Sunday 19 January 2020

Not the kind of adventure anyone wants

My last proper ride out, a local-ish green-lane, before the dreaded "EWS!"
Just before Christmas I was riding when the engine died with EWS! showing on the Kombi, leaving me stranded at the roadside. It had shown a few times previously at key-on but cleared upon retrying, however, starting the bike to head home had taken several attempts. Once recovered to home my GS-911 reported the typical "10491: Electronic immobiliser malfunction" with "no signal or value".

My maintenance plans for Christmas went out the window.
So I:
  1. Replaced the battery, as I read it could have an impact and it was on my to-do list anyway (~9 yrs old) - No change.
  2. Un-taped the wiring loom from the ring antenna to the main loom to inspect for the usual reported damage - None found.
  3. Tried the spare key - No luck.
  4. Replaced the ring antenna - No change.
  5. Un-taped the main loom either side of the branch off to the ring antenna and down toward the ECU (BMSKP) - Still no damage found. Discovered that the bike seems to 'retry' every 38 secs which can make you think the wires you just moved are intermittent.
  6. Tested the continuity from the RA plug to the disconnected ECU plug - all 4 wires read ~0.5 Ohms even during wire manipulation.
  7. GS-911 View Key Status says (with RA connected) "The key currently in the ignition is INVALID and ENABLED. It is key number: 0". The info is the same with the spare key.
  8. Un-taped the loom further looking for any damage but nothing visually wrong and there's too many wires to test individually.
  9. Put a scope on the twisted-pair to the ring antenna to see if there was any activity - there was; I saw data traffic, but couldn't tell if it was from the RA to the ECU, but the ECU is ignoring it or if it was the ECU requesting info from the RA and not getting an answer. I suspected the former as the RA had been replaced. The CAN channel of the ECU that is connected to the RA must be damaged so it isn't able to read the data from the RA. I should have checked with the RA disconnected too, that would've indicated one way or the other.
2008 GSA, stripped down to investigate.


  • ODO/trip reset button on Kombi does nothing.
  • INFO button on left bar does nothing, but indicators, horn and ESA buttons seem fine.
  • Dipped beam can switch itself on, apparently randomly (with and without GS-911 connected).
  • Every 38 secs, either FUEL! or LAMPF! appear for <1 sec (EWS! disappears) and a servomotor can also be heard (tank removed, HID lamps connected).


This looked to me like the ECU was partially faulty, possibly just a CAN transceiver chip, but I'm speculating. I presumed a dealer could test the BMSKP to confirm one way or the other as I didn't want to arrange a replacement to find that it isn't the cause.


I called Reiten Motorrad, my nearest dealer, and explained the situation. They were a little confused by the symptoms (we ran through all the usual) but said there was a few things they could try...

While reassembling the bike to get it to Reiten, my mate was relaying the events and symptoms to his pal at Lind Motorrad (out of hours too!). Once my mate's mate had had chance to discuss it with his colleagues, I got a message saying they suspect I may be correct in my diagnosis; ECU. Arse. ECUs are expensive and I was kind of hoping...

I checked Reiten could take the bike if I turned up with it in a van on Saturday, no-prob-Bob, so I made the arrangements.


Just a few hours after drop-off my phone rings; "it's definitely the ECU, I'm afraid". They happened to have a same year bike in on part exchange and swapped it's BMSKP into mine and the problem disappeared. The BMSKPs are coded to the VIN so can't be swapped and left in but can be used to help fault finding.

Bad news is a replacement part is £750, plus a bit of labour. Ouch! (I didn't have to sit down too quickly as I'd read the same when researching the fault and had prepared myself.)


I asked for my old ECU back so I could attempt an autopsy and perhaps have a spare.
If they let me have it (can't see why not) and when/if I open it up, I will make another post of any findings.

Wednesday 19 June 2019


I have neglected to keep this blog updated for many different reasons that I won't bore you with. Suffice to say; this needs to change. It's been nearly two years since my last post and I still haven't posted anything on the Scottish NC500 trips. Yes trips, plural; I have been back a second time.

The main reason for this blog's existence was to provide a memory-jogger for my ageing grey matter, so I won't be bleating on about every little thought or bowel movement but I am determined to ride more this year (or what's left of it) and chuck up some photos and words relating to those "mini adventures". I'll also post anything that I think may be useful to other people (the garmin-zumo-590lm-battery-fix proves popular), provided I've not seen it everywhere else. I will also attempt to update some pages in coming months to reflect changes to my equipment or the way I do something. Everyone loves motorcycle-camping packing lists!

Be good.

