enginenerd HalfDork
10/17/23 10:56 a.m.

It's been a moment since I've started a build thread here and while I have a couple projects going, this will be the easiest to document and is a fun distraction. The last few years I've been dabbling in projects of the two wheel variety, mostly because I generally find them more therapeutic than lying under a car regretting my decisions. Currently I have 4 bikes, all very cheap and the newest being over 4 decades old. As one could imagine this means my riding is mostly limited to smaller local roads. 

Recently I was invited on a ride up through Yellowstone National park and the surrounding states. I had a lot of fun just soaking up miles on a borrowed bike and letting my mind go blank while enjoying the views. I decided that I wanted to try to get hold of something more adventure oriented. First, a few pics from that trip:


It seemed like the bike of choice was of the larger BMW GS variety. I got to ride a couple and generally liked them for pavement cruising or less technical dirt and gravel roads. What really caught me off guard is just how expensive some of these bikes are. A newer 1250 can easily be 20k+ and it seems the sky is the limit when outfitting them. (Bonus brand enthusiast points for matching BMW Motorrad gear!) Since I am a) lacking money trees in my backyard and b) prone to occasionally dropping a bike on dirt, I took to FB Marketplace to find something cheaper. 

It seems that for under 5k in my area you either get something smaller like a KLR or a 310GS, insanely high mileage, or a headache of a project. I knew I wanted something bigger as 80% of my riding will likely be on highways just getting to the area I want to explore. I preferred something a little more modern and fuel injected. After a couple weeks I took a chance and pulled the trigger on this: 

It's a 2000 R1150GS that has been regularly ridden, has low miles, and seemed in reasonably good condition. It came with some good add ons including 3 cases (which I have learned can be quite expensive). I'm hoping that after doing all maintenance items, updates, and getting the bike outfitted the way I'd like it I will come in under my budget of 4k. 

Back home and awaiting a more thorough inspection:


Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
10/17/23 11:50 a.m.

I've always been intrigued by adventure bikes. They look like a lot of fun being so out in the elements.

enginenerd HalfDork
10/17/23 12:20 p.m.
Colin Wood said:

I've always been intrigued by adventure bikes. They look like a lot of fun being so out in the elements.

I have as well but had never taken the plunge. Something about camping and then hopping on the bike in the morning really did it for me! 

MiniDave HalfDork
10/17/23 4:19 p.m.

My problem with BMWs is just how expensive they are to fix. Case in point......neighbor across the street had one - about 2006 vintage - and it needed a clutch. BMW wanted car money to change it - almost $2K. We looked at DIY, but changing it required splitting the bike - and with ABS the brakes were also insanely expensive if something failed - which it did on his as well. Mind you this was a bike that was ridden regularly and well cared for and garaged its whole life. I think he sold it for about $4K.....

I think I would look for a Honda or Yamaha version of an adventure bike......

enginenerd HalfDork
10/17/23 6:17 p.m.

In reply to MiniDave :

This is true; I'm no stranger to the bmw world and accept that someday I may have to split the bike for gearbox and/or clutch servicing. 

Parts can be very expensive if purchased from a dealership. I will be using aftermarket, used, or ordering OE parts from the UK where they are often much cheaper. Much like the cars, diy and resourcefulness are necessary, but they can be very nice machines if (fingers crossed) everything is working correctly. 

brandonsmash GRM+ Memberand New Reader
10/17/23 6:38 p.m.

Welcome to the fun!

Don't forget to include good gear in your budget. If you're bouncing around off-road you are absolutely going to want good protective gear. This should be considered non-negotiable. 

Those tires you have are great for on-road and a little off-road shenanigans. I know, I have the same model on my Africa Twin. You may find that they suffer a bit in deep sand and on polished rocks; aside from that, they're pretty decent shoes. 

enginenerd HalfDork
10/17/23 6:44 p.m.

In reply to brandonsmash :

I'd love an Africa Twin one day! Good to know on the tires, I've had Shinkos on street bikes and been happy with them but didn't know what to think about this set. 

Better gear was one of the first things I started buying and I blame it for my actual bike budget being low! 

MiniDave HalfDork
10/17/23 6:47 p.m.

In reply to enginenerd :

I hear you on buying your parts in England, I work on classic Minis and get almost everything from there, for roughly 1/3 the price the same stuff costs here - including shipping.

enginenerd HalfDork
10/17/23 7:46 p.m.
MiniDave said:

In reply to enginenerd :

I hear you on buying your parts in England, I work on classic Minis and get almost everything from there, for roughly 1/3 the price the same stuff costs here - including shipping.

I should have put this together sooner given your name, but I've been following along on your Mini ST build! Off topic from this thread but I am in the (hopefully not eternal) planning phase of an ecoboost swap so I'm taking some notes from your build

enginenerd HalfDork
10/17/23 8:02 p.m.

