In this article, I discuss problems with my 2009 BMW R1200R motorcycle. Warning: the list is extensive, but the biggest problem isn’t the bike…
Updated: 2023, with a twist!
This isn’t an article I enjoyed writing back in 2015, or updating in 2017 before I sold the bike, but it’s the sort of article that I knew could potentially help others like myself. Not nearly enough people stand up against big corporations, and we really need to.
Vehicle manufacturers like BMW know that they can push people around, bullying owners into submission in places like Australia where we have relatively weak consumer laws. People need to know about the risks and potential traps of owning a bike like the 2009 R1200R and of dealing with BMW Australia.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
I bought my nearly new 2009 BMW R1200R in 2010 with around 5000km on the clock. For all intents and purposes, this was a new bike, with the balance of the new vehicle factory warranty transferred to me. The BMW R1200R ‘hex-head’ boxer engine motorcycle is a superb bike in many respects, and BMW motorcycles have a well-deserved reputation for being excellent in many ways.
I’ve owned many bikes over nearly 40 years of riding and the R1200R is/was one of my favourites in terms of being fun, comfortable, torquey, with awesome Brembo brakes, handling, range and fuel economy. My R1200R ownership experience was mostly very good until a collection of BMW R1200R motorcycle problems landed on my doorstep and became my problem, creating headaches like this, this, this and THIS:
This was when I needed BMW Motorcycles Australia, otherwise known as BMW Motorrad Australia to step up. Spoiler alert: They didn’t.
Unfortunately, with the good comes some bad, in this case really bad. BMW’s baked-in design and engineering problems cause serious and expensive problems for owners of these models. Ugliest of all though is the appalling attitude of #BMWMotorradaus, which simply ruined the experience of owning this bike for me. Fair Trading here in WA does little to support the victims of motor vehicle issues either.
I’ve outlined each major issue I faced with my BMW R1200R and the solution where there was one. None of these problems alone are deal-breakers if BMW pays to fix them, as they should. But if you have to fix much of this stuff as I did, any one of them is a potential dealbreaker.
A compounding factor in my case was the ineptitude of certain folks at AutoClassic in Victoria Park, Western Australia. This is a ‘premium’ dealership that might have been decent at sone point but the good guys left and kids ran the workshop by the time I really started having problems with my bike.
Anyway, I hope this article helps other owners and potential owners. I’ve owned more than 15 bikes over the years and riding since I was 16. I’ve never experienced more issues with one bike or been treated worse than I was by BMW Australia. One can only hope things have improved, see my postscript at the end of this article!
This article is also a warning to BMW Motorrad Australia, their management and the customer service team regarding the pain and expense they put me through, knowing about the problems with these bikes. When you do this, people become unhappy and write about it. When you look after people, they spread the good news.
BMW R1200R Problems
Here is a list of the problems I had with my R1200R, all of which ultimately contributed to my selling it:
- Cracked rear wheel carrier and recall
- Leaking final drive unit and bad bearings
- Leaking fuel pump and another recall
- Rusting fuel tank filler and drainage problem
- Throttle body failure x 2
Remember, this is a premium bike with a nearly $30K price tag when specced up like my bike was with electronic suspension, panniers, tyre pressure sensing etc. All these problems appeared in a premium motorcycle just a few years old.
Cracked Wheel Carrier
The first problem is a really dangerous one. Why? The rear wheel carrier that holds the wheel to the final drive, breaks, potentially leading to the rear wheel falling off. I believe this happened in at least one case. Motorcycles only have two wheels, so when one falls off, it’s a significant problem.
I made a video about the issue:
Cracks form around the holes containing the bolts that hold the wheel to the bike. It goes without saying that this is an appalling engineering goof. Why? Because there shouldn’t be a reasonable likelihood whereby, due to design, the carrier can crack and potentially break. This needs to be idiot mechanic-PROOF, as far as possible, not vulnerable.
I took these images and made a video that also went to BMW Australia. They finally agreed to replace this part under an extended warranty. Shortly after they agreed to do this, BMW announced a worldwide safety campaign – actually a recall – to replace this part on ALL affected bikes.
Leaking Final Drive
This next issue also relates to the rear end of the bike, and the module or unit called the final drive. The final drive is like the differential of a car, carrying drive from the engine and turning it 90 degrees to drive the rear wheel. It’s a great system because it is low maintenance, clean and quiet.
