Crash prompts BMW spoked wheel probe

BMW R 1200 GS broken spokes Probe safety recalls

A crash that left a rider with serious injuries after his BMW’s spoked front wheel collapsed has prompted a wider probe into the issue amid calls for an official safety recall.

Gavin Chapman went over the handlebars when the front wheel of his 2016 R 1200 GS Triple Black collapsed. 

“Although I don’t remember much, I was riding with others and as I braked for a corner the spokes on the front wheel collapsed, causing the disk brake to hit the ground,” he says . 

“This catapulted the bike and myself into the bush.

BMW R 1200 GS broken spokes Probe
Forks have gone through the spokes

“The bike was a write-off and I was seriously injured and air-lifted to Roma Hospital.”

Gavin was taking part in a charity ride about 100km west of his home in Gladstone, Central Queensland, in September, with about 50 other riders. 

“It was a combination of road, dirt road and tracks, nothing too difficult,” he says. 

“During the course of the day we rode across numerous cattle grids, potholes and washouts, but no rocks.”

BMW R 1200 GS broken spokes Probe
Smooth dirt road where the crash occurred

Gavin contacted us after reading about Brisbane rider Mark Taylor losing control of his four-month-old BMW R 1200 GS with 10 loose rear spokes.

BMW Motorrad Australia confirms there is an “international service campaign” where spoked wheels are inspected when bikes are scheduled for service at an authorised BMW dealership.

The issue affects 286 models of R 1200 GS, R 1200 GS Adventure, R nineT Scrambler and R nineT Urban G/S built between February 2018 to June 2018.

BMW says the problem lies with the coating on the spoke nipples which does not provide enough friction to retain tension. They say they have made changes to eliminate the issue.

BMW R nineT Scrambler probe
BMW R nineT Scrambler

Probe widens

Mark contacted the Department of Infrastructure to call for an official safety recall.

We contacted the department about the second incident and a spokesperson confirmed they had conducted a probe into Mark’s report about loose spokes on his bike.

“The department has considered all information contained in that report,” the spokesperson says.

“The additional information you have provided relates to another recent event and will be considered to assess whether any further action is appropriate.” 

RACQ Head of Technical and Safety Policy Steve Spalding says the issue is a safety concern and needs a further probe.

Steve Spalding texting probe
Steve Spalding

“This is the second incident we have become aware of in about a month and raises concerns about whether there is a more widespread problem putting other riders in danger,” he says.

“We would expect the bike manufacturer to investigate the causes of failure, whether there is a link affecting this model and, if there is, initiate prompt attention to rectify other bikes before more crashes occur.

“Manufacturers have a responsibility to make sure safety-related defects are fully investigated and to take prompt action when they identify a correction is necessary.”

He says spoked wheels have an extensive history of being durable with minimal maintenance.

“It’s not that they don’t have problems; they just don’t have them very often,” he says.

“If a manufacturer is having to initiate a service campaign which includes regular tension checking I think this indicates a need to look much closer at the issue.

“Just what does the ‘service campaign’ involve and if it’s product redesign on a safety related issue what is the trigger point for moving to a recall?”

BMW Motorrad Australia says the international service campaign has been “initiated in conjunction with the BMW Motorrad head office in line with Australian regulations”.

“In addition, we wish to advise that all motorcycles with spoked wheels are automatically checked and tested at every scheduled service.

“This has been standard practice since well before the R 1200 GS model was introduced,” she says. 

The BMW service campaign was no use to Gavin as he says his closest authorised BMW dealer is about 450km away on the Sunshine Coast.

BMW R 1200 GS broken spokes Probe
Broken Beemer off to the workshop about 500km away

Gavin had his spokes checked by a local mechanic two days before the charity ride.

BMW Motorrad Australia says the owner’s manual advises riders to have their bike checked after riding off-road.

Gavin says there was no damage to the wheel rims from the crash, only the spokes.

Mark says his bike’s spokes were tightened at the dealership at 3000km. He rode a further 2500km on bitumen and 22km on a dirt road before his incident.

BMW R 1200 GS spokes probe
BMW R 1200 GS spoked wheel

Riders can report concerns of vehicle safety or non-compliance to the Department of Infrastructure via their online Vehicle Safety and Non-Compliance Report form.

BMW Motorrad Australia also advises concerned riders to phone them on 133 269 or contact their local dealer.

18 Comments

  1. I’m in my last BMW motorcycle… I’m selling my Rallye 17/17 with 30.000 kilometers and 11 loose spokes… BMW don’t make good products anymore…

  2. what do you expect from BMW officially one of the least reliable motor bikes on the market. BMW are s brand which isn’t what it was. I had huge problems from one end of a brand new BMW f800s. BMW wouldn’t obey the law and I was forced to take them to court. It was just a matter of time before their poor design and build processes kills someone, don’t let yourself become a victim of a now immoral brand.

    1. It would appear so (ie, the brand has taken a “new direction” that is for the worse.) This is really simple, BMW tried a new, fancy “minimalist” style that just doesn’t work. They need to own up and fix that wheel design, or just give up, and go back to wheels that work. Every other spoked wheel around works without checking every 5 minutes, so BMW’s “constant checks” is just arse covering. Own up, admit the mistake = move on. Honestly; with all the high tech amazing things that are around in other areas that surprise/help us every day – and the simplest thing (wheels) can’t be made to work? Not good enough.

      1. Hi Ken. Your comment “Own up, admit the mistake = move on.” Is logical for a moral company and a good sound way to live. BMW though is not a moral nor ethical company. I think we just need to stop buying BMWs. Their are lots of other good brand’s around. The knob feel of my fairly new vfr1200f, Honda replaced the whole shock. A triumph trident had an engine failure just out of warrantee, triumph didn’t fix the engine, they replaced it with a new engine. Shit happens and a measure of a company is how they respond.

