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Steves hints, tips and info on vehicles, systems, life, the universe and everything

This page is solely free advice for educational purposes

Steves top tips are an assortment of info based on my experiences and my opinion from the same basis....not everyone will agree with everything and that's fine with me....for a quiet life I could just agree with you but then we'd both be wrong

here we go and in no particular order

Top tip number one

"every 20 minute job is one broken fastener away from a 2 day nightmare"

top tip stick coils

Stick coils......r1200rt twincam 2011 with 95k miles on it

one of mine has had an intermittent misfire under 3500 rpm....been drving me nuts for a few weeks, I was sure it was a duff stick coil

So knowing that the cost from motorworks is about £440 for a set of 4 I went a'searching and found these at

Product name Price per unit Quantity Total price in

Ignition Coil

Article №: : ZS385 £46.19 2 £92.38

Ignition Coil

Article №: : ZS384 £60.81 1 £60.81

Ignition Coil

Article №: : ZS383 £62.31 1 £62.31

Order subtotal : £215.50

Delivery : £0.00

Security Delivery : £3.95

Total amount: £219.45

incl. 20% VAT

Yes that's right, half of Motorworks price, Genuine Beru items, I fitted them this morning and it runs like a sewing machine again.

Highly recommended .... you need 2 straight ones ZS385 and one of each angled one ZS384 and ZS383 as in the order above

Now i need to get my old ones tested and see which one (s) is / are duff

These bikes are much happier on 20 50 oil

... top tips get the engine fully hot before you drain it....a 10 mile run is ideal....

park it as if you doing a level check i.e. sidestand for 20 minutes then centre stand then drain it, leave it an hour or so to fully drain

pour 1 litre out of your new 4.5l can into a container (that is for top ups later)

You now know that all of the oil left in the can is destined for your engine

Prefill your new filter to avoid the "no oil" death rattle on start up

Ensure when you remove the old filter that the sealing ring comes out, they often stick to the engine block

Lubricate the new ring and don't overtighten the filter or it will be a bitch to remove next time

use a small drop of blue loctite on the sump plug...belt and braces eh?

Use the remaining oil in your can to fill the engine, put the filler cap back on.

don't panic when you check the oil window and it shows empty after you first run it for 2 minutes, you know you put in 3.5 Litres,

I use that method because I always seem get interrupted and then have the "did i put in 2 litres or 3 from my litres measuring jug?"

Top tip............... clutch flushing

Some time ago I found the clutch action on one of my 1200s getting very rough and heavy to pull in, this made riding at low speed a trial...this being my first hydraulic clutch bike I assumed it was the clutch push rod and or the slave or clutch at the end of their lives....of course I should have thought a little deeper

long story short, the clutch was fine BUT the clutch fluid had turned almost white in the fluid line and it was as thin as water...of course I changed it and all was well once more

Then last week I was on my other 1200 and at the same sort of mileage..High 90k miles the same symptoms occurred

This time I went straight to the mother lode and flushed the clutch circuit with new Vitamol or whatever BMW call it....when for a test ride and all is back to normal

So if'n you're getting up around 100k it's worth bearing in mind and so much cheaper and easier than installing a new clutch

canbus tricks

trick 1

Here's a neat CanBus trick:

To turn off the low beam headlight (halogen or HID):

With the engine running and the bike stopped:
Press & Hold the Turn Signal Cancel button 5 seconds
Press & Hold the Right Turn Signal Button for 5 seconds
The low beam shuts off.

To turn the Low Beam back on, simply Turn On or Flash the High Beam switch. Note that shutting off and restarting the bike will also turn the Low Beam on again as normal.

When you pull away they will turn on again.

Trick 2

Parking light

Switch off the ignition.

Immediately after switching off

the ignition, push button 1 to

the left and hold it in this position

until the parking lights

come on.

Switch the ignition on and off

again to switch off the parking


top tip

Screen arms

For all 1200rt owners...remove the arms and lube them with some waterproof grease...the screen arms and motor will love you for it

BUT be careful, the arms are a dry and tight fit in the pivots (which is the cause of the breakage problem IMO)

Once the clips are off, tap out the pins using a light hammer and a drift using lots of light taps (have a friend with a "Dolly" supporting the other side)

A big hammer makes a good dolly

if you have compressor an air hammer makes very short work of delivering hundreds of light taps per minute to the pins

You're welcome

top tips testing for a parasitic drain with canbus...courtesy of John Enstien wood

You need a short wire with crocodile clips.. Connect battery as normal.. turn on, start engine etc, then turn off, and leave it for an hour.. This is to let the canbus go to sleep. Connect the temp lead between batt neg and frame. disconnect neg battery lead, leaving the temp wire in place to keep the circuit in place. Connect meter between lead and batt neg... disconnect temp cable. Oh, and make sure the meter leads are in the right sockets... common and mA or A depending on meter.