Oil started leaking out of the crown gear seal area on the final drive of my bike. Upon closer inspection, another BMW motorcycle mechanic and buddy of mine showed me that the wheel itself ‘wobbled’ if you grabbed the top and bottom of it ad tried to move it.
It turned out that the bearings in the final drive exhibited wear, creating too much movement for the seal to cope with, allowing the oil to escape.
This is a common problem on these bikes (why?) and my bike had been looked after even more strictly than the service schedule requires. Despite that, BMW offered no help, even though they knew about this problem and how well the bike had been maintained. They effectively blamed me, stating that they couldn’t verify how well the bike had been maintained and made me pay $800 for the new parts for a final drive rebuild. Auto Classic, the BMW dealer here in Perth, ‘fixed’ this issue but not properly and not on the first attempt, and damaged my bike in the process.
Sloppy Dealership Repairs
The guys at Auto Classic didn’t take the best care of my bike, nor did they repair the final drive according to the BMW factory service procedure. What they did was to leave the final drive in my bike (not factory procedure), drift out the old bearings with a hammer (not factory procedure) and whack the new bearing in sideways with a hammer, also not fact… well, you get the picture.
Naturally, using a hammer against a light alloy housing damaged the final drive and pivot bearing further up the swing arm. There is a special jig designed for work on the final drive, but they didn’t use it. The damage can be seen in the pic below.
I took this small disaster up with the head mechanic and he was very apologetic. He asked me to bring the bike back so that they could have the paint repairer look at it and touch it up, which they did. It never looked the same and I should have pressed them for a new final drive.
Loose Bearings, New Part Numbers…
The bigger problem was that there was still a heap of bearing free play in the rear wheel, even after the rebuild. It was clicking when you grabbed the wheel top and bottom of the wheel and moved it. There was also some wobble in the pivot bearing. The acceptable limit here is no perceptible movement when tested by hand. You would check that the problem the bike came in for was resolved after a repair, wouldn’t you?
Again, I took this up with the head mechanic, a nice guy who was about 18 years old. He offered to do the job himself this time, with the diff off the bike, as per the factory service procedure, at no additional cost to me. In addition, as a gesture of ‘goodwill’, they offered to inspect and replace the pivot bearings, in case they damaged them during the previous repair.
So, the bike went back a third time. They had it for three more days and rebuilt the diff and pivot bearing assembly. They replaced the bearings and seals in the diff, the pivot bearings, and checked the crown and pinion gear backlash. They also partially repaired the cosmetic damage to the final drive housing, at my insistence. There was no play in the drive after all this.
To summarise, these final drives in this year of bikes have issues. Auto Classic bodged the repair and damaged my bike in the process, but there is a BMW design issue here. We know this because BMW released new part numbers and improved final drive bearings that went into my bike and that BMW now supplies as standard. You don’t revise a part if there is nothing wrong with it.
Broken Fuel Pump, Another Recall
Months later, I got off my bike after a ride and could smell fuel. Looking down, I saw fuel escaping from somewhere deep under the tank and my leg was covered with fuel. I figured I’d pull the tank and find a loose connector or hose. What I actually found was surprising.
The fuel pump outlet, a high-pressure, quick-release fitting, was leaking fuel. I could see a hex fitting wet with fuel so I tried to see if it was loose, by gently testing it with a small spanner. To my amazement, it sheared clean off, with virtually no force applied. Check it out, the bike was unrideable again of course.
My factory-trained BMW mechanic friend told me that this was common and another factory recall item. Again, I rang Auto Classic who told me they would fit a brand new and redesigned fuel pump assembly, at no charge, if I brought the tank to them. They fixed this problem without too much drama, but you can perhaps see just how tedious owning this bike became.
Rusting Fuel Tank
This was one of the worst issues I had to deal with and sadly, many other owners have been faced with this nightmare. You’ll hardly believe your eyes when you first see photos, it’s staggering just how bad this problem is. Check out some of these images on my rusted fuel filler before I repaired it. My jaw hit the flaw when I removed the filler cap for the first time and saw this:
I made a video about the fuel tank rusting problem and how I repaired my bike, check it out:
Can Things Get Worse?
