BMW R 1200 GS – Launch Report

If KTM unleashed the horses of the apocalypse with its new adventure range, then BMW followed a softly-softly approach with its new R 1200 GS.

So, there’s no full-colour instrument display, power increase (it’s still 92 kW) or built-in cappuccino maker. But it’s not one of those paint-and-sticker updates either. There are notable differences between the all-new liquid cooled GS that arrived in 2013 and this refreshed 2017 model.

BMW R 1200 GS
The new Rallye version of the BMW 1200 GS

More safety tech
One of the most useful additions, especially for reborn or newbie bikers, is Dynamic Traction Control (DTC). The GS now makes it possible for the rider to apply too much throttle in a banked position, i.e. when leaning in a corner, without necessarily coming off the bike and joining that big rally in the sky. Equally useful and also acting as a fail-safe when cornering, is ABS Pro, that allows riders to brake hard in a corner. When doing so, ABS Pro will prevent the bike from unintentionally returning to an upright position and going straight ahead.

Members of the media on the new 1200GS
Buyers can now choose between three distinct GS models: standard, Rally and Adventure

Speaking of brakes, the new GS and its rider can move off easily after stopping on an incline, thanks to Hill Start Control. Most bikers have mastered this the old-fashioned way, but loaded with luggage and a pillion, this will quickly become a pleasant convenience.

The new GS has another trick for that heavy load: self-levelling suspension. Like the Citroën DS of old, the suspension will compensate for different loads. More importantly, this Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) will adjust the damping automatically to match different riding conditions and manoeuvres – if the rider so wishes.

More choice
The suspension thing gets even more interesting: Motorrad has added a new GS model, called the R1200GS Rallye. As standard equipment it gets wider foot pegs, cross-spoke wheels, a short screen and compact seat that allows the rider to position his body more easily, enduro style. The Rallye can be equipped with harder, taller enduro dampers and studded wheels.

Rider and Rallye performing a slide
The GS Rallye can be fitted with harder, taller sports suspension

So, there’s a new model derivative, more safety in corners and self-levelling suspension. But that’s not all – BMW has also endowed the bike with more electronic rider modes than before, for further tailoring your riding experience and to artificially enhance a rider’s ability. I would love to explain these settings to you here, but I’ll need a month with a GS to experiment with and possibly make sense of them. You can download more info on these settings here or ask a Motorrrad salesman to explain them. What I can tell you is that your electronic fine-tuning will stay as is, if you turn the ignition off and on.

The ride
We spent the first half day on tar, where the battleship proved again why it’s as good a mile muncher as the dedicated tourers in the stable, the K1600 and R1200RT.

The GS is by no means under-powered, but the Orange Brigade will be quick to point out that the BMW’s boxer engine makes 26 kW less than the KTM 1290’s 118 kW. Having ridden the 1290 for three days in Europe and then getting on the BMW, it felt like I suddenly had an obese pillion on the back, but only when accelerating.

A meerkat on a BMW R1200GS
The new GS proved stable on gravel. A steering damper is fitted as standard

The next morning we mixed tar and gravel riding near Pilanesberg, where the bike showed good stability on the dirt sections. A steering damper is fitted as standard.

It was interesting that two journalists on the launch remarked that this new GS, although not completely new, has acquired at least some of the X-factor that was missing from its predecessor of 2013-2016. It’s more fun to ride than before, they said. To me it just felt like the comfortable, solid, premium product it has always been.

Wilmarie on a stofdonkie
The familiar boxer engine in the 1200GS now meets Euro 4 emission requirements

Considering the new electronic modes and cornering aids I’m tempted to ask, “who needs all this sh*t?” But if these gadgets and algorithms can prevent riders from scraping off very expensive Tupperware (or skin), it makes sense. Still, it does make me yearn for a BMW HP2 or basic Africa Twin.

Price: 239 000 – R242 000

A gaggle of big GS bikes in the morning sun
Slow depreciation, BMW-on-call, comfort and build quality will ensure the success of the new GS