Some days ya just gotta spill the cool aid…

For the last few years BMW has adopted the “Unstoppable” marketing slogan for their dual sport bikes. Granted, when they run, they do a pretty fair job of navigating small roads, even when they’re sometimes unpaved. But the company’s dual sport offerings are basicly variations on their road bikes, which may explain why they sometimes work so well as long distance tourers on the big roads.

But “Unstoppable”, like in the inferred high adventure far from civilization with only a BMW between you and the wolves and even bigger and badder critters? For those kinda “life and death” rides, there are probably better choices. This is the BMW Motorad that brought us the basic laws of physics defying paralever driveshaft, missing circlip self exploding tranny, and the Valeo starter with detachable field magnets, all wrapped up in one dual sport wannabe motorcycle, the R100GS. Two decades later, we’re still rescuing broke down BMW airheads with those congenital defects.

Perhaps wanting to make R100GS riders feel they were the only ones getting picked on, BMW kicked off the new millenium with a new feature, the flaming differential. Yup, not sure if the problem was the seal or BMW’s “lubed for life” recommendations, but it got so bad that half the BMWs on the Iron Butt rally were DNFing due to failed differentials. Rumor had it that BMW was strategicly standing by with replacement diffs ready to express freight to any broken down competitors, and some competitors went so far as to carry a spare diff on the bike. Mysteriously, the problem disappeared in new bikes, but if your “unstoppable” BMW’s diff flames out, expect a long walk to pay $1800 for a new one.

BMW then presented us with another “Unstoppable” Bike, the F650/F800 GS version of the F800 parallel twin. You’d have thunk that by outsourcing the engine and tranny from Rotax that BMW would have gotten it right. And Rotax, by and large, delivered- With a most smooth, flexible, powerful, and fuel efficient engine and tranny. But BMW must not have told Rotax that they were going to do a dual sport version of the bike that might have to slog along at low speed and get hot… And sure enough F650/F800 alternators are smoking with all too much regularity. Over at http://www.f800riders.org they’ve done a survey, and about a quarter of the bikes have smoked their alternators. Given that the bikes are all less than 6 years old, that doesn’t bode well for the future. Heck, sounds worse than the notorious airhead alternators- in 200k miles riding airheads I’ve only had one fail. And while a couple aftermarket sources will supply you with a better than new bullet proof Airhead alternator upgrade that’ll power a small city for $500, BMW for $900 offers an “improved” alternator with cooling fins that MIGHT solve the problem. And you’d think that by substituting chain or belt drive for their flaming differentials, BMW would have solved that problem. But Noooo… F650/F800 rear bearings are failing with regularity, and BMW wants a mere $700 to fix that mistake of theirs.

Back to the cool aid… While back I heard a world moto-traveler argue that the abandoned KLR650s he’d seen in Siberia were evidence that BMW’s were a better bike for the back country. Well, I think the KLRs were abandonned because their so reasonably priced that it make more sense to just buy another one. BMWs are a good deal pricier, so dead ones are actually trucked back from Siberia to western Europe or wherever. But heck, once you’ve drank the BMW “Unstoppable” cool aid, what’s a couple thousand to ship the bike home on top of a thousand or three in repairs?

Makes a $3k airhead look downright tempting for moseyin’ about the backroads… And if you have to abandon it, just post the location on the airhead list and they’ll be happy to strip the carcass of useful bits and probably recycle the frame too if it ain’t bent too bad!

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