New BMW makes dirt rid­ing easy

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - ADAM CHILD SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER adam.child@mo­tor­cy­cle­news.com

At the end of 2016 BMW up­dated its R1200GS to make it Euro 4 com­pli­ant. While the GS was in the work­shop they made some cos­metic changes and re­vised and smoothed the driv­e­train. For 2017 BMW have launched two vari­ants of the up­dated Euro 4 bike: the of­froad bi­ased Ral­lye and the Ex­clu­sive, and it’s the Ral­lye, which bridges the gap be­tween the stan­dard GS and the big Ad­ven­ture, that ap­pears to be at­tract­ing the most in­ter­est.

Those who buy a Ral­lye can go two ways: to the stan­dard road ver­sion or the off-road ver­sion, which in­cludes opt­ing for off-road bi­ased rub­ber. You can then add sports sus­pen­sion (£290), with an in­creased spring rate, longer spring struts and ex­tended spring travel, which raises the seat height 20mm to 900mm while up­ping ride height.

Our Ral­lye test bike was an off-roader that had been rid­den through the BMW ac­ces­sories cat­a­logue. It bris­tled with good­ies from the Pre­mium pack­age which, for £1645, in­cludes Dy­namic ESA self-lev­el­ling sus­pen­sion (see Ex­clu­sive, right), key­less ig­ni­tion, on­board com­puter Pro, a GPS bracket, and cruise con­trol. An Akrapovic ex­haust adds an­other £860, while the en­gine pro­tec­tion kit adds £322, the cylin­der head cov­ers £188, the head­light guard £87, the ad­justable back brake lever £111 and milled HP levers at £95 each. The stan­dard model starts at £12,730 but our test bike would set you back £18,318!

But enough of all that. Rid­ing the Ral­lye on Span­ish lanes and trails, as well as on some proper off-road ter­rain, was an (elec­tron­i­cally en­hanced) rev­e­la­tion. Se­lect­ing En­duro mode en­ables off-road ABS front and rear, plus I had the DTC trac­tion con­trol con­trol­ling the rear. Con­sid­er­ing I was rid­ing 220kg of GS on dirt, I couldn’t have felt safer or more secure.

The seat is thin­ner and the screen smaller than on a plain GS, while wide En­duro foot-pegs add ex­tra se­cu­rity.

‘Con­sid­er­ing I was rid­ing 220kg of GS on dirt, I couldn’t have felt safer’

For any­one like me with only av­er­age off-road skills, the Ral­lye is far from the in­tim­i­dat­ing beast you might imag­ine.

The off-road ABS is hugely re­as­sur­ing. You can brake rel­a­tively hard on gravel or over rock and it seems to find grip with lim­ited jud­der­ing or fuss. Later in the af­ter­noon I opted for En­duro Pro (a plug-in un­der the seat), which re­moves the ABS from the rear and al­lows a lit­tle more wheel spin.

The DTC is equally im­pres­sive. You can dump the clutch mid-cor­ner to send the rear side­ways: it breaks slightly then the elec­tron­ics take over and pull it back in line, trans­form­ing you into an off-road god. There’s no bang­ing or mis­fir­ing, it’s smooth and im­pres­sive.

Steep as­cents can be con­quered in con­fi­dence as the Met­zeler Ka­roo 3 rub­ber works with the DTC to find grip. If you charge up a grav­elly hill on 100% throt­tle you’ll feel the in­ter­ven­tion but at a nor­mal level of rid­ing it’s barely per­cep­ti­ble. And if you’re ex­pe­ri­enced off-road you can turn off the DTC and ABS, and do so on the move.

Most GS Ral­lye own­ers who opt for the off-road pack won’t have just re­turned from the Dakar and will sim­ply want some­thing easy to ride off-road, and the new Ral­lye is just that. It flat­ters the av­er­age rider while be­ing a gen­uine tool for ex­perts.

On the road you have to make al­lowances for the off-road bi­ased rub­ber but oth­er­wise the self-lev­el­ling ESA de­liv­ers im­pres­sive com­fort for a bike with so much off-road abil­ity. The screen is smaller and the seat is a sin­gle unit as op­posed to the sep­a­rate seats on the stan­dard GS, but these are small sac­ri­fices given the Ral­lye’s per­for­mance.

Com­pre­hen­sive dash dis­plays your rid­ing mode, air tem­per­a­ture and much more

Dy­namic ESA from the Pre­mium pack­age is se­ri­ously im­pres­sive in the dirt

No risk of your boot slip­ping off in mud

Sturdy bash­plate for off-road ac­tion

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