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Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Publisher
1/23/24 4:31 p.m.

Backstory: A few years ago I went on the hunt for a budget adventure bike, as my friends had gotten into them and I was eager to try it out. I picked up a cheap BMW single, a G650GS, and prepped it for adventure touring. I didn't know if it was my forever bike, but I figured it was a cheap entry into the hobby and would let me figure out what I really wanted.

And over the past few years, I've put several thousand miles on the BMW across several big trips:

Tom's Georgia Adventure Trail Thread

I figured out what I liked and didn't like, eventually deciding that a big BMW would be my next bike. Which brings me to my latest purchase: a 2008 BMW R1200GS Adventure. 62,000 miles, lots of maintenance history, and no issues aside from a broken fuel sending unit and bald tires. I paid $5400, and it came with two keys and a set of luggage, too.


What's the plan? More adventures! I'll clean this up and fit some tires, then go exploring. 



Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Publisher
1/23/24 4:35 p.m.

So my first question: What's the secret to solving the fuel gauge problem? Apparently these sending units go bad constantly, and the hot ticket is to pay the dealer a few hundred bucks to fix in order to start the clock on a two-year parts and labor warranty. Then, every year when the sensor fails, you go get it replaced for free. Is there a better option?

And my second question: What's the best dual-sport tire for this bike? The TKC80s on my last bike were great off road, but I'd love something maybe 10% more civilized on the street and slightly longer lasting this time around. 

BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/23/24 5:34 p.m.

You got it with the full luggage, that's great. Any records of a recent service of the ABS unit? I think this one is new enough to not have servo brakes, correct?

Re the fuel gauge aka that hateful thing - according to the tubes of you, it's not that hard to change but you need the BMW software or equivalent to calibrate it. And they can be bad right out of the box, which happened to me when the dealer installed one for the cost of the part when I had the fuel pump recall done on my 06. I think the second, working one lasted less than six months. Two single-finger cheers for German engineering.

Anyway, if this bike still falls under the fuel pump recall and it's not been done yet, it might be worth talking to the dealer if they're willing to do the same for you as it's almost no additional work for them to do so.

I've read that some people were able to convert it to the later (2009/10 onward) float mechanism, which is actually reliable. IIRC that required a reflash of the ECU and I think it had to be pretty close to the cutover to have the right ECU. At least that's what I think I remember.

There is also someone out of the Netherlands who makes (made?) a conversion kit with a little box of electronics that allows you to use the later style float with the earlier style electronics. From what I've heard from a couple of people who used it, it's not as precise as the factory sender when the latter is working, but it definitely beats having to scope the tank to figure if you've got any fuel left.

BTW, I think I still have the Sargent front seat from my 06 GSA if you're interested in an upgraded seat.

docwyte UltimaDork
1/24/24 12:51 p.m.

A fuel gauge is a really nice thing to have, but none of my KTM's have really had one.  They have a low fuel light and I use the trip odometer.  So once you get an idea of what your range is, you can just use the trip odometer and go from there...

enginenerd HalfDork
1/24/24 1:55 p.m.

Nice buy! This looks similar to my recent-ish R1150GS saga but a better starting point! No particular input on the fuel sending unit other than noting that quite a few 1200s listed in my area seem to have the same issue. 

BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/24/24 3:26 p.m.

In reply to docwyte :

I have this vague recollection that on my 06 GSA, the low fuel light was triggered by said non-working fuel strip. I guess one could run it until all the lights come on .

In reply to enginenerd :

It's a bad case of "they literally all do that, sir" and eventually people get fed up with it. If I end up with another 1200 at some point in the future, I'm getting an 09 or newer that has the newer, reliable mechanism.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Publisher
1/25/24 7:47 a.m.

Thanks for the advice, guys! No service records for the ABS, but the PO was quite meticulous and the ABS works well (I did test it) so I think I'm good there.

Do I need a fuel gauge? Absolutely not--this thing holds nearly 9 gallons of gas, which gives me 100 miles more range than anybody I ride with. And my other bike doesn't have a gauge, which has never been an issue. But I do need everything to work, because that's just how I am. And the broken fuel gauge means the bike's warning light is lit up the whole time, which is really annoying.

A friend suggested Dunlop Trailmax Mission tires--any experience here?

gearheadE30 Dork
1/25/24 8:30 a.m.

Looks like a nice bike, and a good price with the factory luggage!

