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BMW K1100LT

Our Bikes - BMW K1100LT

(originally written for MT #338, Aug 2018, updated June 2020)

BMW K1100LT

Cheap & Cheerful Touring

by Guy 'Guido' Allen

It may not be subtle or pretty – but nor is its owner. Meet our el-cheapo tourer


Some time ago, we added a 1992 BMW K1100LT to the fleet. What started this was a Dive Bombers feature I wrote for Motorcycle Trader mag some time ago, talking about once uber-expensive machinery that now costs a pittance.


Of course the danger of writing a piece like that is you need to cruise the classifieds to work out what the market is doing and you trip over something that’s a bit tempting. Like what was once BMW’s flagship tourer for Au$2590. Cheap as, and somethlike an eighth of its original sticker price.

While there are 20-ish other motorcycles in the shed, this seemed like a terrific idea. The thinking (if you can call it that) was that muggins could fly to Queensland, see assorted relatives and then have a lovely old time riding it back to sunny Melbourne - a trip of some 1700km-plus. Then, if I decided I didn’t like it, it could be sold more or less for what was paid and no harm done. Call that plan B.


Plan A was to hang on to it and use it as a winter commuter. The weather down this way had been pretty foul and I know from experience these things, despite their touring intentions, work pretty well in traffic, while having ABS and fairly comprehensive weather protection. Given I spend around 90 minutes a day commuting, that idea had appeal, particularly since it was worth next to nothing – so it was no issue if it got beaten up a little in traffic.


Of course back in 1992, when these things were launched, the thought of using one as a cheap commuter would have been insulting. This was the el-primo mile-muncher of the BMW fleet.


The K-series, with its quirky laid-flat triples and fours, had been with us since 1983. The king tourer in the bunch was the K100LT, which by the late 1980s could be had with ABS, radio and full hard luggage, and was regarded as one of the less over-whelming offerings in the full-dress tourer class. It lacked the sheer presence of a GoldWIng or Electra Glide, but was more nimble without giving away too much comfort.


Move on up to 1992 and batting for the new K1100 series is opened with the tourer, the LT. This boasts the 16-valve head debuted on the K1 as a one litre powerplant, plus the Paralever rear end. The techno upgrades included a Marzocchi front fork and Showa rear shock.


It ended up looking similar to its K100RT predecessor – itself hardly a beauty. Some of the fairing panels had been softened with some curves, but it still appears suspiciously as though the styling was by Tupperware.


Creature comforts include a much bigger topbox, King/Queen style seating, sound system (again), optional heated grips for the rider, plus an electrically adjusted windscreen. It was probably the last item which was most appreciated by tall riders. The previous model’s screen was fixed and at an odd angle, while this new effort had a useful range, even if it looked fugly at full height.


Reviews from the time complimented the engine, which was more flexible and powerful, though there was a buzziness at 100km/h. The soundtrack is not BMW's finest work - basically a drone that changes in pitch but never becomes what you'd call music. As some compensation, the 16-valve expanded the K100 series midrange considerably, making the powerplant's flexibility a real highlight.

For reasons that escape me, there was still only a five-speed transmission, though it felt like it could easily handle a sixth overdrive and might have been a more pleasant tourer with an extra cog.


For me the big mystery is the section of the fairing protecting the legs. Like the K100, it provides great coverage and, just like the earlier bike, it is short on legroom for tall folk by about a centimetre. So your knees constantly rub the edges of the panels, which can be annoying and a little painful until you adapt your ride position. Why on earth didn’t they fix this on the second model, when they knew damn well it was an issue?


Bitching aside, what was my el cheapo supertourer like? Good. As luck would have it, I turned up at the dealership to collect it and the fact I was due to roll up some weeks after buying the bike kinda got forgotten. So it was in the back of their holding shed, with a flat battery.


No problem. I had other things to do and wandered off, leaving Cristian from Team Moto in Virginia to deliver a freshly charged and washed machine to my motel later in the day. That was a good recovery from an awkward situation.

