BMW R1200GS Wrap-Up – Part 2

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Photo: www.ms-tours.ch
Photo: www.ms-tours.ch

THE SUM OF THE PARTS

Okay, so we’ve done the intro and dirt thing in part 1, for this part it would seem like a good idea to cover some of the more general aspects of the GS as well as all that lovely wrap-up stuff. So let’s start by breaking down the bike into its component parts and summarizing how each bit held up over the year.

1) ENGINE

More power! Yes, that’s a good thing and being able to loft the front wheel in first gear under hard throttle alone is a new experience with any BMW. A wave of torque comes on early and carries through all the way to the 8,000 rpm redline. What this enabled me to do was give a few sport bikes a run for their money in the twisty stuff. Granted, the riders could have been rather incompetent, but the extra power (and reduced weight) puts the 1200GS in an altogether sportier bracket.

There was also no detectable surging (a common problem with earlier boxer incarnations), probably thanks to the twin plug heads and engine management system. The latter of which also allows the use of regular fuel, which we did on more than one occasion, ‘cause we’re pretty cheap.

One weird problem we did come across was that sometimes the GS just wouldn’t start. With the ignition on, all seemed well except when you thumbed the starter and nothing happened. Turning the ignition off and then back on again always solved this issue, but I never did suss out what was happening.

The new balancer shaft reduces any vibration to a non-intrusive level, though there are enough vibes still present to let you know that the engine is actually running. The new gearbox similarly gets the thumbs up, although the tall first gear is really designed for the road, not the dirt.

Fuel consumption averaged around the 16.3 km/l (6.1L/100Km) mark, which is quite respectable. Interestingly, the lowest we saw was 14.9 Km/l (6.7L/100Km) after a long highway ride at 140-160 km/h, giving a worst-case scenario of 447Km before running out of gas.

2) CHASSIS

The 29Kg reduction in weight is probably the most significant change on the 1200GS and (as mentioned earlier) not only enables it to get somewhat sporty on the road, but gives it additional maneuverability in the dirt. It even performed pretty well on the track, although ground clearance became a bit of an issue with the pegs scrapping rather too easily when we turned up the speed.

The suspension worked really well under most conditions, though in the dirt, it did feel slightly remote up front. As did the Metzeler Tourance tires – working very well on the road and only getting into trouble off-road in the mud, but we’ve already covered that in part 1.

The servo-assist brakes seem to be getting a lot of flack on the GS-owner forums, as does the ABS. Granted, there’s a lot of complication in there, but BMW seemed to have finally gotten a pretty good balance with the graduation of braking power and some additional non-servo power, which helps if you’re pushing it around with the ignition off. The only time I felt like I’d be happier without the servos is in the dirt (a tad remote and a bit too aggressive) or when the front brake sprang a leak.

As for the ABS, there was occasion when it would get confused on the real bumpy stuff, and take a second for the brakes to come back onto full strength, but overall I found it to be very good and somewhat reassuring to have. Besides, on the GS you can always turn them off … or (as of 2005), buy one without either the servos or ABS.

3) ERGONOMICS

Comfort is excellent. The adjustable screen, hand guards and wide tank-covers give good wind protection for the rider, and the heated grips take the edge off cooler weather riding. Speeds in excess of 150 Km/h can be maintained without strain, although your licence may suffer as a result! There’s also plenty of legroom and a perfect riding position, but the seat can get a bit hard sooner than you’d expect.

While we’re on the subject of the seat, it is adjustable for several different heights (a lower option can be ordered at time of purchase as well). Getting it back on after said adjustment proved to be somewhat painful though, as it had to line-up perfectly before it would lock into place. The rear part can be removed altogether, giving a large flat area for more luggage, except the rear rack tends to somewhat infringe on this space.

The screen is mechanically adjustable by two knobs at either side and proved easy to reposition – generally remaining in the highest position thanks to the majority of CMG testers being of a lanky disposition. There is some visual distortion when looking through the screen, however, and I found it better to leave it off when I went exploring off-road, as I really wanted a clear view of exactly what was in front of me. Besides, it looks effing cool, sans screen and with knobby tires fitted.