I've had a few friends with these, they all eventually gave up on fixing the sender. I know that's not terribly helpful, but one of them in particular was also an "everything should work" kind of guy and he got tired of taking it to the dealer every year. But this was several years ago, maybe there is a better solution now. Considering the rest of the bike, that sensor may be a CAN device which does make things a bit more challenging. 

I believe those are not servo brakes, but they are linked, so the front lever gets you a little pressure on the back wheel as well.

No personal experience with the Trailmax, but that kind of tire is generally fine as long as you stay out of mud or  deep sand. That's true of most of the "50/50" options out there though. Rode with a guy on an older GS1150 with those on it for a week or so last year with some off road thrown in, he loved those tires and said he'd be buying another set. I'll see if I can find a pic of them. 


gearheadE30 Dork
1/25/24 8:46 a.m.

I misremembered, it's actually one of the newer versions of the bike, so it's got the super wide rims. Regardless, he liked the rear, the front wears well with heavy braking and road use but (my opinion) doesn't have much grip in the loose stuff with that tight tread pattern. It's all a compromise. He's not an aggressive rider or the kind of guy who slides their bike around and he didn't have complaints about it though. We did not encounter any mud on that trip, and only very limited sand - the whole trip was on major routes, some of which just happened to be unpaved.

use the force!

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Publisher
1/25/24 9:54 a.m.

That's great feedback--thanks!

I had my Intercomp Scales out for another project, and figured I should roll both bikes across them. I'm actually shocked there isn't a bigger weight difference, and the big bike carries its weight well. G650GS is 3/4 full of gas, while the R1200GSA has an unknown amount of fuel in it.

I also found the front/rear balance interesting--the G650GS always felt tailheavy, especially with luggage, and I found myself trying to weight the front wheel as much as possible. I'm curious if the R1200GSA feels different.

GCrites Dork
1/28/24 12:08 p.m.

I don't think I was ever truly happy with any ADV/dual sport tire. By the time they wore out I always wanted something that was better in the dirt or better on the street. So I'd flip flop every time but was always happiest when the tires had less than 1K miles on them. This is KLR650 sizes though.

I'd always be unhappy with ADV tires after I got off an MX bike.

docwyte UltimaDork
1/29/24 9:39 a.m.

I loved the TKC80's on my 690.  However that's a much lighter bike and they no longer make them.  I'm trying the Dunlop Mission Raid's now, on pavement the front tire wanders on striated freeway, on dirt they perform extremely well.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Publisher
2/5/24 2:17 p.m.

I've been out of town, but returned home to a few goodies on my porch for the big GS. 

First up: A fancy battery tender! BMW's accessory ports (this bike has three of them) go to sleep shortly after the key is turned off, which means it requires a special CANbus-enabled battery tender to keep the circuit active for charging. And the OEM charger is, of course, $150. Because BMW. 

Yes, there are ways around this. I could have wired a pigtail directly to the battery and left it hanging out of the bike, or I could have hotwired one of the accessory plugs to stay on the whole time. But I really wanted the ease and simplicity of just plugging right into the accessory port after every ride, and I needed an extra battery tender anyway now that I have three motorcycles. So I picked up a used CANbus charger on eBay for $50:

Next up: Tools! Most of the toolkit I put together for my little GS should work on this bike, but I needed these two additions in order to remove the wheels:

And finally, I splurged on BoxheadTim's Sargent high seat. I loved the Sargent on my little GS, and at $130 I couldn't say no even though I haven't put any miles on the stock seat yet. Besides, it's got ///M stripes:

RacetruckRon GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
2/5/24 3:29 p.m.
Tom Suddard said:

A friend suggested Dunlop Trailmax Mission tires--any experience here?

We put Michelin Scorcher Adventure on the H-D Pan America as OE. Choosing my words carefully here, we make some strange decisions here in Milwaukee and the aftermarket normally figures out the best replacement parts. The Dunlop Trailmax Mission is a pretty popular replacement from the PanAm forums.

BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/6/24 1:41 p.m.

In reply to Tom Suddard :

Seat looks like it was made for your bike . Didn't know they sold Optimates over here, they were my favourite charger on the UK. 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Publisher
2/8/24 11:12 a.m.

