Bike: BMW R 1200 GS Rallye
The BMW GS has earned legendary status among adventure riders. Can the new Rallye add to the stature?
HOW do you improve on a winning formula? Already the bestselling bike in its segment, had it made an error of judgement, BMW would have had more to lose than gain when the new 2017 GS range was launched. A new addition to the range was this Rallye – slotting in between the standard GS and the fully kitted (more expensive) Adventure – and it could be seen as an answer to the lighter KTM Adventure range. Would GS fans like it, though?
Before we get to that, however, a quick history lesson. The GS story is now 38 years in the making, with the original R 80 G/S a watershed machine when it was launched at the IFMA international bicycle and motorcycle show in Cologne in September 1980. For the first time, a manufacturer offered a large-capacity machine (fitted with the legendary aircooled boxer twin engine) that was capable of touring both onand off-road; with a pillion, too, if required. To prove its potential, Hubert Auriol rode a race version to a stunning victory in the 1981 Paris-dakar Rally, finishing three hours ahead of his nearest challenger. The rest is history.
Sporting BMW Motorsport colours – including blue on the tubular frame – the new Rallye is a striking machine with a modified front fender and a low sport screen. As capable as the big GS Adventures are, they can be unwieldy and intimidating to the less experienced rider. With this in mind, BMW’S engineers have endeavoured to make the Rallye an easier machine to handle off-road, fitting a thinner seat to improve body movement and even removing the centre stand to trim mass.
Under the skin, you will find more substantial changes, with the electronic enhancements the most impressive. Riding modes now include rain, road, dynamic, dynamic pro, enduro and enduro pro. This allows the rider to choose the setting most suited to the conditions and their riding skill level. For the first time, the engine and suspension modes can be set individually.
Alongside engine response, the braking system also changes significantly with the different settings. The integrated setup results in the front lever activating both brakes, whereas the footbrake involves only the rear. Enduro pro mode switches off the ABS to the rear wheel, allowing the rider to slide the bike while retaining some anti-lock assistance on the front wheel.
On-road, the GS displays the same comfortable, magic-carpet- like ride we have come to expect from the range (helped by electronic suspension adjustment), although the narrow seat and low screen mean the ultimate range until numb bum sets in is probably slightly less than on the standard version. The Gear Shift Assist (a quick-shift system) allows clutch-less up and down shifts, although the ‘box is still slightly clunky.
The boxer engine is a gem and pulls like a freight train from low revs. The enduring impression is of buttery smooth torque delivery rather than outright power, but it still posted a 0-100 km/h time of 4,16 seconds on our test strip, with massive wheelies prohibiting an even quicker time.
Off-road is where the Rallye comes into its own and on rough surfaces it allows experienced riders to push it to the extreme. That said, while it might be slightly lighter than the Adventure derivative, don’t forget that this is still a big, heavy machine that is more at home on open, flowing dirt roads than tight, technical stuff (although it is capable; see GS Trophy 2018).
If this is not your type of riding style, the standard version will suit you just fine. Even if civilised commuting is your game, however, we’re pretty sure the Rallye’s good looks and street cred will see many being bought for that very purpose.
clockwise from above The Rallye feels most at home on flowing dirt roads; the navigation system is a R11 000 option; the blue frame enhances the look of the Rallye. Also note that there is no centre stand.