had the opportunity this week to test the new BMW 1200GS courtesy
of North Oxford BMW. Having been to the launch
and taken my first look at the all new bike, to say I was
impressed at how BMW had transformed the old 1150GS from carthorse
to racehorse is an understatement. The new GS may look a little
similar to it's predecessor in looks and size, but that's
where it stops..
The 1150GS has been replaced
by a very different bike. To start with it's lost some 30
kgs and it has an extra 15bhp and 18% more torque from the
new 1200cc motor, bringing it up to three figures from 85bhp.
Also in the mix of new designs and standards for BMW the 1200GS
gets engine balance shafts which seemingly halt the gentle
side to side rocking of the bike when ticking over, and virtually
stop it lurching to the right when you rev the motor.
For about 25 years BMW have
built GS versions of the Boxer engines bikes. Up to about
a year or so back they only had some off-road capabilities.
But as far as touring and long-distance goes for 25 years
the GS range have probably been best road bikes BMW have ever
built for many many riders. The GS has always had an upright
riding position, softish suspension, smooth and constant pulling
power and a fairly rugged 'Land Rover' look that every conservative,
responsible rider could ever want for responsible road riding.
They started off with the 800 cc R80 and grew it to the most
recent R1150GS. Then the 1150GS Adventure was launched in
2002 with the same outlook on touring but with a much heavier
construction and a lot more off-road bias. The GS has been
BMW's best selling bike for a long time now, the new 1200
version with it's all new design, engine, extra power and
lighter weight will certainly ensure its continued success.
For the time being the Adventure
will be staying in parallel to the new 1200GS, but some time
in the future I would expect that this model will be replaced
with a new, lighter, more powerful, long travel suspension
Adventure - Dakar - Desert version with all the off road capabilities
and rugged looks of the old Adventure.
So what's the bike like to ride?
recent years we have all become accustomed to Japanese
and European sports bike design boasting weight reductions
on each successive year model. Figures of 1 or 2kg or a saving
of 300 grammes spring to mind, but BMW has taken this much
further and lost the huge amount of 30 kilos, that's similar
to a couple of bags of cement from the DIY store! And they
did all this without making the engine or wheels optional
extras!! This achievement signals a change in attitude from
BMW, who in the past have always relied on the reasonably
light air-cooled, horizontally opposed "boxer'' twin.
But it's not about the weight of the engine, it's the weight
of the other components that have always been BMW's downfall.
The Japanese can produce lightweight frame components and
lightweight in-line fours that are considerably lighter than
BMW's air cooled twins, so the Germans have finally done something
to address the number of complaints about excessive weight
and have become as serious about weight as the obsessive Orientals.
And rightly so, savings here mean big gains in acceleration,
rideablilty, economy and braking, so much so that riding the
1200GS is completely new experience over the old one.
Get on the bike and the
first thing you notice is that it's lower than the previous
model, the rest of it feels somewhat familiar. The switchgear
is little changed and the general layout is pretty much the
same, but roll it off the centre stand or flick the sidestand
up and then you feel the lack of weight. Press the starter
and feel the difference with the all new balancer shafts taking
away the right hand movement from the boxer twin. Within yards
of setting out you know that this bike is agile, it's different,
it has a lot more power and with the new 6 speed gearbox being
smooth and non clunky like the old models there's no wincing
or worry when changing up or down, in fact clutchless changes
are now a pleasure, and there's no huge gap between 5th and
6th as on the old model. This weight advantage is immediately
apparent, changing direction is just so much easier and the
bike is - dare I say it - chuckable!
riding position is still very GS, it's upright and
particularly commanding and little changed from the previous
GS. That's where it stops though, the 1200 responds better
in every way, and after a few corners the older 1150GS would
be left trailing in the wake of the R1200GS. Of course there
are other bikes in similar categories that will out handle
the BMW, Ducati's Multistrada is one, but the BMW would never
be embarrassed by it, in fact I would go on to say that the
BMW will embarrass many modern sports bikes on any road especially
county roads and lanes, which says a lot for the biggest capacity
trail bike in the world.
