This is a log of my MCCruise installation on my BMW R nineT. It’s a work in progress — hopefully it’ll be resolved eventually.

After I test rode a brand new 2021 model BMW R nineT, I thought “nice bike, and now I’ve got to have cruise control”. (The whole R nineT range comes with cruise standard from 2021 onward.)

I had previously had cruise control on a couple of bikes, most recently the 2017 BMW S 1000 R — which I regret selling (but I didn’t know then that my trip around Australia would be cancelled in less than two months after I sold it). I really like letting my right hand relax to avoid my fingers going numb.

Due to a pinched nerve in my right shoulder, my outer fingers sometime go numb when riding motorcycles — or bicycles. No, it’s not carpal tunnel, but a compressed ulnar nerve — I’ve had doctors/radiographers check it out. There are a series of exercises I do that help courtesy of my physiotherapist, but reducing pressure by being able to relax my hand and lift it slightly fof the throttle helps, too.

Anyway, I don’t like buying motorcycles brand new, so I thought I’d be clever and buy a model a few years old for far less and put cruise control on it with a unit from MCCruise, a reputable aftermarket motorcycle cruise control manufacturer. Plus, I get a fun project, and an article to write. Everybody wins!

So here’s a log of my MCCruise installation process — what I modified, what went wrong, and what I’d do next time.

MCCruise installation on BMW R nineT
My 2017 BMW R nineT — pre MCCruise installation

Are you obsessed with motorcycles?

Well, I am. That’s why I created this site — as an outlet. I love learning and sharing what others might find useful. If you like what you read here, and you’re a fraction as obsessed as I am, you might like to know when I’ve published more. (Check the latest for an idea of what you’ll see.)

What’s an MCCruise unit?

As I went over in my guide to aftermarket cruise control systems, MCCruise is an Australian company who make aftermarket electronic cruise control for many models of motorcycle.

(See my overview of cruise control options for motorcycles, everything from throttle stops to aftermarket cruise control.)

It’s a really advanced product that they make. They’ve been around for 20 years, refining the product.

In short, the MCCruise aftermarket cruise control system product comprises

  • A servo that pulls on the throttle cable (unless you have RbW)
  • A splitter (where necessary) to take an input from the servo as well as from the throttle cable
  • Buttons on the handlebar with the typical cruise control functions
  • Plugs to seamlessly plug into the wiring loom to detect when you brake, and to get signals about the motorcycles’s wheel speed
  • A computer to put all the logic together

If you have a RbW (that’s ride by wire, see my acronyms list!) bike, the MCCruise installation process is a bit simpler — no servo necessary.

Anyway, MCCruise makes “real” cruise control. This is much more than a simple throttle lock. In other words, you press the button and it really holds it at that speed, even if you go up a hill.

On top of that, the owners have a real dedication to safety. They have multiple methods of detecting when you brake — e.g. plugging in to the brake light circuit AND the CAN bus system. Or on older bikes, using a pressure switch on the brake master cylinder. Don’t leave anything to chance!

The MCCruise installation kit comes with lots of high-quality components, thick instruction books with extremely detailed installation guides, and every part you could need — not a single thing is missing (not a washer, not a zip tie, nothing).

MCCruise make units for lots of motorcycles, but notably, not every bike. Every kit is customised with computer programming, wiring lengths, and plugs into the wiring loom, and they test them personally on each bike. They have many hundreds (maybe thousands) of satisfied customers, mostly in the US. Just go look on ADVRider, where they got their start marketing — people love them!

MCCruise Installation Process — In a nutshell

On most motorcycles, installing an MCCruise unit is something like a 4-hour job. Or maybe 8 hours if it’s your first time taking your bike apart (took me something between the two).

