Feb 9 2010 Harriet Ridley
Ready for BMW Adventure
BMW has updated its flagship R1200GS models only two years after the last changes, underlining the global importance of the adventure bike category. Until recently, only the 600cc and 1000cc sports bikes received updates every two years to keep them on top of the fast-changing developments in superbike technology.
BMW's R1200GS has topped the bestselling charts in many European countries now including Germany, the UK and even Italy, beating Ducati and Aprilia on their home turf.
One in two riders in the big capacity adventure bike sector chooses the BMW over any other bike. And it's not as if there's a shortage of choice: it seems every manufacturer has issued its version of an adventure bike to try and wade in on BMW's success. But the Bavarian manufacturer is making sure the GS remains on top.
The GS's success can be attributed to its sturdy construction and go-anywhere potential. This is no namby-pamby pretend off-roader that in reality is only good for road riding, like so many other 'dual-purpose' machines turn out to be.
You can't blame them: most adventure bike owners simply buy into the rally-cool image and never actually take their bikes off-road. BMW recognises this and offers two versions of the GS: the standard R1200GS, and the more off-road biased R1200GS Adventure with its handguards, metal panniers, engine crash covers, stainless-steel crash bars and spoked wheels to accommodate tubeless off-road tyres.
Hence it was the R1200GS Adventure that Ewan McGergor and Charlie Boorman chose for their Long Way Round and Long Way Down TV series. The programmes aired on primetime BBC2, bringing home to millions of Britain's TV viewers just how competent the R1200GS is on all terrain. It will take you through the congested roads of Britain just as easily as the desolate tracks of Africa.
So what changes has the GS undergone in recent years? 2008 brought with it cosmetic tweaks for a sleeker look, a more refined version of the 1200cc twin-cylinder Boxer engine that raised power to 105bhp and produced a broader spread of torque, and a slick new gearbox.
For 2010, BMW has gone further with the engine updates to give the R1200GS and GS Adventure the double overhead cam engines derived from the HP2 Sport. The DOHC engine brings power up to 109bhp, while torque is higher at 88lb/ft.
The new engine is more willing to rev, with peak rpm rising by 500rpm to 8,500rpm. And while it's livelier up top, it's lower down the rev range that the changes are really noticeable. The bike feels punchier, delivering a useful amount of extra thrust as you crack the throttle.
The DOHC engine is also smoother, eliminating the obtrusive vibrations at motorway cruising speeds present in the older model. Happily, the GS's excellent fuel consumption has been unaffected by the changes: the 20-litre tank is still good for at least 210 miles of spirited riding.
Both versions of the R1200GS are available with optional ABS and ESA II - the latest version of BMW's brand new Electronic Suspension Adjustment. A button on the left handlebar lets the rider choose between on and off-road set-ups, with pillion and luggage options thrown in. This is a priceless feature on a bike designed for long treks over ever-changing terrain; from smooth ribbons of Tarmac, to rocky mountain trails, and even desert planes if you're adventurous enough.
The GS was never broke, so BMW merely evolved it for 2010 to provide a sportier and more refined ride. At this rate, the R1200GS in both its versions could well remain the world's most successful adventure bike for a while yet, thanks in no small part to its proven mix of on and off-road ability.
Price: R1200GS, £9,195. R1200GS Adventure, £9,995
Engine: 109bhp, DOHC 1200cc twin-cylinder Boxer
Transmission: single disc dry clutch, six gears
Seat height: 850/870mm
Tank capacity: 20 litres
Suspension: (F) BMW Telelever, (R) BMW Paralever