R1200 GS still a top adventure tourer

By Denis Droppa Time of article published May 23, 2013

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BMW’S GS more or less invented the adventure-bike segment about 30 years ago and, despite increased competition from the likes of KTM, Yamaha and Triumph, this iconic dual-purpose bike remains one of the best sellers in this ever-growing playground.

But there’s no room for complacency, and after its predecessor’s nine-year tenure it was time for an all-new R1200 GS to take the game forward. The much-awaited bike is now available in South Africa and I rode the big boxer on its media launch in Gauteng last week.

BMW Motorrad hasn’t reinvented the wheel and this is still very recognisably a GS in both its styling and riding nature, but with improvements in key areas.


Straddling the bike for the first time you notice that it has a narrower waistline with closer-together footpegs, which not only makes it more comfortable to stand up when off-roading, but is also now suited to shorter riders even though the ground clearance has been increased by 8mm. I’m 1.8 metres tall and even with the adjustable seat (850-870mm) in the upper position I was able to straddle the bike with both feet flat on the ground.

I liked the new single-knob method of setting the height-adjustable windscreen which, unlike with the previous two-knob system, can now be done while you’re riding. Pity the windshield doesn’t adjust just a tad higher though, as I had to slouch in the saddle to get my head into that windless “bubble”.


Most of the launch, which took us from Johannesburg to Bela-Bela, was spent cruising on long stretches of tar and this is where the big Beemer excels. With its broad comfy seat and yielding suspension (which can be set soft or hard if you buy the optional electronic suspension adjustment or ESA) it’s like riding a couch, and the GS makes an awesome long-distance tourer.

The alley-scraper 1170cc engine plays its part by delivering a broad spread of cruising grunt. Power compared to the old model has been hiked from 82 to 92kW and torque from 120 to 125Nm and, while it’s no superbike, it’s responsive and eager without requiring merciless revving. The engine continues to use air/liquid cooling, but the coolant oil has been replaced by a glycol-water mixture which ensures more efficient heat dissipation.


The days of clunky BMW gearboxes are a thing of the distant past and the GS’s six-speeder shifts with velvety smoothness, and the bike also now has a slipper clutch.The brakes, which come standard with ABS, also feel powerful and well up to the task.

An optional extra allows the rider, at the flick of a handlebar switch, to select one of five riding modes – rain, road, dynamic, enduro and enduro pro – which adjust the responses of the throttle, the ABS brakes, and the optional ESA and optional traction control, to suit prevailing conditions.

The driveshaft/swingarm and exhaust have switched sides on the new GS, and having the tailpipe on the right means you can push the bike without risking burning yourself on it.


Pushing (or picking it up) is not something you want to do too often as the GS 1200 is a heavy behemoth at 238kg, but when being ridden it lightens up nicely. This big lad has surprisingly quick steering response when sudden direction-changes are called for.

Our route included about 40km of dirt roads, with occasional patches of soft sand for which the tyres needed a little deflating.

Suspension-wise the big-daddy GS felt great and bumps didn’t really faze its comfy-riding nature, but there were times when it squirmed disconcertingly in the soft sand and I would have preferred knobblies over the road tyres that were fitted.

Still, BMW says most GS owners very rarely venture off the tar.

At R140 800 the new R1200 GS sells for the same basic price as before, but you’ll need a bigger budget if you want the abovementioned high-tech toys. - Star Motoring


Engine: 1170cc liquid-cooled horizontally-opposed four-stroke twin.

Bore x stroke: 101 x 73mm.

Compression ratio: 12.5:1.

Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.

Power: 92kW at 7700rpm.

Torque: 125Nm at 6500.

Induction: BMS-X electronic fuel-injection with two 52mm downdraft throttle bodies.

Ignition: Digital electronic.

Starting: Electric.

Clutch: Hydraulically actuated multiplate wet slipper clutch.

Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by shaft.

Front Suspension: Telever forks with optional semi-active electronic adjustment.

Rear suspension: Evo paralever with optional semi-active electronic adjustment.

Front brakes: 305mm discs with radial-mount Brembo four-pot monobloc opposed-piston callipers.

Rear brake: 296mm disc with dual-piston floating calliper.

Front tyre: 120/70 - 19 tubeless.

Rear tyre: 170/60 - 17 tubeless.

Wheelbase: 1507mm.

Seat height: 850/870mm.

Kerb weight: 238kg.

Fuel tank: 20 litres.

Price: R140 800.

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