Ok gents, here is the first installment of my official review. A bit long and wordy... They don't call me "Monologue Shawn for nothing... ;o) Enjoy!
Today finds me sitting in my front driveway, replacing the worn rear tire of my R1200GS Adventure with a shiny new knobby. At sunrise I will make my way to Death Valley, where a group of adventurers will join me in tackling some epic mountain passes.
But I need to move fast if I’m to take advantage of the full riding opportunities between here and DV. Sure, I could slog along the interstates and make great time. But twisties beckon; Hwy’s 25, 198, and 155 all are within reach of my ride route, and are amongst my favorite yank-n-bank back roads in California. To skip them in favor of time-saving would be a travesty.
And really, that’s what I love about my GS. Whatever riding I’m in the mood for, the bike accommodates. Together we’ve been on the racetrack, hopping boulders, threading traffic… You name it, we’ve probably done it.
When BMW offered me the chance to ride the new water-cooled BMW R 1200 GS in South Africa, I was beside myself with excitement. After all, I have spent the last 10 years learning, riding, and understanding the GS lineup. There is no machine I know better. To be on the leading edge of the 2013 release was, in a word, AFrigginDreamComeTrue.
So when I found myself on a plane bound for Johannesburg, something occurred to me. How different will the new GS really be? What if they changed it too much, or not enough? What if I don’t like it? What a bummer it would be to come home holding a thumbs down to BMW’s flagship motorcycle.
It was more pressure than I had considered when saying “yesyesyes!” to the opportunity. Not that thoughtful consideration would have stopped me. But I did make a promise to myself on that plane ride to South Africa; “Ride it hard. Let it speak to me. Offer my thoughts. Be real.” Yeah. I can do that!
After 33 hours of travel, I find myself standing in a hotel courtyard near George, South Africa. On my immediate agenda: Sleep, Shower, Sleep. …Or so I thought. Someone has spotted a new GS on display, and beckons me to come take a look.
At first glance, the new R1200GS looks in many ways distinctly similar to its predecessors. The lines and Subframe, wheels, handlebars, panels and seating—while clearly redesigned—all screamed with flare from past GS models.
I steal the chance to climb aboard, mumbling my impressions to no one in particular. “The foot pegs are wider and more comfortable. The handlebar distance feels the same, still adjustable. The seat is firmer, perhaps a bit narrower. The clutch… Wow… That’s smooth…”
Michael Thewke, a lead designer, hears my whispers and chimes in. “We redesigned the clutch to allow easier actuation. It now needs only a light touch to be used. Much easier on the hand.”
“Feels good. I’m Shawn, By the way.”
We shake hands and continue chatting. I come to learn that Michael is one of the chief designers of the new GS, and a heck of a nice guy. For the next 2 hours—and a few beers—he and his cohort, designer Helge Andree, indulge my flurry of questions.
The GS, it seems, has been redesigned to the extent that not a single part is shared with its predecessors (a point which we playfully argued back & forth on, as there were a few parts I’d wear were identical).
Here are a few of my notes from that encounter, organized by category. A lot if info that is available out there in internet land… But, it was cool to see it with my own eyes…!
Comfort and Ergonomics:
- Body Position: Sitting posture feels good, nearly identical to previous model. Standing feels good, upper fairings feel a bit wider but still comfortable. Electrical:
- Footpegs: Stock pegs are wider than before. Rubber inserts seem more stable, and remain easily removable.
- Windscreen: Screen is now taller and narrower. Upper fairing seems designed to offer enhanced wind protection. Screen adjustment is far easier, accomplished with one hand from rider’s seat.
- Handlebars: Bar position similar to other models. Adjustability remains. Ability to add aftermarket bar risers seems to remain; there is plenty of extra control cable to accommodate a higher bar placement.
- Shifting: Clutch is considerably smoother and easier to actuate. Lever adjustment controls are larger and easier to use. Foot Shifter is more robust. Adjustment is possible via a linkage assembly, allowing a more fine-tuned positioning.
- Braking: Brake lever feels similar to predecessor. Foot lever is redesigned and offers a larger footprint. OEM lever with flip-down off-road attachment will be available.
- Seat: seat feels narrower, a bit stiffer. Height and camber adjustment available as standard. Passenger seat can now be slid forward or back for rider comfort. One-piece Rally seat available.
- Side Stand: The stand has been redesigned to offer a much less obtrusive presence. When standing, my heel no longer pushes against it accidentally, which would cause the engine to shut off.
- Center Stand: Center stand remains easy to use. Minimal effort was required to get the bike up on the stand.