Sadly yes and in a way that tested my patience to the very limit and led to me selling the bike. I loved the bike itself, perhaps strange given what happened, but in the end, the sheer number of BMW R1200R problems I experienced and the appalling treatment I received from BMW Australia were the final straws.
Before I write the final chapter on this, let me be absolutely clear: All the issues I experienced are common problems with the hex-head R1200R. I am not the first nor the last to write about these issues, nor am I an outlier as some might like you to believe. My experience with BMW Motorcycles Aus is typical from what I can gather, so do your research and be careful if you are looking to buy a BMW motorcycle.
Throttle Body Failures
Not long after the fuel pump debacle, I was riding the bike when I experienced what felt like the throttle cable snap. The engine idled but would not respond to the throttle, and this happened at freeway speed. I was lucky to already be in the left lane and about to exit the freeway. You can imagine my surprise upon discovering another problem on my impeccably maintained bike. At least I was able to limp home with the engine idling in third gear and inspect the damage.
Here are my old throttle bodies:
Don’t just take my word for it though, there’s a whole discussion about it in this local BMW forum, and many others. A bit too late for me, but these guys came up with some 3-D printed throttle body pulley replacements because again, BMW won’t sell you the pulley, only the throttle bodies, for 1000 F-you bucks a piece, plus installation, of course.
This is unacceptable on a bike with 100,000km on it, let alone my bike which at that time had less than 20,000km on the clock and presented in near-new condition. BMW might have argued that it was out of warranty, but even this doesn’t matter.
Mr Albert Smart was the Customer Service Consultant I dealt with who told me to truck my dead bike to Autoclassic when the throttle bodies failed. I was then told that the problem was entirely mine to deal with, something BMW Aus knew they were going to tell me before I paid to have my bike trucked to Autoclassic.
Not Fit For Purpose
We have laws here in Australia that require products sold to be “fit for purpose”, irrespective of any warranty that might be offered with them. That means they must be of acceptable quality and last an acceptable amount of time/km/cycles. This requirement often supersedes warranty and is enforceable in a court of law. Failure of ANYTHING motor vehicle related after less than 20,000km is woefully inadequate, by any standards.
BMW Australia blamed me, stating that they:
Couldn’t be sure I hadn’t contributed to the problem.Albert Smart, BMW Customer Service
That’s right, BMW Australia tried to make the throttle body failure my fault and that they had never seen it before, despite evidence of this happening to many bikes. How I could have contributed to the demise of the throttle bodies is beyond me, except if they mean by me riding the bike, because, well, it’s a motorcycle, so there’s that.
Again, I had to pay a bill of around $1600 AUD to have this repaired. Auto Classic installed two new but cosmetically slightly different throttle bodies on my R1200R. I complained about this too, given the outrageous cost and the fact that this was entirely BMW’s problem. As usual, I was left with the problem and at that point, I gave up on the bike, and BMW, for good, or so I thought, see the postscript.
What I should have done, and I wish I had, is push this all the way to court. I suspect I would have won the case and it would have set a precedent for other cases like it. The problem was that I was all out of energy to fight BMW. I simply lost the desire to engage this big faceless corporate that clearly doesn’t care about anything other than maximising its profits.
So, what’re the takeaways here? Hopefully, they are obvious, but the most important for me include:
- NEVER ever trust manufacturers to do the right thing for the consumer. They are set up to make shareholders rich, and that doesn’t automatically mean looking after the little guy, in fact, it usually means the opposite.
- Don’t trust dealerships to do the right thing either until they prove to you that they can and will.
- Don’t trust corporate customer service types to have your back, they are agents for the manufacturer.
- Very carefully inspect any BMW 1170cc motorcycle from this 2005 – 2015 period, particularly the areas I’ve discussed. It might just save you a lot of money and pain.
Don’t laugh but I have just ordered a new 2023 BMW R1250R, a considerably updated and hopefully improved version of this bike that I actually loved, apart from the issues I had with it. The R1250R is in many ways a superb bike and a hidden gem that few people know about or ever get to ride.
I rode one after riding a few of the available options in the price range and I’m pleased to say that in many respects, it was the winner. I can’t say it wins in the charisma stakes, but it is the only bike with a five-year warranty and three years of roadside assistance, plus the engine is a peach and easily the torquiest of the lot, so perhaps BMW have learned their lesson.
I’m optimistic about how this might pan out. If it goes south though, you’ll certainly be reading about it here!