The engine management systems on today’s motorcycles are smart, efficient and reliable, but there’s little to do when your motorcycle dies except to watch a blinking fault light and wait for roadside assistance. In simpler times, when carburetors mixed air and fuel and a set of points cued the spark, an average rider stood a fighting chance of troubleshooting and repairing his own bike. And if you couldn’t get it running, maybe your buddy could. Today, you’re SOL (simply outta luck) when your modern moto coughs and sputters to a stop. That is, unless you’re riding a BMW and carrying a GS-911 diagnostic device from Hex Code.
GS-911 taps into the diagnostic port on most BMWs with electronic fuel injection, exchanging commands and data with software you’ve loaded into your mobile phone or computer. The software is Windows-only, but there are workarounds for Macs. Depending on the model and year of your BMW, the palm-sized unit will read out Engine Control Unit (ECU) data and real-time information, run function tests, read and clear fault codes, and let you reset service reminders. Hex Code offers two grades of GS-911. Enthusiast models are limited to 10 vehicle IDs, while Professional models can be used on an unlimited number of bikes. Both are available as USB only (they cable up to a PC), or as USB and Bluetooth, adding a wireless cell phone interface. Prices start at $299 for the Enthusiast USB unit (perfect for a small group of riders to share), and climb to $549 for the Professional USB/Bluetooth model reviewed here. Through the kindness of Hex Code, Enthusiast models perform all emergency duties (ECU, fault codes, real-time values) for any supported BMW.
Connecting GS-911 to the diagnostic port of my F 800 GS took just seconds, followed by cabling it to a GS-911-enabled laptop (my aging phone wouldn’t handle the Bluetooth option). The program interface is well organized—selecting your bike’s series, model and year brings up the main function menu to get you going. Under ECU Info you’ll find total operating time, ECU firmware module versions and other arcane information. The Realtime Values page is the most informative, presenting information for engine management signals like fuel pressure, air intake temperature, rpm, switch indicator status, battery voltage and many more. If you’re into charts, you can go nuts letting GS-911 dump real-time data to your computer in an Excel-compatible format. Output Tests let me run the fan (which I rarely hear), test the overtemp lamp and cycle the fuel tank venting valve and fuel injectors, creating a symphony of whirring and clicking within the bowels of the machine. From Special Functions I reset a service reminder that had been nagging me for a few thousand miles. I’d done the service myself, but couldn’t tell the motorcycle that without tapping into its brain.
Hooking up a GS-911 is like cutting a window into your BMW’s electronic black box. And it’s so easy to do that running the diagnostics regularly would be child’s play. The only thing missing is more information on some of the values displayed. I’d like to see min-max ranges for the sensor values and have some of the abbreviations spelled out so I don’t have to trot out a shop manual to interpret the results. Other than that, this South African device is a gem. In the United States you’ll find them at Ted Porter’s Beemershop. Go ahead, re-calibrate your idle actuators—just because you can. I did.