For my BMW R nineT, the steps were, in a nutshell

  1. Have the right tools. I needed a new Torx key set as I was missing a few key sizes (T45 for the tank, for example).
  2. Remove the tank. This meant removing a few bits around the tank blocking it in and undoing the hoses and plugs. You may not have to do this if you can get to all the relevant parts with the tank still on. (At least I don’t have fairings to remove!)
  3. Swap out the cable splitter with the one from MCCruise. This was quite fiddly and I got it wrong the first time. You don’t have to do this if you have ride by wire.
  4. Install the servo and make sure the cables are correctly routed. Again, if you have a ride by wire bike, you don’t have to install a servo.
  5. Install the computer and make sure the wires go where they’re meant to.
  6. Splice in the wires to the brake lights, battery, and accessory port (so it’s powered on correctly). MCCruise does a nice job of giving you parts so you can do this without soldering, by replacing pins in connectors. It’s very clever.
  7. Install the handlebar switch and route the wires to the computer.
  8. Calibrate the throttle bodies — as the cables will be out of sync as you moved it all (again, won’t have to do this if you have RbW)
  9. Do initial setup and calibration of the cruise unit.
  10. Calibrate the cruise unit and do testing on the road.

In general, the hardest parts of the MCCruise installation process are — depending on your personal abilities —

  • Removing all the bits you have to remove to get access — e.g. fairings, tank, various panels. This isn’t easy on some bikes, depending on the space you have.
  • Installing the cable splitter and connecting it to the servo. You don’t have to do this if you have a ride-by-wire bike, which is fairly common in the last ~10 years.
  • Routing the wiring so it’s clean and tidy

If you’re mechanically minded, you’ll find the servo part easy and the wiring part confusing. I’m the opposite — wires are my friend, and the cable splitter did my head in.

Cable splitter box on R nineT
The cable splitter box

Once I figured out how the cable splitter worked, I could do some testing on it before installing it, and I got it working well.

I did my whole installation on a kickstand on the floor in a car port. It was far from ideal. But if I managed it, it means many others can.

Installing MCCruise on R nineT on kickstand

Of course, I’d much rather have a proper bike wheel stand in a garage on a platform. But we can’t have everything!

Modifications I made to the MCCruise installation process

There were a few non-intuitive parts of the MCCruise installation process — at least, they were non-intuitive to me.

Firstly, this may seem obvious, but make sure you have the right tools and space. I knew recent BMWs liked Torx keys, but I thought my set was complete. It wasn’t! I had to go buy a better one, and that always involves a bit of shopping around so I don’t get the first, most expensive set from the nearest hardware store (they’ve taken so much of my desperate money…)

I’d really suggest most people do this on a stand in a garage with lighting. I’d also suggest you don’t do big jobs on your primary bike. Otherwise, you won’t be riding for a little while if things go wrong! (Ah, luxuries of having more than one bike… a luxury I didn’t have, and I felt it.)

Secondly, do a unit test on the cable splitter. I found the cable splitter installation process confusing, so I would suggest a unit test once the new one is installed.

A cable splitter is something I had never opened up before. A cable splitter’s job is to take the input from the throttle cable and to split it to the two throttle bodies.

To install an MCCruise unit, you have to swap out the cable splitter for am MCCruise one, which also takes an input from the servo.

Installing the cable splitter involves unplugging all the throttle cables, including at the end with the throttle, lubricating them, and putting them into a new spindle set in a new box.

I would suggest doing a few tests after installing the cable splitter:

  1. Twist the throttle cable, and see both cables moving
  2. Listen to make sure the throttle bodies open and close roughly in sync
  3. Make sure the throttle resets without friction

If those tests pass, then at least you have a working motorcycle, regardless of whether the MCCruise installation process succeeds.

Finally, you may need a soldering iron and some heatshrink.

Soldering isn’t everyone’s favourite thing. I happen to find it easy because my dad taught it to me before I was 10. But I had to do some soldering to extend some cables, so I’m glad I had to.

You really shouldn’t have to do this. If you find some cables don’t reach because you can’t get things routed correctly, ask MCCruise and they’ll help, even if they have to ship you new cables of the right length.

Where my MCCruise installation went wrong

If you’ve read my guide to the BMW R nineT, you’ll know that there were two generations that didn’t have cruise control — 2014-2016 and then 2017-2020 (all models, including the Scrambler, Racer, etc.)

