The BMW has been fairly reliable, but not completely reliable. One of the first problems occured around about 60,000kms when the splines on the clutch plate stripped. I don't know why BMW persisted in using such a fine spline. There are about 20 fine splines in the plate compared to 6 or 8 deep splines in car clutches for a similar purpose. BMW say the gearbox should be removed and the splines lubricated regularly, but cars never seem to need this done until the linings are worn out.
Around the same time I had to replace the brake master cylinder, which started leaking after I bled the brakes to renew the fluid. I have struck this problem before in cars where during bleeding the piston travels beyond it's normal working region. It's seems to me to be more prevalent in European vehicles than Japanese.
I replaced the timing chain at around 80,000kms and it's getting noisy again at 165,000.
I was told that I would probably need to replace gearbox bearings at around 80,000kms, but mine never started to get noisy till 120,000. I removed and re-installed the gearbox myself, but got the BMW mechanic to fit the bearings as apparently there is a modification that is performed. Another new clutch was installed at the same time, as was a new oil seal at the rear of the engine.
It has had new rear wheel bearings, but front ones are original.
Rear brake linings are original and I'm only on my third set of front brake pads. The first set didn't actually wear out, but one lining had separated from it's backing. Front brake rotors were replaced at 120,000, when much of the other major maintenance was done.
Steering head bearings have been replaced and I actually feel they may have been over tight from new.
I have only installed new pushrod tube seals quite recently to stop a slight oil leak. Rings and bearings and valves are as fitted from the factory.
Electrical problems have been almost non-existant apart from when it was fairly new the alternator charge light began staying on. Strictly speaking it was still under warranty, but as the dealer is 100kms away I decided to take a look myself with the help of a workmate who was trained in electronics. We discovered that one of the push-on terminals on the back of the diode board at the front of the motor had not been pushed fully home right from new. Pushed on correctly, it has never given any more trouble in a further 100,000 plus kms. The neutral switch in the bottom of the gearbox was also replaced at 158,783kms. This was done in situ, despite the fact that BMW manuals say the gearbox has to be removed.
The smooth running seems to be easy on bulbs. I have replaced one tail lamp bulb, one front indicator bulb and two instrument bulbs in 25 years.
I think I am on to my fifth battery. Since I stopped riding over Winter I was removing the battery and charging it at the beginning of Summer, but a couple of years ago I bought one of those battery chargers that keeps the battery charged up all the time. I reconnect it every time I park the bike. So far this has proved a worthwhile investment, but one needs to keep an eye on the battery water level especially over hot Summers like the one we have just experienced.
The only other problem now showing up is wear in the spline where the rear wheel fits on. This needs to be lubed regularly, and I have done this every time I have installed a new tyre. The experts tell me it is not bad enough to need attention yet.
Apart from the Michelins the bike came with I have used Continentals exclusively. I have always found them a good tyre for my riding and I don't see any need to change. Tyre wear varies quite a bit with Summer or Winter riding. Hot roads are not kind to rubber. Front tyre last from a worst of 14,000kms to a best of over 25,000. Rears from about 10,000 to a best of almost 13,000. The original Michelins lasted 7120 kms on the rear, the worst rear tyre distance I've recorded and 25,046 on the front, which is one one of the best for a front !!
I fitted a VDO clock to the into the fairing at 108,000kms in 1998. When I told the salesman at the shop I intended it for a motorcycle he suggested I use a marine one which has non-corrosive components. When he looked up the price we were both surprised to find that it was less expensive than the standard one. The salesman said that this was probably because most of their sales were for non-marine and the marine type were probably older stock. Whatever the reason, I don't care, it has been completely trouble free.
Oil changes I have done completely by the book until I stated not using the bike through winter. Since then I have changed the oil and filter at the end of every riding season regardless of mileage (kilometerage!) covered.
In the gearbox and final drive I use fully synthetic oil which I change every three years.
In 1995 at 82,400kms I installed a K&N air filter which has not been serviced yet.
The "bodywork" has stood up pretty well. As explained earlier I repainted the body parts at around 120,000kms, The paint on the frame is still good, though I have touched up one patch where my boot rubs against the frame. The screen is still the original, and does have some light scratches, but the seat covering is still like new with no sign of wear or splitting. Maybe the use of sheepskin covers much of the time has helped this.The exhaust system lasting in excess of 100,000kms before replacement is also impressive. This was probably helped by the purchase of a small bike (Yamaha RD50) for the commute to work. I actually only needed this for about 2 years, as after that I secured a job in Carterton which meant the BMW got a 40km return trip 5 days a week, mostly at 100km/h.The only other small problem I encountered was wear in the pannier mounting clips which caused a pannier to depart from the bike (without my knowledge) on the way to work one morning. The later bikes with panniers that hang from the top of the frame is a far better design.
I also had one minor accident when going to work early one morning in darkness. A motorcyclist coming in the opposite direction lost control in a patch of roadworks hitting a white painted drum, which was marking the centre of the road, and deflecting it ito my front wheel which took me down. the BM slid on it's left side on the crash bar and the mainstand tag. Luckily the tyres didn't dig in and flip it over, so damage was minimal. The other motorcyclist, whom I think may have been trying to make his bike wheelspin in the gravel roadworks, suffered a large whole in his bike's crankcase!
I am often asked what new bike would I buy if I had the money (Lotto). I guess I would try everything I could, but I would be inclined to just keep maintaining my current machine. Modern touring bikes all seem so heavy. A naked BMW R850R is weightier than my R80RT complete with fairing. I guess that's the price you pay for all the electronic components etc. The only modern component I really find appealing is ABS. I wonder how many motorcyclist have been badly injured or indeed have died, because they have either locked their brakes or have not braked hard enough because of fear of locking. Although I have had some frightening moments I have never had to use maximum braking right down to a standstill whilst motorcycling, however I have had one situation where ABS saved my bacon in a car on a damp road.