Our Introduction to CANBUS

Posted on July 12, 2017 by Mohammad Ali

How we were introduced to CANBUS on BMW motorcycles..

We came off a successful Kickstarter campaign and were installing products on our backer’s motorcycle whenever we can. If they were in Southern California and they were interested in Vololights, we’d show up at their garage.  It helped us understand our customer and we got immediate feedback.

We’d always come to the customer’s home as we were too embarrassed to admit we didn’t have an office and were assembling each product by hand in a garage.

I had just finished installing a VoloMOD on a customer’s BMW 1200RT and when I turned the key ON everything looked fine, the VoloMOD gave its “I’m okay” flash sequence. I tilted the VoloMOD to test its functionality and almost immediately the Error Message showed up on the customer’s motorcycle. My heart just dropped… “Holy shit! We just broke this guy’s bike!” That was my introduction to the BMW CANBUS system.

We were lucky that as soon as we removed the VoloMOD from the circuit, the Error Message went away and the backer was happy to have us install Vololights instead of VoloMOD.

We found that a lot of modern motorcycles have adopted CANBUS. We had similar experience with a Harley. Even if the actual signals were 12V signals, if the bike detected a signal that it did not generate, an error message would appear.

We’ve since found that many of the top motorcycle manufacturer have adopted the CANBUS to simplify their wiring.


  • Full diagnosis capability (with factory equipment)
  • Simplified harness
  • Weight Savings


  • Impossible to diagnose errors by weekend do-it-yourselfer
  • Limited choices in aftermarket parts
  • Unable to control aftermarket parts with existing handlebar switches

Recently, we set out to map out the instruction set of the BMW CANBUS system. We used my (Faizal’s) 2014 1200GS and we’re happy to announce we were able to map out the instruction and confirmed it with a test box we built.

We have lots of ideas on what to build and can use some directions from our customers. Current proposed features include:

  1. Flashing the aftermarket driving lights to high beam when horn is applied
  2. Implementing the Vololights deceleration indicator with built in speedometer rather than the accelerometer
  3. Flash to pass also toggles the driving lights to high beam
  4. Adjust the brightness of the driving lights from the handlebar
  5. Turns on an output for heated jacket when heated grip is turned on

What do you guys think?


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Posted in BMW Motorrad, CANBUS, GS1200, Motorcycle Safety