I haven't had much time to work on the bike, but I did make a few minutes of progress last night: A bath for the panniers! After some soap and water to clean most of the gunk off of them, I realized one was slightly bent. 10 minutes in the garage with a deadblow hammer got it back into shape, and now it opens and closes properly.

rdcyclist GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
2/8/24 3:17 p.m.

Very cool. I forgot about your new to you bike; I have a good memory, it's just short.

I've had a few of these over the past 19 years. Each version has been better the previous, IMHO. My current one is a '16 GSA  Wasserboxer and it's incredible. That said, each of them have been special bikes and you'll have a blast with it. A word of advice (actually I have more than one of them): Don't ride a newer one until you're ready to drop the coin on one. Doing so will only make you jones for the upgrade. Don't ask me how I know this...

A few things:

1. It's an '08 and doesn't have the stupid servo brakes (I had two bikes with the servos) but they're linked front and rear through the handlebar lever and not through the foot pedal. The pedal alone operates just the rear brake. What this means is if you brake like we've all been taught since front brakes were added to motorcycles using lever and pedal in symphony, you'll go through rear brake pads way quicker than fronts because you'll be doubling the braking force on the rear. So don't use the pedal on the street unless you're in an emergency situation. It's easier to remember this than you think. And check the rear pads on a regular basis cuz you'll still burn through the rears quicker than the fronts.

2. If you don't have any documentation outlining what's been done, bleed the brakes. And replace the alternator belt. Check the valve clearances. Replace the final drive lube (I do this every other engine oil change; see below). Replace the trans lube (I did this every third or fourth engine oil change). Grease the driveshaft splines and check the u-joints then. You'll probably only need to do this once but if hasn't been done, it's time right now.

3. The final drives in these are problematic. The 1100/1150's suffered from bearing failure and nearly every one I know of had trouble at one time or another. The '04-'09 1200's had bearing seal problems. Keep a close eye on the FD and at the first sign of leakage, get the seals replaced. I've done quite a bit of long distance riding with these and on long trips, I'd take a look the FD at EVERY gas stop. This got fixed with the '10-'13's when they put a vent in the FD and the seals stopped getting pressurized during long rides. Your bike has enough miles on her that you should probably think about changing the main bearing seal now as preventative maintenance.

4. It's been a while since I did any offroad with a K24 GS and the TKC80's were the bomb on them back then. If you're doing 50/50 riding, the Dunlops are pretty good AFAIK. The new bikes have programmable stuff that is about as near to magic on a motorcycle as I've experienced. See my word of advice above...

5. One of the really cool things about the GSA's is the amazing amount of electricity they produce. You can run all kinds of lights, heated gear and the espresso machine all at once without discharging the battery. Literally more charging capacity than most compact cars made before 1980. And probably some after.

Enjoy the ride. Doesn't get  much better than this.

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
2/9/24 7:38 p.m.
Tom Suddard said:

So my first question: What's the secret to solving the fuel gauge problem? Apparently these sending units go bad constantly, and the hot ticket is to pay the dealer a few hundred bucks to fix in order to start the clock on a two-year parts and labor warranty. Then, every year when the sensor fails, you go get it replaced for free. Is there a better option?

And my second question: What's the best dual-sport tire for this bike? The TKC80s on my last bike were great off road, but I'd love something maybe 10% more civilized on the street and slightly longer lasting this time around. 

I never paid any attention to it on my '07 GSA.  set trip meter at every fuel stop.  At 300 miles I'd start looking for gas.  At that point you've got (I'm told) 100 more miles in it.  By 300 your butt will be tired anyway - even with a Sargent seat.

TKC 80's are great off road.  TKC 80's are great on road - really!  They are.  But the rear will only last for about six trips to the post office.  Ten years or so ago, the cool kids were running a TKC80 in the front and a TKC70 in the rear.  These days I really like the Dunlop Trailmax Missions.  Don't try to spoon them on yourself though.  It's a big heavy stiff tire that even the motorcycle shops struggle with.

I have a "wasserboxer" now.  It doesn't feel as special as my old oil-cooled one like yours.  Its significantly more powerful but so what?  Either is limited by most rider's skill - myself included.


Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Publisher
2/9/24 8:24 p.m.

Rdcyclist, thanks for the advice! The previous owner did all of that maintenance already, so I should be in good shape for a while! And 401 CJ, I had the same experience with the TKC 80s... great tires, briefly.

I ordered a set of Dunlop Trailmax Missions, which should be here soon.  

