Long Termer: BMW R1200GS II – the road

I’ve had the GS for a couple of months now and have all the parts that I think I need to make the bike how I want it. For this update, let’s take a look at the mods to make it a little more road friendly — as the GS was pressed into service recently for a tour of New England — as well as how it behaves in road mode.

THE MODS

No, not the hairdryer riding, parka donning, pill popping type, but more the changes we did to the GS to improve its road manners. If you remember from part one where we got to know the bike (see here), there were a few things I identified, namely the screen being a little low and the seat a little hard. In addition, I wanted to protect those huge sticky out jugs, just in case the bike got dropped on or off-road.

crashbars3
SW Motech crash bars are a good investment no matter where you intend to use your GS. They look cool too …

As per our V-Strom project a couple of years ago, we approached the good fellows at Twisted Throttle Canada to see what they had that could help, and we snagged a set of SW Motech crash bars ($362.25) as well as an MRA X-creen deflector ($244.38). I had also put in a request for the Rallye one piece seat from BMW ($482.85), ostensibly for off-road duties as it is narrower and one piece, and would allow me to slid fore and aft to cope with varying terrain, but the additional room seemed like it might be a good idea on the road too.

The crash bars are very solid pieces of kit and in typical SW Motech fashion, best fitted by looking at the pictures than trying to follow the blurbage. Once installed the black finish wrap around tubing add to the muscular statement of the liquid-cooled 1200 boxer jugs. I don’t normally get excited about the look of a motor (especially since liquid-cooling tends to take away from the styling) but the new GS motor catches my eye constantly, and the crash bars only add to it.

Oh and for all those closest cruiser types, the framing allows you to rest your legs over the cylinders, feet forward, Though this seems like an odd plus to mention, being 6′ 4″  I do find the GS a little tight in the knees and a legs out straight posture was just what they needed now and then. It looks cool too. Okay, maybe not.

screen1
The X-creen extender worked very well but added height and weight caused the main screen to bend and needed added support.

But enough on boxing jugs, let’s go to the MRA X-creen. You’ve likely seen these on a few bikes now, they’re the little deflector that bolts on to the top of a standard screen. I tried one on the V-Storm project but found that only the Madstat screen and mounts solved the buffeting on that one. However, Twisted Throttle’s Eric Russell reckoned that this would do the job, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Fitting is relatively easy (again, thank god for the pictures) and can be either bolted or clamped on and installed directly onto the screen with short arms to hold it a little further away. I opted for clamps and the arm, because I didn’t want to drill the BMW screen and I figured the arms would give me more height to play with.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the MRA X-creen actually did as advertised, though the four adjustable joints meant that I had a lot of options until I found the best one. Also, the added weight to the top of the poorly supported standard screen resulted in something unexpected – the screen bent down as speed picked up, exposing me to the blast and defeating the point.

This was eventually fixed by clamping a Ram Mount to the GS’s GPS bar (see picture) and tilting it forward to support the screen. Not ideal, but it did stop the bending. Twisted Throttle Canada reckoned that bolting the X-creen on instead of using the clamps also helps prevent the bending, but of course, if you are of normal height, then the standard screen may do just fine.

seat1
Rallaye seat is one piece and allows the rider to move around more but it oddly a little short in length.

Okay, so onto the BMW enduro seat which just slots into the place of the original two-part seat but is oddly shorter in length, meaning that it would be a bit of a squeeze to fit a passenger. I know that this seat is likely meant for the solo rider, but why not add a few inches at the back and have the choice?

Sadly I also found it a tad hard and after three days of my week-long tour I was forced into arse sliding mode just to find a comfy spot, or standing up to let the blood pump some feeling back in my nether cheeks. I guess that’s fine for enduro use which would likely be a day or two with lots of standing and sliding, but I wish I’d kept the standard seat for the tour in retrospect.

THE GS AS ROAD TOURER

road-crashbars
A great bike for the Kancamagus highway!

There is one thing that I have quickly realized about GSs – they are increasingly becoming road bikes. Yes, yes, a 238 kg bike does not an enduro make, but for a long time, the big GS came standard with wire wheels at least. Not so anymore, the wire wheels being an option at time of ordering, but BMW has also increased the rim size for the new LC GS.

BMW-R-1200-GS_tire
The GS was launched back in 2013 with these Metzeler Karoo III tires, but they are still unavailable (in Canada at least), though should be available any day now.

So? Well, although BMW kindly sent me a pair of wire wheels for the bike, I have so far been unable to find knobbier tires to fit the 170/60-17 spec wider rim sizes. Karoo IIIs and TKC40s are expected in Canada any day now but for a bike released in 2013, not having a selection of knobbyish tires to fit when the bike hits the dealers is telling. However, the 1200 GS Adventure variant does come standard with wire wheels, added protection and larger gas tanks and (very telling), the wheels are the older, narrower rims, which come with lots of knobbyish tire options.

So what we have is a GS split – the standard being geared toward the road and the Adventure being geared for more off road activity. It all makes sense, but then the question to ask is how does my standard GS perform on the road?

15-BMW-R1200_GS_Adventure-Blue-0
The adventure version comes with smaller section rims on spokes which offers up better knobby tire choices.

Very well.

Let me expand on that. Being a Maritimer (and lanky) I appreciate long travel suspension. The roads here range from bad to utterly embarrassing and the more suspension you have, the better. Despite being one of the last boxers to sport BMW’s unique Telelever front end I still like the way it works, and by design has little to no front end dive under hard braking.

