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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I love my 2017 RTW but haven’t been satisfied with its low speed handling in general or its high speed reaction to gusts.

After discussing it with the dealer and EPM Performance, I decided to remove the steering damper, which is quite stiff, and cautiously take it out for some local and highway riding.

Not surprisingly, the low speed handling is a lot more natural and lighter, and the higher speed reaction to gusts is much better, a more solid feeling. So far, even bumping the handlebars hasn’t created any sense of instability. (I am concerned by the GSW damperless instability but wonder if BMW overreacted on the RTW.)

I’m considering the Hyperpro reactive damper which is lighter for slow movement and adjustable for faster movements.

Has anyone else removed the damper or tried the hyperpro?
 

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I love my 2017 RTW but haven’t been satisfied with its low speed handling in general or its high speed reaction to gusts.
Hi Roger,

I'm no help for your info quest but was wondering what do you find unsatisfying w/ RTW's low speed handling? I guess you're just saying it could be better. It sounds like removing the damper has improved this for you which suggests to me this is a component I'll never need to be concerned about because as it wears it might only make handling better, or at least won't make handling worse, which is nice to know. I haven't had any complaints about low speed handling nor response to wind gusts but I am the quintessential undiscriminating owner of a '16 RT because unlike quite a few here I find the entire machine perfectly wonderful, screen, seat & mirrors notwithstanding!
 
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The steering damper seems to me is to counter the bike being light in the front end. Most bikes that are heavy in the front shouldn't need a damper. I have to say that I like the feel of motorcycle with a light front end. The heavier front end motorcycle feel like a tank. The 1600 BMW is heavier in the front end and steers great but for some reason it doesn't feel as stable at high speed than the R1200RT. Too bad that the steering damper isn't adjustable.
 

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I have always understood that steering dampers only worked for "tank slappers" which is when the steering is abruptly forced to the left or right by bumps or wind. In other words it does absolutely nothing when normally going down the road.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Hi Roger,

... what do you find unsatisfying w/ RTW's low speed handling? I guess you're just saying it could be better. ...
Like you, I really like the bike. My observation is that it takes a bit more than the natural input to do something like changing lanes, and if your day dreaming a little weave can start up. This is probably due to the stiction in the damper. Again at slow speeds if there’s a thick painted line The bike sometimes seems to resist starting over it, probably the same issue. At high speeds the bike seems planted until a tractor trailer goes by and then the gust often sets up a slight weave.

The two low speed observations go away without the damper and the high speed issue changes to a quick wiggle that dies out quickly.

I got used to all the above and almost don’t notice it anymore but this winter I decided to see what I can figure out.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I have always understood that steering dampers only worked for "tank slappers" which is when the steering is abruptly forced to the left or right by bumps or wind. In other words it does absolutely nothing when normally going down the road.
On the RTW there’s a very large resistance ALL the time. I think the BMW design is constant force fast or slow. The breakaway stiction At the handlebar ends is about 3lbs on my bike.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
The steering damper seems to me is to counter the bike being light in the front end. Most bikes that are heavy in the front shouldn't need a damper. I have to say that I like the feel of motorcycle with a light front end. The heavier front end motorcycle feel like a tank. The 1600 BMW is heavier in the front end and steers great but for some reason it doesn't feel as stable at high speed than the R1200RT. Too bad that the steering damper isn't adjustable.
The K1600GT has a damper on the parts list but I can’t see it on my friend’s bike.
 

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Here are a few of my favorite things that I have, but hope I never need...

Helmet
Fire Extinguisher
M1911 in .45ACP
Steering Damper

Things I would not do:
Cut the strap on my helmet
Put the fire extinguisher in the trunk
pin the grip safety on the 1911, or remove the firing pin safety
remove the steering damper
 

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Prior to my RT, all of my bikes have been Kawasaki's, from the 250 Ninja to the ZX-10R and C14. This '16 RT has to be the worst slow-handling bike I have ever had. I dread being caught in stop-and-go traffic, not because that sucks, but because the RT absolutely sucks when riding it at these speeds. I have never needed to play with the clutch and throttle with any other bike as I do with this one in order to keep it upright...and it only gets worse when carrying a squirming photographer passenger amidst 100s of bicyclists on a narrow path.

At first I attributed this to the unique front end the bike has. Now I have something new to look at.

That being said, this bike is probably the most rock-solid handling bike I've ever owned. However, I have never experienced any issues riding around semis.
 

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The simple solution to the damper would be to go back to yesteryear. Not sure when they changed but my 1976 R90/6 had an adjustable damper 0 - 1 - 2 by rotating a knob center of steering yoke. It worked very well. 0 for around town slow speed and 1 - 2 for speed.
 

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BMW put it on there for a reason. I would NOT take it off. I think they know better then us
 

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This '16 RT has to be the worst slow-handling bike I have ever had. I dread being caught in stop-and-go traffic, not because that sucks, but because the RT absolutely sucks when riding it at these speeds.
Interesting--I find my '16 RT is so well balanced I typically time my stops in stop n go conditions to where I'm barely moving and still don't need to put a foot down. How the heck can you do better than that? Using the clutch and throttle are always required unless you have a sidecar or a 3rd wheel, no? Perhaps you're losing some balance awareness? This happens as we age as a function of how well our vestibular system functions and as we age the 'endolymph' in our semicircular canals becomes less fluid and so balance suffers--it's often why people are at higher risk for falls. I've always thought the time to give up the moto is when I start losing balance and other awareness since fortunately riding does not require strength per se, just balance and awareness.
 