Initially we had some problems with the fuel gauge, which would remain at full for the longest time before suddenly plummeting towards empty. On one occasion, CMG-racer Pascal managed to run it dry on Ontario’s infamous 401 (ultimately being rescued by Mr. Tate), thanks to a combination of faulty fuel gauge and no warning lights. The bike was fixed under warranty, which required the replacement of the whole tank.

4) OPTIONS

The GS comes with some factory accessories (consult your local dealer for pricing), which we’ll quickly cover here. However, there is a huge aftermarket choice of accessories, so be sure to check those out as well.

Although the non-servo assist/non-ABS option was technically available right from the start, it appears that all the initial models made came with servo and ABS. That should change for 2005, with an $1800 saving being had if you chose to have your GS in the simpler form.

Unfortunately, the wire wheels will now cost you an extra $450, instead of being a no-charge option at time of purchase, as they were last year. If you do plan on taking your GS into the world of dirt, then they’re a must. Or you could just wait till the new Adventure model comes out (see below). Talking of dirt, a set of crash bars or cylinder-head protectors (not tested) would be a good investment – although there are a lot of aftermarket options available as well.

I had mixed feelings about the hard bags. The expandability is novel and quite handy but prone to getting gummy in dusty conditions. Also, the door wouldn’t always mate properly to the body when closing. Although some time spent hitting and cursing them would usually result in the desired result, I later discovered that the lip in the seam of the body part was getting kinked – causing said closing difficulty.

My other bugbear is the attachment system – which is a bit complex – as well as that bag-falling-off issue. Although using some thread-lock to hold the main bolt in place would probably ultimately solve said issue, after the second episode of a lost bag, I never trusted them again, and always carried more valuable gear elsewhere. Oh well, at least they proved to be waterproof.

We didn’t test the optional top-box, tank bag or the bag liners (so no usability comments), but if you want to avoid dealing with the attachment mechanism, then the liners might be a sound option.

AND FINALLY …

With all the articles we’ve posted this year regarding the GS, I’m starting to feel that I’m repeating myself here, but despite some of the problems we encountered, the R1200GS remains a firm favourite with the CMG staffers. It has possibly the biggest range of all the currently available dual-sport bikes on the market – able to tackle some pretty rough off-road scenarios as well as all the paved variables to boot.

It’s also got one of the best warranties available, although I have to wonder if the average Joe would get their motor rebuilt under said warranty if they had a similar drowning experience! Of course, we hope that thanks to our published ignorance (read: mine), the average Joe may now know better if they do encounter the engine-threatening perils of hydro-lock!

What I find interesting is whether I prefer it to the old 1150GS, specifically the Adventure model. There’s something about the 1150’s sheer bulk that makes it unique, and the fact that it can still be made to do stuff that it simply shouldn’t. Rather than say that the 1200GS is the perfect successor to the 1150GS, I’m more inclined to say that it’s technically superior but more of a branch off the family tree than its direct descendant.

Ultimately, the only place where we found the 1200GS lacking was in the rougher dirt sections, which could be helped by some simpler, more conventional brakes and a higher intake manifold. In fact that brings me to the thought that maybe the latest GS has become overly technologically complex – with even the brakes requiring special tools to bleed. Still, we have yet to experience the 1200 Adventure and the highly rumoured ‘HP’.

What? Hmhh, nice segue…

THE NEW R1200GS ADVENTURER?

The new 1200 Adventurer? Okay, it’s a CMG Photoshop attempt.Photo work: Rob Harris

There are a whole load of rumours circulating the net at the moment about just what the new R1200GS Adventurer will be like. In fact, there might even be two versions! Here’s what we’ve heard:

The most prolific rumours cite a bigger fuel tank (the 1150 Adventurer has a 30 litre tank as opposed to the 1200’s 20), magnesium engine cases and longer travel suspension, with the possibility of metal panniers as standard. However, after our dirt-experience with the standard version, we’d like to see a higher intake manifold (so that it can tackle deeper water crossings), stronger hand-guards (that won’t break and twist around after a straightforward drop) and a lower first gear. Oh, and some engine guards as standard would be a nice touch.