Top tip roadside tool kits

Because in my work I need to be self reliant I carry a decent kit, it takes less than half a pannier

The kit includes

12v pump

tyre plugs and tools (2 styles)

Bulb kit

1 litre of oil

tyre valve adapter for garage forecourt use

Spare cell phone in a waterproof coffee bag

Spare satnav ditto

1 spark plug

2x stick coils

Alternator belt, (socket and ratchet for crank pulley)

Tool kit with torx (and allens for other road users) and a multi tool of course for getting boy scouts out of horses hooves


Duct tape

Insulating tape

Zip ties


Hand Cleaner

High viz (not shown but used as an early warning marker tied on a pannier placed a least 100 metres before the stricken vehicle

and probably a few thing I have forgotten

KB 1

Here's my list of improvements that help any BMW1100RT

Replace the ECU chip with a Stage 9 from John Gemi

Fit Quick release fuel line connectors from Beemer Boneyard

Fit Braided Stainless brake lines front and rear

Fit HiD headlight kit

Fit a K&N Filter

Fit Brisk spark plugs

Fit gaiters on the fork stanchions to help preserve the chrome

Fit a better windshield

Get a better seat if you can find one...I prefer Corbin

Make up a pair of tethers for your mirrors (before you knock one off)

Secure the right hand side panel with a cable tie before you lose it

Replace the crappy wire fuses with modern strip type fuses (those ****ing fuses cause so much trouble!)

Drill out the centre stand with lube holes as in the files section

Ditto the side's already drilled but pushing a drill through the bush gets grease to both sides of it.

Extend your power outlet into a cigarette style converter in the glove pocket

Buy a spare clutch cable and route it alongside the existing one, (you'll be glad you did this when you need it on the roadside!)
KB 2  

If you find your brakes dragging try removing the piston and the outer the bottom of the seal groove (as it sits on the fork slider) you'll find corrosion where salt and road dirt collect ...scrape that out really well, apply rubber grease and reinstall the seals, bleed 'em up...and you're good to go

DiY cost to service my 1100RT is about

£18 for engine and gear oils every 5k miles

£16 for brisk plugs every 25k miles

I think £9 ish for oil filter every 10k miles

Time is about 30 minutes for an oil service

Full service with tappets, alternator belt and balance throttle bodies is about 3 hours (as i get sidetracked onto other things...."oooh while I'm here I'll just ...".)

So my average service cost is around £30 plus time is worth £20 an hour. Cost of special tools would probably add something like £10 per service given the use I get from them so all up an average service cost is under £80...seems pretty good to me!

other than that, tyres do 10 to 12k and a pair costs me about £120 to £130 depending on which wholesaler is doing a deal today

pads do 20 to 25k front and 30 to 35k rear EBC HH

Fork oil gets changed once every never with good old 10/40....I don't think you need special fork oil, the oil is only there to lubricate the internal bushes (feel free to disagree, argue and point at the BMW manual)

Gearbox, rear drive and wheel bearings and seals almost all come from local or internet bearing suppliers


Whilst I agree that if a person is not competent then they should leave it to those that are BUT

I have been in and round the motor industry most of my life and I can categorically tell you that dealer workshops are the worst when it comes to cutting corners and using substandard people and methods inthe guise of factory trained techs.

For a time I worked as a tyre "techician"by the end of my first day of training I realised that I knew as much if not more about bike and car tyres than the instructor (not trucks, that's another skillset altogether)

Basically the tyre shops only aim is to sell you the tyres with the biggest profit margin, fit them in the shortest time, upsell you some service or product you don't need then move on to the next punter, The actual quality of the work is a long way down their list of priorities.

Which is why

my wheels are cleaned of rubber on the bead shoulders before every fitting, and cleaned of weights, dirt and adhesive of course

the wheels (plus valves are then balanced sans tyres to establish the true heavy spot (if there is one)

The tyre is then fitted accordingly, if there are no balance marks on the tyre I'll check balance and if needed slide the tyre on the rim to get a better balance

Only once I've got it close that way will I use weights..

