2018 R1200GS Rallye Spoke Wheel Truing
I bought this motorcycle, in spring of 2021, used, from a dealer in
Vegas. I flew out to pick it up, and on the way home I noticed
a harmonic vibration from about 50 mph+? 6th gear, Frequency about
1Hz at 60-65 mph. I hadn't noticed it most of the trip, because I
spent all my time on interstates fighting turbulence from the trucks
and generally getting bounced around. But when I got on the smooth
blacktop secondary highways in Alabama I definitely noticed it. By
the time you get to 65 mph it's a clear wave pattern, the vibration
peaks about every second (count to one one thousand), dies down,
peaks again. As you go faster, the interval between peaks gets
progressively shorter, and the vibration gets more intense.
I would have bet my shorts that it was just tires/wheels out of
balance, both of them, because the frequency just seems too low to
be engine. Figured the wheels are different diameters so at some
point in rotation they cancel each other out, at another point they
add up, which explains the frequency.
I took it to the local shop and they checked the front wheel and
said it's balanced, spokes are fine and it's true. They checked the
rear wheel the next day and found it to be slightly out of balance.
Not sure one tire could cause this kind of harmonic. What
ticked me off was them saying that it felt perfectly fine to them on
the highway, and they had a couple guys take it for a ride.
So, much for their diagnostic abilities. Paid them some money
for their trouble and left. I wasn't happy, mostly because I
was working out with the selling dealer and the local one to fix
that and a leaky fork seal. But they couldn't confirm my seal
was leaking, even though I had pictures that I had sent the
dealer. Long story...
I did find some info that said Tourance tires have been a problem
for some, and it did have Tourance tires on it, fairly new
one's. And I wondered if maybe as the tire wore on the 2000
mile trip home, it just got worse.
I did some research on these cross spoked wheels and everything I
read said don't mess with them. If they are bent, you can't
straighten them, and most dealers considered them throwaways if
there was anything wrong. Well, at $600 a piece, or whatever
they cost... a ton... I figured I needed to try. I did find a
shop out in CO which was apparently the only one that actually
straightened and worked on them... just in case I screwed them up.
So, dove into this thing. First, took off the front wheel and
mounted it in a truing stand. Yeah, thought about taking the tire
off, but why? I mean, if the wheel is bent, whether the tire is on
or not, it's not going to effect my ability to straighten it with
the spokes. I mean, it's rubber, right?
A word about the truing stand. Bought it on Ebay, one of those China
specials. It's solid enough, but barely had enough room for the
tire. Not crazy about the bearings on it (don't spin as free as I'd
like), or the rod (soft metal). Also, the front tire has a bushing
on one side, but on the other it's just the rubber seal, so wasn't
crazy about sticking those cones directly into the rubber seals, but
it seemed to be OK, and I didn't have another bushing... And yeah,
the kitchen counter is the best place to do this...
First thing. The little set/grub screws on each spoke. Yes, there is
a screw in there... 40 of them...
First issue is getting those loosened. Problem is that some of them
were so caked with mud that I couldn't get a 2mm wrench in there.
For those that I couldn't, I found that just loosening the main
spoke nut took the load off the set screw. Some I could unscrew from
there, others there was no way but to completely remove the spoke
nut. At which point I would go in there with a smaller wrench or a
small nail to work the mud out so the 2mm wrench would go in... Not
sure BMW thought through this. Tedious to say the least. It would be
nice to have plug on them to keep dirt and stuff from betting built
up. Obviously, if you're going to remove the spoke nut
completely, you want to put it back, and tighten it to approximately
where it was. I only had one spoke that turned and I had to hold it
with a pair of vice grips when loosening the spoke nuts.
First shot at it, I just put the indicator on the side of the wheel
and looked at how much wobble the wheel had. Somewhere between 2-3
mm max. Not bad. So, followed the usual spoke tightening approach.
Found the most far out point, tightened the spokes to pull that
section of the wheel away from that side, four to six spokes in that
area. I pulled until I reached max torque (35 in-lbs). When the
wheel still wouldn't pull over, I would loosen the opposite spokes.
Anyway, after monkeying for hours, I wasn't getting anywhere. I
could move the rim some, but it was always worse. The one spot that
stuck out the farthest to my left, would not pull in to the right.
So, my conclusion was that the rim was bent, and like it's been
said, these BMW wheels are not the usual flexible spoke wheels.
