I have been riding motorcycles for about 11 years already. In that time, I’ve owned and tested my fair share of adventure bikes, naked bikes, and dual sports. There was always one bike that eluded me. Ironically, it was the bike that got me into motorcycling in the first place.
Twelve years ago, a year before buying my first motorcycle, I had caught The Long Way Round on the tube, and it had its hooks in me the moment I caught a glimpse of the pair of BMW GSA motorcycles on the show. They were so menacing, in a 'to-hell-with-form' kind of way.
I sat mesmerized as the bikes proceeded to carry Obi-Wan Kenobi and his chum across and around the world, chugging along the whole way. It was at that point that I knew I had to have one. It made the GS my holy grail.
Since then, I’ve never had the chance to try one. Until just last week, BMW Motorrad Philippines called up. Test it, they said. Off-roading, they offered. I haven’t done either, ever, but I gladly took the opportunity to meet my hero. I finally had the chance to try an R 1200 GS, the grand daddy of the segment of motorcycle closest to my heart.
The BMW GS cannot be considered a pretty bike in any way, shape, or form. The GS, more than any other motorcycle, puts function above everything and tosses form right out the window. It’s a bike designed by those without a sense of humor. Typical German then. Look past the lack of curves and the sharp, almost Transformers-like looks and the asymmetrical headlight, and you start to realize just how much functionality there is.
The GS has a presence most bikes only wish they could match. It cuts an imposing silhouette that demands attention as it flies by on or off-road. No other bike can match the purposefulness of the design of the BMW.
Finally, here's a bike that fits a 6’2” Top Gear writer. The seat is wide, and the reach to the pegs and arms provide me with a very comfortable and spacious riding position. For those a bit shorter than me, don’t lose hope because the GS that arrives on our shores is available with a lower suspension. Couple that with the 1 minute seat adjustment between 'Low' and 'High,' and there is a GS for everyone.
The adjustable screen readily deflects air on your face at highway speeds, and the buttons on the bars are well laid out and easy to reach with your digits while riding.
The R 1200 GS is powered by a 1,170cc boxer-twin that puts out 125hp through a solid, low maintenance drive shaft. The decision to put a horizontally opposed boxer engine may seem like nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. But take the bike on the road, and suddenly, the whole reason for the choice of engine becomes clear: the center of gravity.
With the center of gravity on the bottom part of the bike, what seems like a large and ungainly motorcycle becomes light and nimble at any speed just past jogging pace.
The power is delivered by the twin in an extremely smooth manner, with none of the jerky fueling that plagues the contenders to the adventure bike throne. It’s so smooth and torque is so high that at any gear, at any speed, give it the beans and the bike accelerates smoothly and without drama.
RIDE AND HANDLING
The center of gravity is the piece de resistance of the R 1200 GS. With it being so low, thanks to the engine, the bike handles like a much smaller bike both on- and off-road. This is one of the big reasons why we see women riding the GS.
On the road, it will gladly fall sideways into a corner, allowing you to confidently and accurately pick your line through the apex. While taking it off-road, the GS keeps the illusion of being a smaller bike as it dances on and around corners in dirt.
Don’t believe the naysayers that claim that the GS is a handful off-road because of its 538lbs fully-fueled weight, it isn’t really that bad. Yes, it may be hard to pick up if you drop it, but until you do, the GS is amazingly capable, even with road-biased tires equipped as standard.
The highlights are the amazing dynamic ESA suspension and riding mode selection. The Dynamic ESA allows you to use one button to change the suspension electronically for one-up, two-up, or two-up with luggage riding. It’s called dynamic because it also automatically adjusts the suspension depending on the weight being placed on the bike.
This suspension is coupled with riding modes, which can vary from 'Rain,' to 'Dynamic,' and 'Enduro.' The riding modes affect the computers controlling the traction and stability control and ABS making the bike extremely adaptable to any situation you decide to put the bike in. It is supremely adaptable and makes even a newbie like me look good off-road.
At the start of my motorcycle journey, I dreamt of one day riding a BMW GS. It just epitomized everything I look for in a motorcycle. It had a long range, looked great, handled beautifully, and had that little bit of special sauce when it comes to adventure riding that made it the best-selling adventure bike in the world.
Today, I am still completely, unrelentingly in love with the R 1200 GS. For me, this is the ideal motorcycle, and it’s not just because of my height, but because when you are adventuring, you want a machine completely and utterly designed for the task at hand, and for that, nothing comes close to the BMW.
For the sake of transparency, this Bimmer suddenly went on a ‘limp mode’ on my way back from Aurora province, limiting its rev to just 4,000rpm. Luckily, the GS made it back to Quezon City cruising at 100kph in sixth gear. BMW Motorrad PH mechanics claim it is probably the throttle position sensor. If not for this bummer, the GS would have raked a perfect score.
SPECS: BMW R 1200 GS
Engine: 1,170cc Liquid-cooled 4-stroke twin-cylinder boxer engine
Transmission: 6-speed transmission
Final drive: Shaft
Power: 125hp @ 7,750rpm
Torque: 125Nm @ 6,500rpm
Seat height: 33.5”
Unladen weight (road ready, fully fueled): 538lbs
Price: P 1,415,000