Show me a tyre shop that will willingly do that!

the same slapdash applies to workshops in my experience...someone on here recently had a gearbox killed because the monkey in the shop did't re-fill the box ..Boys it not hard..pour 2 measures into 2 jugs, 240ml and 800ml....if one still has oil in it you've not topped up the component.

I do the same with engine oil, I have a 5L container marked for "with and without filter" changes ...Simply fill it to the mark you require and then no matter how many interruptions you get you'll not over or underfill your engine


As along distance bike rider, I can and do ride for 10 or more hours some days...

... Here's my top tip for preventing SBS (Sore Butt Syndrome)

Change your underwear for lycra shorts...not the cycling ones with the foam and chamois just the tight fitting lycra ones (or cut out the chamois pad from cycling shorts.)

A pair of these under your ordinary riding pants will transform your "personal" comfort.

Essentially you are doing away with the pressure points caused by the seams in the underclothing. I first started doing this when racing Enduro as SBS developed in full blown MBS (Monkey Butt Syndrome) at the longer 2 day events

I only write this because yesterday I forgot and went off in a hurry with my normal cotton underkeks still in place, After 150 miles I arrived at my delivery point and my posterior was complaining (and that's using a Corbin saddle with a gel pack inserted)

Realising my error I used the disabled toilet to undress, and with my old underkeks in my pocket I had a very comfortable return leg as I returned to my usual state of BBAD

Blissful Butt All Day

KB 6

my experience of brembo brakes is this

Over time water and road salt/dirt/etc settles under the the outer brake seal. Once there the salt corrodes the brake caliper slightly the crystals grow, causing the outer seal to tighten against the brake piston.

The first evidence of this on the front will be unevenly worn pads as one piston will drag/bind more than the others

The same applies ( the corrosion problem) to the rear but the single side wear on the rear is more do do with bad lubrication of the slider pins

Best course of action is

Buy some red rubber grease and a scriber as in the pic a Brake piston removing tool ..... I have the blue handled type in this link

a. front. Pump your pistons out as far as you dare on both calipers, top up your master cylinder if you need to. use a pair of old pads to stop the pistons coming out fully just yet.

You'll see that they don't come out evenly, one or more will be binding in the bore.this is exactly what I mentioned above as a symptom

b. Now is the time to get brave and disconnect the caliper at the Banjo union on the brake pipe, be ready for fluid loss, it is VERY DAMAGING TO PAINT

Now you need to gently but firmly push ONE piston back into the bore and use the tool inside the piston opposite to get it out...if you are VERY carefull you can use pipe grips and a rag or a strip if hard rubber as protection and grab the outside of the it this way at your own risk!

Once out use the straight end of the scriber to get under the outer seal and gently ease it out A close inspection will reveal all manner of dirt and crap on the back of it, give the seal a good clean and set it aside

Using the right angle of the Scriber (I have blunted mine into a scraper blade for this very job) run it around the seal groove in the caliper and you'll feel it go from smooth to rough, rough is where the corrosion is, at the gravitational bottom of the caliper.

Scrape out all the corrosion, clean out the bore (an airline is ideal but a clean rag can do it if you are carefull. lube the seal with RRG and re-install

Inspect the piston, clean off rubber residue from the outer edge (I use GT85 for that) is there is corrosion damage to the outer edge it's not a big deal as this part is exposed to the elements in any case so a touch up with fine wet and dry should suffice...if the piston is badly corroded where it passes through the inner seal it's time for new pistons.

Assuming the pistons are OK lube with RRG and reinstall....a paint dot on the caliper will remind you where you are at should you get disturbed

Repeat for the other pistons and the other caliper, re-assemble and bleed the brakes....prepare to be amazed at how powerful the brakes are!

To bring the other pistons forward you can use an airline (once the first piston is back in place) BUT you need to realise that the newly lubed piston will move first so you'll need to hold back the pistons you don't want moving or the piston removing tool

Rears are similar but being a one sided caliper you can pump them out without too much difficulty, remember to keep them even.

In all cases remove and renovate ONE piston at a time to prevent mixing up seals as the bore sizes differ

KB7 Filtering for Bikers

According to my bike cop friend the police view is that it is all about speed differential.....for example

traffic doing 15 filtering at 20 to 25mph OK, you filtering at 50 not ok

In my job as a bike courier I filter for much of the time and my rule is 20 mph max difference, that gives me enough time to scrub off the 20 mph if someones does a quick lane change.....I always ride with headlights on and some high viz. .... in very heavy or grossly unaware traffic (such as holidaymakers, people going to events etc) I'll use main beam and have my thumb hovering over the horn button

Also people are odd when filtering...some won't go between two vehicles, they wait until there is just one to pass...why,? that one is the one who will change lanes into the gap

Also creeping past a line of traffic on a single carriageway hugging the white line...why do that ? get out as wide as you can, well into the other lane if it is free, you'll then have some time to react to other drivers actions and plenty of time to tuck back alongside or behind someone when you need to

What amazes me is the bikers who will sit in a stationery queue or not drop in behind people like me who are by definition cutting a swathe through the traffic that they could easily occupy! 


