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Crash Prompts BMW Spoked Wheel Probe

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This story by Mark Hinchliffe of Motorbike Writer and seems to affect all spoked wheel bikes made between Feb and June of this year (2018).

This Australian rider had his front wheel collapse and send him to the hospital.  I've seen rear wheel spokes fail but it's usually due to the rear brake caliper coming off and getting stuck in the wheel.  Never seen this failure before.  Another rider had an issue with 10 loose spokes on his rear wheel and lost control of the bike.

Thankfully BMW seems to be on this issue from the start (unlike in the past) and has issued a service bulletin where riders can have their wheels inspected.

I wonder what Woody of Woodys Wheel Works has to say about all this.  He's been pretty critical of the oem mfg's materials and techniques over the years and has offered his expertise in-person only to have it mostly dismissed.

 

 

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This is a good opportunity to point out that inspecting your wheels should be a common practice with all of us.  Run a screwdriver across each spoke as you spin the wheel (while on the center stand of course) and listen to the pitch of each ping for loose spokes.

Fasstco has a great spoke torque wrench you might consider getting.

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You may not know it from the comments here but this story has gone VIRAL via Facebook with a reach of 40k and 102 shares as of this writing.  Many people losing their minds, of course.  It's Facebook! ?  We get a few hundred sessions/day normally but this one spiked up to 4700 Thursday then 2400 yesterday.  I'm certainly not complaining.

A few fanboys are using Jedi mind tricks to distract and say that essentially it's the rider's fault for not checking their spokes.  I am not in this camp even though that's very good advice to check your spoke regularly.

Other haters saying steer clear of BMW, etc...  I'm not in that camp either.

I did get a chance to speak with someone who knows a thing or two about wheels and he says in his 40+ years of experience he's seen this over and over again.  He says these x-lace wheels are mostly problematic because they're being built by machines with minimal quality controls.  He also cautions the average rider NOT to tighten more than a single spoke without having an experienced wheel smith take a look at it.  Just tightening a bunch of loose spokes is likely to bring the wheel even further out of true and compound the problem and that's not safe either.

He says a rider who has taken their wheel in to be inspected at a dealer and there's a problem found with the wheel, that the rider needs to insist not just on a replacement wheel, but one that has been CERTIFIED and STAMPED that it's been inspected PROPERLY instead of simply replaced with another sub-standard wheel from their vast inventory.  

These wheel assemblies are HUGELY expensive (~$1700) but the real cost to them in parts and labor are obscenely inexpensive; even less than a truing service would cost you.

I was right before on the frames cracking and stanchions failing and my gut says this is the same kind of situation.  We shall see, but like I said before I think BMW is actually on top of this issue early this time and that's a good thing.

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I'll start a tally here of riders with spoke issues:

Recently bought a 2018 GSA and at the running in service they changed both my front and rear rims, apparently a service bulletin on BMW’s part. there were 24 loose spokes on my rear rim and 9 loose spokes on my front rim. Needless to say I’m checking my spokes after every ride these days!! Tim Skelton, South Africa

My GSA was built in July 2018. I had 3 loose smokes on the front wheel that I had adjusted when I took it in for its 600 mile service. So far, so good. - JPCollinsworth, advrider

Having read about the spoke issue here, I checked my 05/2018 build R1200GS. No spokes felt loose but there was a wide variation in tone when tapped. Many sounded very dull. Runout both ways was well within spec. So when I took it in to the supplying dealer for its 10,000 K service yesterday, I asked them to check the wheels. To my surprise ( I have low expectations of any vehicle dealer) they reported 10 loose spokes in the front wheel and 15 in the rear. They are going to replace both wheels.

The article linked above suggests these wheels can go from "checks OK" to failure in a short time. I hope the new wheels don't take too long. I want to enjoy the ride; not worry about wheels failing. - Shedman2, advrider

Loose QC, specs, tolerances.

It can't just be a bad batch, this has been an annoyance/concern for a while.

To the best of my knowledge, BMW's response has been generally to order new wheels. While this may placate owners, it nearly defeats the purpose of a spoked wheel: the ability to "true" a wheel and make minor adjustments as needed. Seems the engineering and design of the cross spoke wheel leaves something to be desired, hence many riders going to Excel rims and Superlite hubs.

Either the knowledge and skills on how to true/straighten OEM BMW wheels is lacking, or the design is just plain garbage to begin with. - jaystonewee, advrider

Facebook: Hung Wasson Bobby, sometimes the issue doesn't manifest until more miles are piled on. I had my 600 and my 6,000 mile service, at different BMW service centers. No issues were found. My bike is now at just under 10,000 miles, and 22 loose spokes were found when I was contacted regarding the Service Bulletin and brought in the bike. I didn't have any broken spokes. BMW bought me a new rear wheel.

 

 

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