Unfortunately, it seems that the model that MCCruise did their testing on was the 2014-2016 one. And it looked a bit different to mine on the inside in subtle ways.

Some things that didn’t work quite right on my MCCruise installation were:

  1. There’s an evaporative fuel canister on the rear frame rail from 2017-onwards. This is for emissions control. I had to remove it (also it was ugly, and I read that sometimes the BMW one can fail and cause problems in the bike anyway)
  2. There was no space for the computer. There’s an electronic part (a light control module) under the tank where they say you should install the cruise computer. The 2014-2016 model didn’t have this, but the 2017-onward one does. So I had to relocate the computer to under the seat, which meant I had to extend some wires with my trusty soldering iron.
  3. The computer never initialised. This was the big one. I couldn’t even get it into diagnostic mode to set it up.
MCCruise computer installed under R NineT seat
MCCruise computer installed under seat. If you think it looks messy, it’s because it is — it’s not meant to be here.

I didn’t know why the computer didn’t initialise. I felt shy about it, but I emailed them and got them to help. Both the owners of MCCruise spent ages with me on the phone and sending emails back and forth trying to diagnose the problem.

Essentially, the problem seems to be that the brake signal from the CAN bus seems to be different on the 2017 R nineT from the 2014-2016 R nineT. Or something else is wrong with the computer — we don’t know yet.

So the bad news is that I’ve spent ~A$1500 and have a non-working cruise control system and lots of extra wires and bits on my bike.

The good news is that they’re patient and trying to work something out remotely by sending me over parts until it’s worked out.

Many times over, I just thought: am I bad at this? AM I A BAD PERSON? I spent a lot of time giving the MCCruise team detailed information about error codes, showed them all my wiring and explained everything that went wrong, and we still haven’t found anything. So while the problem may be with me, it doesn’t look like it at this stage.

What we’re trying next

So far, the hypothesis of the MCCruise owners is that for some unknown reason, the CAN bus brake signal is different in the 2017 R nineT. They’re not sure why this would be the case.

Ideally, I’d live near them in Victoria and ride over and let them do testing. But I’m currently about 4000 km away. Even shipping the bike would be impractical.

So what they’re sending is

  • A bluetooth control unit. This is to eliminate the possibility that it’s the control unit that’s faulty.
  • A brake pressure switch which I’m supposed to plug into the ECU instead of the CAN bus connection
  • A new computer, just in case this one’s faulty.

Not really sure what the solution is going to be. But if that works, I’ll be happy. Otherwise, I’ll be returning it — probably not returning the cable splitter box, as I have no desire to undo that part of the bike again.

What would I do next time?

Frankly, my MCCruise installation experience has made me a bit cautious about modifying motorcycles in the future. Even though the MCCruise installation was meant to be complex, it was — again — more than I anticipated.

But there are so many bikes that still don’t have cruise control standard.

One thing I learned, on doing a recent 2000 km trip, is that a throttle lock is nearly as good as cruise control. Yes, it only works for around 30 seconds. But a throttle lock lets me relax my throttle hand on the boring straights.

And it only costs $20!

The main problem with a throttle lock is, I’ve heard, that they don’t meet vehicle safety standards in many jurisdictions. A throttle that doesn’t return to rest position fails requirement 9.7 of Queensland’s Vehicle Inspection Guidelines, for example. Of course, my throttle does return to the position, unless the throttle lock is engaged — which it usually isn’t (especially when I’m pulled over). I’d rather not go to court about it, though.

So that leads me to:

  • Buy a motorcycle with cruise (too limiting) or
  • Buy motorcycles with ride by wire, for a much easier cruise installation.

There are a few adventure bikes that I have my eye on and that have ride by wire set-ups that mean cruise control installation is both cheaper and easier to install. For example the KTM 390 Adventure, or the Yamaha Ténéré 700. Both of those are in my “maybe next time” list.

One thing is that I’d much rather, next time, be closer to the MCCruise team, if possible. Might be difficult, seeing they’re in Victoria, Australia. But it would be invaluable!s

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