First ride: 2008 BMW R1200GS Adventure

The Adventure gets an electronic kick up the arse for 2008 with the most sophisticated suspension system fitted to a production bike


R1200GS 3km wheelie


R1200GS Adventure Specification

Price:£9,995 basic, £11,995 as tested
Engine: 1,170cc, air-cooled, 4v boxer
Power: 105hp @ 7,250rpm
Torque: 85bhp @ 5,500rpm
Front suspension: Telelever, full adj
Rear suspension: ESA Paralever
Front brake: 280mm discs, four-piston
Rear brake: 265mm disc, two-piston
Dry weight: 210kg (claimed)
Seat height: 895mm
Fuel capacity: 33L
Top speed: 132mph (est)
Colours: Red, Black

You know you’re working hard when it’s one degree below freezing, you’ve been on the bike all day and you’re sweating like a trooper. The new Adventure from BMW was launched in Wales, and although it was brutally cold the sun shone all day as we got seriously stuck into the Welsh countryside.

It never ceases to amaze me how bloody capable these bikes are off-road. Like a Range Rover, you assume the Adventure is just too big and heavy to do anything that involves mud or gravel. Then it just storms up a slippery slope that you’d be scared to walk up and you reach the top, laughing and not just a little bit amazed. It’s an equation of mass over power multiplied by confidence, and the Adventure will go anywhere your experience will take you.

For this year the main changes are the sophisticated suspension system and the Adventure now gets the engine out of the R1200R with another 5bhp. The model I was riding had a lower first gear than stock (about the only free option from the factory) which makes it seriously spritely off the the line. Midrange has got a freer, more buzzy feel to it over the old Adventure and this gives way to a stronger-breathing top end. The engine isn’t a quantum leap by any means and someone who hadn’t ridden a 2007 Adventure quite recently would struggle to feel the difference, but there’s a gentle sense of more urgency and power right across the rev-range. This is also down to a closer-ratio gearbox. I can’t honestly say I ever really noticed the gearbox working, which means it works very well. You only comment on a ‘box when it’s notchy, slow or clunky.

It’s in the chassis that the really clever stuff has happened. The full ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) package adds £500 to the purchase price, but also adds stunning capability to the bike. At the press of a button you can access up to 15 different spring and damping settings, from two-up touring settings to jacking the whole bike up 20mm for serious off-road riding. In the Enduro setting the whole bike staggers into the air another inch if you keep your finger on the button. Over tough terrain it’s the difference between walloping the bash plate and cruising over enormous holes without feeling a thing.

Then when you get back on the road, just drop the suspension down and carry on in total comfort in a pocket of still air. Heated handlebar grips (£195) should be standard fitment on all motorbikes.

For £215, you can have a traction control system which on slippery roads gives you a greater sense of confidence winding it on out of corners. As soon as the rear wheel slips the ECU interrupts the power, meaning no scary slides. And it works, too. Deliberately giving the throttle a big handful on greasy roads, the Adventure would report with a series of stifled barks as the traction control cut in, but no slides or crashes resulted. You can turn the system off if you’re a riding god, of course.

The new Adventure is a logical and excellent step forward for the model, a brilliant application of clever technology making a great bike better still. The uprated engine gives it more grunt off the throttle without (one hopes) affecting the stunning tank range in any way, while the ESA and traction control system genuinely improve the riding experience. All these extras will add around £2,000 to the base price of the Adventure, but they aren’t just there for show and have a huge positive impact on the bike.

You know you’re working hard when it’s one degree below freezing, you’ve been on the bike all day and you’re sweating like a trooper. The new Adventure from BMW was launched in Wales, and although it was brutally cold the sun shone all day as we got seriously stuck into the Welsh countryside.

It never ceases to amaze me how bloody capable these bikes are off-road. Like a Range Rover, you assume the Adventure is just too big and heavy to do anything that involves mud or gravel. Then it just storms up a slippery slope that you’d be scared to walk up and you reach the top, laughing and not just a little bit amazed. It’s an equation of mass over power multiplied by confidence, and the Adventure will go anywhere your experience will take you.

For this year the main changes are the sophisticated suspension system and the Adventure now gets the engine out of the R1200R with another 5bhp. The model I was riding had a lower first gear than stock (about the only free option from the factory) which makes it seriously spritely off the the line. Midrange has got a freer, more buzzy feel to it over the old Adventure and this gives way to a stronger-breathing top end. The engine isn’t a quantum leap by any means and someone who hadn’t ridden a 2007 Adventure quite recently would struggle to feel the difference, but there’s a gentle sense of more urgency and power right across the rev-range. This is also down to a closer-ratio gearbox. I can’t honestly say I ever really noticed the gearbox working, which means it works very well. You only comment on a ‘box when it’s notchy, slow or clunky.

It’s in the chassis that the really clever stuff has happened. The full ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) package adds £500 to the purchase price, but also adds stunning capability to the bike. At the press of a button you can access up to 15 different spring and damping settings, from two-up touring settings to jacking the whole bike up 20mm for serious off-road riding. In the Enduro setting the whole bike staggers into the air another inch if you keep your finger on the button. Over tough terrain it’s the difference between walloping the bash plate and cruising over enormous holes without feeling a thing. Then when you get back on the road, just drop the suspension down and carry on in total comfort in a pocket of still air. Heated handlebar grips (£195) should be standard fitment on all motorbikes.