Invisible Driving, a Magic Can-Bus and One Bike for (Almost) Everything | Answers


By: Tim Carrithers, Karel Kramer, Photography by Aerostich, Karel Kramer

Tighten Your Belt

When I bought my BMW F800ST, I thought I had found a sport-tourer with a clean, low-maintenance belt final-drive. Soon afterward my local BMW dealer lost the franchise, and the nearest dealer was suddenly 200-plus miles away. Now I maintain the bike myself using the CD shop manual; however, measuring belt tension requires a special tool whose function I can’t duplicate. I tightened the belt once while cold, but when the final drive reached operating temperature, the belt seemed too tight, so I backed it off. I am fairly satisfied with the current setting, but would prefer some definitive means for getting the correct tension. With all the belt-drive bikes out there, is there a general rule for setting belt tension?
Tom Eaton
Tallahassee, FL

According to BMW, the short answer is there’s no quick and dirty way to tell if your belt tension is right because there’s a very fine line between too tight and not tight enough. Hence the special tension tester (part number 83 30 0 417 779) designed to make sure it’s just right. The tester isn’t offered directly to civilians, but an understanding dealer should be willing to sell you one for around $300. Your digital shop manual should tell you it’s time to check and/or adjust said belt every 6000 miles. After 24,000 miles, it’s time for a new one.

One Bike For (Almost) Everything?

Is there one motorcycle out there that can almost do it all? I want something that I can take on a 3000-mile ride in moderate comfort, do 500-mile days, ride back and forth to work 40 miles round trip, and take the fireroad that looks interesting. I am not looking for the perfect bike, but I don’t want to have to buy three motorcycles and all that goes with them. I currently ride an ’07 Harley-Davidson Super Glide with 90,000 miles and an ’02 Suzuki DR650 with 5500 miles. There are so many niche bikes, but there seems to be nothing that can do it all—or at least most of it.
D. Grump
The Arizona Desert

No single bike does it all, but that almost makes it easier. Start looking at adventure bikes; hopefully something with at least two cylinders that add up to 650cc or more. BMW’s R1200GS is the consensus all-surface choice for those who can swing the price of admission. Even clean used examples aren’t cheap. There are less expensive omnivores further down the food chain: Triumph’s new Tiger 800 triple, BMW’s F800GS and Suzuki’s V-Strom 650 twins, and the second-generation Kawasaki KLR650 if one lung seems like enough. Have fun, shop around and we’ll see you out there!

Fluid Intelligence

In the process of liberating my old Yamaha RD250 from the garage after a long, cold winter, I changed the engine and gearbox oil. What about the brake fluid? It looks fine. I haven’t changed it for maybe three years, but the bike has been sitting for at least half that time. Should I change the fluid anyway? And at the risk of asking another stupid question, what is brake fluid?
Ken Blansett
Houston, FL

Last things first: Brake fluid is a glycol-based concoction designed to transfer force applied at the lever to your caliper(s) and brake pads without compressing in the process. It has to maintain those characteristics from freezing cold to broiling hot. That’s the tricky part. The bad news, even for a bike that’s been sitting, is that glycol-based fluid like the DOT 3 your manual recommends is hydroscopic. That means it absorbs water over time, making it boil prematurely. Your brakes don’t work so well when that happens. Crashing is expensive. Brake fluid is cheap. Just to be on the safe side, flush out the old stuff and replace it with fresh DOT 4 or DOT 5.1 fluid (not DOT 5!) from a sealed container. Do it again every year or two, and keep a close eye on those old lines and seals. Replace anything that leaks and you’ll be fine.

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