Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Tacoma, Washington, USA
Bad Handling Motorcycle (LONG)
I thought I would make my 3rd post in nearly 3 years a worthy and hopefully informative one, albeit a bit long just to be thorough.
The machine is an ’08 1200GT with 28K miles, PR2 tires (my 2nd set of these but it is now wearing BT023’s) and I primarily use the bike for commuting year round from my house in Tacoma to Seattle, about 48 miles round trip in pretty heavy traffic. My dealer is South Sound Motorcycles and I believe them to be a good and trusted dealership. I have bought 7 bikes from their family of 2 stores in the past 10 years and the GT was to be my last for a long time.
I began having some handling issues back at the middle of June. This motorcycle has been absolutely the most stable of all street bikes I have ever ridden and it seemed that suddenly it was not. My first experiencing was on my way to work one morning when an unstable “wobble” started just when slowing down to exit the freeway behind a semi pulling a double trailer. The bike would just dance around side to side in a 10” line instead of the normal 2”. After rolling into work I checked all I knew to see what would have caused it and could find nothing. The same day I noticed the back end felt mushy in a corner on the exit off of I-5 on my way home, it felt as if the back tire was nearly flat. When I got home and re-checked the air pressure it was 1-1/2 pounds low in the rear and perfect in the front.
I called my dealer (South Sound BMW) and talked to the service manager and he wanted me to bring the bike in for a test ride which resulted in a diagnosis of failed final drive bearings. Wonderful, at least the problem was solved…wrong! The bike definitely felt better in a corner but was still “dancing” behind trucks.
I did a little research here on the site and could find nothing other than a post about a “weave” concerning high mileage PR2 tires. I had 12K on my first set of PR2’s and never noticed a handling issue at all. This set had 11K on them and I swear I could get another 2,000 miles on them as the tread looked great, but I figured it just had to be the tires that were causing this “weave”. I decided to try a set of the new BT 023’s on the bike and ordered a set from Two Brothers and had them put on at my dealer. There was no change in the bad manners the bike was exhibiting. Crap!
I rode the motorcycle for another week trying to figure out something to tell the dealer to look for and by now the motorcycle was getting to be a handful at speeds below 50 MPH with the worst speed being around 35 MPH. It was almost like the motorcycle had really tight steering head bearings. Going home in heavy traffic for 2 days in a row, my shoulders were worn out when I got home from trying to keep the machine on a line of some sorts. It really was hell on wheels!
All of the above was happening in about 4 week’s time because of a couple of vacations I took and was not riding the motorcycle while on vacation. It was now nearing the end of July and I was heading off to the Rally In The Gorge in Stevenson WA with my KTM. I asked the service manager Alex if he would keep the GT while I was gone and ride it in his commute so he may experience what I was going through and he agreed.
The first night he rode it home he called me on my cell (I am quoting here, imagine this in his German accent) “Scott, you’re bike rides like crap!” Finally someone else sees what I have been going through!
Alex was not really sure if the trouble was coming from the front end or the swing arm pivot area but he would find out for sure in the next few days. He recalled one motorcycle with a similar problem that was caused my a nasty collision with a curb and after replacing the wheel and some other parts it exhibited the same “weave” as mine and they traced it to the ball joints in the front end. I assured him my bike has never been dropped or run into anything and never been in a collision of any kind.
So, while I was up in the woods riding dirt bikes last week they the replaced both of the ball joints in the front suspension and the steering damper. I heard “notched ball joints” mentioned at one time during the diagnosis but do not know why the steering damper was replaced. I will try to find out more when I am back in their shop next Saturday.
The ball joints are a sealed unit that is pressed together permanently so all I can assume is there was some sort of defect that finally decided to fail. Perhaps the lubrication was too thin or maybe one of the two surfaces inside the joint was scratched in the pressing together part of the assembly. Who knows for sure?
I did ride the bike today for the first time in two weeks and everything appears to be rock steady and stable once more. A few more days of commuting and I am sure I will have totally forgotten how it felt for the motorcycle to handle the way it did.
Anyway, chalk this one up to experience and hopefully the rest of us can remember what the ball joints CAN do to the handling of this motorcycle!
PS...A big two thumbs up to SSBMW for excellent service!