By Llewelyn Pavey
BMW’S R1200GS has just been given its first significant updates in three.
They include upgrades to the electronics, giving the traction control lean angle data so it can adapt accordingly.
Perhaps the big news is the Rallye edition: the closest thing in the BMW range to a KTM R model. It’s got a new, rather fetching paintjob plus some off-road centric features.
It’s got a new single unit seat that’s flatter and thinner through the knees. The small screen is also part of the package, as are the wide footpegs taken straight from the R 1200 GS Adventure model. The centre-stand has been removed.
In addition to the lean-angle-sensitive traction control, you also gain more ability to control individual settings within rider modes, including throttle response, traction control and AB.
The GS is a bike that never fails to impress me. It’s been three years since the last round of significant updates and plenty of bikes have attempted to steal its crown in that time. Despite the constant onslaught of new, very good machines, it always seems to holds its own. It’s the fundamental characteristics of the bike that allow it to keep sitting at the top of the pile. It handles fantastically, the engine is a torque-filled, smile-inducing monster and it’s crazy-easy to ride.
I’ve simplified things there, but that is the crux of what a day on GS taught me. Let me explain.
The road performance is generally what captures my heart about the GS. I always return to the saddle buoyed by the enjoyment of many other bikes, impressed by their prowess on the blacktop. And yet after a five-month absence from the seat of an R1200GS, it blew me away like I’d never ridden one before.
It’s quirky to ride. The front end doesn’t really dip on the brakes, so running corners is a different experience. Different is, however, not bad. It doesn’t dip, dive, wallow or sit up inappropriately. The GS turns into corners with the faintest of thoughts, holds that line outrageously well and makes life on the public road stupidly easy. It’s confidence inspiring and effortless. You don’t need to concentrate to ride a GS at all. You can roll along, not touching the brakes or barely touching the throttle and still carrying tremendous pace.
It’s a bike that never seems to punish you either. You can brake mid-corner, run terrible lines or ride like a moron and the GS regularly makes up for your mistakes. The engine drags you from corner to corner to corner with the boxer punch that lets you pull any gear you want any time. The brakes stop you as quickly as you’ll ever need them to and the linked brakes give precision feel. The whole combination adds up to a bike that is hard not to like from the moment you ride it.
That’s on the road. It’s when the tarmac gives way to the dirt that the GS really surprises. It seems like it shouldn’t work. It lacks a conventional fork and on the scales it’s heavy. But it does work.
Its biggest strengths are its balance, torque, exceptionally good brakes and deceptively light feel. The whole package works together and everything that makes it a good street bike also make it a great dirt machine. That may sound odd but it’s true.