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Old 02-05-2013, 12:13 AM   #151
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Originally Posted by ShawnWorks View Post
Hey guys, just got back... Death Valley was kickass, though that is a story for another day... Putting my final ride review rogether now, hope to have it done in the next day or so... Tick tock!
Woo hoo
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Old 02-05-2013, 10:52 AM   #152
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Shawn, its starting to get late here in Europe ;)
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Old 02-05-2013, 11:04 AM   #153
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Originally Posted by Rauven View Post
Shawn, its starting to get late here in Europe ;)
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Old 02-05-2013, 12:39 PM   #154
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Originally Posted by Rauven View Post
Shawn, its starting to get late here in Europe ;)
Welcome to the dark side.
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Old 02-05-2013, 04:22 PM   #155
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Final Review: The Ride

Here it is guys, my final write-up on the New R 1200 GS... Hope you enjoy it!


It’s 6:15am in South Africa, and I am teeming with nervous energy. The last 2 hours have been spent tossing & turning, then flicking on local television (lots of home shopping and sit-coms… Not all that different than insomniac programming in the US). I have since rolled out of bed, slipped into my tired old riding gear and made my way to the breakfast hall.

Along the way I pass the hotel lobby, where a string of new BMW R 1200 GS’s are lined up for a day of riding. I detour to the bikes, wondering which will be mine. I come across a tall directory board, littered with bits of information about the day. I scan it, taking note of my information:

Shawn Thomas
M-GS 459


I walk along the bikes, scanning the number plates.

There it is. 459.

I take it in, reciting the features I can see to no one in particular. “Race Red. ABS, Electronic Suspension, Traction Control. GPS. Stock Footpegs. Spoked Wheels…”

The bike is pristine, not even grime on the tires from rolling it out. Nice! I reach out, lightly touching the Subframe, then the side panel. So smooth…

“You gonna ride today sir?”

I bolt upright, heel-spinning to face one of the hotel attendants. “Uh, yeah. Planning on it. Good times!”

He has a strange look on his face. Perhaps he has never seen a grown man drool on a motorcycle.

“Alright sir, have a good one.” With a nod (and another quizzical stare) he is off, leaving me feeling a bit silly. Perhaps breakfast is in order.

With a quick scarfing of food I am back at the bike, scanning every inch. I still haven't heard it run, and am curious whether the sound will be different. When they hand me the key, I will take a few moments to start it, listen, and soak it in.

Soon other members of our group arrive. Our leader brings us together, walking us through the first leg of the ride and offering sound advice. “You will be on bikes you’ve never ridden, in a foreign country, riding on the opposite side of the road. We’re in no hurry, so let’s take it easy while you get accustomed to the experience, shall we?”
I appreciate the advice. I am here to learn about the bike, and want to savor every moment. I look forward to feeling it out a little bit at a time…


The first bike in our group starts, quickly followed by others. The leader is moving. Whoa! I slap the starter and fall in line. We ease through the parking lot, then roll onto the main drag.


Finally, we are riding! The pace is quick, I roll on the throttle to catch the group. Remembering my purpose, I rattle off observations: “Intense power at first-gear roll-on. Response to turning is lighter, more flickable. Power curve is predictable, engine is super-smooth. Overall weight feels the same as its predecessor. Body position is a bit tight, need to adjust handlebars and seat height. GPS partially blocks view of speedo and tachometer. Wind protection is excellent, minimal buffeting.”

I click into 2nd, then 3rd, taking note of the transmission feel. “Shifting is smoother, easier. Clutch is easy to actuate, Transmission ‘clicks’ instead of ‘clunks’ through gears. Suspension feels squishy…”

I click the ‘Ride Mode’ button, scanning the display for settings and switching to ‘Dynamic.’ The bike tightens up. Much better. I play with the windscreen adjuster; It becomes increasingly challenging to manipulate as our speed increases, but offers exceptional protection.

We weave our way through the outskirts of town, climbing a twisty mountain pass. The pace quickens more still, our string of motorcycles carving and banking along the asphalt.

“Throttle is intense. Pulled a wheelie out of the corner, Traction Control kicked in and settled the front. Traction control is smooth, but makes its presence known. Noticeable heat on right side, near muffler. Is that from the bike, or the sun beating down on my leg?”