- Instrument panel: Panel now offers considerably more information, including riding modes, heated grip position, engine temperature, etc. There is a lot to take in; it will require some getting used to… Especially for less “techy” riders. Engine & Drive Train:
- Hand Controls: Operator Controls have been upgraded to current lineup standard. Placement seems intuitive… But like the instrument panel, there will most certainly be a learning curve.
- Cruise Control: FINALLY!
- Optional GPS: Placed on an accessory bar above the instrument panel. Partial GPS control is now achieved via left handlebar controller (sweet!). Placement of GPS obstructs my view of RPM and speedometer.
- Headlight: New LED headlight design. Plastic replaces glass as light protection. Was not clear on whether the plastic could be replaced in the event of damage, or if the entire assembly required replacement (as with predecessor).
- Accessory Socket: Socket is now placed near the instrument display. A sub-frame mounted socket is available as an accessory. Max power draw remains at 5 amps.
- Valve Covers: As with all Boxer Models, the opposing twin remains highly exposed to impact in the event of a fall. The new model mounts the valve cover using 3 bolts (2 exposed, 1 under the spark plug cover) which, hopefully, will offer additional durability over the 2-bolt mounting design of 2010-2012 models. Performance and Suspension
- Throttle Bodies: A first for BMW new design mounts the throttle bodies vertically, on top of the cylinders. This design frees the space near the rider’s legs and, presumably, offers additional protection for these delicate components (no more using the cylinder as a highway peg... Oh well). According to designers this layout also offers much more efficient fuel and air delivery.
- Radiators: The new design incorporates 2 radiators, residing behind and to the sides of the front suspension. They are protected by outer shrouds which help direct airflow (Shrouds have a metalized finish applied using a technique that minimizes fingerprint residue. Pretty cool). According to the designers, about half of the engine cooling still occurs via the passage of air over the cylinders, allowing the water radiators to be relatively small and unobtrusive. I remain concerned as to the durability of these radiators; they seem highly exposed in the event of a fall. We’ll see.
- Engine: The 1170cc motor now puts out a whopping 125bhp and 125Nm Torque (can’t wait to try it!).
- Transmission: The 6-speed gearbox now resides within the engine block. This design allows for centralization of weight, the extra space created give room for a longer rear swing arm.
- Clutch: The new “Wet Clutch” also resides within the main engine housing. The design allows for a smaller and more efficient assembly to be used. Clutch actuation is smoooooooth and easy.
- Front Suspension: The new GS continues to utilize the single shock, Telelever front suspension system, which separates breaking force from suspension travel and all but eliminates brake dive. The Telelever itself has been redesigned and appears more robust. A new sensor has been added that allows monitoring and almost instantaneous adjustment of the suspension by the bike for road conditions. Sweet! Optional Accessories
- Rear Suspension: The rear suspension continues with the use of Paralever & driveshaft, but is now mounted on the opposite side. The Paralever is notably longer, which the designer claims will improve handling. As with the front, a sensor has been added to monitor and adjust suspension to accommodate road conditions.
- Riding Modes: New to the GS are the riding modes which, when selected, adjust engine performance, ABS, Electronic Suspension, and Traction Control. Within these presets (rain, road, dynamic, Enduro), a rider can “fine tune” many control settings to their liking. This is a great feature, but it will certainly come with a learning curve (it did for me). “Enduro Pro” mode is also available, though only when the rider inserts a “chip” under the seat (included with purchase). Riders are warned only to use the Enduro Pro feature when riding aggressively off-road with “knobby” tires.
- Top & Side Cases: Vario Cases have a similar look and feel to their predecessors. Case mounting has been simplified and appears more robust. The top case is now larger, offering additional internal height (easier to cram helmets inside!). I still would be concerned taking these cases off-road, as they seem a bit fragile for a strong tip-over. Time will tell.
- Skid Plate: A larger skid plate is available which protects more of the engine. The gauge is thin, but it's still a heck of a lot more protection than stock.
- Hand Protection: The hand protections continue to offer resilience from brush and branches, as well as wind protection. They seem tough enough to take a fall, a lot more so than previous designs. Still, unlike some aftermarket options these are probably not intended for bike protection.
- Foot Pegs: A surprising accessory is the new Enduro Footpegs. They are wider than stock, and offer significantly more grip. In addition, the rubber insert is spring loaded… When sitting, the spring backing helps absorb vibrational shock. When standing, the rider’s weight causes the rubber to retract; exposing additional grip points and offering positive foot traction (Mr. Thewke was particularly proud of this invention, as he should be. Veeeeery cool!).
- Engine Protection: The engine bar design is completely new, and seems more robust. I expect there to be some tip-overs during the ride (probably me), I will be checking to see how well the bars protect the bike.
So with a few notes on the new machine swimming in my noggin, it was time to sleep. Soon the official welcoming ceremony would commence, followed by what we all came here to do… RIDE!
(To be continued…)