    2. Hello Rob,

      Your reply came to my e mail, but not here. Maybe those who post it here are on holidays.

      I concur with your comments/experiences. Most of us buy a bike based on the companies design/engineering/fitness for purpose. We ASSUME that later down the track, the support will be there.

      But how many have been “stiffed” by a company; and will then buy a different bike because “well, it isn’t perfect, but they REALLY look after me…….”

      I mean, there is what they HAVE to do – and the RIGHT thing to do.

      There was a story going around that the Triumph T birds had a problem with the decompression mechanism weights/rotators breaking up. Now – if the bikes have xxxx warranty, and they break after that, then “technically” they don’t have to fix it. But no one could realistically expect a large capacity, well designed engine to operate for two years and have bits “break off.” If they do, and Triumph don’t fix it/modify so it doesn’t happen again, people will move to a company whose engines DO last – and that is just common sense. I believe Triumph fixed the problem and “mopped up” the ones going around with the problem/defective bits. Do the right thing – Reputation saved.

      It was a long time ago, but I had a mate in the 80’s who LOVED the boxer BMW’s. He had a 750 he had bought second hand and worshiped it. He saved up and got a new 850. Was VERY expensive. He waited for it to arrive and then told us he was picking it up next day. Next morning we saw him walking to work about 2 hours late. Bike (brand new) had blown smoke everywhere and stopped on way to work.

      Now, it turns out it was a manufacturing defect. His block wasn’t bored properly so no oil pressure relief passage (won’t go into why) so ultra high oil pressure forced oil past rings etc. But the point is – they took 8 WEEKS to fix it. 8 weeks. Did they give him another engine? Another bike? Even give him his old bike back? No……… they were adamant they “didn’t have to do that – they had to fix his.” In the meantime, they gave him a very second hand old 500 Yamaha to ride to work.

      So – paid cash for a large capacity luxury bike so you can ride to work on a $500 old worn out bike. Simply NOT acceptable, and his belief in BMW shattered forever.

      I was the same with Indian. Saw them, loved them, wanted one. I thought I was “at the time of life/old enough for a cruiser”. I was willing to shell out 30 grand on a machine just because of the style and the way the package was. Then I looked into the company. EVERY time I looked the model range changed. Horrible colours. Then NO colours (Black, or hideous white, and the white was horrendous, so they dropped it). Then no spokes on base model, have to buy the Vintage to get spokes, but didn’t like the tassles and “distressed” leather, but that’s “all that will be offered”. Then the tassles go and get black leather (like I wanted but told would “never have”). Every ad has the Chief in HUGE range of colours you can’t have (?????) – THEN they abandon the Chief and concentrate on the Scout – with a multitude of colours, a watch release (what the??) and ads with no bikes in them, but “fashionistas” and “influencers” (that’s a “thing?”) telling me about “arty function and feel”.

      Point is – that makes me feel that Indian have had engineers design a FABULOUS bike………….. and then go on holidays and leave it to a marketing dept that have NO IDEA how to sell them…… and for me, that marketing/backup/future direction is part of it and it matters.

      BMW need to “be the whole package.” It’s wheels, not rocket science. Been making them for over a hundred years. If they can’t fix them, plenty of other bikes…… (just not Indian for me, unfortunately 🙂 )

  3. Nothing wrong with spoked wheels. 4 bikes with them, and as far as weight handling abilty goes – My Jaguar has them and it weighs far more than any bike and they are fine after 50 years. But these wheels look dodgy to me. The spokes go to the outside of the rim (obviously so they can run tubeless tyres) but look too minimal and flimsy to me, plus no cross bearing to the centre of the rim like other spoked wheels. Straight away, everyone will say “I am sure their engineers know more about spoked wheels than you do……” Well; The sort of spokes I trust (and the rest of those who have spoked wheels with no dramas) haven’t failed yet – while the “engineers at BMW” are checking spokes at every service and having failures. Hmmm.

  4. We have known since the first LC was delivered in Brisbane that the new wider front wheel is defective. That bike is on it’s 3rd new front wheel. But BMW Motorrad Australia has consistently and dishonestly denied that the wheel is defective. Time some lying arses at BMW got a good kicking for this.

  5. I was taught that owners of spoked wheels be doing two checks before each ride:
    – tire pressures, and
    – lightly run the tip of a screw driver (or something similar) across each spoke to make sure it “sings” – dud spokes make a very obvious “thud” while tensioned spokes make a musical note and all the spokes should make a similar sound. You can do both wheels in 10 seconds.

  6. 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

    1. I’ve ridden my 2012 Suzuki DL650 VStrom over 104,000 miles sicne buying it new over the road and off road and still ahve the orginal wheels. BMW overprices garbage adn people keep buying adn breaking it.

  7. For sudden collapse like that, I seriously doubt that a few loose spokes are going to be the problem. If there’s not some other underlying issue, then the fact that the spokes were checked shortly before the ride in both instances could be the big clue (2 days prior for Gavin, and at the last service for Mark, which failed only 22km into the first bit of dirt he rode). The clue being that in both cases the spokes may have been over-tensioned. Which then, upon the first bit of heavy vibration (on dirt) led to fairly instant and catastrophic failure. Loose spokes won’t do that. I strongly suspect the mechanics in both cases over-tensioned the spokes. In the absence of some strange alternative manufacturer defect, it just makes more sense.

  8. I have a 2016 GS and found loose spokes. Can’t leave your life in BMW dealership hands, fixed it myself. Derek McCarogher South Africa

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