Saturday 24 June 2017

​ A day in the lanes with ATR

My recent renewed interest in off-roading had me thinking I should do some local dirt again to brush-up on my skills as I hadn't done much for quite a few years. Through the magic of Facebook I was invited to join the ATR guys and gals again as it just so happened that they had a camp and trail weekend coming up. Good timing and great opportunity!

I planned to head to the campsite on Friday night and camp ready for the ride on Saturday. I am about a two hour ride away and didn't want to hold up anyone or miss them entirely if I got there a bit late on the Saturday. I could only stay for one night too as I had other stuff to do at home on Sunday. Friday evening rolls around and I'm tired and just feel like being lazy but I know I'll enjoy myself once I'm out. I had prepared the bike and gear the night before so didn't take too long to get moving.

As I approach the campsite I spot bikes and a familiar face through the trees. I know they're off in a small "private" field but I don't know exactly how to get to them. Now I'm in the main field, circling, trying to spot the entrance. There's a seemingly roped-off area in the way. Then I spot one of the guys waving at me and acknowledge that I've seen him. I immediately see a young family waving for me to cross where they're holding down the rope fence, I cross and thank them. How thoughtful.

I park up and say hello, mostly new faces. I can be a bit of an antisocial misery at times but these guys make me feel welcome and considering they're all riding proper dirt bikes no one makes any comment or made me question what I'm doing there.

I pitch my tent, it's gone 20:00, I think most people are eating/prepping but I ate before I left. Before long everyone's sitting around the camp fire and the conversations give me a fascinating glimpse of who these people are. Daylight fades and heat of the fire is welcome. We all eventually retire around 23:45.

Morning. Think I'm the first up. I cook myself some breakfast as others start to emerge. Last night's stories of travels I can barely imagine leave me feeling like bit of an imposter, an outsider, I haven't done anything near to what some these guys have. I only became a biker in 2008. I have varied interests and too many hobbies. I have limited holiday and spare cash and family to think about. I'm used to these thoughts and they seem to disappear down the plug hole soon enough, along with the water as I soak my BMW "Cooldown vest" in the sink at the shower block. I got it used off eBay in anticipation of a trip into the Pyrenees. I don't want to cook on the bike. Haven't used it in anger before, only twice in the office :-P. Today will test it!

Ferdie, the main man for today's antics, tells me that I've "ridden most of them before" when I enquire as to what's planned. When I ask if I can expect any deep water or rock steps, he reminds me "it's Norfolk, nothing too serious here". He's so full of energy; "high on life". I like that. I could do with some too.

We're rolling and get waves from kids and parents as we leave. Nice to see. A series of minor back-roads delivers us to the first trail and from that point on I'm pretty much totally disoriented. I recognise the occasional junction or landmark but I'm just along for the ride.

I remember thinking that I was doing rather well and that I hadn't crashed yet. Then the ruts got weird, hidden in the grass. I don't mind riding ruts as long as they're not so deep that I'm catching my pegs on the sides, that's no fun. It's all about appropriate speed. Whoops at speed on a big bike are a different matter. It would be my main complaint about my GSA but given that I do 98% road (even the bad ones) I'd be silly to try to justify new suspension. The danger is it's easy to gain speed and the relatively smooth sections lull you into a false sense of security. Riding with trail bikes the speed creeps up until you hit another dip that snaps you back to reality. Even with the ESA jacked up to max and set to HARD and I was still whacking the skid plate. Newer models are probably better.
I hit a particularly badly spaced set of whoops hidden in the grass that threw me and the bike in the air and then crashing into the upslope of the next making me think I was about to break something. I was surprised I stayed on. Maybe I should back off a little.

I think that was before Roger came off on a fast section and landed quite heavily. We thought it was really serious at first. There's headcam footage online somewhere, but couldn't find it again to link it. But after a break he seemed to be riding fine, though sore, I'm sure.

A well-deserved calorie intake at sunny Hunstanton and it is actually sunny, blazing but with a nice breeze. Battered-sausage and chips with a bottle of coke goes down very nicely. The lady at the chippy re-wets my Cooldown vest for me, which seems to be doing its job.

Photo by Philip Harvey
Heading back to camp and I get cross-rutted but seem to be traveling along sideways quite happily, until traction changes enough to spit me into the verge of three foot high nettles. Luckily there's nothing in there to hinder my progress and I continue on and get back on the trail. I hear shouting and whoops from the guys behind. "Great save!" they said later. There was no skill involved, I replied.

I can feel I'm fatigued and consider bailing before I do some serious damage but I'm enjoying myself so I decide to stick with it.

Later I hit a deep rutted section that throws me into the verge. Ben helps me get the bike pointing the right way again. It's a big machine to man-handle back into line when it's across deep ruts. A busted DRL (cheap ones) and the right indicator has be pulled out slightly. No biggie, but must take it easy. Ben had come off in the same place previously, so it's not just me then.