This afternoon I finally had a break from work and warm weather, so I took the BMW on its maiden voyage (aside from the quick test drive in front of the seller's house).

And, uh, holy crap this is a fantastic bike. It just does everything well. I'm amazed.

Of course, I rode it to the BMW dealer, who told me it would be $563 to fix the fuel sending unit, half for parts and half for labor. Supposedly it's a new part as of a year or so ago, and they've finally fixed the problem. And yes, the job would be warrantied if (when?) it breaks again. The dealer also said they'd mount and balance a set of tires for me for another $100, and confirmed this bike has TPMS, but was likely coded out by the previous owner who was swapping wheels back and forth to a supermoto setup. They'd code it for free while coding in the new fuel sensor.

After the dealer visit, I did a 20-minute stint on the highway to Chris's house to help with his Super Beetle. And, somehow it's a fantastic highway bike too. Power, chassis, airflow, it's just awesome.


I'm pretty sure I'm going to just drop it off at the BMW dealer and tell them to fix the fuel gauge and mount the tires when they get here. It's expensive, but not everything needs to be a project and I bought this cheap enough to leave room in the budget for repairs. Plus having a warranty on the job is worth something since it will likely need it again.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Publisher
2/9/24 10:38 p.m.

So who knows about BMW driving lights and what would have been OEM? I think since this is an adventure, it would have had a set of fog lights from the factory, right?

These are currently wired to an auxiliary switch/fuse box and don't do too much in terms of lighting. They're on homemade aluminum adapters that I'm assuming are bolted to OEM fog light brackets.


And these are wired to the OEM fog light switch, mounted to 3D-printed brackets on the front axle. They're crazy bright, but mounted too low to really be helpful and quite cool in color temperature.


Am I crazy to think the right answer here is to delete the fork light brackets before they're destroyed off road and then just move the bright LEDs to the upper fog light mounts? The KCs look cool, but aren't that bright.


Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Publisher
2/9/24 10:40 p.m.

Hmm, and some googling is telling me lower fork lights are really good for visibility to oncoming traffic. Maybe I should just leave things be, as the bike has better lights than 99% of the cars I've owned. 

BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/10/24 5:09 a.m.

I think my GSA had the OEM lights - they've relatively small projector lights, but they worked pretty well. Not cheap, though, as I found out when one of them got damaged when I had the deer incident. 

That bike belongs on trails around Silverton CO.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Publisher
2/11/24 2:30 p.m.

It's been bothering me that I'll be reliant on the dealer for any computer stuff. Yes: I went into this with the goal of spending a little more money up front so I wouldn't have as much of a project. But I just couldn't reconcile going to the dealer for TPMS coding, or to reset the service interval.

So I decided to take matters into my own hands. This bike (and my smaller GS) have OBDII ports, but they're a funky round form factor:

Fortunately, Amazon is full of $10 dongles that claim to adapt this port to a standard OBDII connector. I bought the cheapest one I could find:

With an OBDII port theoretically connected, I attached my fancy Autel scan tool to see if I could get into any coding or anything--no luck. I guess they really did mean "automotive" when they labeled it....

Thanks to the BMW forums, I knew what my next step would be. So I crawled into the attic and grabbed a 10-year-old Android tablet, then paired it with an off-brand bluetooth OBDII dongle. Finally, I downloaded a free app called "Motoscan" and paid $45 for a license.

This solution is Android-only, sadly, so iPhone users will need to find an old Android device to replicate this at home.

And, shockingly, it worked perfectly. The interface isn't beautiful, but everything I need seems to be here, and I did successfully code on the TPMS system. Success!

This is the missing piece of the puzzle to replace the fuel sending unit at home, which would save me 1.5 hours of dealership labor. However, I'm still leaning towards just paying them to fix it. I'm not sure I trust that the "new updated part" is really going to last, so paying dealer labor means I save myself a Saturday afternoon in the garage AND I can go back and get it fixed for free next time it breaks. 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Publisher
2/11/24 2:32 p.m.

Oh, and to whoever mentioned brakes: I did check, and the rear pads are nearly gone. I guess you were right....

The bike came with a tank bag full of spare brake pads, so assuming they're actually the right parts this will be a free fix.

I've seen some references to brake pad wear settings in the computer--does anybody know if there's a calibration or a service interval I'm supposed to reset? Or is that only for later GSs?


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