All posts for the month March, 2015

I’ve babbled quite a bit in the past about my low bike. It’s been so good to me – I’ve never been afraid to ride it or worried about losing it at a stop. Not that I haven’t (I have dumped it a couple of times), but I’ve never worried, because not only could I flatfoot it, there was close to 1.25″ of space under my butt when I stood up over the seat. As I’ve grown as a rider, I’ve become less satisfied with the lowness and realized that I don’t feel super stable at stops because my knees are bent. And standing over the bike isn’t really all that stable either. Add to this that I’ve had some really good experiences on bikes that I was really just barely flatfooting, and I decided to take the plunge and raise my GS to stock normal height.

The FSM bless BMW, they make it easy on a rider who needs to grow into their bike. A four-bit component swap and it’s done and over with, all with stock parts purchased from another bike.


Unless you’re an F650GS pro, it’s visually challenging to differentiate between normal and low bikes, but the difference is like going from a cruiser to a standard for me. I had ridden with the optional OEM Dakar seat for a few months – a plush (seriously, it’s the only word to describe this seat) confection that my back just does not love. In fact, I ended up in PT for four months thanks to it. Yuck. Amazing what an inch of foam can do to you. It does not add height, per se, but does open up the ergos a bit. Just enough to freak my body out, apparently. I did like the reduced butt clearance when standing, but found that I sank into the seat quite a bit a when riding, and that just kind of weirded me out. I think seat changes are best left for new-to-me bikes.

I popped the old low seat (recognizable by the tear over the gas tank :grrr:) on and put my leg over. Unsettled, I had one foot down and one ball of the foot down. I wasn’t sure what to expect for settling, but this was not bad at all. In fact, ball of my foot doesn’t really cover it. I had about 1cm tops under my heel, and when I put my touring boots on, that almost disappeared.

I pushed it out into the driveway to warm it up after its all-too-long winter nap, grabbed my gear, and took it out in the neighborhood for a spin. As I rode, I could feel it relaxing into its new normal. I stopped at home to grab my purse and put the boxes on, and then went out for a full shakedown. By the time I got home, it had settled a solid centimeter, and not only are my feet on the ground again, but I have a bit of space under my butt. This is not surprising – it has a very wide seat and due to how humans are shaped, this almost forces a bit of air under there. Two babies did not spread my hips that much! My legs are very slightly bent at stops and nicely extended. I can one foot it with far more grace and ease now. It’s exactly the right height.

My next step with this project will be to start playing with the preload. The preload is at full soft right now, and while it technically does not raise the bike, it does affect the sag. I’m hoping that this shock will have less sag than the short one did, because even at full hard, it sagged quite a bit. Nearly an inch, by my estimation, and with all 135# of me on there (in fat mode), that’s a lot. I know BMW designed this bike for commuting and for smaller riders, but it seems to me that I should not be sagging that much! I will spend some time researching the topic and work to get it dialed in over the summer.

In sum, what was I waiting for? I love this bike to bits, and now it’s really where I need it to be. The ergos are completely unchanged – especially with going back to my low seat – and the height is great. I feel even more comfortable on it. Have I mentioned that I love this bike?!?

I’ve commented in the past about my low GS. It’s now a thing of the past. The low part, not the baby GS part.

Christmas this year brought me one of those über-cool Santa gifts – a set of used normal height stock suspension to replace my stock low suspension with. Fork tubes, center stand, sidestand, and rear shock for the princely sum of $700 from a trusted parts guy. Of course, the fork tubes are US spec, and have the ugly reflectors, but I will live.

What was important to me up front was to understand the various differences between the two suspension sets. On the low setup with preload fully hard, I had close to 1.25″ of space between my butt and the seat when standing over the bike. I never measured sag, but it was at least an inch or so. My knees were bent when sitting at a stop and I felt that I missed some stability due to that. For some reason, I feel more comfortable with my legs extended and less bent when stopped.

First, the centerstand. When modifying suspension up, one needs a stable means of holding the bike up. As the swingarm will have to be moved around a bunch, a centerstand is quite useful. So it is replaced first and the bike pulled up onto it. In my case, the new centerstand is one inch or 25mm longer than the old one. I realize now that this is a terrible picture, but you can get an idea of the difference.


Next are the fork tubes. The fork tubes are also longer by an inch on the slider end. This is effected by using a different size spacer inside of the fork for each set. The actual lowers and sliders (and springs and so on) are all the same. This is actually very cool on BMW’s part because the suspension behaviour does not change very much from low to normal. Once the fork tubes are in, the bike is now at “full” height from centerstand forward.



The rear shock exchange requires lifting the rear frame and gas tank. This requires removing the exhaust. I swear, everything substantive on this bike requires removing the exhaust! But it’s relatively easy to do and gives me a chance to clean up any mud or other dirt under there. The shocks are not as different, although too late I realize that the preload settings were completely opposite. I need to let the preload off of the short one and eventually remeasure. The shocks are about 0.5″ different, which results in roughly an inch of difference in the bike due to the geometry of the swingarm.



Lastly, the sidestand is replaced. What a PITA, BMW. Even with a new bolt, the new sidestand is just as wiggly as the old one. The new switch clip is more interesting to install, also. But on it all goes, and now I can get on and off the bike. The sidestand is also one inch longer.


All in all, I think I have about four hours of effort in. The centerstand took about fifteen minutes, the forks about fifteen minutes, the sidestand about a half hour due to fussy springs, and the rear shock took the rest of it, which included much cleaning and scrubbing time. To do it again, I think three hours tops, closer to two.

So, what is the final verdict? Suspension swaps are pretty simple tasks. I’ll write about riding on the new suspension in a separate post. Here’s the result.