DAMAGE TALLY

As with most CMG projects, there’s inevitably a certain amount of damage experienced (especially when we decide to really push a bike’s capabilities in the process). As such, practically all the damage inflicted on the GS by our good selves occurred in the dirt – where you’re going outside the ‘normal usage’ zone.

By far the biggest hit was the sinking fiasco, which resulted in a bent con-rod and the need to also replace the starter motor and clutch. This episode also saw damage to one of the tank’s polished panels and the motor’s head-cover, incurred when it was in the back of the pick-up van. Man, talk about a bad day!

Other damage was slight, and included a broken bracket on one of the hand-guards (when the bike was dropped at slow speed in the mud) and a dented hard case – when I failed to stop in time on sand and clipped the back of my buddy’s KLR. Oh, and I guess I should include one KLR600 indicator in that, as it faired worse than the bag.

RUNNING COSTS (first 10,000 Km)

Date
Odometer
Action
Notes
Cost
29th April 1,405 Km Oil filter, engine oil and gear oil replaced. Adjusted bag mounts & replaced a lost screen screw 1,000 Km SERVICE $43.07
Environmental charges ?? $5.00

Labour

Includes service checks.

$277.50

Taxes $48.84
 
 

SUB-TOTAL

$374.41

21st August
5,948 Km
1 x Metzeler Karoo tire (front) The original tires still had life on them, but the Karoos were fitted so that we could take the GS on some serious off-roading. $146.91

1 x Metzeler Karoo tire (rear)

$179.77

Environmental charges For tire disposal. $6.00
Labour Fitting and balancing of the tires. $69.98
Install GPS unit The wiring harness bit. $3.60
Labour I guess it must take a while! $210.00
Tank and fuel level gauge replaced Apparently this was the only way to get the fuel gauge to work properly! no charge
Taxes $92.59
 
 

SUB-TOTAL

$708.85

27th August

6,048 Km

Replaced one con-rod, the starter motor, clutch, a rocker cover and all fluids.

Yep, only got 100 Km before I sank it in a swamp … Con-rod is thanks to hydraulic-lock, the rest is thanks to general water ingestion. The rocker cover is due to damage incurred in the pick-up truck! Oh dear.

no charge (though I’m not sure why – it’s listed as “garantie”)

 
 
SUB-TOTAL
nothing!

9th September

7,258 Km

Oil filter and engine oil replaced.

1,000 Km post-rebuild check-up.

$36.65

Labour Includes general inspection. $161.00
Taxes $29.70
 
 
SUB-TOTAL
$227.35
Early October

 

9,600 Km New front brake pads and bleeding Thanks to brake fluid leak. no charge
Saddlebag pin Fell out! no charge
1 x Metzeler Tourance tire (rear) For our pre-fall tour (original front was refitted as well). $159.99
Environmental charges For tire disposal. $3.00
Labour For the tires. $69.98
Taxes $35.00
 
 
SUB-TOTAL
$267.97
TOTAL (inc taxes)
$1,578.58

RECALLS

We only heard of two recalls during the R1200GS’s inaugural year:

1) ABS Sensor O-Ring

Defect: On certain motorcycles manufactured between January and March 2004, the Integral Anti-lock Brake System (IABS) sensor sealing O-ring connection at the rear axle housing may have been damaged during the assembly process, causing oil leakage. If this happens, oil could contact the rear wheel and the rear wheel brake disk. The rider may not be able to control the motorcycle, which could result in a crash.

Remedy: Dealers will replace the rear wheel IABS sensor sealing O-ring.

2) Rear Brake line

On certain motorcycles, a brake fluid leak could develop at the connection point of the rear brake pipe to the rear brake line IABS adapter, which could result in rear brake system failure.

Remedy: Dealers will inspect and, if necessary, replace the adapter for the Integral Anti-Lock Brake system.


THANKS TO…

Open Road BMW for the prep and first service work.

Moto Internationale (and that Bradley Levandier) for the rest of the work.

BMW Canada for giving us the bike in the first place and letting us do what we do.

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