Review: 2005 BMW R 1200GS

story by Sean Alexander, Photograph by A.Palaima, S.Alexander, L.Parks, Created May. 14, 2004

BMW motorcycles have a loyal following and legions of admirers. However, aside from last year's Rockster, I haven't found a BMW boxer-twin that I truly like. That's what I would have told you a month ago, if you'd asked me what I thought about Beemers with cylinders jutting out of their sides. That was then... Ask me today, and I'm more likely to reply with something like

"Man, that new R 1200 GS is a neat bike."

Though I have said less than kind things about them in the past, BMW was gracious enough to invite me to the intro for their new R 1200 GS "Adventure Tourer" and I'm glad they did. Aside from a few niggling development issues, this new GS is ready to compete with the latest adventure touring bikes from Triumph, Aprilia and Suzuki. More than just an ugly new face and decal project, the new R 1200 GS is significantly lighter, faster and less quirky than the R 1150 GS it replaces. It steers lightly, shreds twisties, does great wheelies, cruises comfortably, buzzes lightly and generally acts like a modern 85Hp motorcycle should.

Thank you BMW, we've been trying to get Sean to take a bath for months! Much of the credit for this newfound functionality goes to a thorough redesign of the entire power train, chassis and engine. BMW claims that the R 1200 GS makes 100Hp at the crank. MO dynoed our test unit and it put an honest 85Hp to the ground, so this number is completely believable. Slightly less believable is BMW's claim that the new GS weighs 496Lbs dry and is "Lighter than every full-fledged competitor out there." I wonder what bikes BMW classifies as "Full Fledged" competitors? Harley Electra Glides perhaps? Surely, a Suzuki V-Strom is lighter. Ok, I'll be nice. Fact is, the 1200 does feel considerably lighter than the 1150 GS and its asphalt canyon and off-road performance is much improved. It is now good enough that I would need to do a back-to-back comparison test, to determine the best all-around bike between an R 1200GS, V-Strom, Tiger, and 950 Adventure. Hmmm.... Perhaps a grand MO comparo / adventure tour is in order!


Antique Roadshow, I mean, FACEOFF!
Because we can, we dyno tested a local 90K mile 1988 R 100 GS with our 2005 GS - just in case you were considering the upgrade!
My initial impression of the new R 1200 GS, is that like the other bikes in its class, the BMW sits high and those short of inseam will be somewhat intimidated by it's stance. However, I am a tall person and found the extra room afforded by its rangy layout to be quite comfortable. The GS' standard seat is independently adjustable front and rear, so not only can you change the seat's height, but also it's angle. At its lowest setting, the bike is livable for shorter riders, but if you are under 5'7" or so, I'd recommend sitting on one first, before ordering or purchasing. Another item that quickly caught my attention was the new instrument cluster, which incorporates an analog speedo and tachometer with a large multi-function display that is easy to read in direct sunlight.

The only flaw I found during my time on the GS is that the digital fuel gage often failed to reset itself after a fill up. This meant that on more than one occasion, the trip computer displayed "Range 0 Miles" for most of a tank of gas. The technicians on hand assured me that it was a pre-production software glitch that would be fixed, before the bikes hit a showroom. The rest of the controls and layout are typical BMW, with their intuitive turn signals and 50Kw microwave oven heated handgrips that are suitable for roasting squirrels, while you play the harmonica by the campfire. Neat details abound on this bike, like the integral mounts for a new style of BMW expandable metal side cases and that hollow rear axle that you can shoot photos through. The bike hardly qualifies as "Beautiful" but it is easy to call "Neat", "Funky", and "Cool".

When the Press Ride starts, I'm immediately impressed with how much stiffer and more responsive the 1200 GS feels. Riding from the hotel to the highway, it's fun to toss around and I do a couple of wheelies, lest some of the other journalists confuse me with a professional. After we get to the highway, we spend a heck of a lot of time droning along in a straight line. This is tedious but serves to underline how comfortable the bike is, as well as highlighting its enhanced horsepower when we merge with traffic, or pass truckers. On this long drone, the new boxer-twin proves to be a bit smoother than the old 1130cc engine. More importantly, there is no evidence of the "surging" that has plagued oil head boxers in the past. About the time I start wondering if this ride is going to be an Iron Butt event, we turn-off the freeway and head up into the mountains for some canyon strafing.

