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Thread: 2001 K1200 RS engine noise - how to know what's "normal"?

  1. #1
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    2001 K1200 RS engine noise - how to know what's "normal"?

    In December (2018), the last days before permanent snow here in Maine, I acquired a 2001 K12RS with 90k miles. I had owned airheads in the 80's and 90's (1983 R80GS and 1988 R100GS) (and Hondas and Kawasakis before that), and have recently gotten the urge to get on the road again. It's in cosmetically marginal condition - scratches all over the fairing, cracked seat vinyl, and shows at least one hard landing on the left side evidenced by significant scratches in the corner of the valve cover. The seller didn't have any maintenance recs - claimed to get the bike for free from his uncle and wasn't going to bother him about it - but I was able to confirm with the uncle's local shop in CA that the clutch and seal for this bike (by VIN) had indeed been done about 12 years ago (which I had read is a big problem with these bikes), and my overall sense was that it had been ridden hard, probably adequately maintained, but not pampered. I did the annual maintenance this spring, added new tires, and got out there. Initial rides left me a little stiff and sore in places, but I've since added bar backs and a new wind screen, and had a lovely and pretty comfy 350 mile ride last weekend, so I think it's a keeper.

    I've read that these engines are characteristically noisy, but am none the less a little unnerved by three sounds:
    1.) Constant rattle from front of engine, sounds like timing chain, concurrent with engine speed. It's a little louder after the engine warms up. I can get used to this I suppose, but I really want someone who knows to reassure me. Does chain guide wear make this worse? Can I check something to make sure it's in spec?
    2.) A pair of CLACKs that happen as I'm pulling away in first gear. I don't notice it in other gear changes. If I engage the clutch more slowly and at higher engine speed than I want, it doesn't make the two clack sound.
    3.) The last one happens at very slow speed when I'm rolling (say 5 mph) clutch-in in first gear, and engage the clutch with no or low throttle - a single KNOCK sound. I've noticed this when practicing slow U-turns or in slow traffic. It doesn't pose any problem, but I'm wondering whether this is sign of spline wear somewhere in the drive train.

    Any and all advice appreciated!

  2. #2
    Registered User
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    Sorry, I don't hear any of the 3 noises you are describing on my bike. I am guessing your situation it is not normal. Mine is a 2003 K1200GT 26k miles. (GT the same base as the RS except heated grips, heated seat with side bags.)

    I get different engine noise in neutral with the clutch out. Kind of a grumbling marbles sounds from the clutch area. That is suppose to be normal. That is about all.

    While running at most speeds, the engine has a nice sewing machine whine to it. Similar to a Honda bike. Nothing noisy like a Harley shaking apart.

    If I were in your place, I would look for value clearance and the chain guide you mentioned. Possibly the water pump. There are many K1200 videos on these subjects on youtube. Let me know how it works out.
    2003 K1200GT

  3. #3
    Nick Kennedy
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    Nov 2011
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    Telluride Colorado
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    Some advice from the cheap seats.
    I'd make sure I had some good earplugs to start with, there are a couple of good threads here to reference.
    I would make sure I'd have some towing insurance plan in place, their pretty cheap really.
    Then I'd just ride it and enjoy the ride.
    Chasing ghosts and worrying about the unknown, not for me.

    If it ain't broke don't fix it.

  4. #4
    Registered User
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    I'll second what JR said. My 2003 RS has the classic dry clutch rattle at a slow idle. Other than that it's smooth and quiet.
    Yeah, some of it might be attributable to cam chain and valves. That said I just adjusted my valves this winter and some of them were (slightly ) out of spec. The bike made no valve noise before adjustment.
    The clunking/ knocking sound at launch would cause me to look at drive shaft U-joints.

    As cheap as these bikes are now, it doesn't sound like yours is worth spending much money on. My knee-jerk reaction is to say join AAA, or plan on leaving the bike wherever it dies. OTOH, as tough as these bike are, it could run for another 5 years.

  5. #5
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    Just recalled your mentioning being stiff after riding. The bar-backs are a plus. You may want to also be sure that the footpegs are in the lower position and the seat in its highest.

  6. #6
    Registered User
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    Thanks for all the insights!

    After reading some of the comments, I did isolate the dry-clutch sound from the others... it's one component of the whole symphony, but much less noticeable than some of the other sounds (the double reed section vs. the brass section, to continue the metaphor!). Good suggestion about the U-joints - I haven't had the back of the bike apart yet, but have been planning to at least check/lube the rear drive splines, so will see about going a little further.
    I think it will be an ongoing project and, yes, it was a relatively low investment, so I'm not overly anxious about it (and I do have towing as part of insurance!).
    Thanks again all!

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