Living with a 2009 BMW R1200GS Adventure

John Cantlie's long term impressions of the BMW R1200GS Adventure

May 2009

Now look here. There comes a time in a man’s life when he knows what he likes and likes what he knows. At this point, to divert from this path of knowingness is to err and will only make that man (in this case, me) unhappy, angry, or both.

And so it is that when the selections were being made for our 2009 longterm test fleet, when I could have asked for any number of amazing motorcycles from any number of manufacturers, I opted to have exactly the same bike as last year: a BMW R1200GS Adventure. Sorry to be so unimaginative but it’s proven to be the perfect bike for me and there’s no way on God’s earth I’d want anything else day-to-day.

For 2009 the changes to the Big Beemer are new slimline indicators – and that’s basically it. The bike has been supplied and will be serviced by the brilliantly relaxed mob at Vines of Guildford, a very modern bike shop with an old-school feel where you pop in for coffee and a chat just because it’s nearby. All the team at Vines are big into their off-road and we take turns at boring each other with tales of dirtbike derring-do.

After my ‘four crashes in eight days’ trauma of last month I got straight onto the phone to the excellent guys at Cambrian Tyres ( for a set of Continental TKC80 knobbly tyres (£200 a compromised, but when the surface is loose or muddy they really dig in.

I’m not going to fit any kind of exhaust to this bike; I fitted a Remus system last year and I have to go to hospital tomorrow for an audiogram to check for hearing loss. I have bad tinnitus in my right ear, and noisy exhausts may well have been a contributory factor. Isn’t getting old rubbish...pair). Cambrian don’t supply to the public but they will tell you where you can get these chunkers. They slow the steering down considerably and tarmac grip is

DATE RECEIVED: 15th May 2009
PARTS ADDED: Continental TKC80
TOTAL MILEAGE: 467 miles

July 2009

One of the privileged joys of having these bikes on long-term loan is that we can swap ‘em around a bit and spend time on other people’s wheels. I’ve recently been tearing up and down the A3 (my daily commute) on Rob’s GSXR1000, which is somewhat remarkable in that I arrive home 12 minutes before I actually left the office. Meanwhile Ben Miller has been putting in the miles on the GS1200 Adventure, and it’s really interesting getting someone else’s perspective on your daily ride.

The Continental TKC80 rear tyre is now cooked, and its flattened-off state causes the GS to oscillate gently at the bars at 90mph. It’s not a problem, but Ben talked of “wild tankslappers” every time he changed gear – silly exaggerating fool. The TKCs are designed for predominantly offroad

work and it’s no surprise that tramping into London every day has squared the rear off. I have another pair waiting to go on, but will probably save them for a big overseas adventure later in the year. Barry took the GS to Exmoor with his missus on the back and came back agog at what a brilliant long-distance tool the Adventure is. He made special mention of the ESA electronic suspension; I just smiled in a “told you so” kind of way.

The Garmin Navigator 3 sat-nav that sits ideally in your line of sight sometimes gets a little confused. The other day after crossing under Blackwall tunnel I found myself (according to the GPS) flying across London like ET in a North-Easterly direction. And it never recovered itself. By the time I got to the office I was (according to the GPS) just short of Oslo. True Adventure men never fully trust new-fangled GPS devices and always carry a Michelin map in the topbox, anyway.

Which leaves me a bit of quandary. Part of the plan with longterm tests is to improve your ride with a plethora of bolt-on bits, but there’s simply nothing that will improve the GS. Bar rummaging through the BMW or Touratech parts catalogue for no good reason, I’m a little stumped.

I’ve worked out why this bike remains so damn high on my all-time list: it’s a keeper. Other bikes come and go, but the Adventure is a bike that you just can’t live without. After a week of commuting on the GSX-R, I’m ready for my Beemer again. After all, my car’s playing up at the moment and I need to help my brother move house.

PARTS ADDED: None, it doesn’t need any
COSTS THIS MONTH: £268 of fuel
VALUE NOW: £9,495

August 2009

Great balls of fire – the Battle Bus went wrong this month. In 25,000 miles of Adventure ownership (last year and this year combined) it’s the first time something bad’s happened, so I’m aghast.

The Beemer suffered total electrical crapout whilst sat outside Tesco. I came out with my shopping, loaded it up, hit the starter and... tick. Then the dash cut-out and that was it. Subsequent turnings on and off of the ignition brought about the same deadness. I went back inside for 5 minutes, came out and tried surprising the Panzerfaust into life by creeping up on it from behind, but still nothing. I took the seat off and, suspecting loose terminals, gave everything a tweak. Nada. I tried bump-starting it but, alone on an uphill carpark with 350kgs of bike, that was doomed. In the end I had to concede defeat and walk the three miles home, dragging my meat and vegetables behind me.

I got the bike recovered back to the guys and girls at Vines of Guildford the next day, where the problem was diagnosed as a faulty Exide battery. Apparently one of the elements inside had broken and the battery wasn’t passing its charge. All that was required was a new battery and off we went. But that’s not really the point. One day previous I’d been up to my axles in muck in the middle of nowhere (or as close to the middle of nowhere as you can get in Surrey). If the battery had gone then, or on one of the faraway rides I’ve done on GSs, then the rider would’ve been absolutely bollocksed. The irony here being that it was a non-BMW part that made the GS grind to a complete and total halt.

Axles in muck. Oh yes. I’ve been celebrating the Great British Summer (there’s a heatwave, apparently) by getting another set of Continental TKC80 knobblies ( put on and gouging huge clods of earth out of the planet. There are some very technical trails just two miles from my house, a mix of mud, ruts, rock steps and more open terrain. And the GS just smashes over all of it. The only hinderance is the tall screen, so brilliant on the open road, that threatens to bash the underside of your chin bar when you’re standing up and manouevering. It’d be great if you could unclip it with dzus fasteners or something similar.

I came across two blokes on one trail on KTM250s, and they just looked and gawped as the BMW bashed and growled its way up the same incline they’d just assailed. “Fuck me, never thought I’d see one of those up here,” said one. I just laughed, stopped for a quick chat, then flipped the electronic suspension into Comfort mode and cruised home just in time for The Apprentice.

DATE RECEIVED: 4th February 2009
TEST DURATION: 11 months
TOTAL MILEAGE: 5756 miles