BMW K1100LT


The next day we were loaded up and heading south along the Newell Highway. It had been some years since I’d ridden that way and two things sank home pretty quickly: the NSW surface is badly beaten-up in a lot of areas; And the sheer quantity of people out there with caravans and camper trailers is staggering. Haven’t you people ever heard of motels?


As for the BMW, it was coping admirably with the crap surfaces. Once I got my ride position adjusted for the knee-banging on the fairing, it proved to be a quick and super-comfortable thing to be on.


One little discovery: the radio was missing! It’s something neither I nor the dealership had discussed (or noticed) and I wasn’t greatly concerned. The previous owner had replaced the sound system with a fairing bin for loose items, which was far more useful. I’m not a fan of sound systems on motorcycles and always struggle to hear them.


In the meantime I’ve sourced a factory radio on Ebay, for about Au$100, so at least it’s there if/when I go to sell the bike.


Performance is lively rather than exceptional, with plenty of overtaking power. The transmission is from another time, with a long throw between gears, though it’s accurate enough.


One thing that only became apparent on the highway was there is a hint of clutch slip. There’s no drama in traffic or anything resembling normal use. But grab a handful of throttle in top gear and things aren’t quite right.


A worn-out clutch? Maybe. There’s evidence of a slight oil leak, right underneath where the main seal lives. This is a common problem, where oil gets onto the plates of the dry clutch and causes slip. Fixing it means dropping the rear drive, the transmission and the clutch to get to it – a big job. It’s one of those things that in theory I could tackle, but in reality I’m going to throw it at a workshop.


That kind of puts a dent in my ‘el-cheapo tourer’ scenario, because we’re now talking about an easy Au$1200 additional cost through a workshop. Still, given the engine feels fresh, is using negligible oil and the odo claims a mere 74,000km, I’m not greatly concerned. It still rates as a lot of motorcycle for the money.


The Bavarian bomber did the Brisbane to Melbourne run standing on its proverbial ear and proved to be a great mile-eater. SInce then it has since seen a fair bit of use through the dubious delights of Melbourne traffic. It’s amazing how much of a difference the fairing makes, even on the 45 minute run to work – you get there warmer and with most of your joints still working.


As for the clutch and main seal issue, it’s booked in to be done and we’ll look at what’s involved. Watch this space… (Ed's note: see the story here.)

***

BMW K1100LT

Fresh boots
While the Bimmer had decent enough tyres on board when I collected it, there was little doubt they’d be past their best by the time we made it back to Melbourne.
A quick trip to the palatial Pablo’s Motorcycle Tyres soon saw the old hoops off and replaced with a set of Bridgestone BT45s. Cost was around Au$400 for the pair and now the monster’s ready for its next adventure.

BMW K1100LT


SPECS:
BMW K1100LT

ENGINE:

TYPE: Liquid-cooled, four-valves-per-cylinder, inline four

CAPACITY: 1092cc

BORE & STROKE: 70.5 x 70mm

COMPRESSION RATIO: 11:1

FUEL SYSTEM: Bosch Motronic injection
TRANSMISSION:

TYPE: Five-speed, constant-mesh 

CLUTCH: Dry, automotive type
FINAL DRIVE: Paralever shaft
CHASSIS & RUNNING GEAR:

FRAME TYPE: Steel tube space frame
FRONT SUSPENSION: Conventional telescopic fork 

REAR SUSPENSION: Monoshock with preload adjustment
FRONT BRAKE: 305mm discs with four-piston caliper, ABS
REAR BRAKE: 285mm disc with twin-piston caliper, ABS
DIMENSIONS & CAPACITIES:

WET/DRY WEIGHT: 290/270kg

SEAT HEIGHT: 810mm

WHEELBASE: 1450mm
FUEL CAPACITY: 22lt

WHEELS & TYRES:
FRONT: Cast aluminium, 120/70-17
REAR: Cast aluminium 160/60-18

PERFORMANCE:

POWER: 73kW @ 7500rpm

TORQUE: 107Nm @ 5500rpm

OTHER STUFF:
PRICE NEW: $20,350 plus ORC

 

 

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