Off the mountain we turn from the asphalt, stopping at our first dirt road. The ride leader assists us in switching the bikes to “Enduro” mode, engaging the off-road ride settings. Bikes begin to roll, and after a settling of dust I join in at the rear of the pack.

“Standing posture is good, still need to adjust handlebars. Pegs are stable, but still a bit narrow and low on grip. Side panels are wider, have to open stance for lean-forward acceleration. Rear tire offers minimal acceleration break-free in Enduro mode. Engine deceleration is less pronounced, no doubt the new ‘Anti-Hopping’ clutch at play. GPS is not adjustable, unable to move it for view when standing. Handling inspires confidence, very reactionary to the terrain and stable. Stance feels good while turning, easy grip on bike. Breaking is assisted; ABS Still engaged, but minimal. Feels good!”

After a few moments the bike feels natural. I come out of a wide sweeping turn, easing past another rider and settling into a groove. I lift my hands a bit off the bars, feeling for any instability. Rock solid. I am confused by a truck approaching in my lane, only to remember that I am supposed to be on the LEFT. Oops.

Soon we are back on asphalt. The rider in front of me pulls an epic wheelie, and I am inclined to try one. I slip into second, rolling on hard at 5,500rpm. The front lightens, then traction control kicks in and sets me down. “Damn. How do I turn traction control off?”

We stop at the lunch waypoint, and I take a moment to stare at the controls. They are a bit intimidating; vast amounts of adjustments and information are available, the learning curve will be higher than usual. The future of motorcycling, no doubt.

Our ride leader brings us to another set of shiny new R 1200 GS’s, these equipped for off-road… All are tricked out with off-road tires, engine protection bars, skid plates, hand guards, Enduro seats, and wider footpegs. Now THIS is my kind of motorcycle!

“These are the bikes you will be riding for the next leg. We will be doing some intense off-road, and taking pictures. The ‘Enduro-Pro’ option is engaged on these bikes, so you will be able to ride them much more aggressively. Ready to go?”

With a swig of water we are on the bikes, taking single-track up a steep, rock laden mountain. Again the bike feels natural, responding intently to input. “Off-Road Pegs are much more comfortable. Seat allows free movement. Tires are a lot more confidence inspiring. Traction control smooth’s out the climb considerably.”

We drop into a small valley, where men with very large cameras await. They waive for us to pass them, snapping shots as we approach. As I wait for the next photo pass, I put the bike into slow, tight turning circles. “Well balanced in turns. Damn… still need to adjust the handlebars. Throttle is manageable at low speeds, need to get used to the clutch feel. Starting to feel heat from the right side again, definitely not the sun.”

I get a wave to come for my next photo shoot, and set my approach.


Out of the turn I overwork the clutch, killing the motor and dropping the bike. Damn. I go to lift it, stopping momentarily to look for damage. “Engine bars holding, valve cover is untouched. Hand Protectors kept radiator guard from touching down. Not bad!”

I lift the bike and climb aboard. Embarrassment notwithstanding, I am happy to have seen a bike on its side. I didn’t expect anything to be busted after such a light fall, but it is good to see with my own eyes.

More maneuvering, more photographs. The cameraman asks for a ‘wheelie shot,’ which I attempt—and fail—to achieve (where the heck is that traction control override??).

Soon we have returned to our lunch stop, and are enjoying local cuisine. Our original bikes are glistening, having been cleaned while we were on the dirt leg. Sweet! We finish up, offer thanks for the food and huddle up once again with our ride leader.

“Next we will ride a twisty canyon road, then take on another stretch of dirt before heading to lodging. Everybody ready?”

Again I climb aboard, taking my place at the end of the pack and starting on a stretch of straight asphalt. I click into second, then reach down and click the traction control override. In a second it is off, and I roll into a glorious, fulfilling wheelie. FINALLY!


It wasn’t long after our lunch departure that the ride was cut short, due to the fatal accident involving Moto-Journalist Kevin Ash. In the wake of this tragedy it was decided that riders should B-line to lodging, where we could shed our gear and begin coming to grips with the news of Kevin. At dinner it was announced that all riding would be suspended, pending an accident investigation. My epic journey on the new GS was at an end.

Still, I feel I left South Africa with a firm understanding of the machine that BMW has introduced to the Adventure world. Do I love the bike? Yes. Throughout its history, the GS has embodied every sort of riding I enjoy; Sport, touring, off-road, exploring, joy riding, and whathaveyou. The new GS continues in this tradition, with a solid rooting in the traditional ideals and thoughtful improvements.

