BMW Dynamic ESA Explained, Damping Modes, Riding Modes, Rear Preload and DDC, how do they work EN/DE

Dynamic ESA: What is it…? How does it work…? 
What does it do…? And how does it interface   or interact with the rest of the systems 
on our BMW? And there are a lot of systems,   including all the different sensors. And we mustn't 
forget the IMU, the Inertial Measurement Unit.   On the 2021 onwards GS we've got a six axis 
IMU, and it plays a vital role in creating the   algorithms and the profiles, that BMW generate to 
control our suspension. So we've got a lot to cover.   But most importantly: handlebar controls.

This is the question, I'm most often asked. On the   right hand side we've got riding modes, on 
the left-hand side we've got our suspension   adjustment. What do all these buttons do?  
So at the end of this video you are going to have a   better understanding of how everything works,  
how it all interacts and interfaces with each other   and what these buttons do and most importantly, 
how you can get the best from your bike.

Now this   just happens to be a GS, but this episode is going 
to apply to a lot of BMWs – anything with Dynamic   ESA. The principles are the same. So we need 
to get started. But you just need to remember,   this episode is about suspension. There is going 
to be a separate second episode, and we're going   to cover all the riding modes. So these two 
things I'm going to keep separate: Dynamic ESA   is now today, and the next episode is about Riding 

They are connected, but I'm going to keep   them separate to make it easier to explain. 
So let's get started. – So hello and welcome.   My name is Carl. The channel is called "Just The 
Way It Is", and we're talking about Dynamic ESA.    So where do we start? Well, the single most important 
place to start is the rear suspension and pre-load.   But first we need to go back in time a little bit. 
Originally with the older bikes without   electronic suspension, the most important thing to 
set up on your bike has always been and still is   the preload on the rear. Now, a lot of people will 
talk about bike sag and rider sag. And that is true.   But just for talking about it today, we want to 
stick with just one term, which is rider   sag, which is the weight of the motorcycle plus the 
rider in the normal riding gear.

And it's important,   we understand, that there are times, when we would 
look at bike sag separate to the the weight   of the rider and the bike, but we don't need to 
talk about that today, because it's just going   to confuse things for you. So if you can imagine  
(I've made this up to make this easier to explain)…   If you imagine, this is a coil spring.

On the GS, 
on the standard GS we have approximately   200 mm of suspension travel measured from 
the axle. So if you imagine, this is the coil spring,   it is generally accepted, if you're setting 
up sag – which is the weight of the motorcycle   plus the rider in his normal riding gear – when you 
set that up, you should be at the end of the first   third. So this is the complete travel 
of the spring, and then if I turn this around,    I've split this into thirds, so we've got the 
upper third, the middle third and the lower third.   So it is generally understood, that what you 
should do is, when the bike is uncompressed,   in other words: if you were to jack the bike up, 
and the wheels were completely off the road, there   would still be a very small amount of tension, 
pressure on the spring, so it doesn't rattle around.   Then you lower the bike onto 
the ground, no rider at this point, just the weight   of the bike, and then that spring, if you watch 
this yellow marker here, that spring compresses   a little bit, and then you add on the weight 
of the rider in his or her normal riding gear.   And then what should happen in an ideal world 
is (watch this yellow marker), it should move   to approximately the top of the second or the 
middle third of the movement of the spring.   And this is the ideal place for the spring to work. 
So you're sitting on the bike in all of your   normal riding gear, and the spring should work in 
this zone here.

