BMW R 1200 GS

What is it?

It has been a motorcycle legend for the past three decades, so if you don’t know it, you are probably from Pluto. BMW Motorrad calls this bike a travel enduro, which means this is the type of bike you would take on journeys, travelling the planet − but not only by tar, off-road too. Most people talk about adventure bikes. The R 1200 GS is part of the very popular 1200cc segment, so it’s been around for a while. What’s new about it? Everything: this model makes the previous one look like an antique. Still, BMW kept the essential character of the big boxer and, at heart, it’s the same bike that was built 30 years ago and has got better and better with age.


It is the same 1170cc flat-twin engine (boxer) as before, but it’s now air- and water cooled and not air- and oil cooled as the past 30 years. So-called precision cooling (a principle similar to that used in Formula One) is used in the engine. This involves only those engine elements being cooled with coolant, which are particularly exposed to thermal stress. The engine still continues to use air cooling, thereby preserving the characteristic appearance of the opposed-twin boxer engine. The two radiators are small and inconspicuously integrated.

The engine’s output is substantial higher and the boxer now delivers 92kW and 125Nm instead of 81kW and 120Nm.

For the first time, the engine housing integrates the six-speed gearbox as well as a wet clutch with anti-hopping function, instead of the dry clutch as was used previously. What is more, the secondary drive now runs via the well-established drive shaft on the left-hand side of the bike.

Style, instruments and equipment

Every time a new BMW is launched there are some new electronic features available. The 1200 GS is the flagship of the Motorrad business and, therefore, it comes with a spaceship full of gadgets.

All BMWs now feature ABS as standard. The 1200’s ABS was upgraded and now is better for off-road use. In the Enduro Pro riding mode the ABS function is disengaged at the rear and only active at the front.

The bike now comes with five riding modes that you can choose from. Every mode has a different set-up, which determines the E-gas setting (the throttle and engine are connected electronically and there are different settings which determine the throttle response and acceleration), the Automatic Stability Control (ASC) and the Dynamic ESA (electronic suspension) in specific ways. There’s Rain, Road, Dynamic, Enduro and Enduro Pro modes to choose from.

In Rain mode the throttle response of the ride-by-wire system is very smooth and although the full power and torque potential could be reached, the bike won’t accelerate as hard. The ASC responds more readily in Rain mode and the electronic suspension is set to be softer at the front and rear.

Dynamic mode reveals the sportiest face of the new BMW R 1200 GS for road riding. An even more spontaneous and direct throttle response, restrained ASC intervention and tighter damping in the case of the Dynamic ESA option bring the full potential of the machine to bear.

Enduro mode gives you a softer throttle response again. The ASC, ABS and suspension are now set for optimum performance on gravel.

Enduro Pro mode gives you all the power, stiffer suspension, less control from the ASC and only ABS on the front brakes.

You have the choice to switch off all the electronic rider aids if you want to – and you can now switch between the different settings while riding. And when the bike is switched off and on again, everything stays where it was.

The new user interface gives you an analogue speedo and rev counter. All the other info is displayed on a very clear LCD screen, which is easy to read.

You have the option of LED daylight running headlights on this bike.

Overall, the new 1200 GS looks very different from the previous model. The front fairings look quite stylish and sharp. They also hide and protect the two new radiators fitted. The front of the bike looks much thinner  and it is. You will feel the difference when you stand up and ride, there’s no petrol tank or wide seat forcing your knees from each other.


It’s the performance of this bike that makes it feel totally different from before. It feels as if much more than 11kW and 5Nm were added. The throttle response from the E-gas system is incredible. The acceleration is lightning-quick. From 120km/h to 200km/h feels like a second. Whenever you twist the throttle there are heaps of power and torque propelling the bike forward. But if the power feels like too much to handle, you just select a riding mode that tames it all a bit.

Gearshifts are smooth as soft butter. And the new exhaust sounds very different, but much more sporty that before.

Ride and Handling

The first thing I noticed was that the bike felt lighter than the previous 1200 GS. It is actually 4kg heavier, but the weight distribution has been excellently planned. The second thing I noticed was the head shake or tank slap of the bike, even on bumpy tar roads. I think the steering of the bike got too light when BMW shifted the weight more backwards from the front. On certain gravel stretches the bike’s steering got quite out of hand and that can cause serious problems.

There’s a lot more space around the foot pegs and your boots won’t struggle to get to the gear or brake levers. The seat is a bit narrower, which means better riding when standing up. When sitting down the seat also offers great comfort.

The Dynamic ESA works perfectly and when you are in the right setting for the road surface you are on you will have a very comfortable ride without bottoming out. On the gravel stretches, the bike felt solid and handled well, but the steering did shake around at times.

I did some heavy braking at times and the brakes did a great job, with or without ABS.


Like: The snappy throttle response and great power.

Dislike: The shaky steering.

Verdict and rating

The R 1200 GS gets better every time a new model is released, but it really feels as if it is almost perfect now and can’t get much better. 9/10

Also consider

KTM 1190 Adventure, Yamaha XT 1200 Z Ténéré, Triumph 1200 Explorer, Honda VFR 1200 X Cross Tourer, Ducati 1200 S Granturismo, Aprillia Caponord 1200, Moto Guzzi Stelvio

Specifications for BMW R 1200 GS

  • Engine  1170cc flat-twin engine (boxer), water and air cooled
  • Gearbox  Six-speed gearbox with slipper clutch, shaft drive
  • Power   92kW@7700r/min
  • Torque  125Nm@6500r/min
  • Weight  238kg, ready to ride
  • Seat height  850/870mm
  • Fuel capacity  20 litres
  • Fuel consumption  Average of 5.5litre/100km
  • Warranty and servicing  Two-year, unlimited km warranty, 10 000km service intervals.
  • Price  Base model – R140 800, to get extras you should choose from various packages like the Touring package – R14 100, the Dynamic package – R19 995 or the Active package – R8 850
  • Ridden by Bikeroutes  June 2013
  • Review by Willem van der Berg

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