My first meeting with a BMW GS was an unfortunate one. It was going back a few years now (certainly pre-Charlie McGregor era)
Having just picked up this new model, I’d ridden 100 miles on a warm summer’s evening to reach my house by dusk. Mindful of the fact that said house contained two frenetic, bark-happy border collies and a small, sleeping child, I cut the ignition, whipped the clutch in and planned a gentle coast up to the area outside my front door.
Mrs F was at the kitchen sink at the time and thus afforded an excellent view of the proceedings.
So, with a dead engine, I coasted effortlessly back into the grounds of MF towers, cutting something of a dash, I might say. Coolly, I grabbed some brake to arrest my speed, in particular the speed at which I was heading for a very stout brick wall adjacent to my front door.
I braked. I braked harder. I used all four fingers on the front brake and as much pressure as I could muster on the back brake. It was all to no avail. Nothing happened.
The front wheel impacted with the brick wall at approximately 10-15mph. My chest twatted the handlebar switchgear (why do they make it so clunky?) and, more painful than anything else, my jeans-covered shins with the fuel injectors. There was claret everywhere.
And the worst bit? The noise of the impact made the dogs bark which woke the sleeping baby up anyway.
It was my welcome to the World of servo brakes. What a stupid idea. No engine running = No brakes. What were they thinking?
The physical scars may have healed but the mental ones are still there, I can tell you. So, riding the new BMW GS Adventure (no servo brakes - woohoo) last week, was a real test of nerve.
I needn’t have bothered. Another ten years has added an amazing amount of sophistication to every aspect of the lanky off roader. I’d borrowed the GS Adventure to do a photo shoot for Rolls Royce. We rocked up at Pall Mall at 5am on a Sunday morning to shoot a rolling convoy of priceless vintage Rolls Royces as they started their epic trip from London to Edinburgh along the route of the original A1.
The photographer, James Lipman, sat backwards on the pillion seat with his feet on some temporary rear footrests fashioned from a pair of bicycle handlebars, secured by a load of cable ties.
Once I’d mastered the fact that getting a backwards-facing passenger on and off required a massive amount of forward planning, pep talks and utter team-work I really enjoyed my time with the big BeeEmm. A really nice touch is the adjustable suspension which you can firm-up of soften-down at the press of a button on the move. The six speed box is super-sweet, the fuelling crisp and accurate.
The eight-valve flat-twin makes fat, accessible power from way-down low but its sweet spot is around 5,000rpm – around 90 in top gear. You can short shift up through the box a lot earlier to ride the wide torque curve – a technique that works well in traffic and in town where a bit of speed is best served covertly. It’s quite noisy (for a standard system) with a real crack to the exhaust note but it’s not an offensive noise.
I stopped to fill the Adventure up the other day and it took over £40 to brim it. The BP-branded woman behind the counter couldn’t believe it and alerted her fellow staff and all the rest of the people in the queue behind me that she’d never seen anyone put more than forty quid’s worth of fuel in a motorbike, before.
It’s why you can do over three hundred miles without stopping for fuel. It’s not massively economical – I managed an average of just under 40mpg – but the volume of fuel that can be carried is car-like.
The only problem is that this car-like fuel load is carried above the engine and oh boy, do you notice the difference between full and empty, particularly at walking pace. If I was using this bike in town a lot I would never, ever fill the tank. For the London photo-shoot I deliberately made sure it had as little fuel in as possible.
But the Adventure is best on long motorway trips. The barn-door Perspex fairing, bark buster knuckle guards, plush seat and rangey riding position means utter long distance comfort. Heated grips and sat nav just add to the cosseted luxury. Despite being fifty feet tall and having the strangest weight distribution in the whole history of motorcycling, high-speed stability is a real strength without sacrificing agility and manouverability.
High speed blast across Europe? This would be my first choice based on comfort and tank range.
But the best bit for passengers is that once you master the power curve and gear ratios it is a very, very easy bike to ride quickly and smoothly and that, I think, is the Adventure’s most satisfying attribute – it really does reward good riding for rider and pillion alike.
Price: from £11,600