BMW Motorrad’s Stop-Ride Order on the R1200RT Motorcycle | COOK’S CORNER

Shocked and Annoyed

We've received a fair share of electronic flak for not taking BMW to the proverbial woodshed after the "stop ride" ( see Precautionary Notice To Owners HERE ) was placed on the new R1200RT . Seems the fact that we lauded it in our road test (and in Motorcycle of the Year HERE ) makes the trouble with the RT's Dynamic ESA suspension even more egregious.

In June, BMW ordered dealers to stop selling and owners to stop riding its spanking-new RT. The issue is the potential for failure in the shock. Before the recall, there were two failures on customer bikes in Europe. The shock supplier, Tenneco, was able to consistently reproduce the failure on the bench. (Tenneco is the parent of Monroe and Marzocchi, among others.) At that point, Tenneco informed BMW through a legal document that failure of the shock was possible, and as soon as that happened, BMW had to stop everything, develop a fix, and distribute the replacement shocks as fast as it could. Reportedly, around 8,000 bikes are affected worldwide.

So what’s the problem? I was told by my BMW contacts that the shock shaft where the damping piston is threaded on was breaking at the last thread. This is a classic machining error that should be a relatively straightforward fix. (Easy for me to say, since I don’t have to design, test, or implement that remedy.)

Now Tenneco (or the shaft vendor) has to verify the factory’s fix, pass what will probably be incredibly strict quality assurance, and then satisfy BMW that the fix is conclusive. By the end of this, I bet Tenneco isn’t making a lot of money on RT shocks.

BMW is taking a financial hit too. Because the RT is one of the company’s flagships, and Dynamic ESA is a signature technology, it had no choice but to take special care of RT customers. If the customer is willing to wait, BMW will compensate him to the tune of $2,500. Another option is the use of a loaner bike plus $1,000 credit toward BMW gear or accessories at the dealer. Riders who don’t want to get back on an RT can choose a replacement BMW along with a $1,000 “owner loyalty credit” toward that purchase. And, finally, if the owner is just fed up with BMW all around, the company will buy the RT back.

I’m far from an apologist for the screwup. There’s really no good excuse for a modern suspension manufacturer to have this kind of lapse—either in design or manufacturing. Really, it’s 2014.

Still, it’s amazing to watch the conversation pivot from D-ESA shock failures to a broadside against electronics on bikes. ABS may be a necessary evil, but no one really needs traction control or ride modes. (“Why would you build a powerful engine and then rob it of power?”) If you can’t be bothered to turn a screwdriver to adjust your suspension, you probably don’t belong on a motorcycle. That sort of sentiment.

It’s all so wrong headed. Modern technology makes fast bikes safer and easier to ride all the while expanding their capabilities and raw performance. Electronic suspension can provide improved handling and stability, while preserving (or even improving) ride comfort.

Let’s remember that BMW’s (and RT owners’) recent headaches stem from a mechanical failure, not a conceptual one.

In Case You Missed It

The October 2014 issue of Motorcyclist represents the wholesale visual redesign I've been eagerly anticipating. Every issue is a team effort, but I have to call out Art Director Kathleen Conner for much of the artistic inspiration and offer my thanks for tolerating an insane number of small tweaks and alterations as we moved through our first issue under the new logo. (Believe it or not, the MC logo hasn't changed substantially since 1982.)

Our goal was simple: Make your favorite motorcycle magazine better looking, easier to read, and more modern without turning every story into a 25-word thought nugget, which is the current trend in magazine design. Maybe I'm too traditional about the printed page, but I like my stories with some depth. So that's how we approached the redesign. I hope you enjoy it. -Marc Cook