Owners of the RT often comment on two things related to the Transmission: Noise or Whine at certain speeds or in certain gears, and “clunkiness” and Noise when shifting. Other complaints include popping out of certain gears, false neutrals, and the GSI reading “E””

As with anything like this, there is a lot of advice and opinion on how to deal with it. Generally speaking, Everyone agrees that the problems go away over time ­ a combination of the transmission and drive train breaking in and the rider learning how to better shift the RT. Many folks swear that changing the Oil can really help as well.

If your RT is consistently popping out of certain gears, giving you false neutrals, and the GSI reading “E”, then you may have mechanical problems that need to be addressed by your BMW mechanic.

Transmission Noise

Along with usage, Changing the oil seems to be the best method for reducing noise and chatter from the Transmission. Tom tpfeffer@neonramp.com  Says “the gear noise bothers me the most. I have ridden older R1100RTs with 50K miles, and the noise is a lot less. Thinking it might be due to 80 weight lube, I changed it out yesterday with Valvoline 80w90, but it didn't seem to make much difference. There was a LOT of metal particles on the magnetic drain plug for both the transmission and the rear drive. Is this to be expected on the first lube change? Is the noise common and does it reduce with miles?”

Brad at <ngilbert@wcnet.org >  said that he “experienced excessive gear whine noise in third and forth gears. I tried every lubricant you could think of recommended by BMW. What I found worked best was an oil called Redline heavy shockproof gear lube. You can locate this company on the web at http://www.redline.com. Also, I recommend you call them and ask for Dave in technical support and he will explain to you how this oil works. I was very pleased with the performance of reducing gear whine and easier shifting of the trans over all. If you’re that frustrated with your transmission I suggest you try this product. You won't find a better product for you bike.

Bruce B barrows@compuserve.com  says that “ At 3000 miles, I believe my 99RT transmission is quieter. Most of the whine is in the lower gears and sounds great in 5th. I am trying 75-90 synthetic (only a few metal particles on the drain plugs) but plan to switch to 75-140 synthetic (BMW sells it online but need to buy a case. The bikes just get better and better with time as many will tell you on this site.

For those who are changing oil and find shavings, fear not:  WURTY notes that “metal shaving are a common thing. Especially when you have such low mileage. Now, after 20,000 miles there will be less shavings and less gear noise. I am not too sure about the oil you used. I think it calls for 75/140 so be sure and let the mechanic know so he may replace it with the proper weight oil. I have put 16,000 miles on in the last year

Bill bedgood@peoplepc.com Looked up the spec in the Haynes just to be sure: “the Haynes manual calls for Hypoid gear oil, API class GL5, SAE 90 above 5 degrees C, SAE 80 below 5 degrees C, or SAE 80w 90 for all conditions. Matt <cmmdost@iserv.net > says the “75W140 is a synthetic gear oil. BMW sells it under their own label. About $12.00 a quart. Only takes about a quart to change the fluids in the tranny and final drive. It does make a difference. Unlike changing to synthetic engine oil you can make the switch to the synthetic. gear oil anytime.

Frank Cloud  notes that  his “drive train whines, although it has settled down some as the miles have rolled up. According to sources, because the BMW is air/oil cooled, and has a separate tranny, noises like that are not masked as a bike with one single unit and water cooled.”

Paul St.Yves says that his “bike has a transmission that sounded like an old truck winding out when I first got it. At the 600 mile dealer checkup I had synthetic transmission and rear end oil put in and it made a tremendous difference. As soon as I left the shop I noticed that the noise was no longer there.

Bruce Barrow  agrees that a fluid change really helps: “I have had my 99RT since last September and the transmission and rear drive had a definite whine especially when fully warm. Friday in Sturgis, I changed the fluids to BMW 75-140W synthetic gear oil. On the 350 miles home it made a noticeable difference in the noise and the shifting is certainly less clunky (never was a real problem with pre-loading). It's bit pricey at $14.00 per quart but well worth the change if you want less gear noise. I also think that the accumulated miles help; the RT just keeps getting better and better, at 5,000 now.”

Clunky or Difficult Shifting

Your RTs’ motor may take as long as 20,000 miles to fully break in, and your transmission even more. The RT’s transmission is rock solid and feels quite different from other bikes. As Fernando Belair  Notes “The issues generally discussed regarding transmission "clunking" are related to noise. The RT (like most BMW's) uses a Getrag transmission, one of the most rugged and dependable transmissions in the world. These are the same people who make the transmissions for most of the world's rally cars, where 600hp twin turbo 4WD cars slam clutchless shifts every 50 yards like they were motocrossing (which in their own way they are). Getrag transmissions are not known for their quiet operation, just their bulletproof engineering and longevity. They are noisy when they shift, but this can be reduced with various practiced techniques as well as with the introduction of synthetic gear oil. Synthetic gear oil is usually not recommended until at least 12,000 miles, the distance BMW feels it takes for the tranny to fully break in (I told you they're rugged).

Do not fear the transmission. It's an acquired taste and some people even prefer it, citing the secure sensation of a gear change properly and completely made, like the sound of a vault door completely closing. I can tell you that the tranny on my RT is a lot smoother than the one on my old R90S, so there's progress, but it's not "Japanese" in operation. It is VERY German.”

