What is it?
It has been a legend for three decades, so if you don’t know it, you are probably from Uranus. BMW Motorrad calls this bike a travel enduro, meaning it can take you on very long journeys − not only on tar, but off road too. Most people call them adventure bikes.
The BMW R 1200 GS belongs to the popular 1200 cc segment. What’s new? Well, it makes the previous version seem like a classic. Still, BMW kept the essential character of the big boxer. At heart it’s the same bike that was conceived over 30 years ago and got better and better with age.
It is the same 1 170 cc 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 liquid; parts that are particularly exposed to thermal stress. The engine continues to use air cooling, thereby preserving the characteristic appearance of the opposed-twin boxer engine, providing additional heat management. The two radiators are small and inconspicuously integrated.
The engine’s output is substantially higher and the boxer now delivers 92 kW and 125 Nm, instead of 81 kW and 120 Nm.
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 before. 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 BMW introduces a new bike, there are new electronic features. The R 1200 GS is the flagship of the Motorrad business; therefore it comes with a spaceship full of gadgets.
All BMWs now have ABS as standard. The 1200’s ABS was upgraded and performs better in 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: Rain, Road, Dynamic, Enduro and Enduro Pro. Each mode has a different set-up, which determines the E-gas setting. The throttle and engine are connected electronically. Different settings determine the throttle response and acceleration, as well as the Automatic Stability Control (ASC) and the Dynamic ESA (electronic suspension).
In Rain mode the throttle response of the ride-by-wire system is very smooth. 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 personality 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 a softer throttle response. The ASC, ABS and suspension are now set for optimum performance on gravel.
Enduro Pro mode gives you all the power, stiffer suspension, less intervention from the ASC and ABS on the front brakes only.
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. When the bike is switched off and, the chosen settings remain.
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.
Customers have the option of an LED daylight running headlight 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 radiators. The front of the bike looks much thinner and it is too. You will feel the difference when you stand up and ride, as 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 11 kW and 5 Nm were unleashed. The throttle response from the E-gas system is incredible. The acceleration is lightning-quick. From 120 km/h to 200 km/h feels like it happens in 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 reins it in a bit.
Gear shifts 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 4 kg heavier, but the weight distribution has been well engineered. The second thing I noticed was the head shake or tank slap of the bike, even on (bumpy) tar roads. Perhaps the weight on the front axle of the bike became too light when BMW shifted the weight rearwards. On certain gravel stretches the bike’s steering got 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 appropriate setting for the road surface you are on, you will enjoy a very comfortable ride without the suspension bottoming out. On gravel stretches the bike felt solid and handled well, but the steering did shake at times.
I did hard brake tests and the anchors did a great job, with or without ABS selected.
Like: The snappy throttle response and immense power.
Dislike: The shaky steering.
Verdict and rating
The BMW R 1200 GS gets better every time a new model is released, but it feels almost perfect now and can’t get much better. Have a steering damper fitted, though. 8/10
Specifications of BMW R 1200 GS (2013)
- Engine 1 170 cc flat-twin engine (boxer), water and air cooled
- Gearbox Six-speed gearbox with slipper clutch, shaft drive
- Power 92 kW @ 7 700 r/min
- Torque 125 Nm @ 6 500 r/min
- Weight 238 kg, ready to ride
- Seat height 850/870mm
- Fuel capacity 20 litres
- Fuel consumption Average of 5.5 litre/100km
- Warranty and servicing Two-year, unlimited km warranty, 10 000 km 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
- Review and photos by Willem van der Berg, June 2013