Clutch cable adjustment R1100RT

These clutches need freeplay at the handlebars or they will slip and wear out very quickly, so here is how you set the free play correctly.

Remove the rear wheel and the plastic side panels

undo the clutch lever lock nut* at the back of the gearbox and then wind the adjuster bolt out a couple of turns, you'll now have loads of slack at the bars

* I use a long socket on a universal joint on a long extension bar to get at the adjuster from the left rear. It can be done from the right but not with my big hands.

Back at the bars, screw the adjuster out until you have around 12mm of thread showing

Now here's where having a helper is handy....

Go back to the gearbox end and screw the adjuster in until your helper confirms there is around 6mm of freeplay at the handlebar end

Next get your helper (or use a zip tie) to hold the clutch lever tight up to the handlebar grip...this will prevent the rear adjuster moving as you re-tighten the lock nut, it only need a decent nip not a squillion Nm

Wheel on, side panels on, test ride and use the bar adjuster to fine tune your freeplay for optimum gear shifting. Every gearbox will have a different sweet spot for free play...too much and it will crunch into gear, too little and it will do the same so experiment until you get it right BUT always have some free play, I'd say 4mm was the minimum for a long lived clutch disc

NB #1 in an ideal world a conscientious owner would disassemble all the mechanisms and grease all the pivots and oil the cable while they are at it.... I do this once a year and I have a spare cable zip tied to my working one so I can do a relatively quick change on the side of the road if needed

NB#2 these cables are in two parts, an inner and an outer cable, IF you feel a click at the lever and gain a lot of free play at the bars it means your outer has started to let go...the inner will hang on for quite a while so there is no excuse for getting stranded with a broken cable


Oil level checking Oilheads (all)

These engines can hide oil like you would not believe possible, especially in the oil cooler as it has a thermostatic valve to aid quick warm up, the downside of this valve is that if you don't have the engine fully hot, then the valve closes before the oil cooler is fully drained into the sump for checking

The result is that you look at the window, see the oil below the centre line and top it up not realising there is up to another 1.25 litre hiding in the oil cooler and oil lines...then you get over filling problems such as oil in the airbox as the crankcase breather blows this excess out.

So here is how I do it for oil changes and oil level checks...

Bring the bike into the work area good and hot, now I mean really HOT like after a good fast run of 30 or more miles (not just up to temp showing 5 bars on a notoriously cheap and unreliable temp gauge)

Park the bike on the side stand for 20 minutes at least, this aids oil cooler emptying because the angle of the machine means the cooler is also angled down also.

Then put the machine on the centre stand for another 20 minutes (or longer)'s a good point proving exercise to lie down beside the bike with a flashlight on the window as soon as you get it on the centre stand and you will actually see the oil level rise as the other oil chambers drain into the sump

After the second 20 minutes you should be seeing a fairly true oil level, I leave mine over night as a matter of course.

The oil should be in the centre of the window, bear in mind that from bottom to top of the window is only 500ml or 1 pint.

Now you can do your top up and I only top up with no more than 200ml at a time (usually just 100ml as my highest mileage bike uses 100ml per 1000 miles) and then wait for it to register on the window usually within 5 minutes, it has a fairly tortuous route to follow.

For best results only top up to the centre line and not above, this will give you the smoothest running as the camshaft sprocket and chain will only be dipping into the oil by 10mm or so rather than thrashing it around like a magimix on steroids when overfilled.

As a point to consider at an oil change....if you think your level is OK and when you drain your oil you only get 2.5 litres out then there is still 1.25 litres hiding in there somewhere, usually in the oil cooler because you didn't drain it hot enough or for long enough

My oil change method is as above and I always leave the bike overnight with sump plug out and the filter out

NB to avoid the horrible death rattle you get when you first start the engine with your newly changed oil and filter, spend 5 minutes filling your filter before you screw it on.

So there you have it, 3.5L without a filter change or 3.75L with one using good old 20/50 but done using the above method and you should be fine...My high miler is getting close to 270,000 miles on this method so I'm pretty sure it works.


Clutch lube points