Date reviewed: December2023 | Tested by: John Milbank | RRP: £366 | www.hexGS-911.com
While some riders lament the ever-growing dependence on electronics in our motorcycles, the fact is that these complex circuits are here to stay. And while I do love the simplicity of working on my 1999 Kawasaki ZX-6R, I can’t deny that the 2019 BMW S1000XR I used to own, and the 2019 R1250GS I now have, do some pretty amazing stuff with the aid of silicon.
It’s true though that a mechanic’s increasing reliance on computers to diagnose any issues – and to reset service indicators – has been pushing home maintenance further out of the reach of many of us, but as with anything… someone always finds a way.
I’ve been using the Hex GS-911 diagnostic tool for the past four years on my S1000XR and the GS, as well as lending it to a professional mechanic to see what they thought, and with some recent updates it’s now become even more brilliant…
The Hex GS-911 is supplied in a handy case
The Hex GS-911 works with a huge number of BMW motorcycles (and four BMW-derived Husqvarnas); this function chart shows every bike that the Hex GS-911 can used with, and what options you have, though be aware that some of the much older machines listed use the old three-pin interface, which is no longer available.
All of the latest bikes have an OBD-II port, the same as you’ll find in cars, while earlier BMWs have a round socket with ten pins. The GS-911 is available with either connector built in, but adaptor leads are also available for £30.
This review covers the WiFI version, which I’d recommend over the £276 USB version due to not needing to be tethered to a PC laptop. The WiFi version can work fine with a PC or Mac laptop, as well as an iOS or Android phone or tablet, due to using a cloud-based application.
The Hex GS-911 WiFi costs £366, and for that you have unlimited access to ECU information and fault code reading on as many different bikes as you like.
What is limited is service functions, for instance output tests, calibration (for instance tyre pressure monitors) and service resets. For these, your price includes 10 individual VINs, which realistically should be enough for most owners – if you change your bike every two years and only buy BMWs, that’s still 20 years of use. A VIN is registered on the device and takes a slot as soon as a service function is carried out – if you need more than 10 you can subscribe to ‘ProUnlimited’ for $99+tax per year, so around £95 at current exchange rates. I really don’t think many people will need this, but here are some important points to understand:
Many consumers are rightly growing weary of subscription models, but it’s very important to understand that the product you buy isn’t in any way limited – there’s no need to add a subscription unless you want to run service functions on more than ten different BMWs.
There could come a time in future where additional features are added that only apply to the subscription service, but nothing that your device does now will be put behind a pay wall.
This does seem like a fair model from Hex, and given the constant support and development the company offers, it’s reasonable to expect it to need paying for.
As it stands, the Hex GS-911 offers an essential tool set for anyone looking to do their own maintenance on most BMW motorcycles, and even if you did manage to use up all 10 VIN slots, it would have cost just £36 per bike, which is less than you’ll likely pay a main dealer to do just one scan or clear a fault code.
Note that at the time of writing, BikeSocial members can save 10% on all Hex Innovate products.
An adaptor cable is available for the GS-911 to work with old and new BMWs
I first used vehicle diagnostics on my wife’s Toyota Rav 4. I’ve always serviced our cars and motorcycles myself, but when this 2003 model threw up an engine warning light, I had no idea what to do.
The Autel MaxiScan MS509 I bought was a basic generic code reader, so like many was restricted to only working on emissions-related error codes (this is all the vehicle manufacturers are obliged to keep standard), but it was enough to tell me that one of the four lambda sensors on the exhaust had failed. I didn’t know which one, but by disconnecting each one at a time and re-scanning, I was able to pinpoint it and replace the part.
That code reader had paid for itself, but the Hex GS-911, being dedicated to BMWs, does much, much more...
This function chart will tell you what systems you can work with on your bike, but let’s look at my 2019 R1250GS...
ECU information, fault codes, real-time sensor values and service function tests and resets including output tests and calibrations are available for the following:
The Hex GS-911 diagnostics app works only on a PC, but ALL of the functionality is now available on the cloud app, meaning it works on Mac, iOS and Android
Hex Innovate is constantly developing the features available to bikes; for instance when I first got the device, the S1000XR was brand new, and some of the features were limited, but it’s now supported to the same extent as the R1200GS, and new features are being added for models fairly regularly. In fact, it already has some functionality for the new R1300GS.