I have a habit of turning every vehicle I purchase into an immediate project, so I figured I'd start with just the basics and then put some miles on the bike and see. I did some brief reading on related forums and put together a couple orders to cover some known issues as well as all likely deferred service items. It seems there are two camps when it comes to these older GS bikes:

1) "No, noises aren't normal. It's a German engineered machine and nothing short of two wheeled perfection so it must be flawless"

2) "idk man mine sounded like the gearbox was having an unscheduled disassembly but I rode it that way for 70k miles...they just make weird noises"

Anyway, I needed to burn off fuel to pull the tank off so after checking basic safety items I ended up going on a 100 mile ride in the hills. 

I even found a fun dirt road that I followed for quite a ways:

After it got dark enough that I decided I didn't want to potentially spend the night alone trapped under a large Bavarian machine I turned around and headed home. I noticed that the engine/gearbox does make a little noise at idle when hot, but nothing overly concerning. Quick google tells me it's possibly valve adjustment or pushrod related...neither a big issue. More on that later. 

A short time later I had everything I needed to start getting to work:


Apis Mellifera
Apis Mellifera Dork
10/18/23 8:53 a.m.

My Dad, uncle, and their friends have BMW GSs and go on a month-long  odyssey somewhere in the Americas every five or 10 years.  Your first pic may have been their octogenarian gang.  Every trip is "the last trip" because they're getting old and less resilient to the unplanned adventures that come with cross-country riding, but the one guy got new hips and manages better.  This spring, they're heading to New England and continuing north until something stops them.  I've been thinking of joining them, but since they moved to GSs, my R60 can't keep up.  Any particular reason you picked this GS over a 1200?  The 1150 and 1200 with roughly 50K both seem to go for $4-5K in my area, but the choice is usually only between two or three bikes.  I don't know enough about the pros and cons of each model to make a wise choice.

docwyte UltimaDork
10/18/23 9:57 a.m.

If I had the space I'd buy an 1150GS as my around town bike.  As it is, I make do with my KTM 690 Enduro/Adv.

enginenerd HalfDork
10/18/23 10:30 a.m.
Apis Mellifera said:

Any particular reason you picked this GS over a 1200?

I'm a bit impulsive with vehicle purchases and this one popped up locally and was very inexpensive. The 1200s I've seen listed in my area are either very high mileage or they are asking quite a bit more. It seems like the 1150s and 1200s each both have their issues to look out for but this bike being a single spark, non servo ABS seemed like it would have less failure points. 

enginenerd HalfDork
10/18/23 11:23 a.m.

I started with the basics and changed the engine, gearbox, and rear drive fluids.

Off come the skid plates:

No surprises here other than that the oil filter is in a fun pocket in the engine case that is inaccessible by most tools. While the old filter had a built in nut on it my replacement filter did not, so I went on a scavenger hunt across town until I found the correct wrench.

From my test ride I quickly discovered the lighting situation was terrible. I'm usually against putting LED bulbs in halogen housings on cars but on motorcycles I just want to do whatever I can to be seen. I swapped the low beam, high beam, and running light to LED. You can see the difference here:

Checked the beam pattern against a wall and it's actually pretty good. Nice crisp line with a drop off for the oncoming lane traffic. All better:

I did the same with the tail light / brake light bulb.



The last item for the night was updating the left cam chain tensioner. A well documented issue with the early 1150s is a rattle on startup and this bike did have it. Removed the LH throttle body assembly and contorted my fingers and wrench in the tight space where the tensioner is located. You can see the bolt head here:

New vs old design. The new one was a lot tougher to compress and get reinstalled:

I pulled the fuel pump fuse and turned the engine over a few times to build pressure. Haven't heard the startup noise since! 


enginenerd HalfDork
10/20/23 11:48 a.m.

Well I said I wasn't going to turn this into a project, but a project it is. I was unhappy with the crash bars and rear box shelf so I cut them all off:

The bars were made from electrical conduit and fence parts; you can see where one had bent upward from the bike being dropped. They also made removing the spark plug covers or rocker covers impossible:

The rear shelf was flopping around a bit and weighed almost 20 lbs!

I pulled the seats, gas tank, and some trim to expose the battery and frame...which showed me I have a little wiring to do:

After removing everything I started focusing on the rear box shelf. Here is what I was left with as a starting point:

I originally thought the subframe was cut off but it turns out that's just the way it is. The PO had cut off part of the OE luggage rack to make room for his own mounting solution. Usually that's the piece that supports the rear taillight, turn signals, and rear fender.

I rummaged around a metal supply yard and found some 5/8" rod and 3/4" tube. I ended up with about 10 ft of each for about $10...much better than the 3 ft at Home Depot for $40 or so! Getting those home in my E91 was interesting.

I don't know much about fabricating and don't have many tools, but I have an angle grinder and a welder! Made some slugs to support the subframe extension and rough cut some tubes:

I don't have a tube bender but watched a video on notching and came up with this:

Once I was happy it was level I welded it up and test fit the rear box mounting plate:

Much improved and a lot lighter. I still need to come up with some sort of crossbar to mount the rear fender assembly but that will take another trip for materials as I don't have anything laying around. 

While I had the gas tank off I rewired a couple of accessories that had crimp connections that were pretty loose. I also took the opportunity to replace the fuel filter. Looks like it had been done before judging by the worm style hose clamps:

New filter, the correct clamps, and new tank O-rings:


docwyte UltimaDork
10/20/23 2:20 p.m.