This is where it should be working,   and this is why setting up sag is really important. 
So this is just to explain spring preload.   So now on the early bikes, on the pre-2018 bikes 
with the analog dashboards, it was really nice   and simple. So you had three adjustments for 
spring preload: you had rider, rider plus luggage   and rider plus pillion. And they were your 
three options, and you could choose to use   any of those at any time. You need to completely 
forget about that, because the 2021 onwards bikes   work in a completely different way, and you no 
longer have those three options. So you need   to forget about that. If you're moving from an 
earlier bike, you need to relearn and understand,   it operates in a completely different way.

moving to the left hand side of the handlebar,   we have a button, that controls preload, rear spring 
preload. So we're going to start at the bottom. So   there are three settings: there's Minimum, there's 
Maximum and there's Auto. Let me explain all three.   Now, Minimum is is – if we go back to that spring 
again – that means, that the spring is pre-loaded   with weight at its minimum amount, so that the 
back of the bike is really soft and spongy, and   actually the back of the bike 
sits quite lower to the ground than any of   the other two modes. Now, initially I thought:
what use would the Minimum setting be? Now, it actually is   a really nice setting, and it comes in really 

So you might like to spend some time   getting used to how you turn that from Auto 
to Minimum, and how you make the most of it.   So with the engine running, we press the shock 
absorber symbol on the left hand handlebar once.   And once we bring the screen up, we can see both 
options. But we want this screen on the right   hand side. So to access this, we have to have a 
long press. Long press is going to change from   Minimum to Auto. It confirms it's changed to Auto. 
If we want to change that again, we press once,   followed by a long press. And this time it 
changes from Auto to Maximum and confirms   our choice to Maximum. One more time: short press 
followed by a long press will then allow us to   go from Maximum back to Minimum again. So just to 
give you some examples, that I actually use it for:   In the summer my bike's in the garage or 
all our bikes are kept up in this garage,   but in winter I move them from the garage to 
the cellar. But to do that, I have to go through   the garden.

I have to go through a path, and I 
have to go up about 2 m in height, and   I use scaffolding poles and planks of wood 
to get the bikes from the garden into the   lower cellar, where it's about 12 degrees during 
winter. But to do that, it's quite nerve-wracking,   because the bike's quite high. But if you change 
the pre-load setting to Minimum, the back of the   bike drops down quite considerably, and you can 
get your feet well and truly firmly planted on   the floor.

So that's the first time, I use it. And 
I thought, actually this is really quite good.   The second example, I can give you, is: 
if you've got a pillion or a passenger,   that's quite short in height, and they find it 
quite a step up to get onto the rear of the bike,   you can use the Minimum setting to lower the bike, 
so that they get on, and then return it to   the mode you want afterwards.

So in other words, if 
you imagine, this is the bike the back (I'm going to   over exaggerate), the back of the bike lowers, your 
pillion can get back on again, you reset it, and off   you go. So the times, that I've used that, and 
it's actually come in very handy, is petrol stations.   Normally, if you're stopping for petrol on 
a tour, you've been out for quite some time,   you might be getting tired, and it's time for a 
break for both, you and the passenger, so when you   pull into the petrol station forecourt (you 
need to remember: for this function to work,   the bike needs to be in Neutral, and the engine 
needs to be running), and then you change the   setting on the left hand handlebar from whichever 
one you have it in, which would then be either   Auto or Maximum, and you change it to Minimum, and 
you just have to give it just a couple of moments,   and you can start to feel that bike drop down.

from the rider's perspective, you can feel quite   a difference, but from the pillion perspective, 
because they're further back on the bike, it is a   huge drop, compared to what you feel sitting 
here. So all I can tell you is: it makes life   for pillions much easier getting on and getting off. 
So if your wife or your partner is quite short   in the leg department, use the Minimum setting.  
It's really good. The only thing, you have to be aware of,   is the way BMW have got it set up is, when you then 
change it back from Minimum to Auto, it takes some   time to self-adjust.

So for example, you've pulled 
into the petrol station, you put the bike in   Neutral, the engine's running, you've gone from Auto 
to Minimum, the back of the bike has dropped down,   your partner's got off or your pillion's got off, 
then you filled up with fuel, you start the bike up,   you get on, your pillion gets on, and then you 
change that setting again from Minimum to Auto,   it will take several minutes of riding on the road 
for that suspension to level out. So when you   first pull out at the petrol station or from the 
forecourt, the back of the bike or the whole bike   actually is going to feel very soft and spongy. 
Don't worry at this point, there's nothing wrong.   That's the way it's going to work.

