In order to maintain my title as “Ass Pad Tycoon,” I stay extremely busy travelling all over this great country of ours, spreading the word and saving asses. That part of my job makes it difficult to do something else I love – writing about motorcycles, and the motorcycle industry. So without further ado, I present the second portion of the evaluation of my new BMW R1200 GSW.
There have been countless reviews and press releases written by media professionals about the R1200 GSW, so I won’t bore you with the finite technical points. Just one man’s well-travelled experience!
We’ll start with the good: more power. It’s not just that this bike has more power than its predecessor. It’s the way that it’s spread out across the power band. It starts low and pulls very hard throughout the RPM range up to around 9,000 RPM. It feels as if the torque delivery comes on a little later in the range than the old Boxer, and it is a little freer revving as well. It does this without getting too far away from the feel that we’ve come to expect from the classic Boxer engine (BTW, this is my 4th Boxer powered bike), it just improves the throttle response and adds more horsepower. My only real complaint about previous Boxer motors was that the power delivery was quite deceptive. Often times you wouldn’t really feel the power as much as you’d like. When riding with others, you would know that it’s a very quick motor that works very well in the tight stuff, but it just never really felt fast. This new Boxer changes that – it sounds and feels much faster.
Another big improvement is the suspension. The electronically adjustable suspension delivers as promised (and promoted). It’s far and away the best OE suspension that I have ever experienced. Wouldn’t it be great if all of our riding was on tight and twisty canyon/mountain roads that were as smooth as silk? Keep dreaming. Unfortunately, in order to reach these roads, some of us have to travel long distances on less than desirable roads that can be described with almost any adjective other than “silky.” Travelling these roads with your suspension set tight for the twisties will have you begging for the ride to be over before you ever get to the good stuff. Not a problem with the GS.
Just hit the handlebar mounted control button until you see the “Road” selection, then select the “soft” choice for long periods of interstate with those harsh expansion joints at the bridges and you don’t even notice them anymore. Seriously, this thing is a dream when you’re forced to mix it up on the long stretches of interstate with the big semi rigs. I’m talking about the road surfaces that have been ravaged by countless thousands of semis with little or no repair work. This bike just soaks it all up without any complaints at all. When you exit the interstate, hit the button to put it in the “Normal” mode and it firms up a bit – good for all around riding conditions. When you finally reach the sweet twisties; hit the button again into the “Hard” mode and you’re ready flog. It’s that simple, and it really does work.
Since this is a Dual Sport bike, there are suspension modes for the dirt as well. But there’s more – there are also electronic controls for throttle response and traction control! When you select “Enduro” mode it tones down the throttle response and engages more traction control – but you really don’t notice it until you need it. When in “Enduro Pro” the action is a bit more lively – more rooster tailability, brakes less linked, better throttle response. It works!
Now on to the handling part. My previous Boxers were the R1100 RT, R1100 S, and the R1200 R. I’ll be honest, this thing really felt weird to me at first; too tall, bars too wide, tires not right, seating position too upright, etc.. After about 30 miles of riding it around town, it all began to feel perfect! Some of the reviews that I have read complain about the steering being too light; I disagree. It is a lot lighter feeling around town and at lower speeds (which is good), but when you start ripping through the curves it seems to tighten up without being too firm. Pick your line and hit it hard, this GS will stay right on track until you decide to change it. Inline adjustments don’t make the bike unsettled at all.
I haven’t had the pleasure of taking this bike out for a spirited ride with my buddies in the twisties, but I can absolutely assure you that they will be shocked at how fast this thing is. Brakes, suspension, steering, ergos…. It’s all good.
My job as a travelling Ass Pad Tycoon requires many long days in the saddle, and the APT needs as much comfort as he can get. I’m not getting any younger, so every little improvement helps! Number one on long distance comfort improvement is the electronic cruise control!!!!! Those purists who scoff at the notion of cruise control on a GS probably haven’t ridden an 800 plus mile day with this great feature. Not only is it great for the wrist, but for the head as well. Let me explain. A guy like me has a propensity to always be going well over the posted speed (seriously, I can’t help it, it’s just what feels natural to me). Because of this, I’m constantly uptight about getting tickets (probably because I DO get them). So I love taking breaks by locking the cruise in a few MPH above the posted speed and just totally chill for periods – at the end of the day you arrive at your destination just a bit more relaxed.
As a maker of comfort seating products, I’m sad to say that BMW has really done their homework on the seat for the new GS. My problem with most of the BMW seats has been with the forward tilt that they exhibit. I am constantly pushing myself back to give the “boys” some breathing room if you know what I mean. The new seat allows you to adjust the nose and the rear of the seat independent of each other. I have the front on the high setting, and the rear on low, and it’s about perfect. The foam density is still a bit softer than I prefer, but it’s no longer the torture rack that it used to be. The pillion is also adjustable for and aft; so I have it all the way back to give me more room up front.
Wind protection is also greatly improved on the new GS. And the best part is that you can adjust the height of the windscreen with your left hand while going down the road – it’s hard to dial in the proper height without the wind, right? In general, the ergos are perfect for most riding scenarios – lots of leg room, slight forward tilt without too much pressure on the wrists, yet still comfortable while riding on the dirt in the standing position.
Now for the minor negatives. My main complaint is with the 6th gear. When I’m going 75 MPH, it runs at about 4,500 RPM. It would be nice if it was kept under four grand. This would make those really long days on the interstate a bit more pleasant.
Another issue is with the blinkers. I guess that I was one of the few who actually liked the quirky BMW way of blinking; but my problem is not with BMW going to the left side only control – it’s that they forgot to make them self cancelling. It will occasionally cancel itself, but I still can’t figure out what makes them cancel when they do – usually they just continue to blink as I’m motoring down the road.
These are minor issues that I will get used to and I’ll forget that they were ever issues. The people at BMW have just ensured that they will remain the kings of the heavy weight dual sport segment for many years to come. This will be my go to bike for all occasions for many years to come, as it really does everything quite well. If you haven’t ridden one yet, go do it now. Just make sure that you bring your checkbook because you’re going to want to ride this baby home.