But what does all this mean? Well, basically, you can see pretty much everything that the bike is doing in real-time on a graph while it’s running, you can activate things like the horn, fan, brake light etc to diagnose faults, and you can read any fault codes as well as clear them. While using the device recently I noticed a fault that had been stored on the bike – it hadn’t put a warning light on, but I’d plugged in a heated vest that overloaded the auxiliary DIN socket. The GS-911 showed that the bike had shut it down automatically, and I was able to clear that code from the bike’s memory.
And of course, the one many people will be looking for – yes, the Hex GS-911 allows you to reset the bike’s service interval warning if you do your own maintenance. Needless to say, this won’t be recorded on BMW’s database, so be sure to keep copies of receipts for the oil etc, in case you sell the bike in future.
The real-time values can be extremely useful, with the option to view as data or as a graph, and to record that data on the phone. You can select any number of fields to view, and here’s everything that’s available from the engine controller on my R1250GS:
Hex Innovate has a really handy online demo of the GS-911, which you can try out here and get a feel for what it can do.
A new update allows the sport dash to be enabled on my R1250GS
Beyond the incredibly valuable service functionality of the Hex GS-911, new features are being added fairly frequently, with the latest update giving my R1250GS the sport dash with lean angle, braking force and traction control intervention, as well as the option to have the M-series boot-up screen and to have your choice of between one and six levels on the heated grips instead of the usual two and off.
Hex also promises more upgrades coming soon, like better visibility from the rear… the control they can give over the lighting systems could make for some very interesting new tricks.
While completely independent of BMW, Hex Innovate is very careful not to overstep the mark with what it allows users to do with the GS-911. While it gives owners the ability to do their own maintenance, and to carry out important service calibrations and resets (like priming the ABS system for instance), it only ever works within the existing functionality of the bike – the sport dash, for example, is something that was already in the TFT dash, but not enabled on this bike.
Anything you do is reversible, and the unit also runs backups before carrying out any changes. When I updated the dash to include the sport option, the instructions on the app were very clear, and even explained what to do if the connection between the unit and bike was lost during the short process.
Finally, Hex has a genuinely useful customer service portal – accessible via the app or by email – and the team there can analyse the scans of your bike where needed, or even access your bike direct through the device (with your permission of course).
It should go without saying that if you use the GS-911 to override service dates or disable fault warnings without carrying out the work, then your warranty could be at risk, but that would be the same as ignoring the servicing and any error codes, and just plain daft.
Just some of the functions the Hex GS-911 offers
When I first got the Hex GS-911 it had to be connected to WiFi and to a PC. The WiFi on the unit itself can be set up using a Mac or PC app downloaded from Hex, but the actual diagnostics software had to be installed on a PC only and the phone app wasn’t as powerful.
But that’s all changed… now, the Hex GS-911 can access everything via a web app on PC, Mac, Android or iOS, making it much quicker and easier to use.
Of course, to access all the functions, the GS-911 must be connected to the internet, but that can be done using a phone in WiFi hotspot mode, or – as will be the case for most users – via your home WiFi.
Having a good signal is important; I first connected to the WiFi booster inside the house, which is very strong in the garage but was unreliable for the GS-911 (you can test the connection strength on the WiFi Utility app). Once I’d switched over to the main router though, the GS-911 worked flawlessly.
As the PC I was using was very old and slow, I now only use the Hex through my Android phone or an iPad. The OBD-II port on the R1250GS is underneath the right-hand battery cover; remove one screw and it’s easily accessible to plug the GS-911 in. The unit quickly connects to WiFi, then open the app, turn on the bike and it’s all up and running.
With the iPad running the GS-911 app, there’s more screen space to view a real-time graph of data.
When there’s no data connection available, the GS-911 will still work in ‘Emergency’ mode, which is intended for use when you’re out and about, and could be a real essential for adventure riders and long-distance tourers.
Obviously a well-maintained bike should have no faults, but if something does go wrong in an area with no data network, Emergency mode still allows the user to connect to the GS-911 with their phone to access all the ECUs for AutoScan, view the ECU information, read and clear fault codes and check real time data.
The Hex comes with a good-quality carry case that can also fit the USB cable and a 10-pin adaptor, but while small, it’s potentially a little bulky for those who want to carry this on a long-distance adventure and might be looking to save space. A simple slip-on cover for the GS-911 would be a great addition, though if you have access to a 3D printer, I’ve designed one you can download here.
The Hex GS-911 is designed to work with pretty much the full range of BMW bikes, which takes a huge amount of resource. While it’d be great to see the full feature set on Yamahas, Hondas, Kawasakis and other bikes, it’s not something the team at Hex Innovate is in a position to do.