BMW has used this basic tranny design in the R bikes a long, long time The mechanism engaging 3rd ALSO must disengage 2nd. This is different than the 3/4 shift and 1/2 shift. The shift fork for 2nd and the one for 3rd are connected so that adjustment of this is very critical (so that one does not engage before the other disengages) but also just the nature of the act causes some disharmony of relative speed of the gear parts. This is why a preload helps and why some extra rpm's help.

So besides  Time and Oil, technique is key to success with this transmission. It takes many miles of practice to get used to it.

ALDTOURUSA@aol.com notedMy trans would often grind between the 2nd - 3rd gear shift. Somewhere around the 11,000 mile mark I was shifting gears and it made a really big grinding sound. Since then it just clunks into gear without the grinding. I guess something must have worn off as it has been ok for the last 2,000 miles”

Fernando Belair fbelair@aol.com concurs, “most of us have found that the entire motorcycle, including the transmission, gets better and better as the miles roll up. Specifically regarding the transmission, most dealers will switch you over to the synthetic oil between 8,000 and 12,000 miles and that makes a world of difference. I have 32,000 miles on my '99 RT and the bike continues to amaze me with how much smoother it gets.

Roy Harrah <rharrahtr6@aol.com> has similar observations: “Maybe just me, but my trans does seem smoother at 9700 miles,In fact the whole bike keeps getting better and better.

The other factor is technique. One of the most common methods is to “preload” the shifter.  John McBratney johnmcb@in4free.com.au explains: “Up changes with a little pre-load on the lever and change after a bit of throttle i.e. load the gearbox then change quickly as the load is lifted. It takes a lot of practice. Down changes need precise revs matching. 5th to 4th and 4th to 3rd are not too hard. I still find only 1 in 10 3rd to 2nd go through smoothly. 2nd to 1st almost never. I am told this too will improve as the bike gets towards the 30,000km.

Shortly after getting his RT, Jim L wrote: “I've got 2700+ miles on a new 00R1100RTS and I'm very happy with everything but the transmission. Compared to this R1100RTS my K bike transmissions shift like a hot knife through butter! My biggest gripe is going from 2nd to 3rd. 80% of the time I get a grinding of the teeth finished with a clunk. The grinding is but a millisecond but it shouldn't happen. This happens hot or cold, and at all RPM's from 3,000 on up. I don't upshift below 3,000 RPM. 95% of my downshifts are smooth! I've had BMW Synthetic in the gearbox since 850 miles. I've tried preloading the shift pedal and everything I've used in the past.”

Later after practicing and working on his shifting Jim wrote: “It works!!! Proper preloading works!!! I'm just coming up on 3,700 miles and I now have a transmission that upshifts and downshifts quietly! Actually my whole problem was upshifting from 2nd to 3rd. With just the right amount of preload my shift from 2nd to 3rd happens now without even a clunk. It is smooth now in all gears upshifting and downshifting and no false neutrals. I can easily select neutral at stop lights. Now this just means I learned how to control the beast after 7 trips to/from Lake Tahoe via Hwy's 50 and 88 from the Bay Area in the last month and a half! I still say that a BMW transmission should be smooth, up or down, without preloading! My reason for this posting is to help new owners with their transmissions. Preloading takes practice!!!”

So what is Preloading?

Sean Franklin says “Basically applying upward pressure on the shifter prior to pulling in the clutch. If you have the pressure right, the shift will occur automatically as you pull in the clutch, and often results in a much smoother shift. Bob Painter describes it as follows: “Apply firm pressure up against the shifter just prior to shifting. You'll find that the transmission slides smoothly into gear (1-2, 2-3). This called pre-loading, and it works great for me”

Don from Delaware says “Believe it or not, it is possible to learn how to "snick" the R1100RT transmission from gear to gear, both upshifting and downshifting...but it takes practice. As suggested by others, a slight preload on the shift lever, accompanied by very rapid clutch and shift lever operation at about 4000 rpm works for me. Downshifts require "blipping" the throttle to match engine and gearbox speeds, but can also result in very smooth shifts. It's not easy, but once you learn it, it will put a smile on your face with each shift. Experiment, practice, and enjoy the success that will come over time.”

Bruce Barrow has noted that its harder to shift smoothly when the bike  & tranny are really hot: “Seems to be a general agreement that preloading and quick gear changes work best. The tranny definitely improves with age and synthetics seem to help. I did notice the other day at a very warm 100 degrees, it seemed to be a bit more clunky. It's just one of those things that's fun to practice and magically disappears as one is chasing the twisties.”

Jerry Johnston concurs: “It's strange, I don't remember my K75RT transmission being all that different from the RT. I used to have false neutrals with it (until I found it was my short lazy foot -same on the RT) It used to get hard to shift when really warm or hot - same as my RT until I put synthetic lube in it.”

Phil Roach puts it all on wear and technique: “Like my previous BMW, a 71, my RT does shift with a crunch at times 2 to 3. The best shifts are made around 3800-4000 on my bike (it only snicks then). I now have 7300 miles on it and it is a little better. I plan to move to a good synthetic at the 12000 mark. The only time I miss a shift is when I am lazy with my foot...it ain't my bikes problem.”

Moose from Castle Rock Co, offers this Haiku style advice:

“Just shift like the wind.

It will go into a gear.

Will sound much like a crushed rock!”