LT – Harley Shootout

The squeaky rear brake on the LT has been driving me crazy. Squeaky doesn’t quite describe the noise this thing makes. Screeching is more accurate, and as Barb says, “Fingernails on a chalkboard.” I was riding over an overpass the other day with a concrete wall beside me, as I slowed down the brake started screeching and it was so loud that it hurt my ears.

Researching the loud rear brake on the internet, especially on the bmwlt.com website, I find that this is a very common problem. There were several different proposed fixes for the problem and some it appears that some people report that the fixes work, other report that they don’t.

I took the bike to the BMW dealer in Norcross, Georgia and they put some Loctite anti-squeak compound on the backs of the brake pads. This didn’t do anything at all for the noise. I tried the “cereal box” modification. This requires putting a piece of cardboard between the brake pad and the caliper, there are a number of people that swear that this fixes the squeaking rear brake. The cereal box cardboard didn’t do anything to help the squeaking.  From these two fixes I am sure the problem isn’t the brake pads rubbing against the caliper.

One other suggestion was to replace the stock rotor and pads with EBC parts. Went to the EBC website, found the pads and rotor, but when I tried to find a dealer the website said “Contact any of our 12,000 retail dealers…..” without the first clue of who any of them would be. So after some calling around, I finally found a dealer that carried the pads but not the rotors. So, after a over 100 mile round trip, I had a set of EBC pads. Replacing the pads has made a difference, but hasn’t completely cured the squeaking. The biggest difference is that it has replaced the loud squeal just as you come to a stop with a constant high pitched squeak when the bike is rolling. A slight application of the brakes will stop the squeak for a few seconds, but it comes back. It isn’t too bad, unless there is a car or a wall or something that will reflect the sound back at you. And, every once in a while, the loud squeal as the bike comes to a stop is back….just to remind you that it is still there!

After fiddling with this problem I am convinced that the problem is the rotor. The rear rotor is a floating design. When the rotor is cool the clearance between the hub and the rotor is much greater than I have experienced with other floating rotors. I had floating rotors on the front of my ’96 Electra Glide. The Kawasaki ZRX1200R has floating rotors on the front, and none of these rotors are as loose between the hub and rotor as the BMW rotor. Also, when I get the brakes hot, really hot, the squealing stops and the rotor to hub clearance is almost zero.

I have read many accounts of how good this bike is on long rides. To me, it is not as comfortable as the Electra Glide. The seat is very soft and puts a lot of pressure on my tail bone. Barbara complains that her seat is too soft also, and unlike the Harley seat that is slightly higher in the front, the BMW seat is higher in the rear which concentrates the pressure toward the tail bone.

As I stated in a previous blog the J-Pegs highway pegs are too far out to the side be comfortable. One of the things about the BMW is that the rider foot pegs are far back, putting you feet back almost under your but. That leaves your knees bent more than 90 degrees. There is no where to move them. The J-Pegs are so far out to the side you feel like you are doing a split, but still you can’t straighten your knee. On the Harley, the standard seating position has your feet out in front of you, like you are sitting in a chair. The floor boards on the Harley also allow you to move your feet forward or backward from that position about 6 to 8 inches. In addition, I have my highway pegs mounted on the crash bar so that I can put my feet up on them and almost completely straighten my knee. Where I have the highway pegs mounted I can also prop my toes up on the highway peg and my heal on the floorboard for a “halfway” position.

The wind protection is much better with the Ztechnik Stream windscreen, but even with that $170 windscreen it is not as good as the Harley. The BMW has an adjustable windshield, it rises and changes angle as it rises. Even with that, because of the slope of the windscreen I have to get it up pretty high to get any real wind protection. The problem is that the windscreen is far forward and has more ‘rake’ than the Harley.

When you turn on the ignition the computer(s) go through a self test. All of the indicators on the dash light up, the speedometer and the tachometer go to full scale and there is some clicking and other noises coming from under the tupperware. Apparently, during the self test, you can’t let the bike move, you can’t press the brakes, you can’t do anything or when you hit the starter nothing will happen. The bike has several computers, and they talk. I have had the bike not start several times. I am slowly figuring out all the “don’ts” during self test. The first time I experienced this was in the garage, on a nice flat surface. Last night, at a restaurant parking lot what was not level, I couldn’t get the BMW to start. I wound up having to roll the bike to a flat spot so that I didn’t have to hold the brakes and could get the bike out of first gear. This little “feature” is a pain in the ass!

Ok, that’s some of the problems with the bike after riding it for a few weeks. There are some things that I really like too. My favorite thing about the bike is the “security system.” This is like a keyless entry for a car. A fob on the keyring that locks and unlocks both side bags, the top case, and the “glove box” compartment in front of the rider. That is neat! One button, locks and unlocks all the storage compartments….neat!

Due to our late coming spring, it has been cool most days lately. I have come to greatly appreciate the heated seats and grips. Really nice!

On the 100 mile ride to get the EBC pads I had a good opportunity to use the cruise control. Cruise control is something that I have never had, nor actually thought was a worthwhile thing to have on a bike. I was wrong on that too! Cruise control is great, especially on the long ride. You can set the cruise and give your right hand a rest. Nice!

To be continued –

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