On general roads the 'Beemer'
eats up the distance as always, the ride is comfortable and
I experienced none of the so called 'sharp edge seat, or numb
bum syndrome' mentioned by some people. Motorway riding is
a non-event, the new bike is stable and pretty turbulence
free with the fully adjustable screen deflecting the slipstream
mainly away from the rider in a smooth and reasonably quiet
way. With 100bhp, on tap and a wide torque spread across the
rev range you get a far punchier performance, add this to
the new six-speed gearbox and you hardly need to touch the
gear lever as it's quick enough when left in top.
Get off the motorway and
out onto the country lanes and that's where the GS is in its
element. Riding around the Cotswold roads is always a pleasure,
but on a sportsbike you need to keep to the faster A or B
roads in order not to get sore! On the GS take all the small
roads and explore, that's what this bike is all about. It
tackles every road you can throw at it with ease, the suspension
soaking up all the ripples and bumps, never putting a foot
wrong on almost any surface. But, what's this - in the specifications
you will see that the new bike has a lot less travel than
the old one. Up front you get 190mm as opposed to 210mm, and
at the rear you again loose another 20mm of movement, but
the end result is even better handling because of the lighter
weight and better power of the bike, but there lies the room
for improvement when the Adventure version gets launched!!
engine of the 1200 is basically all new and, despite
having a bigger capacity seems smaller and weighs in at 3kg
less than the old one. The rideability on any road is now
excellent, with almost endless power available from low revs
giving smooth acceleration and reducing the need for lots
of gear changes. The new balancer shafts eliminate that torque
reaction on acceleration or throttle opening and mid corner
acceleration is now 'normal', in other words the bike is now
very smooth wherever you decide to accelerate..
The 1200GS I rode was fitted
with BMW's anti-lock brakes (which can be switched off for
riding off road) where the handlebar lever operates all three
discs and the foot pedal only operates the rear. The system
is also servo-assisted like a number of other BM's, but on
the GS it seems to have been cured of that irritating on-off
action when gently braking, the 1200 had no such problem,
the brakes just feel strong and give plenty of feel back to
Look over the bike and you'll
see plenty of new and neat things. There's a new dash which
give you full information and is easy to read and set. The
new screen is easy to adjust from almost vertical to about
45degs, and the seat is adjustable for height in two positions,
and there's a standard immobiliser fitted to the 1200. Serious
tourers will probably be disappointed by the fuel capacity
dropping down to 20lts, but the improved economy should go
a long way to compensate for that. Ridden as 'normal' I would
think you will be able to squeeze about 180+ miles from the
it still look like a BMW? Yes, definitely. Maybe
it has been refined and has taken on a somewhat modern look
about it, but at the end of the day the sticking out boxer
twin is as characteristic as the front grille of the BMW car,
as is the Telelever and Paralever suspension, and the high
front 'nose' mudguard. Yes it's a BMW GS alright!!
For all its off-road looks and capabilities, and as most 4x4's in the world, the R1200GS
will be used on-road as a touring bike, and for that it's
absolutely suited to the task. All the improvements on this
new bike are long overdue and have brought the GS into it's
next 25yrs. The 1150GS was the best-selling bike in Germany
in 2003 and is very popular throughout Europe. The 1200 is
a huge improvement over the old model and yet it still retains
that rugged image and character but with far better handling
and power that before. The demand for this bike will be stronger
than ever, and justifiably so, but availability could be a
problem as BMW are masters of supply and demand, so I would
get your order in now for delivery later this year!
I for one would love to own a 1200GS,
it's a bike I would use every day all year round. It begs
to be ridden, and on a Friday evening just pack up that fantastic
luggage and disappear off into the wilds of somewhere with
your handy GPS to guide you back...what a bike!!