BMW R 1200 GS | Review

Motorcycle Review

For this year BMW has graced their globetrotting ambassador GS with the heads from their HP2 (high-performance 2 cylinder) motor, upgrading the stalwart German Boxer Twin to relatively respectable state of the art technology.

The HP2 heads possess double overhead cams and four valves per cylinder for more efficient burn and transfer of gases. The time-proven, air/oil-cooled 1170cc Boxer twin retains a bore & stroke of 101.0mm x 73.0mm, with the new high performance heads pumping up the GS’ power to 110 horsepower (at 7,750 rpm).

The printed number on the spec sheet reflects an appreciable boost of five horsepower over last year’s model, but truth be told, these figures don’t do the new motor justice. In reality, the in-the-seat throttle response and overall performance of the big twin has been improved significantly.

The HP2 engine add-ons provide a more solid hit off the bottom with a much more powerful response through the entire twist of the throttle. That little hesitation that plagued the earlier GS machines has been smoothed out considerably. Throttle response is crisp and the engine builds revs remarkably quick.

The new GS also has a very distinguishable exhaust note courtesy the HP2 engine mods that adds appropriate audio to flogging around in the back canyons. The only noticeable visual differences to the engine are the two valve cover head bolts as opposed to last year’s four.

A sturdy hydraulic, single plate dry clutch can handle a severe beating but will definitely give off a burnt smell if you slip it too much. Most riders accustomed to dirt bikes will tend to feather the GS clutch at low speeds out of fear of stalling out.

In reality, the 1200 motor is quite content to plod along in low revs. Cover the clutch with two fingers and be ready, but learn to trust the engine’s ability to handle near stall rpm when negotiating slow, tight riding situations.

Suspension is courtesy BMW’s patented Telelever (front) and Paralever (rear) systems, delivering 7.5-inches of travel on the front and 7.9-inches of wheel travel on the rear. ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) is an available option, providing a wide range of settings “on the move” with the touch of a button.

Massive die-cast aluminum, single-sided swingarm and drive shaft combination is a perfect on-road/off-road touring application; the sealed unit preventing any dirt and rocks getting into the drive system (as with a chain) as well as allowing you to forget about chain maintenance and lubing when on long hauls. It may not sound like much, but just this one thing can make all the difference when you’re off in the remote reaches of the world.

Stout, tubular steel trellis frame gives the GS a decently nimble 59.3-inch wheelbase. Most GS “newbies” are pleasantly surprised that despite the bike’s bulky, even unwieldy appearance a good rider can keep up with a cadre of sportbikes on twisting canyons and back roads.

2-piece seat allows the rider’s section to be adjusted between 33.5 and 34.2-inches in height, with an optional low seat to give shorter riders a more solid foot placement.

One thing that always catches me out is when I wear off-road boots. I somehow manage to get my ankle caught on the frame stanchions for the passenger pegs. I wear a size eleven motocross boot so it’s not like I have a freak thing going on. Overall, it’s not a big problem and happens rarely enough to not be concerned with trying to make any modifications for.

Manually adjustable windscreen provides good protection from windblast at speed on back roads and freeways, however it tends to suck the air around and deposit dust on the under side in off-road jaunts. Keep a rag with you to wipe it down when you transition back to pavement.

For brakes the GS utilizes a single 265mm disc and 2-piston caliper on the back, while up front dual 305mm rotors are mated to 4-piston calipers for solid stopping power. The ABS works exceptionally well save one little thing; a slightly disconcerting trait under hard braking while cornering aggressively that causes the rear brake pedal to oscillate dramatically. This is the result of the computer transferring pressure between front and rear brakes, resulting in the on/off sensation. Thankfully any fluctuation in the front lever is barely noticeable.

BMW retained their standard turn signal indicators (the ones that everyone except me seems to hate) despite the updated, Japanese-style switch being adopted on their K and S bikes. Personally, once you get used to the left/right layout it feels second nature. Also, I prefer the beefy feel of the standard issue German switch.
Despite the engine mods and higher performing engine, the GS 1200 gets stellar mileage. I managed to average about 43 miles per gallon on back canyon romps, and upwards of 55 miles per gallon on long stretches of highway.

With a 5.3-gallon capacity tank this gives the GS a range safely in the region of 200 miles-enough to get sufficiently lost, and back again (that is, if you want to come back).

Perhaps the most compelling argument I can make for the GS is that no matter what you’re doing, where you’re riding, or what your plans are; you’re never on the wrong bike.


Type Air/oil-cooled flat twin
(‘Boxer’) 4-stroke engine, two camshafts and four radially aligned
valves per cylinder, central balancer shaft
Bore x
101 mm x 73 mm
Capacity 1,170 cc
110 hp (81 kW)
at 7,750 rpm
88 ft-lb (120 Nm)
at 6,000 rpm
12.0 : 1
control / engine management
Electronic intake pipe injection / BMS-K+ digital engine
management with overrun fuel cut-off, twin spark ignition
3-way catalytic converter, emission standard EU-3

Performance / Fuel Consumption

over 120 mph (200
consumption per 100 km at constant 90 km/h
City: 43.4 mpg (4.3 l Euro)
consumption per 100 km at constant 120 km/h
Highway: 57.4 mpg (5.5 l Euro)
Unleaded super and
premium, octane number 91-93
Electrical System
Alternator three-phase alternator 720 W
Battery 12 V / 14 Ah, maintenance-free
Clutch Single dry plate clutch,
hydraulically operated
Gearbox Constant mesh 6-speed gearbox
with helical gear teeth
Drive Shaft drive
Brake, front Dual disc brake, floating brake discs,
diameter 305 mm, 4-piston fixed calipers
Single disc brake,
diameter 265 mm, double-piston floating caliper
ABS Optional extra: BMW Motorrad
Integral ABS (part-integral), can be switched off

Dimensions / Weights

Length 2,210 mm
(incl. mirrors)
915 mm
(excl. mirrors)
height, unladen weight
inches (850 / 870 mm), low seat 32.3″ (820 mm), lowered suspension 31″
(790 mm)
leg curve, unladen weight
1,890 / 1,940 mm (low seat 1,820 mm, lowered suspension
1,760 mm)
weight, road ready, fully fuelled 1)
504 lbs (229 kg)
weight 2)
447 lbs (203
total weight
970 lbs
(440 kg)
(with standard equipment)
465 lbs (211 kg)
tank volume
5.3 gallons
(20 l)
Reserve approx 1 gallon (4.0 l)
Technical data relate to the unladen weight

According to guideline 93/93/EWG with all fluids, fuelled with at least
90% of usable tank volume
2) Unladen weight without fluids


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