Sandbar Dogbones for the K1200R

Bit of theory

There's plenty of sites out there that'll explain motorbike handling and dynamics, but I'm going to give you a slight intro on what this is all about.
Basically it boils down to having a sharper steering angle. The sharper the steering angle is the easier the bike turns in, or you could say that the bike is twitchier when going in a straight line. But cranked over, it'll be better. As one can't easily adjust the angle of the rake on the BMW K1200 series (Ducati 998 used to have adjustable headstock, if my memory serves) one has to resort to other means. On a traditionally "forked" bike an easy way to achieve this is to drop the forks through the yokes. You'll lose a bit of ground clearance, but usually that's OK. You'll also get a tad lower centre of gravity. Another way to achieve sharper turn-in is to raise the rear. Some special bikes has got a ride-height-adjustment on the rear shock. You basically alter the length of the shock. K1200 doesn't have this. One option is to put spacers in between the shock and the frame, as we did on my girlfriends ZXR400. That worked a treat. Don't think we can do that the K1200R.
Raising the rear of the bike also gives a few other benefits; You get a bit more ground clearance - this can be crucial in some circumstances. You also get a bit more weight on the front wheel which might mean you get better feel of what the front's up to. If you want acceleration, you'll also notice that the higher rear will prevent wheelies a tad, meaning you'll be able to accelerate faster.
The options to raise the rear on the K1200R are thus limited.

Dogbones or torque arm?

Sandbar Composites  Rear Ride Height Adjustment Plates, also known as the Dogbones. , Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

Here they are, the Sandbar Composites Rear Ride Height Adjustment Plates, also known as the Dogbones.

On the K1200 bikes you basically have three options:

  • Lengthen the rear shock
  • Change to an adjustable torque arm
  • Change the rear suspension plates, a.k.a dogbones.

If you lengthen the torque arm, not only will you raise the rear, but you will also alter the angle for the U-joint, and alter the angle of the whole rear hub. This isn't the best solution. Instead, it's better to change the angle of the swing arm by changing the distances between the three points on the suspension set-up.
This works in the same way as installing a longer shock, which would be another alternative, expensive, but viable. Simply changing the plates is the cheapest option, even compared to the torque arm, not to mention the changing the shock.
Therefore I've opted for the dogbones, a.k.a ride height adjustment plates from Sandbar Composites. A about £70 this is by far the cheapest option.

Installation

The installation is really straight forward, in theory at least. You unscrew three bolts, and replace the OEM plates with the new plates. However, in practice you'll be battling gravity. What I mean by this is that replacing the actual plates is easy, but the work around it requires a bit more effort.
First of all you need to be able to get the weight off the rear wheel of the bike. If I didn't have access to a really really cool Abba Superbike stand courtesy of PSR, I'd have some serious problems. I was thinking of strapping the bike to the ceiling, propping it up on bricks, etc., etc.. but I'll leave that to you to figure out.
You also need to be able to adjust the angle of the swing arm of the bike so that you can easily slide the bolts out. I used a plank and my trolley jack. That worked a treat.
Once you have that in place, it's easy. Simply unscrew the three bolts. Take the plates and bolts off, and put the new ones back. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so I wash all the stuff that I take off the bike. Makes it much nicer work with later on. Anyway, to put the new dogbones on, all you have to do is slide the top bolts through first, then the bottom one.
The plates goes on with the arrows and texts on the inside so the text isn't visible.
Put the nuts back on, don't forget to add some Loctite to those, BMW recommends using new nuts, because the new nuts will have thread lock already on them. Tighten the nuts to 9Nm first, then to 43Nm. The tools I used were a T50 Torx key, and then a bunch of 14mm sockets and spanners (wrench for ya'mericans).
With all the pictures and washing and testing and just taking it easy the whole process took about 45 minutes from start to finish.
That's it! Easy when you have the stand and other tools.

This is the original "dogbones". Sorry for the dirty bike, but riding is more fun than washing., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

This is the original "dogbones". Sorry for the dirty bike, but riding is more fun than washing.

The nuts, the bolts, the new dogbones, and the old ones., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

The nuts, the bolts, the new dogbones, and the old ones.

Here you can see the difference between the original dogbones and the Sandbar ones., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

Here you can see the difference between the original dogbones and the Sandbar ones.

Propping up the rear wheel., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

The instructions say to put something under the rear wheel, like a trolley jack. My rear wheel was so low that I couldn't slide the trolley jack under there, so I simply used a short plank. Note that the bike is on the Abba stand.

Remember to loctite the nuts., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

Don't forget to loctite the nuts. The instructions state that you should use new nuts as they come with loctite on them. The alternative is to use the original bolts, use loctite and make sure they don't fall off!

Here they are fitted. It's quite easy to get them fitted. Just slide the two top bolts in, and then the bottom one afterwards., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

Here they are fitted. It's quite easy to get them fitted. Just slide the two top bolts in, and then the bottom one afterwards.

Impressions from the first 100 miles

This is at least the 3rd bike that I've tampered with to improve turn-in, and in some cases I must admit that the tinkering hasn't been worth it. Sometimes I've sett it back and the bike has turned in slower, but the feeling has been set back to the standard confidence inspiring handling.
On the K1200R the verdict is still pending, but I must admit that it does feel like this really works. The bike isn't much twitchier going in a straight line, but once cranked over it just feels a lot more eager to go around corners. Keep in mind that I've got worn out Sportec M3s on the bike at the moment (they'll be changed within a week), so the handling isn't tip-top as it is. However, I can definitely feel that the bike is more eager to tip into corners, and to stay on the line. It just feels that much more agile. I really enjoyed the ride outs and I was that little bit extra happy going around the corners, that little bit extra on the throttle... that little bit extra eager to put my knee down.
So far, I'm very happy and the bike feels quite different; more agile.
I'll reserve my final verdict till the Easter trip to Nurburgring.

Impressions from the Nurburgring

BMW K1200R ridden on the Nurburgring Nordschleife., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

K1200R at the Nurburgring, with the Sandbar Dogbones in action. Picture by Frozenspeed.com

I took the bike to Nurburgring during Easter and my impressions have been verified. The bike feels much more stable in the corners, and much more willing to tip into corners, and whilst in the corner, it works in a way that's hard to describe, but the front feels much more planted. I know that's a very much used cliche, but my my impressions are quite strong. For the first time during all my trips, I've not loathed the downhill Wippermann section. The bike now feels much more secure and I can go through this section with a confidence that I previously lacked.
In fact, I like the set-up so much that the only thing I really want to change is a set of new shocks, and maybe higher gearing. Hehehe.
In short. These dogbones work really when when riding actively. The give the bike a bit more agility and better feeling from the front wheel.
Well worth the money!
My only reservation is that, in slow riding, such as in towns and parking, the front feels a bit like it has got a puncture. I believe that this is due to the decreased angle of the front forks. If this feeling is too bad, it's easy to remove the dogbones for you day-to-day riding.