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BMW's globetrotting R1200GS lives up to reputation
By Mathieu Day • 14/11/2014
Saying BMW's R1200GS has a big reputation to live up to is like saying the universe is enormous. The globe trotting boxer which recently underwent a big update in terms of the engine technology has been on my list of 'must ride' bikes for years. It certainly hasn't disappointed.
The BMW R1200GS can trace its lineage back to the R80GS of 1980 and while technologies have come along in leaps and bounds the basic premise of the bike remains the same.
GS is short for Gelände/Strasse which basically translates to offroad/road, a go anywhere premise that the R1200GS here is more than capable of covering thanks to its robust design and oodles of technology.
The seat sits at a reasonably tall 850mm high with comfortable wide and high-set bars making the GS is an imposing bike to approach.
With a big 20L fuel tank or a massive 33L if you go for the up specced Adventure model the tank makes up a large portion of the bikes presence. I initially thought it was going to be quite an unwieldy machine to get used to but amazingly this wasn't the case as I started it up and rode away like I was on a bike closer to the 600cc mark rather than 1200.
The latest change separating the new GS those those of old is the move to water cooling. While not a huge system, containing about 2-litres of actual coolant, the change in cooling has allowed BMW to bring the bike's emissions down for increasingly tough European standards as well as the added benefit of squeezing a more power out of the boxer engine.
Now producing 92 KW at 7,750 rpm the big Beemer can move much quicker than it appears even remotely capable of, probably with a lot of thanks to the 6-speed helical synchromesh gearbox and 125 NM of torque on hand.
Where the GS really sets itself apart is its technology suite, where you have pretty much everything bar a radio and air conditioning. There's cruise control, traction control, ABS, adjustable suspension settings, and multiple power maps covering everything from riding in a downpour to tackling the open wilderness in far eastern Siberia.
Everything is easily controlled all from the handle bars with your left hand doing much of the work, but the right still gets a little extra work with the power mode and heated hand grip controls set above the starter switch.
While the mode control has its uses I did find I favoured the Dynamic mode, which gives you everything the engine is able to offer with the best throttle response and minimal intervention from ABS and Traction Control. The bike will even power wheelie in first gear in Dynamic mode whereas in the other modes power delivery is much more toned town.
That adjustable suspension is a technological wonder and incredibly quick to change settings. With BMW's signature telelever suspension up front instead of the usual run of the mill telescopic forks and an interesting combination of maths, a shaft drive and maybe even a little magic in the rear to essentially make the swing arm function as if it is much longer. All of this is controlled at the left grip and can be electronically set for almost all riding conditions; two up, one up with luggage, you name it the suspension can handle it.
Weighing in at 238 KG fully fuelled the R1200GS as mentioned previously feels much lighter than it is. The flat-twin design of the engine can take most of the credit here and though it the GS looks a bit like an elephant the engine configuration keeps most of the weight down low.
Strangely though, even with all those electronics jammed into the R1200GS I found it was the more analog design features that really stood out. The 850mm seat height is much easier to manage that I had imagined and the seating position is incredibly comfortable, yet allows you perfect control while standing on the pegs. The brake and clutch levers are both adjustable for reach so even though with the smallest fingers can actuate both. The Clutch itself is a hydraulic unit so even after a full day of shifting your fingers are cramp free.
The screen too is an easy to adjust manual unit which even at its lowest adjustment point kept the wind away from my head, which while sitting in traffic in the direct sunlight actually proved a little problematic as I couldn't get enough windflow into my new HJC helmet to keep my face cool. Thankfully this was easily fixed by just standing on the pegs Adventure style and enjoying the commanding view this provides.
Does the R1200GS deserve the reputation of a globe trotting all purpose tourer? Yup, BMW just keep making the platform better. I'm looking forward to what the future brings for this two wheeled Jack-of-all-trades.