The GS also comes with Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) which allows you to set damping and preload by button. Choices are SOFT, NORMAL and HARD for damping and One-Up, One-up with luggage and Two-up with luggage for preload. I found the suspension to be hardish, so opted for SOFT and One-Up which worked out great for the trip.

road-screen
Another use for cruise control – a good shot of the screen mod taken from the passenger perch.

Alas, the first half of my trip was in rain, so I put the bike into RAIN mode (softer throttle response, full ABS and traction control) but didn’t do much else. New England’s well surfaced and curvaceous roads invite the rider to throw the bike about which is exactly what I did. At no point did it do other than carve beautifully around corners, the Michelin Anakee IIIs never slipped and even proved surprisingly effective in a few forays onto gravel roads, despite having a very road orientated profile.

The heated grips (two temperature options) helped to keep my rain-soaked gloved hands on the right side of usable and the hand guards, tanks cutaways and warm jugs did a reasonable job of diverting the worst of the elements away from me (though the screen could be bigger of course).

crashbars2As I mentioned in the first update, the boxer motor (for some unknown reason) is very happy at 140 km/h. I’d just look to check my speed and sure enough, 140. This can be expensive, though northern New England seems to be light these days on enforcement. Still, I did find that the cruise control option could be used in more patrolled areas, simply set it to the speed limit (plus 10% for a bit of fun) and you’re pretty safe. Oh yes, and why only Km/h on a Canadian bike?  I’m sure most Canadian riders will take a trip stateside at one time or another.

On the plus side, BMW has managed to add a rather addictive roar to the exhaust note and the LC motor has stacks of lazy broad power. This means that you can happily chug along in low rpms, but open the throttle and she goes good boy*! It really is a gem,  and when I hit a deserted Maine backroad in a bit of a rush I let her rip. The bike howled as the revs went to redline — like a bee with a bee up its arse — and although we’re not talking sportbike lightspeed, it offers a good thrust combined with solid handling and easy steer wide bars. Slightly too much fun.

over-waterWhen I finally came across a town, I cut the throttle, set the cruise control and chugged around like a model citizen. Likely my tastes are changing as the years tick on, but I find it hard to fault this motor’s characteristics. Well, there is the need for premium fuel (it pings like a bugger on regular – though your BMW dealer can ‘retune’ the motor to cope) and the gearbox is a little stiff at slower speeds, but apart from that, I honestly cannot fault it.

So that’s about it. Let’s end on some fuel consumption numbers. Normal type usage (law-abiding) would see about 18.5 km/l which meant you should get about 370 km range on the 20 litre tank. Pushing it a little (say 140 on the highway) would drop the consumption down to the 15 km/l (300 km on a tank) and then that, ehum, slightly crazy jaunt in Maine dropped it down to 13.5 km/l (270 km range). I did once run the gas right down to “zero km left” on the display, which, judging by the math and fraught experience, is out by about 5 km. 🙂

* That’s my homage to living on the east coast.


SECOND VIEW – ZAC

Slogging it out in the wet, in southern NB.
Slogging it out in the wet, in southern NB.

Last weekend, I had the chance to take the Beemer on a short trip up the St. John River through New Brunswick back roads, then back down through northeastern Maine, which gave me enough time to figure out a few things about BMW’s latest uber-GS.

GS-axeAs Rob’s already pointed out, this bike is definitely aimed towards street use, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better road tourer. I spent hundreds of kilometres on rough pavement, and while I prefer the F800 GS’s 21-inch wheel on the really rough stuff, the 1200’s 19-incher does the job, and has the advantage of handling much more quickly when you’re on better roads.

But while the GS is a very good road bike, I really thought it came into its own as a bad-weather bike. I rode through two days of rain in New Brunswick and Maine, some of it the heaviest precipitation I could imagine riding through.

The GS handled it with aplomb; stick the motor into Rain mode, and you’re covered. The handguards, windshield and bodywork do an excellent job of shielding from the light sprinkles, and in the heavy downpours I was still well-sheltered. Plus, the grip warmers throw out more heat than a police department evacuating after a fire alarm. Add in a heated suit, and this really could be the bike for a Canadian who wants to ride, no matter what the temperature.


RIDE MODES EXPLAINED (From BMW’s website)

If, like me, you find the vast array of options offered by modern day electronics a bit bewildering, here’s a breakdown of all the ride modes available on the GS that I just stole from BMW’s website (thus the excitement in all its capabilities). The off-road options are pretty interesting, and once I get a set of knobby tires for the GS, I’ll explore and update on how they work, along with all the off-road mods we have to fit.

BMW_R1200GS_Ride_Modes
This chart is actually from the Adventure version, but it appears to be the same as the standard GS.

The optional riding modes provide three accelerator response configurations: linear in Road mode, soft in Rain mode, and impulsive and direct in Dynamic mode.

Rain mode provides support on wet surfaces by moderating accelerator response and switching in the control systems earlier. The suspension is configured for correspondingly soft response.

In Dynamic mode the new R 1200 GS shows its sporty side: spontaneous accelerator response, tight ESA damping, and restrained ASC and ABS intervention all turn the GS into an asphalt sprinter.

Enduro mode comes into play off the solid road. The R 1200 GS responds slowly to acceleration, and the ASC (automatic stability control) intervenes only with restraint. Both brake force distribution and the soft Dynamic ESA are adapted to loose surfaces. Enduro mode has been optimised for riding with street tyres.

Enduro Pro mode is for genuine enthusiasts: rear wheel ABS is deactivated, and Dynamic ESA configured for tighter response. Fitted with studded tyres, the R 1200 GS can master any sporting offroad challenge in this mode.


GALLERY

Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.

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