Jump to content

Using ESA on the R1200RT


Recommended Posts

I realize that I have been using the ESA system on my R1200RT (or rather NOT using it!) with a notable lack of intelligence.


Requirement for preloaod is clear, but with damping I usually left at Normal, and I then forget about it.


Would be interested in what guidelines you more tuned-in riders apply.


Is it to do with riding style, pavement condition, or both?


I can see that if the road is badly scarred, the Comfort setting would be good, but the rest?


Any changes if a pillion is on board?


Given the 3 possibilities of Comfort, Normal, Sport, when do you decide to make the switch?


Wisdom of those with a more sophisticated approach to riding will be much appreciated

Link to comment

What he (Albion) said..


Any general thoughts or guidelines would be helpful.


The guy I bought my RT from said "I set the esa for comfort and forgot all about it". I v'e had so much fun on the darn thing that I forgot all about it too.grin.gif


Although, since I do a lot of slab riding on less than fair HWY. I never felt I should switch the setting. Can it be switched on the "fly" while riding? or is there a specific procedure?

Link to comment
Michael Tobias

I have the esa on my GT and I find that when I am playing in the hills the sport setting is very useful...it makes the bike a bit more responsive and less sloppy.


I usually ride in normal setting but have also found that on a long piece of slab the comfort setting is fine.


changing the settings on the fly has been seemless. I used to have Ohlins on my older GT and I think that the new system is very useful

Link to comment

I notice that on the "Comfort" setting with the preload all the way up, the bike can get into a wallow-cycle on the freeway. Change it to "Normal" and that goes away, and there's a difference in ride.


One cannot adjust preload underway, but the "firmness" one can.

Link to comment

Remember that the preload settings are for an "average" rider, i.e. 175 lbs. I am somewhat larger than "average" and normally ride with the driver + baggage preload setting activated. (and, yes, I do have some baggage!!) If I am carrying any extra gear I select the driver + pillion preload setting.


The preload settings can only be changed at a stop, with the engine running. I think you must also be in neutral as well. Just hold the ESA button in for a few seconds and watch for the Helmet icon to change to a Helmet and Suitcase or to two Helmets. Give the machine a few extra seconds to adjust to the new preload - you will probably feel it lifting underneath you. Experiment and find which one meets your needs.

Link to comment



I tried experimenting using Sport setting for the first time today, on country windy/twisty roads. The bike felt very springy, not nice at all, altogether nervous.


Put it back to Normal, and heaven was restored.

Link to comment

Well, it's always going to be a compromise: You've got a finite range of preload, and only three damping settings (each of which is actually a "range" because the damping responds to the speed of up/down wheel motion), BUT, the world you face has Infinite circumstances.


The simple answer is "There is no Pat Answer." That leaves you with set it so it feels best to you; Learning with experience what settings seemed to feel best to you under what road, load, speed, and cornering vigor conditions you might be able to again identify or find similarity to.


Add preload: To keep the fore/aft tilt of the bike the same for load changes; To increase ground clearance; To quicken steering; To "tighten" the feel of up/down motions.


Increased preload will eventually exceed the REBOUND damping of any given ESA setting, so if you feel "Boing" go up a notch. The reverse is true as well.


At a given preload, increasing ESA setting will not only "tighten" Rebound, but also add "snubbing" to the upward wheel motion, and can produce for you a feeling you might call Harshness.


I try to set all damping to as low a value as possible, and set preload to get the Ride Attitude and Ride Height I want. I then add Jounce damping to snub things so they feel controlled on compression. Then add rebound damping to "quiet" the motion. So, as you can see, I'd not be fond of having only three postions of OVERALL damping, none of which separate the compression and rebound values.


Best wishes with your own discovery process.

Link to comment

I find interesting that you have the most complex answer and yet you have a Honda and Yamaha and currently show no ownership of a BMW, let alone one with ESA… (don’t get mad, its just an irony I noticed, not a slam).


