the Advrider forum explained why even just the testing, never mind the dismantling and reassembly, that you would need to find hidden internal cracks in these components would cost a great deal more than the fork castings cost even at list price.

On the one hand, this particular catastrophic failure is also comparatively rare - I've seen a few pictures of early F650GS machines that have even been rammed into the back of cars, complete with pretzel shaped wheels, bent fork stanchions and deranged headstocks, but no visible damage to the fork castings, and yet these fork failure cases are all apparently spontaneous failures, give or take. Read "WayneC1's" story on the Advrider site for a particularly striking case of this (and of BMW's lovely high-quality high-class response to their brand new product almost killing a customer, but that's another story).

On the other hand, the parts of the internet that this information has been posted on so far have barely scratched the surface of the english speaking early F650GS-riding community and we know about ten of these incidents. How many similar failures are there that were never diagnosed in that same small subset of the early F650GS riding community? How many would that multiply up to if you included the whole non-english-speaking and non-internet using early F650GS community in the world? There may have been as many as 40,000 of these bikes built with the old style forks, and the postings on the net so far may have reached the riders of... say... five hundred of them? And we have photos or independant verification in hand to six failures?

I wouldn't like those odds if I was on an F650GS. Even if those back-of-a-fag-packet estimates above are 100% wrong, I still wouldn't fancy those odds!

tmotten 23 Oct 2008 08:01

I don't work in the automotive industry but do in an engineering industry and am wondering how the interface worked between BMW and Showa who was charged with sorting out suspension for these bikes. BOTH front and rear. Isn't Showa owned by Honda?

Disturbing none the less. And not just the failure, but the handling of the issue.

Threewheelbonnie 23 Oct 2008 12:18


Originally Posted by tmotten (Post 212048)
I don't work in the automotive industry but do in an engineering industry and am wondering how the interface worked between BMW and Showa who was charged with sorting out suspension for these bikes. BOTH front and rear. Isn't Showa owned by Honda?

Disturbing none the less. And not just the failure, but the handling of the issue.

If it were a brake (only part I have experience with), BMW would ring up the sales guy at the supplier and give a list of requirements. They then have a number of meetings until an offer is made. This is usually in the form of "standard part A costs £x but doesn't meet your spec here, here and here. standard part B cost £y and is over specced here and here, non-standard part C is exactly what you want and costs £Z plus £ABCD for tooling". There is then a stand up fight between the buyer who wants C at price A and the engineers who just want C. They eventually buy A or B on the understanding C can be rushed in if it fails any testing :(.

The mistake with the fork could be:

1. BMW were wrong about some aspect of weight, vibration etc. and didn't test it.
2. BMW sales told BMW engineering this is a 100% road bike for old ladies and no one will ever ride it off road, wheelie it, put more than 10,000 miles on it and cost is hyper sensitive.
3. Showa have a genuine quality of casting issue and switched supplier, the new one only taking the job if they could change the profile.
4. There is something genuinely unexpected on this bike.

If it's 4 and Showa did their job they will have pointed out that for example the hole for the ABS sensor isn't something that's been done with this fork before. BMW should then have done a lifetime test regadless of cost and time.

I won't name names, but I know of a brake that was used by four different OEM's. The brake supplier told them all the known test requirements and they all did it. Years later one of them had an issue no one in the world had ever seen before because their vehicle heated and cooled the brakes in a certain way and had a different electrical charge across the axles. Large universities couldn't reproduce this off the vehicle. There could be no blame to the original design team for not knowing this might happen IMHO. The team that ran the service action and designed the retrofit part acted in a responsible way regardless even though part of the new design were a belt and braces approach based on how one material was different to another. The testing on the solution was a massive expense but showed the comittment to the safety of the user. BMW's simple solution of making it bigger could suggest they are in this sort of area, but we don't know.

The lack of a service reaction once the issue is known is the only thing we can lay at BMW's door until we know more IMHO.


khaylock 23 Oct 2008 17:47


Originally Posted by mollydog (Post 212121)
Showa is indeed owned by Honda. I have no idea the relationship between Showa and BMW but typically the OEM (BMW) would spec the front fork they want and Showa would provide a suitable fork.

The castings appear to be unique to the application (the castings on the Dakar and the standard GS are identical, it's the stanchions that are different, and both have experienced this failure). I know that the internals are all standard-ish Showa bits, all be it tuned for the application - a common recommended upgrade for the F650GS is to swap various suspension components lifted from the CBR600 (like fork caps with preload adjusters fitted).


Sounds like this problem took years and lots of hard miles to rear it's ugly head. No one really to blame here other than the denial aspect provided by BMW. Fact is, BMW are STILL responsible ..... no matter how much time passes or how the bike was used.
Wayne Carrurthers had a fork failure on his brand new Dakar in Australia less than 24 hours after picking it up.

'Gertarg' had his 'big one' on a 5000 mile old bike, on Ruta 40 - a bike with only 400 dirt miles under the wheels.

Stephen Katz has a low-mileage bike.

So this seems to happen at various points in the life of the bikes, but if the suggestions concerning the way alloy responds to fatigue on Advrider are accurate, then presumably the frequency of this failure will follow the classic 'bathtub curve' model, and you'll get a load of early failures, very few mid-life failures, and then ever more fatigue-driven failures as these castings reach some 'end of life' condition.


In the USA they would have to issue a recall via NHTSA and correct the problem or face massive liability lawsuits.
Well apparently they did face a massive liability lawsuit, from 'Gertarg', which they settled in or shortly after 2005, with a gagging clause in the deal. We just need to find 'Gertarg'. And then BMW can explain why they would rather buy this guy's silence than fix the fault.

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