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OK, Here's one...

Hungry Listers:

Here's one for you to chew on. I mentioned it earlier, but didn't get much response. Here goes...

OK, It's October somethingorother and my bike, an '05 R1200RT w/ Wilbers suspension front and rear, including the fancy high and low speed compression settings on the back, is running like a top. I've just packed it the night before for a weekend at Falling Leaf in Potosi, MO. Since our group is not composed of campers, but more twisties addicts who like the comfort of a Comfort Inn at night, I'm not filling every possible space with tents and camping gear.

I've got a pair of jeans, a couple shirts, some extra layers, street shoes etc. The side system cases are decently full and I've got a couple extra pairs of gloves and a light jacket in the small top case. Nothing strapped to the pillion set. I'd guess that the load, including the cases, did not exceed 65 lbs. Probably less than that.

The weather this morning clearly sucks. Wind is about 30 mph from the west and temps in the low 30s with grey skies. Riding isn't very pretty, but we've got tunes and heated liners and gloves so we're pretty well cocooned from the elements. We leave an hour late just to let things warm up. I live furthest west of Chicago of our group, so we've all met in my driveway to begin this ride. I also have the radar detector with the little LED, so I lead most of these transit things. As it turns out, we don't go that fast because of this awful headwind with awfuller gusts. We head west on some county roads towards a desolate entrance to I-39 that I know.

On a narrow county road a few miles out of Kaneville, IL, I come upon a turn marked for 20mph. I notice a little sign under the turn sign that says "Road Construction". The visibility of the road is great. No trees or hills, so you can see all the way through the turn and beyond. No construction evident. No construction vehicles or other traffic. The sign looks like it may have been left there from a previous repair. I round the turn at considerably faster than 20mph and just where I'd really be getting on the throttle out of the turn, I see a line running all the way across both lanes of the road...no escape route...I slow a bit instead of accelerating. Then I see a second sign that says "Bump" right where the line in the road appears. When I get close enough to realize that this line is a cut-out in the pavement, I hit the brakes. I'm going maybe 25, maybe less, when I run down into the "hole, which is about 3" deep, and ends abruptly at the far end...no fill to make a "ramp" to soften the blow. It's like going up a sharp curb. I stand on the pegs with legs bent as the bike rides in and then out of this bump.

As I ride through, I worry for my rims. When the bike comes out, I notice the rear wheel feels strange, so I'm now certain that I've flatted a tire and move to the side of the road. I reach for the brakes but the bike is slowing on it's own and feels very low to the ground. I stop safely and realize that I can't put the sidestand down because the bike is too low to the ground. The wind is strong from the left even for that, it takes a great deal of effort to keep it upright. My 4 accomplices all make it through the hazard unscathed and stop to see what's going on with me.

The first guy comes to look and can't see anything at first. Then he can't believe what he sees. A couple more come over and hold the bike while I dismount and we all work together to haul the bike up on the center stand. The Paralever has broken. Not just a little bit either. There is an almost square section around the shock mount that has completely severed from the rest of the casting. Then, there is a break all the way around the driveshaft leaving the "half" connected to the rear wheel and diff completely separate from the "half" that is still connected to the transmission mounting points. Basically, the casting is broken into 3 distinct pieces. One connected to the bottom of the shock, one connected to the transmission, and one connected to the rear wheel assembly.

The bike had slowed of its own accord because the rear tire had been rubbing on the inside of the fender liner. No suspension to hold the wheel so the weight of the bike was right on the outside of the tire.

The bike looks almost normal up on the center stand. If you stand behind the bike, you can see that the rear wheel is not straight, but that's the only clue that this bike is not right unless you look at it from the right side.

Obviously, my ride is over. I go through all the gyrations of calling BMW Roadside Assistance, which does not have my bike's VIN number in its database for some reason. I then called Progressive Insurance, who was a lot more help. They dispatched someone immediately. Tow truck driver, a specialist in motorcycle pick-ups, called me about 20 minutes later and said he'd be there in 3 hours. I then called my wife for pickup of me and my system cases and other bike junk.

The good part, for me, is that I was only 30 minutes away from home and my dealer is 2 miles from my house, so I was able to sit in my warm house next to the cell phone and out of the howling wind while waiting for the tow truck driver to call.

Spur of the moment, I decided that I was not gonna give up on this trip. I have a modified, nearly street legal '95 BMW M3 (that's a BMW with 4 wheels) in mothballs in my garage. It usually gets only one track weekend per year. I topped up the tire pressures, got the bag liners out of my system cases, threw them in the trunk and went off to meet the tow truck. Things went pretty well there and he was soon off to the dealer. There wasn't much else for me to do here, so off I went to catch my pals in Potosi. When one has worked hard to get clearance for a weekend away, one shouldn't waste it.

The weekend was great. The car was terrific. I had great fun tearing up the roads with my two-wheeled comrades in the Missouri hills.

Returning home, the questions began. "How fast were you going???" What the hell did you hit?" The dealer called me "Evil Kneivel" etc. I had digitals of the bump and told him my speed and the circumstances. No one thought this should have happened. However, because of the non-stock shock, BMW denied the warranty claim. Again, Progressive to the rescue. They picked it up as a road hazard claim.

The rep for Wilburs came into the dealership and examined the shock. He proclaimed it to be in good working order. The dealer even remounted it on my bike when the repair was complete. I've since removed it and mounted the stock shock on the back. Setting rebound damping about 1/16th turn from full hard, it isn't bad. Much better than the old stock shocks on RT's past. I'd only put about a thousand miles on this shock when I'd installed the Wilbers setup.

Oh, the rims were undented and the tires seemed OK as well. The rear tire was replaced in the insurance claim but we're not really sure it was damaged. The front tire is still on the bike and works fine.

So, anyone seen anything like this before on a 1200RT? If so, I'd like contact information.

Any theories? Was it the shock? A defective casting? After the repair, I did ride the bike a little with the Wilbers prior to chickening out and mounting the stocker. The Wilbers seemed to work OK to me. We can't seem to find a good reason for this damage. I've done one 2,000 mile trip since (with the stock rear shock and Wilbers front) and everything seems fine.

Should BMW have paid?

Should Kane County of Illinois have paid?
This was a real hazard and was improperly marked. The tow truck guy even hit bottom on his truck after knowing there was a hazard coming that had disabled my bike. Lots of scrape marks on the pavement where other vehicles had bottomed as well. I think the county had filled the depression with sand, but the sand had all washed out or blown away.

What about my $500 deductable?

I have to hand it to Progressive this time, they really went pretty far to make sure the claim was handled correctly and did follow-up, arranged the tow and all. Much better than BMW, who basically did nothing but sell new parts to the dealer. I was a little ticked about the lack of roadside assistance. That was wrong. They also assured me my rates would not increase as a result of this claim.

Mechnically, I can see that a frozen or bottomed shock with so much leverage from the rear wheel could put a huge amount of pressure on the area surrounding the lower shock mount. Thus, I can understand why BMW was reluctant to pay this claim. Still, it may have actually been a defective casting and BMW was not even interested in getting the casting or the Wilbers back for examination. Curious.