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Dual Plug BMW Cylinder Head

Dual Plugging the R100GS

What is dual plugging? It’s the practice of installing an additional spark plug into the cylinder head, with the goal of promoting quicker combustion and preventing detonation of the combustion charge (what most people call pinging). All sorts of wild claims for additional benefits are made as well, from wheelie popping horsepower gains and double digit mileage improvements to increased robustness (after dual plugging, you’ve got a second ignition system to fall back on in case anything goes wrong with the first one, or so the story goes). In my own case, I was looking for a reliability gain, and some additional power would be nice, but only if it didn’t sacrifice the ability of the motor to happily digest low octane third world gas.

A great deal has been written about dual plugging, with the Airheads Beemer Club’s Oak Okleshen representing perhaps the most experienced perspective. Oak was kind enough to forward a copy of his seminal paper on the subject, which provides not only an excellent introduction to dual plugging, but also dispels the myths as well. Robert Fleischer (aka Snowbum) has an extensive series of web available tech articles, some of which cover dual plugging, and that occasionally capture the pearls of wisdom cast about by Tom Cutter, another Guru that frequents the Airheads Mailing List. Ultimately, the best resource was a tech seminar given by Tom and Snowbum at the 2004 BMWMOA National Rally in Spokane (Oak was also on the agenda, but a health problem prevented his participation). During the Q&A that followed their talks I was able to get the latest story on dual plugging, and by the end had a strategy for moving ahead.

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LED Tail Light Upgrade

Swapping out the tail light on the R100GS for an LED version eliminated having to replace bulbs a couple times a year and got me a brighter light to boot, so I was game for making the same upgrade on this R100RT. Unfortunately, GizmoLabs is no more, so I turned to Motorrad Elektrik and their Beacon II LED replacement.

Like the GizmoLab product, this one relies on individual LEDs on an encapsulated circuit board, sized to closely fit the contours of the ’79 – ’95 BMW street bikes. Red LEDs dot the back of the board, while a row of white LEDs provide license plate illumination on the other side.

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Airhead Pushrod Tube Seal Replacement

Hey! Tired of that brown slather that drips off the bottom of your motor? The stuff that seems to be coming from the base of the cylinders? If your bike’s more than a few years old, and especially if it’s been sitting for a while, chances are your pushrod tube seals are leaking. But don’t freak out, ’cause it’s not a big job to replace them, and even the parts are reasonably priced. All you need is a spare afternoon and these instructions.

Let’s start by making a trip to the BMW dealer for some parts. You’ll need four replacement pushrod tube seals (of course), two cylinder base “O” rings, a pair of valve cover gaskets, and a pair of head gaskets. Some folks say you can reuse the head gaskets, but it’s cheap insurance to replace ’em while your in there.

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BMW Hand Pump

Here’s one left over from your grand dad’s day: BMW’s hand pump. This little gem is about 10″ long and fits easily within the top frame tube of a airhead motorcycle. That means it’s always with you in case you should have a problem with the air in your tires. It doesn’t need batteries, doesn’t hook to a spark plug hole, and doesn’t run on CO2. That means it will always work. A pretty comforting thought when your destination includes the ends of the earth.

About the only improvement I’ve been able to make is a little handle that attaches to the pump head that makes it easier to get it out of the frame. It’s made from a few loops of stainless steel safety wire and bent so that the loop sticks out of the frame far enough to be easily reached with your fingers.

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Tankbag Electrification

Ever thought how nice it would be to have a lighted map at night, or a radar detector that was protected from the weather, out of sight, and easily moved from bike to bike? Or maybe you’re tired of Mickey Mouse hookups for your electric vest? I’d been thinking along these lines for quite some time, and when a second motorcycle brought these issues into sharp focus, I came up with a way of electrifying a standard Eclipse tankbag, using parts available from the local auto store and Radio Shack. A single two prong electrical connector hooks to the bike, which simplifies tankbag removal and installation, and facilitates moving around between multiple bikes. It also makes it easy to get replacement parts out on the road should something give up the ghost.

The image above shows the tankbag with the usually present map removed. Most of the components pictured are related to the Valentine 1 radar detector that lives in the tankbag, but you can see the Power Distribution Box and, just below that, the Switch Box that manage 12 volt power in the bag.

An electrical connector (a commonly available trailer connector) powers the Switch Box through a two wire lead that runs to the saddle/fuel tank junction. Another lead carrying 12 volts, preferably switched with the ignition, meets this lead at the saddle/fuel tank junction at the rear of the tankbag.

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HID Lights

One of the upgrades I made while rebuilding the R100GS after the wreck was to install a pair of High Intensity Discharge (HID) driving lamps. I don’t do a lot of riding at night, but when I do it’s usually out in the boondocks where there’s little traffic and lots of deer. More light makes sense in that situation, and with the recent availability of the HID light systems, and their low current draw, it didn’t take long to justify the purchase. I shopped around a bit before coming across MicaTech who sold both a pencil beam and a wider driving beam lamp. MicaTech is now under new ownership and no longer carries the lamps, but Farklemasters carries the pencil beam. These work so well I decided to use a pair of them on the R1200GS when it came time to upgrade the lighting on it. After you get over the price of the lamps themselves (about $300 each) the biggest challenge is where to mount the ballasts, and how to mount the lamps. The R100GS is no exception, as there’s already a lot going on under the fuel tank, what with dual ignition coils and the factory relays and regulators. As shown above, my solution to the ballast problem was to use the spot formerly occupied by the factory ignition coil, and substitute in its place an aluminum bracket upon which is mounted the two ballasts and a hand full of relays. The bracket picks up three brackets on the main spine of the frame, and uses a short boss to provide a standoff for the lower mounting point (that’s the circular feature in the middle of the photo below).