Clearly you can't really pull the wheel straight like you can on a
So, at that point, I just gradually loosened all the spokes, to the
point where they were almost loose. Goal is to just get them all
tight and torqued to spec., and see what the result is. With the
spokes basically loose the wheel had that 2-3 mm side to side
wobble. If I could keep it there, while tightening, that would be
Regarding the working pattern. I picked one spoke as #1 followed
that down to the wheel, went across the wheel to the opposite spoke,
went to that spoke nut, and marked that #2, on the other side of the
wheel. Back to #1, on the same side, directly across from #1, I
marked #3 (#1 and #3 are 180 degrees apart on the wheel, diameter),
followed that down, across the wheel, #4. #5 was at 90 degrees to #1
and #3. #7 was 180 degrees from #5. And so on. Basically
tightening in a cross pattern. Here's some numbers on the wheel and
in order from both sides of the wheel.
This is all the numbers on each side, in order.
Also, I started by finger tight on all spokes, following the
pattern. Then turned the nuts one star point on the nut. Then went
to about 12 in-lb, then 20 in-lb, then 25 in-lb, 30 in-lb, and
followed the pattern until I got to 35 in-lb on all spokes. I guess
you could take out your grub screws while you're tightening, but I
had enough trouble hanging on to the little buggers, so I just left
them in, making sure they were screwed in just deep enough to allow
me to work the spoke nuts. I tightened them after all the spokes
were at 35 in-lb. It seemed to work out.
What was the end result? I managed to keep the 2-3 mm max. side to
side (same high spot as before). So, guess if I wanted that out, I'm
was going to have to pay someone to straighten that wheel.
I reballanced the wheel and I was able to take off almost all the
balancing weights on the wheel, some of which I put on to balance it
before working on the spokes. Hmmmm... Could that mean that the
wheel was out of round before, or shifted off center, and this
gradual crosswise tightening process got it more round/centered? If
it was off center, then weights would be needed to make up for the
fact that there was too much wheel mass on one side. I can't think
of any other explanation for it. On the heavy side I took off 1 oz
of weights and a couple other 1/4 oz. I find it unlikely that I
somehow managed to throw the wheel off center (if it was centered
before) in such a way that it just happened to allowed me to
eliminate weights. So, I'm hoping for a neutral or good outcome on
the test ride tomorrow.
May 1 2021
Strike one. It's definitely no better. If anything, it's a bit
worse. Nothing to lose at this point so I took another look at it.
Since I can't change the side to side wobble, maybe I can get it
closer to round. There was definitely a spot where it was more
than 2 mm out of round.... I can almost see the writing on the
I went on ADV Rider and got the suggestion to look at this
document: Wheel_Truing_PDF.pdf And a
guy said he started out 2.8 out axially and 1.3 radial. Wound up 0.3
axial and 0.2 radial. Dims in mm.
So, took a stab at the radial runout. Yes, both the tire and the
wheel have their high spot at the same point, and the transition
from high to low, as the wheel turns, is gradual (except for the
spot where the wheel is bent, but I couldn't do anything about that)
I guess that's a good thing as opposed to the tire in one spot and
the wheel in another. Set my stand up again to attempt to fix that.
Bottom line... I did reduce the radial runout from about 2+ mm to
about 1 or less (yes, i should get a dial indicator, but eyballing
works pretty good). And riding the bike definitely shows an
improvement. There is no more harmonic anywhere below 60 mph, no
obvious cycle of vibration. At 65 vibration starts to creep in, by
70 the handlebars still shake noticeably, 80 it's worse, but all the
way up to 120 mph it's no worse than it was at 80. But let's just
say, as it is, I'm not going to be doing any high speed cruising.
So, now I had a dilemma. Seeing as I do most of my riding on
backroads, below 70 mph, should I try to take out the last of the
radial runout, knowing that the side to side is still there and the
rim will need straightening anyway, but that I might get some more
improvement? Should I do that tire swap and see the effect? Or, do I
take good enough, and ride it for the summer and just wear out that
tire, change it then? Either way, when winter comes, the front
wheels is going to Woody's. I'm thinking good enough for now, not
not completely decided.
Sidebar 1: Normal Spoke Wheels. I called a motorcycle wheel
specialist in Ohio, just to kind of confirm what's been said. First,
these guys will guarantee that a wheel they fix will be between
.003-.005 inches runout in both directions. But, no, they don't do
the BMW wheels. They consider them throwaways, non repairable.
