Living with a 2004 BMW R1100S

Giles towers above BMW's R1100S

November 2004

Forty-seven miles isn't usually what I'd call a long way, but when you've been travelling through a particularly beautiful and equally remote part of the Scottish Highlands, and haven't come across a filling station since the fuel light came on 47 miles ago - it feels a bloody long way.  Fortunately I can report that the Beemer comes with a big reserve. Equally fortunately, I can report it appears to be reliable. Vines of Guildford (01483 207000) have done a top job of the four services they've undertaken so far. The only problems have been a leaking front shock at 20,000 miles, replaced under warranty, and a tendency for the gearbox to jump into a false neutral between fourth and fifth under hard acceleration.

Maintenance between services consists of the occasional jet wash, adding approximately 250ml of engine oil every 1000 miles and replacing the tyres every three weeks or so...

So far, we've tried Pirelli Diablos, Avon AV49/AV50s, Continental Road Attacks, Bridgestone 010s , 014s and 020s, and Metzeler Z6s. They're all superb tyres, but three stand out. For value for money and durability - at around £140 per pair and with the rear lasting 4600 miles - the Continentals win hands down. The most confidence inspiring in terms of grip and feedback are the 014s, although the rear only lasted 2150 miles so you pay the price for it. And if you want the best of both worlds, try the Z6s - superb grip, especially in the wet, and good mileage with the rear lasting a very respectable 4300 miles. It has to be said that Bridgestone's 020s offer very similar levels of performance, but I marginally prefer the feel of the Metzelers.

I've had a couple of trips down to Le Mans this year, the first to watch the Moto GP (awesome), and the second for the 24-hour car race (crap). Both journeys were hugely enjoyable though, thanks to the excellent roads, scenery and weather. I was also lucky enough to have our lovely ad flirt, Nicola, as pillion on both trips. I was slightly concerned on the first trip that she'd moan all the way there and back about being
uncomfortable, as she's not one to let her displeasure go unheard. But she actually faired better than me.

My only real problem with comfort comes from the high footpegs, which don't leave enough room for my gangly legs. This problem should be rectified soon with the fitment of a Wunderlich footpeg lowering kit (Wunderlich offer a huge range of BMW accessories - give their UK importer SPC Motorcycles a call on 01420 588704). This will give me an extra 40mm of legroom at the expense of some ground clearance. I've also got the adjustable Gilles Variobars  to fit, and some Wunderlich Carbon-Kevlar engine protectors.

The Baglux harness and tank bag has been doing a top job of transporting my luggage around, but you can't beat hard luggage for security and weather protection. Givi have come to my aid and fitted one of their new V-46 topboxes. I don't know how I survived for so many months without one!

I've also had a chance to get the bike dyno'd with the Remus race can (0870 2402118, £662) fitted. Power is up from 74.8bhp to a much-improved 91.6bhp.  Some of this gain is down to the engine loosening up, as the first figure was from when the bike only had 300 miles on the clock. But losing the 'cat and fitting the Remus has transformed the bike and created a wonderful-sounding exhaust note. Hopefully, next month I'll have a chance to compare this with a Laser system and chip, and see what the bike makes now with the standard can for a proper comparison.

February 2005

I got a phone call a couple of days ago from the BMW press office reminding me that I promised to give the bike back to them over a month ago. It's not that I've been purposefully holding on to it, just that for the last few weeks I've been driving around in a car. Soft, I know, but after three winters on a bike, the lure of a car has become too much.

I've been a bit lax in terms of doing what I promised in my last piece. The Wunderlich footrest lowering kit is still in its box, as fitting turned out to be too much of a headache. Likewise, the Gilles Variobars never found their way onto the bike, as to fit them would mean losing the heated grips, a sacrifice I certainly wasn't prepared to make. And the Wunderlich Carbon Kevlar engine protectors turned out to be for the wrong bike!

However, the Laser 2-2 exhaust system has been fitted for the last couple of months. Basically, this is the same top-of-the-range stainless system as used on the Boxer Cup race bikes. It sounds superb, with a deep and almost offensively loud exhaust note. From the noise it makes, and with its £925.90 price tag, you'd expect it to give significantly more power than the Remus system I had fitted previously. But while it does offer a reasonable boost to the mid-range over the Remus and the standard system, at the top end it loses out to the Remus by 2.5bhp, with 86bhp compared to the Remus's 88.5bhp and the standard system's 83.3bhp (thanks to Dyno Torque in Birmingham - (0121) 7722453 - for fitting and dyno-ing the systems).

Considering the mileage we've covered, the bike's in a surprisingly good state. Apart from a couple of rusty bolt heads, there's no corrosion on it. If this one's anything to go by, it's easy to see why BMWs retain their secondhand values so well.

I'm going to miss the R1100S when it's gone. While it hasn't been the most exciting bike to own, it's made up for this by its real road riding useability. Apart from a couple of flat tyres, it's never let me down or missed a beat. And while our other long-termers have been stolen left, right and centre, nobody has ever seen fit to bother trying to nick the Beemer! Their loss, I reckon.