Bike: BMW R 1200 GS Ral­lye

The BMW GS has earned leg­endary sta­tus among ad­ven­ture rid­ers. Can the new Ral­lye add to the stature?

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - BY: Ni­col Louw Ni­col­l_­car­mag

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.

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