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12 Volt Clock Light

Ever tried to see what time it is while you’re moving down the road after dark? No, I’m not talking about taking a peek at your Timex, but at your ‘bar mounted time piece, whether it be a bicycle computer or one of the purpose built jobbies that BMW used to make for the airhead GS. If you did, chances are all you saw was a black blob instead of illuminated numerals. Or, if you’re savvy to the little LED jobbie that Sigma makes for their bicycle computers, you fumbled around in the dark looking for the tiny button, hoping you could find it with your gloved hand. That was my situation after I stumbled across the little gem in Aerostich’s catalog, but I wasn’t willing to put up with the switch and battery replacement routine that went along with it. I know just enough about electronics to be dangerous, which was just enough to rig up a 12 volt LED and wire it into the bike’s harness. All that was needed was the LED and a resistor wired in series with it to limit the current through the LED.

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Panasonic Battery Upgrade

Maybe I worry too much, but I always imagine the worst when the GS tips over onto a cylinder head and the electrolyte in the battery starts sloshing around. The vent tube is routed low enough so that any acid that does manage to escape should make it to the ground without splashing on anything metal, but there’s always the chance that won’t go according to plan. And regular maintenance of the electrolyte level is also necessary to keep the battery in good shape. That’s not a big deal, since removing the battery is pretty easy on the GS. But it’s just one more thing to screw around with, and there are ways of keeping things simple when it comes to batteries. Frankly I was surprised when I checked the log for the R100GS and found that the BMW battery was almost six years old, as it had given no signs of ageing like slow cranking or unexpectedly going flat. But six years is plenty for any battery, and I’d just as soon replace it in the comfort of my own garage than have to bump start the bike somewhere out on the road until I can find something that would fit. I’d had pretty good luck with a Panasonic sealed battery in the K1200RS, and with Digi-Key’s $58 and change price (including shipping), swapping out the wet cell BMW battery for the maintenance free Panasonic was a no brainer. A week after the check went in the mail to Digi-Key, the Panasonic was sitting on the door step.

As shown by the part number on the side of the box, the correct battery for the R100GS is an LC-X1228P, the P referring to the terminal type. We want flat lugs with bolt holes, ideally with positive and negative positioned just like the OEM battery, and that’s what we get with this Panasonic. They call it a VRLA battery, short for valve-regulated lead-acid, and it uses AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) technology to eliminate the liquid electrolyte. The LC-X1228P is rated at 28 Amp Hours, just like the original. This battery came with a few California specific stickers adhering to the top surface, each of which left a nasty bit of paper and glue behind when I removed them. A little 3M feathering disk adhesive remover took care of the problem, but it also removed some of the printing from the top of the battery and left a hazy surface in place of the shine every where else. Size wise, the Panasonic is about 5/8″ short in the long dimension, and about a half inch taller when measured over the terminals.

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R100GS Euro Headlight Switch Upgrade

Is it just me, or is there something un-American about not being able to turn off the headlight on your motorcycle? Especially on a dual-sport bike that spends a significant amount of time donking along at low speeds off road where the factory alternator can’t keep pace with ignition system and headlight drain. Ironically, there is a solution to this problem in the form of a factory BMW part used on bikes destined for delivery every place but America.

As shown in the photo at left, the BMW part number is 61 31 2 305 232, and the cost is somewhere around $75. That’s a ridiculous price for such a simple device, but when you compare the cost to that charged for an equivalent K-bike switch it’s a screamin’ bargain. Your friendly dealer may have to scratch around a bit in the European versions of his parts catalog to locate it, but larger dealerships should be familiar with where to look as it’s a fairly popular upgrade. Even better, it’s also one of the easiest to install, so let’s get started.

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R100GS 4 Way Flasher Upgrade

Lately it seems I’ve been spending a fair amount of time at the side of the road, either at crash sites or just stopping to look at a map. In these situations visibility is a good thing, and the K bikes I’ve owned all had 4 way flashers as standard equipment. The GS is wired for them, but the bits to make ’em work aren’t always all there. That’s easily remedied with a call to Sam at Re-Psycle BMW Parts, a purveyor of new & used parts located back in my old stomping grounds of Lithopolis, Ohio. Your friendly neighborhood dealer should also be able to get them, but if you’re going to have to wait for him to order them anyway, why pay full boat when you can get ’em used for half the price?

Here’s what you’ll need:

61 31 1 459 224 – 4 Way Flasher Relay, $55.00
61 31 1 244 708 – Hazard Switch, $13.50
61 31 1 244 709 – Symbol, Hazard Switch – Included

Keep in mind that the prices quoted above are for used parts, and might vary depending on the condition of what Sam has on hand and how polite you are when you talk to him. In my experience, Sam’s not real good at answering email, so it’s best to call on the phone. His service is great, though, as I had the parts in hand in less than a week, not bad seeing as I’m now sited in California.

You should also check the part number on the flasher relay that comes on your bike. I understand that the later GSs come with a 4 way capable relay (below, left) already installed, and it should have a number on it that encompasses the last seven digits listed above. The relay on my 1993 (below, right) had the digits 2 306 014, and would not engage the 4 way flasher function. Also note that the 4 way flasher relay is also standard equipment on all K75, K100, and K1100 bikes, and that info might help Sam get you the correct part.

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