And just so you know, 
it takes even longer to go from   either of those two settings to Auto, the colder it gets. 
In winter I actually thought, I had a problem   with the bike, because I couldn't get it to go 
from Minimum to the Auto level, and I waited 5   minutes, and basically nothing had happened,  
but that was 0 degrees.

It was really pretty cold,   and if you read the BMW manual, they do tell you 
in the small print, that it takes some time, and   it takes even longer, when it's cold. So just 
to confirm: when you're changing from Maximum to   Minimum, it happens really quick, no problems. When 
you're going from Minimum to Maximum, it happens   really quick. And what I'll do is, I'll put 
up a clip right now, so you can see it working. So currently we're in Auto mode.

So what 
I'm going to do now, is change it to Maximum. So now I've changed it to Maximum, and look,   it's pushing down the top of the spring, and 
it's increasing this gap between these surfaces.   So now it's finished. So the spring is now under 
its Maximum preload. What we're going to do next   is, we're going to change it from Maximum 
to Minimum, so you can see what happens. So now we've changed the setting to Minimum,  
and you'll see that the actuator, the stepper motor   inside here is reducing the pressure 
on the spring and reducing this gap, and it   will reduce it to its absolute minimum. Now, what 
we're going to do next is, we're going to return   it back to Auto mode, but what you'll notice is, 
that the spring does not compress, in other words:   the spring preload does not automatically bring it 
halfway between these two extremes, and the only   way the bike determines, where the Auto limit is 
is, you have to ride it.

So let's just have a look: So now I've changed the setting to Auto, and what 
should be happening is, this should be compressing,   but it doesn't, and it will only do this once 
the bike is on the road, once you're sitting on   the bike. But if you're going from either of those 
extremes to the Auto level, the bike only makes   those adjustments once you're on the road. So you 
have to wait to get moving. And depending on the   temperature, depends how cold or how warm it is,  
it may take several minutes of riding, before the bike   self levels. So that's the minimum setting. So the 
next second setting, we need to talk about, is the   Auto setting. So if we go back a little bit to the 
beginning, when I explained, on the 2018 bikes you   had solo, solo plus luggage and rider plus 
pillion. They were your three options. The way to   think of Auto on the 2021 onwards bikes is,  
this setting replaces completely these three settings.   That's what the Auto does.

And we now have height 
measuring devices front and rear on   the bike to determine, how high or how much the 
suspension is compressed. So when you choose on   the left hand handlebar the Auto mode, it's sort 
of like you could call it self-levelling. It's not   quite self-levelling, because there's no self-levelling 
on the front, it's only the rear. But it does a very,   very good job. And for the vast majority of the 
time, including myself here, Auto is the mode to   be in. Now the really clever thing, the thing, that 
makes the difference, is this Auto levelling mode. So   if we go back to that spring, and we go back to… In 
an ideal world, at a suspension specialist, he would   set your bike up, so that, when you and all of your 
gear and all of your normal riding luggage   are on the bike, and you sit on the bike ready 
to pull away, your spring would have compressed   to the top of the start of the second third, which 
is this middle bit here.

Now, what the BMW engineers   have done with the auto levelling is, the bike will 
automatically go to this point here,   regardless of how much additional weight you put 
on the back. So if it's just you, it'll find its   place. But it takes a few minutes of riding to 
find this actual place. If it's you plus luggage,   normally the bike would compress a bit more, but 
it will then self-level and come back to this   top of this second third. And if it's you plus 
a pillion plus all your luggage and   your top box and side boxes, again, it will compress 
initially even more, and then it will come back and   find this perfect starting point right here. So the 
Auto does a very good job of determining, where   the pre-load level should be for maximum use of 
the spring. And that's the mode,   in terms of the spring preload mode, that I use 
the most, and that's probably the mode, you should   start in.