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Didn’t BMW add dampers to all bikes after the launch of the GSW when that journalist died during one of the launch events?
 

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It is interesting, some of you find the RT hard to handle at slow speed, I find it to be the easiest in its class. Previous tour bikes were much harder to ride at very slow speeds. These include FJRs, Connies and tour buses like the gl1800 :wink:

As to the steering damper, I believe the steep rake of 26.5° is the reason BMW saw fit to have one. Usually tour bikes are in the 29° - 30° range. The RT is closer to what sport bike have.
In any case, I usually ride my RT with 39 lbs front which makes for a much lighter steering. If you run it at the prescribed 36 lbs it does feel a bit heavier.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Interesting--I find my '16 RT is so well balanced I typically time my stops in stop n go conditions to where I'm barely moving and still don't need to put a foot down. How the heck can you do better than that? Using the clutch and throttle are always required unless you have a sidecar or a 3rd wheel, no? Perhaps you're losing some balance awareness? This happens as we age as a function of how well our vestibular system functions and as we age the 'endolymph' in our semicircular canals becomes less fluid and so balance suffers--it's often why people are at higher risk for falls. I've always thought the time to give up the moto is when I start losing balance and other awareness since fortunately riding does not require strength per se, just balance and awareness.
I find the 2017RT very easy to handle at all speeds. I’m not talking about it being hard to ride as much as it has (for several riders who’ve commented) an-unnaturally sticky entrance into a slight turn such as a lane change at low speeds. Since the damper is fairly stiff, and since removal of the damper removes that characteristic, I don’t think it’s a great leap to say that the damper has negatively altered low speed handling.

After I ride the bike long enough (without getting back onto my 1150GS or 1150RT) I don’t notice it so much. But after coming off an 1150, there it is again.

Without the damper it’s a-okay.

It is interesting, some of you find the RT hard to handle at slow speed, I find it to be the easiest in its class. Previous tour bikes were much harder to ride at very slow speeds. These include FJRs, Connies and tour buses like the gl1800 :wink:

As to the steering damper, I believe the steep rake of 26.5° is the reason BMW saw fit to have one. Usually tour bikes are in the 29° - 30° range. The RT is closer to what sport bike have.
In any case, I usually ride my RT with 39 lbs front which makes for a much lighter steering. If you run it at the prescribed 36 lbs it does feel a bit heavier.
I haven’t heard anyone say the bike is hard to handle, just that it has certain subtle characteristics.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Didn’t BMW add dampers to all bikes after the launch of the GSW when that journalist died during one of the launch events?
Yes, that’s the sequence. But they shipped the 2013 for a year before adding it and never had a recall. So how big an issue was it or is it? And was the addition even related to the crash?

BMW will never explain their rationale nor explain what condition the stiff damper was meant to fix.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
German riders found that a small percentage of the bikes between (I think) 2016 and 2018 had fork bridges with bearings that are too tight. I’m pursuing that with the dealer.

I will also try other tires than the PR4s that the bike came with.

I don’t find that the characteristics I’ve mentioned change at all with tire pressure. But who came up with the idea to make correct inflation pressure a function of ambient temperature? Never in my over 50 years of driving, riding or flying have I had a vehicle whose “correct” tire pressure as measured by my gauge varies with the thermometer on the garage wall.
 

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Interesting--I find my '16 RT is so well balanced I typically time my stops in stop n go conditions to where I'm barely moving and still don't need to put a foot down. How the heck can you do better than that? Using the clutch and throttle are always required unless you have a sidecar or a 3rd wheel, no? Perhaps you're losing some balance awareness? This happens as we age as a function of how well our vestibular system functions and as we age the 'endolymph' in our semicircular canals becomes less fluid and so balance suffers--it's often why people are at higher risk for falls. I've always thought the time to give up the moto is when I start losing balance and other awareness since fortunately riding does not require strength per se, just balance and awareness.
I'm only 50 and can balance very well on my two feet. LOL

This bike also sucks when starting from a stop- definitely needs way more clutch/throttle than any of my previous I4s.
 

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I will also try other tires than the PR4s that the bike came with.
Roger, my '16 had PR4GTs and while they were okay the front tire cupped rather quickly and as you probably also learned you need to run them around 40psi to help reduce the rate cupping. I have used Metz Z8, Pirelli Angel GT, and found problems with both of those. If you want to lighten up turn-in very significantly try Angel GT. To me, I found them much too light--not in keeping with the weight of the machine. I don't want the front steering to outrun the kinetics of leaning the bike back and forth that doesn't work well. What I discovered is Continental RoadAttack 3 GT--this tire for me has had absolutely no problems, and a big list of positive attributes the other 3 tires tried do not have. I find handling to be the best with this tire be it slow or high speed behavior. I can hold lines effortlessly, and don't have a need to make mid-turn corrections. The Pirelli's were too responsive, again for the 620lbs of the bike and my 200lb body. The other tires were certainly decent in that regard, but not as good as the conti's.
 
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