Always the rugged individualist, Sean wears his enduro jacket on the street and his street jacket in the dirt. Actually strafing is far from what we're doing, seeing as how the group pace wouldn't put any pressure on an 85 year old grandma in an 55 year old Buick on bald tires. At this relaxed pace, I am able to notice the beautiful scenery and concentrate on the weather, my navel, the dirty email that my fiancé sent me from home, and most importantly, our upcoming lunch stop. Funny enough, after 100+ miles in the saddle, I'm still completely relaxed and content to hold my place in the group.

I smile in my helmet at the realization that this "funky" new BMW does a fairly decent impression of a soulless Japanese appliance. Fortunately it is only an act, like all good entertainers, the R 1200 GS can play many roles. I find this out later in the day, when I escape from the group's clutches and get a chance to blast through a twisty and deserted back road, alone. The engine note won't cut it on the MotoGP grid, but the GS is highly entertaining nonetheless. Its canyon performance is similar to a V-Strom, which is to say that it's fun and easy to ride fast. The servo-assisted partially-linked ABS brakes are powerful and up to the sporting task.

Page2While the smooth torque delivery makes it somewhat safer to get on the gas, when I'm still leaned way-over. The new GS' lower un-sprung weight and stiffer frame are of particular note in this environment, and the bike responds crisply to input through its wide handlebars. I'm having so much fun, that I regret having to slow down when I catch-up to the group. Once everybody is accounted for, we take a long highway ride back to the hotel and the R 1200 GS thrums along happily through mile after endless mile of Nevada desert. When we arrive back at the hotel, I find that I am still fresh and ready for more. It's a good thing I'm still fresh, because BMW has chosen to take us to Las Vegas' new Hoffbrau House, for singing, drinking and all the wiener schnitzel we can eat. I like good beer and sausage as much as the next guy, but on your next trip to Lost Wages, do yourself a favor and skip the Hoffbrau House. Better yet, go to Munich and visit the original.

Oh baby! My shaft is funky and wide.Press Intro day 2 dawns hot and dry, which is a bad thing, when I realize that Day 2 will be spent almost entirely in the desert's dirt, at the Jimmy & Heather Lewis off-road riding school. Another freeway ride takes us out to the school which is located adjacent to Buffalo Bill's Wild West Casino, Amusement Park, Latte Bar, Arcade, Buffet, Outlet Mall, Gas Station, Ice Cream Parlor, Beauty Parlor, Funeral Parlor, Massage Parlor, did I mention Casino and Hotel, in sunny (oh so sunny) Stateline Nevada. This is Jimmy's first taste of the new R 1200 GS (after racing older GS racebikes in the Paris-Dakar Rally) and he seems impressed by its lightness and stability. The day's school begins with a brief orientation, followed by a "chalk-talk", before we head out onto a nearby dry lakebed for off-road drills.

Once in the dirt, the GS proves to be stable (no surprise there) but surprisingly agile and capable of any 2-D maneuver you wish to try. Just like in high school, I have great fun straying from the syllabus, doing wheelies, power slides, hackies, and all sorts of tom-foolery that the old GS didn't take to nearly so kindly. After the drills and a quick lunch, we divide into three groups (Advanced, Intermediate and "Take the Highway Home") and set off cross-country, for a 50-mile dirt ride back to our hotel. Being the super-macho-moto-stud that I am (that's a joke people, please keep the hate mail to yourselves),

Sean spent most of the day sideways, because the Big GS is soo much fun to slide on smooth dirt.I bravely chose the "Advanced" group and set off hot on Jimmy's tail. Our route includes a very technical and entertaining rock wash, several miles of fast power line roads, a mountain pass with a mild ascent and fairly steep descent, a bit of open desert and of course an obligatory state highway leg. At this point, I think it is only appropriate to thank Jimmy Lewis, for keeping the pace sane and not allowing us to form any 500Lb cart-wheeling balls of death. Though I didn't crash, the ride wasn't entirely without incident. Another journalist managed to drop his GS onto its left-cylinder's head. Unfortunately, his bike tipped-over onto a softball-sized rock, which cracked the head. The bike still ran fine with the cracked head, but on the ride back to the hotel, it gave his left boot a nice coating of oil. Tip-overs DO happen on the trail, so if you are considering a 1200GS for off-road use, please invest in a set of head-guards. After an otherwise exhilarating ride, we returned to the hotel hot, dirty and grinning from ear-to-ear.

Lest I give you the impression that this is a true dual-purpose bike, it is important to note that this thing still weighs over 500Lbs and is equipped with tires that are designed for pavement use and well-groomed fire roads. Overall, the GS is perfectly capable in the dirt, as long as one keeps the bike's weight, tires and suspension in mind. When ridden sanely, the GS will go almost anywhere you wish to explore. Though it is lighter and more capable than the old GS, if you try to ride the 1200 like an XR-650, you will soon, find the suspension bottoming harshly, while you blow your knees apart, trying to save it from frequent front-end washouts.