Now, the next one is called Maximum. So 
why is it there and when would you use it? Well,   if you're an off-road rider, you need as much 
suspension travel, suspension clearance in terms   of ground clearance, as you can possibly get. So you 
would be well advised to jack the back of the bike   up, which means changing the spring preload setting 
from Auto to Max. And if you do that, again we've   watched that video, and you can see, how much 
that spring is compressed, the back of the bike   comes up an awfully long way. So that's its first 
application, which is for using the bike off-road.   But there is another application.  
For those of you, that are a bit more of a   sporty rider, I did an episode all   about the R1250R, and I had three of them.  
I had one of them for a month on loan from BMW,   beautiful bike. And I found, that in terms 
of the suspension setting for that bike,   the way the bike handled the best, was to change 
the spring pre-load setting not on Minimum, not on   Auto, but on Maximum, in other words: it would take 
the back (I'm going to over exaggerate), the back   of the bike would then come up quite some way, and 
that affects the rake and the trail, in other words:   the suspension angles on the front of the bike.

it makes the bike steer much quicker. So you might   like to have a play with that, and it's going to 
take you some time to feel the difference. The bike   will feel quite weird, because your feet will start 
to come off the floor, and you'll be on the balls   of your feet, because the back of the bike does 
come up quite a bit. But that's another time, that   you can use Maximum, if it's just you, and you want 
some really sporty riding.

If the roads are smooth,   that's something to play with. If the roads are 
awful and full of potholes, you don't want to use   it. The back of the bike will bounce around and 
crash around, it's just not a pleasant experience.   So when else would you use Maximum? 
Well, maximum also comes in, if you are   a big guy. If you're in that 120-130 kilo range, and 
you take a pillion on the back, that is a lot of   weight. The bike still handles it, don't worry, but 
you might like to try riding the bike with   that spring preload set to Max. So it might make 
it a bit more awkward to get on and off the bike,   but in terms of levelling the suspension out, 
the Auto setting can only do so much.

If you're   a big heavy guy, try experimenting with the 
Maximum setting. So I think, we've covered   the essentials for the spring preload. My advice 
is to ride with it in Auto for the vast majority   of the time. One up or two up, Auto does a very good 
job of pre-tensioning that spring, so it's at the   start of this middle third, where it does all of 
its work.

As to the Dynamic ESA bikes, that's all of   them from the R1250R, the RT, the GS, the S1000R and 
the RR, when you change those spring preload   settings on your left hand handlebar, the computer 
automatically changes the damping settings.   It doesn't let you see that, it doesn't tell you, 
what it changes, but it does make a change, because   as soon as you add a preload to a spring, in other 
words: when you take that spring, and you start to   compress it, you must increase the rebound damping, 
in other words: the rate or the speed, at which the   spring rebounds, after it's been compressed. 
So if the bike goes into a dip in the road,   it extends first of all, which is the rebound, 
so in other words: the tyres following along,   and it goes down a dip, actually the suspension 
uncompresses in that initial movement, and that   is the rebound, and so it's important, that 
they control it.

So in each of those settings,   that's Minimum, Auto and Maximum, the computer 
also makes a change to the damping settings   on the rear shock, so you do not need to go in 
and change your damping settings. At this point   ujt leave it alone. So the first thing to do with 
your new BMW, that's got Dynamic ESA, is have a play   with the spring preload button. Don't play 
with anything else, leave the bike in terms   of riding mode, leave it in road, leave the 
damping button in road, and just have a play with   the spring preload. This is the first thing, and 
this is the most important thing to get right   and to understand: what happens with the 
spring and just find the one, that you find   is most comfortable to you. So let's move on. 
We now need to talk about the damping settings.