2012 BMW R 1200 GS Rallye | Review

2012 BMW R 1200 GS Rallye and Dunlop TrailMax TR91 Tire Test

Never was the Dakar rally more exciting than when BMW sported factory teams, which the Bavarian manufacturer did in the 80s with the original GS to the early 21st Century with the Rally 900RR.

My all time favorite BMW gravel munchers are the HP2 Enduro and the 900RR Rally, a Dakar-winning factory bike. The 2012 BMW R 1200 GS Rallye isn’t as extreme as any of those two bikes; it merely pays homage as a special version of the R 1200 GS.

By now, most of us are used to the rugged ugly duckling looks of the R 1200 GS, but in my humble opinion the 2012 Rallye version is a swan indeed. The pearl white with blue and red BMW Motorrad motorsports paint job does something visually to the GS that is hard to explain. Being accustomed to the industrial silver gray frame, it’s unbelievably refreshing to see the GS with a red tubular frame.

Aesthetics aside, the Rallye version have some special features directly from the factory, such as: Enduro ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment), heated grips, Cross spoke wheels, all chrome exhaust and pannier holders ready to fit sturdy BMW aluminum panniers. The design includes white hand guards, two toned seat, red subframe, black forks and alpine white body parts.

I have ridden GS motorcycles for thousands of miles in Africa and around Europe, so I’m very familiar with everything that is GS and the Rallye version is no different. I got this chance to test it with Dunlop and they had fitted the Rallye with the new TrailMax TR91 adventure tires.

These tires are mainly a street tire, but work fine on graveled roads. I also got a chance to test the hard core D908RR Rally Raid tires on the KTM 690 Enduro R, which off course would also make the GS into a heavy weight spider, or Tarantula perhaps.

The TrailMax TR91 tires cope fine with everything but deep sand and slippery grass. You ever just need momentum to get you through the tough terrain. I have ridden the GS on similar tires in both sand and other challenging surfaces without major problems, but usually I was depending on serious momentum rather than superior grip to get through. You stop and you’re in trouble straight away because the old GS is a heavy machine and the TrailMax tires don’t dig in; they need to float on top.

So the Dunlop TrailMax TR91 tires are a compromise with hard tarmac and medium graveled roads really and mark my words I said roads. Anything that isn’t classified as a road requires big rider balls and a good stomach. I bet you already knew this but it’s always worth mentioning. With knobby tires, however, the sky and the ground clearance is the limit.

The big air-cooled boxer has its familiar 100 horsepower on tap which makes the R 1200 GS Rallye one of very few proven gravel superbikes. Power delivery through the asphalt grey Paralever is instant, but for the tight stuff a lower gear is preferable should you encounter unexpected trouble.

On long straight gravel roads nothing is faster than the GS Rallye where you can cruise at speeds of up to 120mph. The Boxer growls effortlessly, and the Dunlop TrailMax TR91 tires are satisfactory, not causing excessive wheel spin. Tire dimensions are a 110/80-HR19 front and a 150/70-HR17 rear tire.

For the off road I turned the ABS brakes off, and controlling the rear with a bit of rear brake works nicely. On tarmac the ABS brakes are very powerful and safe. Standing up riding the foot pegs are very slippery and my Alpinestars Tech 10 boots slid off at one point so I highly recommend getting rid of the rubber covering for off-road riding, particularly if it’s wet like when I tested.

While riding for a short distance on grass, the TrailMax TR91 tires provided all the acceleration you need, but falls short when it’s time to stop as the front will not provide enough grip compared to knobby tires on grass.

For wet weather riding the Dunlop TrailMax TR91 tires are one of the best set of tires you can choose for the GS as they have plenty of silica and a good thread pattern for such scenarios. Compared to the D908RR Rally Raid off-road only tires, it’s obvious who wins what. The D908RR tires are slippery as hell on tarmac, but grippy like nothing else on a vast variation of off-road conditions. The TrailMax tires, however, shine on a dirty and wet B-roads while they can do a bit of light off-road as well. Ninety percent of the time you’ll be best off with the TR91 tires on the GS.

2012 BMW R 1200 GS Rallye Conclusion:

There’s so little left to be said about BMW’s mighty GS that haven’t already been said. The Rallye version is like the cream topping of the GS program and might just be the last 1200cc air-cooled GS we’ll see, but in a year or two we’ll know for sure.

One thing is for sure, though – the Rallye version looks spectacular and different from the masses of grey GS motorcycles already out there. Enduro ESA and heated grips included in the package is a bonus, but you are of course paying for it in a premium over the standard R 1200 GS and R 1200 GS Adventure. All in all, the R 1200 GS Rallye is a fitting potential last air-cooled GS.

2012 BMW R 1200 GS Rallye Positives/Negatives:

+Extra features included in the price
+ Glorious paint job
+ All the “will do anything” flare is still there but with extra panache

-Slippery foot pegs (easy fix though)

Photography: Danielle Boxall