Backing off wasn't an option on a slight climb up a length of track that had been "surfaced" with loose fist-sized rocks. I couldn't do it slowly and just had to let the bike move around underneath me. Scary as hell.

Photo by Philip Harvey
I'd almost forgotten how dusty riding off road can be (technically they are roads). I have half of Norfolk in my eyes. 8 hours and 142 miles of knackering, dusty, heart-pumping fun. Thanks to all!

Monday 19 June 2017

Garmin Zumo 590LM battery fix

A "permanent" fix for an always flat, won't charge Zumo battery

I've been meaning to post this for a while and have been reminded/prompted by several related threads over on ZumoForums.

April 2018 UPDATE: the original ZumoUser forum suddenly closed it's doors and all data seems lost (lucky I posted here, eh?). It's replacement can be found at

Credit to user stu_m for having the nerve to diddle with the connector in the first place. I'd previously only re-seated the connector a few times to reduce contact resistance and the improvements didn't last.
Please refer to the forum for the origin(s). I will post these details there too, it is just more convenient for me to create here.

Garmin Zumo 590LM.
If your Zumo seems to die within minutes of taking it out of the cradle and doesn't seem to charge no matter how long it's left on charge for or with whatever charger/power supply, then there's a good chance this will work for you.

My fix is slightly more pin-friendly and reduces the risk of bending a pin too much (and crushing or snapping it) and provides improved contact on both sides of the pin and it's mating half, as it should have been at point of manufacture. It's fairly easy to do, you just need a steady hand and good eyesight (or some kind of magnification - close-up pictures here are from a cheap USB microscope).


1. Remove battery.
Press down tab and lift out connector.

2. Remove a pin (one at a time to avoid short-circuit or mixing up the sequence) by using either a pin, small jewellers flat-blade screwdriver or the blade of your scalpel/X-Acto knife to carefully lift the tiny pin-retention tab on the connector housing. Gently pull the wire at the same time and it will slide out.
Lift tab and pull out pin.

3. Insert the knife blade between the "sprung" contact surfaces, either side of the pin and "lean" the blade over slightly (both ways) to expand the gap, it doesn't need much.

Spread the contacting surfaces.

4. Re-insert the pin in to the connector housing.

Back home, ensure the tab is pushed back down.

5. Repeat 2-4 for all pins.

6. Re-insert battery, switch on and you should see an immediate improvement.

In the couple of months since I did this, I've never had my 590 die on me or any low battery warning for that matter. Enjoy!

Jan 2020 UPDATE
I just noticed my battery performing badly again. I couldn't be bothered to pull the pins again (I was also doing other things) so opted for a tiny squirt of WD-40 in the battery socket in the back of the Zumo (soak up the excess with tissue paper or shake/blow out the excess). Hey-presto, battery lasted over 2hrs. I suspect it won't last as long as the proper fix but could be useful mid-trip. Use this information at your own risk ;-)

Don't bother: 24hrs later and it was reading low battery. Just did the pin trick again...

Friday 9 June 2017

Big bike off road?

Things change

I've been having somewhat of a renewed interest in off-road recently and during a weekend in Wales I discovered the GSA is probably a lot more capable than I am.
Going the wrong way (up) a one-way track, apparently. Dropped it turning around.
Didn't break the half-dozen eggs that where in the left pannier either. 
It was a steep rocky climb, tough on a big bike but I really enjoyed it, though only short-lived. I'd already been making plans for a trip to the Pyrenees as I really fancy the idea of getting my bike up a mountain and I'd even planned out some routes but following this trip my usual riding buddy decided to stick to tarmac from now on leaving me as Billy-no-mates.

I'm quite happy to ride on my own but it's wise to have help when venturing off-road. I had put together a 5:1 "Z-Drag" or "Z-Rig" recovery system in anticipation of doing more severe tracks, giving me a fighting chance of getting the behemoth right-side up again, even on my own. I enjoy playing boy-scout with rope and cord and I can now tie a Prusik, Bowline, Clove hitch, Taut-line hitch, Trucker's hitch, Fisherman's knot, Figure 8 etc. All fine assuming I'm not injured.

So I should probably just get better at riding off road to reduce the risk of going solo, after all, overlanders do it solo all the time, no? Maybe I should get some more local dirt miles in again. There's a group of guys I could probably ride with but they've kind of migrated to dirt bikes which is a different kind of riding and they don't tend do the longer distances and touring that I like to do.

I do have some experience of "off-road" riding, though most of it was a few years ago, so I thought again about doing the BMW Off-Road Skills course. I'm thinking it'd probably be wise to do level 1 & 2 before a solo trip to the Pyrenees, but that's a fair bit of cash I can't spare and would push back the trip by a year at least. What to do?