However, the emissions-related data on motorcycles (and cars) is standardised, so it’s possible we’ll see some more generic, but still very valuable features available in the future to cover other brands… Watch this space!
The Hex GS-911 is not a generic piece of kit inside
The Hex GS-911 is a professional-level tool that’s relatively easy to use and has excellent customer support. I twice emailed to query a fault code when I first had the device and was very impressed with the extremely quick response. Granted I was emailing during working hours, but I got a reply in just four minutes!
At £366 it’s quite an investment, though one that should pay for itself very quickly and last a lifetime. However, there is an alternative in the MotoScan app, which is only available for Android devices. It costs £10.86 for the ‘Basic’ version that allows the reading and deleting of fault codes and displays real-time data. £21.82 gets you the ‘Professional’ version, which adds actuators and the ability to reset service intervals, while the ‘Ultimate’ version unlocks the service functions and encoding of control units for £35.54.
You also need to buy a Bluetooth OBD adaptor for £69.99. The ELM327 is another adaptor option, with many very cheap units available, but the MotoScan website warns that there may be functional restrictions with these devices.
I’ve not been able to test the MotoScan app so can’t compare the two directly, however forum users report it working well, if some say it’s less full-featured and not as easy to operate as the GS-911, especially with some missing translations from the developer’s native German.
Ultimately, the Hex GS-911 is an extremely well-made piece of kit, with very solid after-sales support. There can also be no questions of hardware compatibility as it’s sold as one package.
I must admit to having been nervous when I first saw the full range of options in the Hex GS-911 software, but the well-explained interface and excellent build put me at ease when plugging into the heart of what is a very expensive machine. Given the outstanding support and the very useful updates rolling out, I’ve no hesitation in recommending it.
Andy Pilkington services his R1200GS himself, using the Hex GS-911 for a lot of the work
I lent the Hex GS-911 to professional mechanic Andy Cartledge at BSD Performance when I first got it; “We used it on four bikes – an F800, S1000RR and two GSs – and pretty much every service item was on there.
“A lot of things let you just reset the service lights, but this does so much more. We had a bike in that had the date set to 100 years in the future! This allowed us to reset it.
“The cheapest USB version of the GS-911 will let you do everything, but having the WiFi model really does help – we were working on a bike that was outside while sitting at the desk with the computer.
“Obviously you need a little bit of computer knowledge, but this’ll do everything you need. This is the ultimate for BMW, and much better than generic readers.
“If you’re a BMW enthusiast, it’s a must have.” Since I spoke to Andy, a lot more features have been added, due to the constant development being carried out by Hex Innovate.
I also spoke to Andy Pilkinington back in 2016: “My 2013 BMW R1200GS Adventure is out of warranty, so I self-service now. I have a GS-911 diagnostic tool for resetting the service indicator, analysis and resetting of fault codes, and a myriad of adjustments, like synchronising the throttle bodies. I just get a local BMW specialist to check the valve clearances and stamp the book.”
It can be hard to describe all the benefits of the Hex GS-911 to someone who hasn’t had the need for one. At its most basic, resetting the service code could quickly save the cost of the device for someone who does their own maintenance, but it’s the diagnostic abilities that really make this so valuable.
Real-time data could flag a fault in a sensor, or the throttle, for instance, but being able to actuate items will also be a massive help. For instance, if main beam has failed, turning it on via the GS-911 would help you work out if it’s a switch or a lamp fault. You can turn on the heated grips individually, or sound the horn, indicators and every other output. If the bike’s overheating, you can check that the fan’s working correctly by turning it on, and you can monitor the coolant and oil temperatures as the motor warms up.
Bleeding brakes on any machine with ABS can be tricky, and usually needs a dealer to prime the pump, but the Hex GS-911 allows you to do that yourself. It can also recalibrate the semi-active suspension. Replaced a tyre pressure sensor? This will allow you to pair it with the bike…
You could even use the real-time values as a datalogger to plot speed, revs, throttle position and lean angle. It’d take a little spreadsheet work, but the data’s all there.
The Hex GS-911 won’t turn every rider into a home mechanic, but it will allow those who can do their own servicing to be able to fully navigate, interpret and operate the various electronic functions of the bike. As such, the Hex GS-911 is an essential tool and thoroughly recommended. And that’s before you consider the brilliant features being added all the time, like the sport dash on the GS… it’s no exaggeration to say that, in the same way that I try to buy a car that still has a Haynes manual available, the GS-911 makes me want to stick with BMWs for the access it gives me to more easily doing my own maintenance.
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