Sidebar 2: Yes, it's not impossible to maintain the spoked wheels.
The one thing I've definitely learned is that, if my wheel wasn't
permanently deformed, I would have a pretty good chance of
maintaining these wheels, and keeping them tight and straight. Yes,
it's intimidating, and you need lots of time, but it can be done.
Ok, so when it came to fixing the radial runout:
Basically, I renumbered the spokes to facilitate the work. I want to
shift the wheel from the high side (rim far from hub) to the low
side (rim close to hub), so have to loosen the spokes on the low
side and tighten on the high. The spots are 180 degrees apart on the
wheel, so that's good again. Starting at the high spot picked spoke
#1at the wheel, #2 is right across from it, same side of wheel, #3
is next to #1 and #4 is next to #2. Then I start fanning out from
that. #5 is next to #1, #6 is next to #2, #7 is next to #3, #8 is
next to #4. Until all the spokes, on 180 degrees of the wheel, half
half the wheel, are numbered #1 to #20. Then, go 180 degrees from #1
and duplicate the pattern on the other half of the wheel.
First was the loosening. Started by loosening the low side in
numbered order, 1/8 turn each spoke (you can start at 1/16 turn if
you want to play it safer). Have to realize that technically, as you
fan out from the high spot, and get to 90 degrees to either side,
the amount you loosen should decrease. And I'm sure if I determine
the thread pitch, on the spokes, and the angle of the spokes to the
wheel, I could calculate exactly how much I could loosen each spoke
to get exactly the movement I need at any given point (No, not going
to do that.). But the spokes are rubber bands to an extent, and the
wheels are really stiff, so I think there is some room for error.
But, the fact is that as this process went on, some fuzzy logic
comes into play, and the spokes at 90 degrees from the high spot do
not get loosened as much as the ones directly at the high spot. The
important thing is to do the same thing to spokes directly across
from each other so as not to shift the rim in any way that you don't
I can definitely say that there are few things I have to thing about
as hard as this process. Without numbering the spokes, and in the
order you need to attend to them, it is so easy to get lost. And
this did take me all day, like 6-8 hours. Talk about Zen and the Art
of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Anyway, once the spokes were loosened 1/8 turn on the low half of
the wheel, check the runouts, tightened them on the other half,
again in numbered order, check the rounouts. Then check the runouts
again, make sure you didn't screw anything up, make sure you're
making progress, and repeat. Loosen one side, check tighten the
other, check, etc... This is where it becomes clear that at some
point the spokes at 90 degrees to the high and low need only 1/16
turn or nothing at all.
Other things come up, like when you ding the spokes you find one
that has a high pitch and the one next to it on the same side is low
pitch. In that case loosen the high one, tighten the low one, to
keep the tension in that area about the same, but get the spokes
more even in pitch so the load is better distributed between them.
Also, when you're loosening and you find that almost all the tension
in the spoke is removed. Check the tension in the spokes next to it
and see if either is tight. Also check the spokes 180 degrees from
that one, maybe tight.
Logical and methodical approach, and think about what you're doing
and why, before you do it.
Then at some point you're happy with your results, the question is,
how do you then torque them all down. First, when you're doing
you're adjustments, use a torque wrench set at about 1/3 of the
final torque. This acts as a stop, so that you think about why a
given spoke may be tighter than others and how you can get them more
even before proceeding.
But anyway, when you're ready to torque the spokes, you have to
change your tightening pattern, back to the first pattern. Tighten
in pairs, left and right side of wheel (to keep from pulling the rim
from one side to the other), first at 180 degrees apart, then 90
degrees to that, and keep splitting the difference in the angle.
Again, number them in tightening order before you start. Keep
checking, gradually increase torque on each go around. Same fuzzy
logic applies regarding spokes that are significantly looser or
tighter than others. In the end, they should all ding at about the
Did my last test run she is smooooooth.... to at least 115 mph. No
harmonic, no handlebar shakes, nada...
So, here's the cliff notes version. I trued the wheel again (another
two days of work, making it four days of truing), with the tire off,
using a different technique, and I changed the tire; pitched the
Tourance for a Shinko 705.
So, here's the details. This is my version of a bead
My rim guards didn't work so well at first, so I had to heat them in
an oven to get them to soften and open up wide enough to go on the
GS rims. Clearly there's a better way. But I got the tire off.
Then I'm thinking, since I've got the tire off, how about another
shot at the truing?
