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Mud, dirt, dents, and scratches

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Adventure riders swear against washing their bikes. Mud and dirt are the badges that honor the design and intention behind these bikes. Dents and scratches are just as important. A dirty, scratched up, dented adventure bike is a bike worth its adventure! The dirtiest, most dented and scratched-up bikes win trophies at rallies, I’m certain.

The dents and scratches don’t bother me. I got over that silliness the second day I rode the bike when I dropped it in the parking lot of my work. That drop busted an indicator, scratched a mirror, and scuffed the then unprotected magnesium cylinder head. My ego also took a huge hit, and I learned first hand the ridiculous cost of all things BMW. Needless to say, I only repaired the indicator.

Five years later, I am mostly proud of the scars and the stories behind them. I also leave the scars alone if they’re merely cosmetic. There’s no sense throwing money after beauty. Regrettably, the dent from last week’s rear-end collision is not just a beauty blemish. The pannier now leaks. Leaky panniers are not acceptable. This problem goes away quickly with a few whacks of a hammer and a generous splooge of silicone.

After the hammer.

After the hammer.

Before the hammer.

Before the hammer.

However, I do mind the mud and dirt, for they tend to lead to problems if left on the bike. It’s not like I’m some kind of crazed, chrome-polishing clean-freak. The maintenance log says the last wash was 1000 miles ago in December; the one before that was in October.

These washes serve a different purpose than bolstering an ego. They give me an opportunity to inspect the bike for wobbly parts that shouldn’t, stiff bits that should wiggle, leaky stuff that should not leak at all, and so on. For the most part, I turn up very little. This bike is wonderfully low maintenance. But it seems Muley is sick today. His low beam headlamp is out, and the steering isn’t quite right. The vibration dampeners on the handlebar risers feel too loose. And then I notice age cracks in the rubber gear boots of the swing arm.

Maybe a dirty adventure bike looks well used, but a dirty adventure bike also hides its problems. These boots in particular keep water and dirt out of the gears between the transmission and rear wheel. Spotting this problem before it worsens sounds much better than having a trophy-winning adventure bike.

I replace the bulb and tighten the bar risers on the spot. These two gear boots look more complicated. They’re not expensive by BMW standards–maybe $70 a piece. But replacing them means releasing the rear suspension and dropping the drive shaft far enough to disengage the splines. I must research if this is something I can do myself in the next few weeks.

If you know anything about this procedure… please say so! Leave a comment or email me directly. I also desperately need an updated repair manual for this bike. Mine is the RepROM 5th edition from 02/2007, and the bike is a 2008 R 1200GS.

Gear boot between drive shaft (left) and transmission (right).

Gear boot between drive shaft (left) and transmission (right).

Gear boot between final drive (left) and drive shaft (right).

Gear boot between final drive (left) and drive shaft (right).

Brian

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