To bad about its face, at least the scenery is pretty.As you can see from the photos, I've been lucky enough to ride the big GS in all types of environments, from cold mountain streams to flat desert sand and rock to long highway drones and tight canyon blasts. Much of my test riding was like the stuff you see in BMW brochures, but rarely get to see or do in real life. I'm happy to report that through it all, the bike never let me down and seemed as though you could ride it like this every day of a long happy life together.

Though it makes a much better sport-tourer than MX bike, if you want to comfortably cover long distances while carrying a passenger and all your stuff and still be able to explore trails, the BMW R 1200 GS is quite possibly as good as it gets.



SPECS PROVIDED BY BMW - unless otherwise stated
· Type Air-cooled/oil-cooled flat twin four-stroke
· Displacement 1170 cc
· MO Measured Horseposer 85.70 @ 7600 RPM
· MO Measured Torque 70.70 ft-lbs @ 5600 RPM
· Bore/Stroke 101.0 mm x 73.0 mm
· Compression Ratio 11.0:1
· Valve Gear DOHC
· Valves 2 x 36 mm intake / 2 x 31 mm exhaust
· Valves / cylinder Four
· Engine oil capacity 4.0 quarts
· Management BMS-K
· Fuel requirements Premium unleaded
· Fuel capacity 5.2 U.S. gallons
· Charging system 600 Watts @ 12 Volts
· Battery 12 Volts 14 Amps/hour
· Cooling system Air and thermostatically controlled oil cooling
Drive Train
· Primary drive 1:1.823
· Clutch 180-mm single dry plate
· Gear ratios 1st: 2.27:1
2nd: 1.58:1
3rd: 1.26:1
4th: 1.03:1
5th: 0.90:1
6th: 0.81:1
· Final drive system Enclosed driveshaft with two universal joints
· Final drive ratio 2.82:1
· Frame Tubular spaceframe, engine load-bearing
· Front Suspension BMW Telelever
· Front Travel 7.5 inches
· Rear Suspension BMW Telelever
· Rear Travel 7.9 inches
· Brake System BMW EVO partial-integral ABS
· Front Brakes Two, four-piston fixed calipers
· Rear Brakes Single, two-piston floating caliper
· Front rotor 12.0 inch dual floating rotors
· Rear rotor 10.4 inch single, fixed rotor
· Actuation Hydraulic, DOT 4 fluid type
· Front wheel 2.50 x 19 cast alloy, five double-spoke
· Rear wheel 4.00 x 17 cast alloy, five double-spoke
· Front Tire 110/80 x 19 tubeless
· Rear Tire 150/70 x 17 tubeless
· Seat Height 33.0 inches - 34 inches
· Wheelbase 59.8 inches
· Overall length 87.0 inches
· Overall width 36.0 inches w/ mirrors
· Steering angle 63 degrees
· Claimed Weight (Dry) 439 lbs. excluding options and accerrories.
· Claimed Weight (Wet) 496 lbs. excluding options and accerrories.
· Maximum load 937 lbs. GVWR
· Please note, the standard equipment listed below is included in the base MSRP at no additional cost. BMW EVO partial Integral ABS (switchable)
Saddlebag mounts
Hand protection
Hazard warning flashers
Single key locks
Closed loop 3-way catalytic converter
Stainless steel exhaust system
Magnesium cylinder head covers
Hydraulic rear spring preload adjuster
Front spring preload mechanically adjustable (9 settings)
Cast wheel double spoke design
Prob stand with starter inhibit
Stainless steel brake and clutch lines
Rear suspension strut with travel-dependent damping (WAD)
Diagnostic interface
Electronic immobilizer
Low-beam headlamp height adjustment
Info flat screen
Power socket
Tool kit
Luggage rack
Adjustable handbrake and clutch levers
Side stand with starter interlock
Integral ignition switch and steering lock
Two-section adjustable dual rider seat
Adjustable windshield
· Please consult your local BMW Motorrad USA retailer for specific pricing information regarding the following available equipment. Cross-spoke wheels
Heated handgrips
Anti-theft alarm
· Please consult your local BMW Motorrad USA retailer for specific pricing information regarding the following available accessories. Saddlebags
Inner bags
Tank bag
Engine guards
Cylinder head protection covers
Low rider's seat
Anti-theft alarm
Accessory power socket
BMW Navigator
Dust cover
Luggage rack
MSRP: $15,100
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