So, here's what I did:
1. I took the same approach I described previously, but worked
myself into a corner, I ended up with spokes which I needed to
tighten, already too tight, and the one's I needed to loosen already
too loose, and the wheel had two axial high spots 180 degrees apart.
I'm sure if I think about it long enough I could understand why. But
I wasn't going there... I suspect I was turning adjusters too
quickly (1/8 turns).
2. Slept on it and next morning I loosened all the spokes, down to
finger tight... again, do it gradually, small turns (1/16), using a
cross pattern. And I went around again to make sure they were all
just finger tight. What this shows you is just how much your wheel
is actually out.
3. Took off one spoke nipple at a time, shot just a bit of JP1 off
road thin chain lube into each one (no thick stuff), and worked the
set screw (grub screw) all the way down and back up the nipple. That
way the threads were lubricated and clean. Put it back on only
finger tight again.
3. With all the nipples lubed, and the spokes just finger tight,
just shy of loose, I checked the runout of the wheel. It was
actually better than before. Seems like the process of stressing the
wheel knocked something into place. Don't ask me how, but based on
that OGSWTTv10 document, I just called it magic. At this point I put
marks on all the nipples, so I could see exactly how far each one
4. My job now was to get all the spokes tight and not tweak it in
the process. I set my torque wrench to 20 in-lb and started the
crosswise tightening process. Turning only 1/24th of a turn at a
time. I did not deviate from my tightening pattern or my 1/24th of a
turn at a time.
5. After the first round was done, I checked the runout and found
that I had some radial, with high and low spots 180 degrees apart on
the wheel. So, I renumbered the spokes on the rim 1-12 on one side
and 1-12 on the opposite side, fanning out from the peaks. Loosen
all of them on one side and tighten all of them on the other (180
degrees apart). This shifted the wheel on the hub. After a couple
rounds, I was happy, and continued the overall tightening process. I
only made one adjustment to minimize some axial runout in one spot.
6. When I got several spokes that were at or above 20 in-lb, I
turned my wrench up to 25 in-lb. But I still continued to turn
1/24th of a turn at a time.
7. I checked spokes on the same side next to each other for sound.
If they were not even, I evened them out, to share the load;
loosened one, tightened the other. Then continued the tightening
8. When I got a few spokes the triggered at 25 in-lb I turned my
wrench up to 30 in-lb. Same process.
9. Final step, turn the wrench to 35 in-lb. This time, if I hit 35
in-lb, it told me this was the last tightening cycle. If I hit 35, I
still turned the nipple 1/24th. When that round was done, I was
done. So, most of the spokes would be below 35 in-lb and a few may
be slightly higher.
10. Again I checked paired spokes and balanced them if one was
higher in pitch than the other.
Basically, good enough. Aside from my camera movement, I'd say
that's less than 1mm movement in both directions. And that spot I
had before, which seemed bent, irreparably, was gone. There is
little if any permanent damage to the wheel. Either way, it does
also show that you don't need perfect to have a smooth ride.
Most spokes were at 1/2 turn of the nipple, past the marked zero
point. In my previous adjustment cycles I was getting close to a
full turn on some. Clearly too much. But, I really think those
tightening processes did help to bring the wheel back in line.
But can't be sure.
Then I debated putting the old tire back on, but given the
difference between my first go around, vs my second and the fact
that I had minimal affect on the vibration, I started to believe
that my tire was at least 50% of the problem, so I skipped the old
tire and just put the new one on. Well, I didn't... I had to do the
walk of shame. Luckily I found a guy just a couple miles from me
that was able to install the tire. He scratched my rim in the
process, but at least the tire was on.
And the rest is history. I hit 65 without even thinking about it and
without feeling any vibration. Got out to a straight piece of
road... 115 mph before I decided I shouldn't kill any dogs, or
myself running into a dog!
There you have it. Handlebar vibration, just shouldn't be there. If
you have it, check your wheels and your tires. And a good Shinko is
way better than a bad Metzeler!
I contacted Pirelli (They own Metzeler) about returning the tire to
them. I didn't even want a new tire, I just wanted to send
them the Tourance so they could learn why the tire went bad, but it
was a pain and I just gave up.
It's January of 2021, been riding it all year and had no
issues. Recently I tightened the spokes on the real wheel
because a few were not as high pitched as the others, and I wanted
to get them more even. No real issue. Used what I
learned on the front wheel and got it done in one day.
And thanks again to everyone for their input.