I personally consider dampening as stated here Comfort for long trips (give your butt and back a break on long ones), Sport when I’m following the R1’s through the twistees, mostly without panniers, and Normal on a bumpy road that gets to bouncy on Comfort mode. Preload I set to the way the bike is, 2-up, luggage or not…


Ultimately it is your own preference. I don’t believe there are rules to this sort of thing.



Link to comment
I find interesting that you have the most complex answer and yet you have a Honda and Yamaha and currently show no ownership of a BMW, let alone one with ESA… (don’t get mad, its just an irony I noticed, not a slam).



It should be no mystery that Dick can comment without having ESA equipment on one of his rides as the dynamics of a suspension system are the same whether it is basic non-adjustable, multi parameter adjustable, or automated on-the-fly adjustable like ESA. The nuances to this are dictated by the geometry of implementation, the complexity of the damper and spring rate. In the case of ESA, BMW has simplified the complexity of adjustment; however, this comes somewhat at the expense of ultra fine tunability.


FWIW. I test road a 1200RT on the thought of upgrading from my 1100RT. While the 1200RT is on my soon to buy list, I'm not sure if ESA is. I liked ESA overall for its ease of use, but after installing a set of aftermarket Ohlins on my 1100RT I’m not sure I wouldn't go that way again on the 1200RT. Once fussed with and tweaked in the Ohlins (and it should be the case for other high end aftermarket shocks) seem to need little in the way of adjustment compared to the STD OEM shocks. The only time they need fussing with is if I go from solo to fully loaded touring. A two minute adjustment once you have your settings documented. I never had that experience with the stock OEM shocks on any of my street bikes, having to fuss with damping and spring rate for every road condition got to be a pain. No more of that nonsense with the Ohlins. Too bad BMW doesn't offer the Ohlins suspension package option for the RT like they have on the R1200S. Now that would be an option I couldn’t pass up.

Link to comment
I find interesting that you have the most complex answer and yet you have a Honda and Yamaha and currently show no ownership of a BMW, let alone one with ESA… (don’t get mad, its just an irony I noticed, not a slam)... grin.gif

Amazing the answer one gets when the person knows of what he is speaking!

There's a real reason for not having ESA: ESA is a compromise as is any finite system which attempts to adjust for the infinite.

One must accept from the start that the 9 total settings in the ESA system while maybe not perfect, will be close enough to provide the desired results. Many riders will choose not to have to deal with such a compromise.

In my case, I decided to gamble on the ESA. I do quite a bit of switching between 1-up and 2-up riding and thought the system would be worth the try. While I believe the system does well for the amount of adjustability built into it, the setting are no where near as precise as I would prefer.

I myself, if I had it to do over again, would look very closely at the Ohlins electronically controlled system.


ESA settings: (I weigh about 165 Lbs.)

I normally set the preload to the condition I am riding, either one-up with luggage or two-up. The one-up with luggage preload setting has to handle a wide weight variation: from unloaded side bags to fully loaded side bags, trunk, and tank bag. The load weight can vary by nearly 100 Lbs. The two-up setting must handle even a wider potential variation of up to 200 Lbs. Three preload settings are truly a compromise!

For the damping adjustment, I rarely use the comfort mode since it is under damped on virtually any road I have encountered. Bike bounces around like a pogo stick.

The Normal mode for me is good for most freeway cruising and light twisties, but will still be underdamped if there are any real twisties or the road isn't real smooth, or the speed exceeds about 70 MPH.

The Sport mode is the mode I use most frequently. The damping is good without being overly harsh. No more bounce or wallow in the most aggressive twisties, bumpy roads, or at high speed (above 65-70MPH).

Link to comment

Shouldn’t be “amazing” I simply made an observation. I felt that I was respectful in my observation. Obviously you can know about something without having experienced it first hand, and I though his answer was most accurate, enough that I actually assumed he had ESA or similar on something he has owned.


I would surmise if you were “amazed” at my response than you are easily amazed… it was harmless.


Link to comment


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...