Amazing that the previous owner just hacked off the back of the frame like that

enginenerd HalfDork
10/20/23 2:24 p.m.
docwyte said:

Amazing that the previous owner just hacked off the back of the frame like that

That's actually how the subframe came from the factory (with little end plugs) 

They just cut the package shelf to make room for the box. Probably not the way I would have done it but no big deal

enginenerd HalfDork
10/31/23 1:10 p.m.

Some updates for anyone that happens to be following along. Finished up the subframe extension and mounted the top box shelf. Much sturdier and lighter than it was before so I'm pretty happy with it:

Rewired all the auxiliary add ons, put the tank back on and then threw a handlebar crossover cover on:

Around this time I started getting concerned about a noise the bike was making when running hot.  The forums indicate everything from "they all do that" to "panic and tear down the bike now". It almost sounded like rod knock as it seemed to come deep from within the engine but it's really difficult to tell on a bike. 

I started by pulling off the cylinder head covers:

Checked valve lash and it was in spec, but I didn't suspect that was the cause. Turned over the engine a few times and rechecked and...valve lash changed. That was a big wtf moment so I turned to the internet. According to the experts, the pushrods have a tendency to fail which can explain the noise and valve lash issues. So I disassembled both rocker assemblies and found something interesting:

Apparently these three piece pushrods (cute eh?) separate and make a racket. BMW changed the design to a solid pushrod later on to resolve the issue. Usually when failing these are a little loose but you need pliers and heat to check  them for movement. On the intake (labeled I above) I could pull the rod end out by hand easily. That would certainly make some noise and do weird things to valve lash. 

Annoyingly, but typical for BMW, the replacements are ~$50/ea. I ordered a set and installed them. Here's the new design compared to the old:

Reassembled everything, set rocker shaft end play to factory specs followed by valve lash. Started the bike up and let it get warm...no more concerning noise!

Next up is the new (with less Home Depot parts) crash bars as a box just showed up from Poland!

enginenerd HalfDork
11/2/23 10:12 a.m.

Wrapped up a few more things on the bike. Replaced the alternator belt but forgot to take pics. Fork seals were next...super easy job on these bikes. Old vs new:

I got around to installing the crash bar kit. I took a chance on this ordering from Poland but they showed up relatively quick, were packaged very well, and good quality for the price:

The throttle handgrip was extremely worn and left a fun gooey black residue on my hand. I carefully cut off the old one to preserve the heating element:

Used a little adhesive, slid on the new one, and tested the hand warmers. Good as new!

Took a decently long sunset ride yesterday and really enjoyed myself. I think it's time to start putting some more miles on this bike and see how it does!

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/2/23 10:29 a.m.


enginenerd said:

Some updates for anyone that happens to be following along.

as someone who is following along, thanks for the updates.  the rear frame fix / box support looks great.  i really appreciate these rolling resto type of projects, whether car, bike, trailer, etc.  one bite at a time!

enginenerd HalfDork
11/2/23 11:33 a.m.

In reply to AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) :

Thanks for the kind words! I enjoy seeing what everybody is working on as well, both the ambitious long term projects as well as smaller maintenance/minor project threads like this one. 

Docwemple HalfDork
11/24/23 11:29 p.m.

In reply to enginenerd :

Probably the best overall adventure bike out there. Love my 2004

Datsun240ZGuy MegaDork
11/24/23 11:39 p.m.

I don't know much about these but I'll be following along for the ride!

brandonsmash GRM+ Memberand New Reader
11/24/23 11:49 p.m.

Excellent, it's looking great! And hey, those big jugs can be used as shin-warmers! 

enginenerd HalfDork
11/30/23 4:39 p.m.

Bit of an update since this thread got bumped and reminded me of its existence. So I put about 500 miles on the bike just riding around locally including quite a bit of mild off-pavement forest roads:

I was really enjoying the bike and decided to plan a weekend trip riding out to the coast to explore a bit. The night before the trip, I rode over to Costco to fill up. After fueling up I suddenly had a possessed German bike that wouldn't start and was rapidly cycling relays. I did the push of shame away from the fuel pump, pulled off the tank, and started wiggling wires. Eventually my haphazard efforts let the bike start, and I rode it up until it completely died about a half mile from home.

Tore into it that night and discovered the crankshaft position sensor wiring was completely roached.

Apparently this is a well documented issue that leaves people stranded everywhere...I'm just really glad it occurred close to home! I decided I didn't trust trying to make the wiring repair late that night but luckily I was able to borrow a backup bike (another large BMW!) and the trip continued as planned. Nothing quite puts the "adventure" in adventure riding like washed out bridges and mercury poisoning, amiright? But we also got to explore some dramatically scenic areas near the coast and through some redwoods:

Anyway, I know this thread is becoming a "watch me ride other peoples bikes and talk about my own hot garbage" experience, but I did order and replace the sensor and have been happily riding some since. Looking forward to taking the 1150 on it's first big trip soon!

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