First ride: BMW R1200GS Adventure review

First ride: BMW R1200GS Adventure review

Visordown tests the 2018 R1200GS Adventure in the Brecon Beacons

SELDOM could a single model claim to have spawned a whole class of motorcycles as convincingly as the one you’re looking at.

It is the BMW R1200GS. The BMW R1200GS Adventure to be precise. It made the adventure bike class what it is today. It made BMW Motorrad what it is today.

It probably made Charley Boorman what he is today. But that’s not important right now.

What is important is that BMW keeps making it better and has tinkered with it yet again for 2018.

What’s new is a load of options. They include semi-active suspension, a TFT colour dash that does clever things like connect with your phone, and an ‘Emergency Call’ feature which, as the name suggests, summons help in the event of a crash.

Do new options count as updates? I don’t know but I went and tested the 2018 BMW R1200GS Adventure at the launch in Wales anyway.

Here’s what I found out…


Whatever else it may be, the GS Adventure is one thing first and foremost: a great all-round road bike. That’s the key to its widespread appeal, not any off-road potential. And key among the features that make it such a great road bike is that Bavarian boxer twin engine, in liquid-cooled, 125hp form since 2013.

It’s so flexible, pulling the bike’s 263kg with rumbling enthusiasm from under 4,000rpm in third gear, so it doesn’t matter too much what gear you’re in exiting corners.

It sounds and feels like a proper, unreconstructed motorcycle engine as it rises to its peak torque of 92lbft at 6,500rpm, with the occasional burble as you shut off.


Despite all its sophistic rider aids, a good old-fashioned effective chassis and ergonomics – and the easy, assured handling they deliver – are the other key features making the big GS a great road bike.

This is a big bike by any standard (surely another aspect to its appeal for many) but it’s light-footed, changing course with little effort or drama. The wide bars and upright riding position help.

The launch ride consisted of miles of very narrow and twisty roads in the Brecon Beacons and the GS Adventure tackled them with unlikely agility.

Of course, it’s also tall. I’m 5’9” and was on tiptoe if I tried to put both feet on the ground at once, even with the adjustable seat at the lowest of two settings. An even lower seat option is available for an extra £185. See the specs panel on page two for heights.


The GS Adventure has the suspension to cross continents in two-up comfort, tackle high-speed bends or smooth out trails - or all three without making any adjustments, thanks to a new option.

It’s BMW’s ‘Dynamic ESA’ – not just the old electronically adjustable ‘ESA’ option, which let you press buttons to change pre-load for a passenger or luggage. Now it senses the change and adjusts according to conditions for you. That’s what the ‘Dynamic’ part brings.

It comes either as an £810 option on the base-model R1200GS, which starts from £13,400, or as standard on the R1200GS Adventure TE edition, which is the one I rode on the launch. It starts from £17,120 and gets other extras as standard including an up/down quick-shifter, hill-start control (so you don’t roll backwards), keyless ignition, heated grips and more.

The launch ride was 99% on-road, with a brief detour onto gravel fire trails and through a stream for the sake of photos, where the suspension soaked up holes and rocks with the ease you’d expect from the original heavyweight adventure bike.

On road, it didn’t just tackle every bend with composure, inspiring confidence under hard braking and acceleration, but it did it while providing sublime comfort. This is why people love it.


The R1200GS Adventure’s four-piston Brembo monobloc front calipers are among the best you’ll find, delivering massive power with precision control. The pressure of one finger is enough to progress from gentle to very rapid deceleration.

The bike I rode on the launch was equipped with lean-angle-sensitive ‘ABS Pro’, delivering ABS optimised for corners. It’s basically BMW’s version of cornering ABS, and it was a welcome reassurance on the greasy, leaf-strewn roads of the launch ride, often bordered by steep, unguarded drops.  

ABS Pro is standard on the TE edition or £420 on the base model as part of the optional ‘Pro’ riding modes.


Deep breath. Here we go.

There’s an equipment list for the GS Adventure as long as your arm. It’s nearly all optional on the base model, while a good deal comes as standard on the TE edition I rode.

To recap on features already mentioned, it has BMW’s ‘Dynamic ESA’ suspension, ‘Gear Shift Assist Pro’ up/down quick-shifter (which is incredibly smooth), and hill-start control. The latter works by keeping a brake applied after you release it on a hill, until the point at which you ease out the clutch to pull away.

It also has a keyless ignition, cruise control, preparation for GPS and loads more that you can find listed on BMW’s website.

The base model comes with ‘Rain’ and ‘Road’ riding modes as standard while the TE also has ‘Pro Dynamic’, ‘Enduro’ and ‘Enduro Pro’. ‘Enduro’ adapts ABS and traction control for off-road while ‘Enduro Pro’ turns off ABS at the rear wheel.

There are two new options that BMW seems most proud of for 2018. One is ‘Intelligent Emergency Call’. It’s a £295 option on either the base or TE edition, and it’s a system that automatically summons help in the event of a crash, using sensors on the bike to detect when one has occurred. It uses a sim card somewhere in the bike to also pass on your GPS co-ordinates, so emergency services can find you.

It gives you an option to cancel before help is summoned, in case you don’t need it. Or you can summon help manually by pressing a big red button hidden under a cover on the right-hand bar. It looks exactly like an ejector seat button in a Bond car.

The second new option BMW seemed most keen to highlight was the new TFT colour dash with ‘Connectivity’. It does nice things like lower the red line on the rev counter when the engine is cold.

And by downloading a BMW app onto your smart phone, along with some maps, you can link it up with Bluetooth to display navigation directions on the dash. It makes for a sort of basic sat-nav, with arrows indication where you should next turn, rather than a full map.

It took minutes to install the app and connect the phone and the directions were easy to follow – but the bikes ridden on the launch were equipped with a separate, full sat-nav system, which undermined its usefulness.

You can also link it up to a Bluetooth helmet and select music to play from your phone, using the colour dash, or make and receive calls.

It’s all controlled using bar controls including a wheel by your left hand, a system which, after many BMW launches, I’m finally beginning to get the hang of.

The ‘TFT Connectivity’ system is a £595 option on both the base and TE editions.

We like

There’s a very nice premium-quality feel to the R1200GS Adventure, a sense that no expense has been spared.

We don’t like

But glance at BMW’s specs list and you realise that lots of expense has been spared, because most of the fancy technology costs extra. And do new options amount to a model update? No. The BMW R1200GS Adventure is basically the same for 2018. 

Also, I wanted to use the TFT Connectivity to play music through my noise-cancelling earphones but it wouldn’t work because they connect physically to my phone. The system will only playback music from your phone by sending it to a Bluetooth headset or helmet. Why can’t it just tell the phone what to play?



Nevertheless, without or without all the options, the GS Adventure is by any standard an outstandingly competent motorcycle. And if you add them, as many buyers obviously do, it becomes one of the most sophisticated available, a rolling showcase of what’s possible.

Most importantly though, it is what it’s always been: one bike that will do whatever you want, whether it’s touring, twisty B-roads, trails or plan commuting. And do it all brilliantly.

It’s one bike for life. That’s why it’s so popular.


Model tested: 2018 BMW R1200GS Adventure TE

Price: from £17,120 (total cost of TE edition tested £18,010 including optional Emergency Call and TFT Connectivity. Base model from £13,400).

Engine: 1170cc liquid-cooled boxer twin

Power: 125hp @7,750rpm

Torque: 92lbft @6,500rpm

Wet weight: 263kg

Tank capacity: 30 litres

Seat height: Adjustable from 890-910mm (optional lower seats of 840/860mm and 820/840mm)