Are there things I will change when I buy one? Yes. The stark reality is that few people push the GS as hard as the folks in my circle, and this highlights the need for consideration in areas such as bike protection, luggage, etc... And given my size (6’ 4” and 220 pounds ), elements such as ergonomics are a focal point for me. But I have no doubt that such enhancements will be readily available, as they always are… Both from BMW and countless others out there.

Do I think you should try one? YES. As a Motorcycle Sales veteran, I have learned that the machine will speak volumes to the rider if given the chance. With all the specs and reviews and information available to us, nothing beats a ride on the bike—or bikes—one is considering for their next purchase. So take it out. Press some buttons, roll on the throttle, tackle a corner (or 20), and let the bike speak to you. With a little time, you will know if it’s the bike for you…!

Friends, I want to thank you for giving me your attention. I am honored to have been a part of this experience. In the future, please consider me as a resource for adventure riding. I’m an easy guy to find, and love talking bikes… ESPECIALLY the GS. Drop me a line and I will help in any way I can… Just be patient… I might be out riding when you call!

"I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it."

- Rosalia de Castro
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Old 02-05-2013, 04:29 PM   #156
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Thank you!
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Old 02-05-2013, 04:45 PM   #157
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Excellent, well done Shawn!
Whenever we are riding, we are an ambassador to our sport

I'd rather be riding!

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Old 02-05-2013, 04:48 PM   #158
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Thanks for the review Shawn! And I'm definitely interested in taking a Rawhyde class at some point so hopefully get to meet you.

One quick're pretty tall at 6'4" and it sounds like you didn't have much buffeting from the windscreen at that the case? Normally someone of your height would require an aftermarket windscreen to be comfortable, but are you happy with the stock screen?

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Old 02-05-2013, 06:37 PM   #159
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Originally Posted by marty hill View Post
Thank you!
Marty, you getting the new GS?
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Old 02-05-2013, 06:40 PM   #160
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Great review, thank you!
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Old 02-05-2013, 07:54 PM   #161
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Old 02-05-2013, 08:21 PM   #162
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Thank you for the review, Shawn, and like EJ, would hope to attend your school someday.

As for the review, the only two points that caught my attention were the heat factor (due to the height of the pipe perhaps? I'll feel it soon my self I suppose) and the "reactionary" nature of the bike when off road, I will assume that you meant it in a positive way.

Thanks again,
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Old 02-05-2013, 10:02 PM   #163
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Thanks for taking the time under duress. So sorry you went through that.

On a brighter note:
Did the BMW reps have a sit down tech briefing/review before your ride?
I'm curious if they addressed the final drive design and the persistent failures it's delivered over the last 10 years? Any mention of it at all? I'm sure the Iron Butt gang will want to know about this.

So glad BMW finally joined the 20th century with a modern wet clutch and modern gear box. Poor shifting has been a BMW hallmark for decades ... is it true the gear box is Japanese?

Did you get a chance to quiz any of the BMW engineers? Any news or surprises? Secrets to be revealed?

Sounds like a very refined and capable bike. Not sure just how many will choose to spend a cool $20,000 on a dirt bike ... but the GS always surprises me with it's continued success.

Thanks again for your insights. (PS ... you should have stayed in Africa another two weeks and done some exploring. Not often you get free R/T air fare! )
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Old 02-06-2013, 01:39 AM   #164
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Glad to hear it's a lovely bike. Now the long wait for mine to arrive.

And it didn't nearly took as long to read as it would seem in advance.

Would love to take an allroad training, but the USA is just a tad to far. Germany or Spain are the logical choises for me.
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Old 02-06-2013, 01:51 AM   #165
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OK more questions:
  • Heard anything about the alleged "tank slapping" issue?
  • Did you feel anything weird yourself? (erm... while riding I mean )
  • Except maybe the heat (first to notice this in the reviews... and it wasn't even from the cooling fan, but from the exhaust), anything else you find it worse than STOCK "current" GS?
  • What is the single best feature you believe the new model has?
  • About Ash disaster, will you let us know of what was discussed between you guys down there? There is REAL lack of info on this.
  • From you description it seemed like you didn't have time to discuss with BMW representatives, or even just fix your handlebar (!)... Is that a fact or you just cut the story shorter? I mean it sounds a bit weird "hi, let's go - ok that's enough, bye".

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