huge 18,000-mile test
Imust admit, when I took delivery of the GS in March last year, I wasn’t totally sure I’d learn to love it or get fed up with it over time. It was my first adventure bike and, after coming from a background of sportier motorcycles, I thought I might miss the high-speed thrills. More importantly, I wasn’t sure if the hype that surrounds the GS name was all it was cracked up to be. I was soon pleasantly surprised.
In my time with the bike, I’ve covered 18,000 miles, riding both on road and off in all kinds of situations. It’s guided me through my first forays off-road, toured the UK and Germany, while also being used as a daily commuter and transport that saw me travel back and forth to Devon from the Midlands on a near-weekly basis.
Riding off-road was a completely new venture for me and I found the GS an excellent bike to learn on. The Enduro mode that came as a function on the Dynamic package (£680) would allow for enough slip from the traction control while I was learning, keeping me in control when grip was in short supply. I did, however, start to quickly find the system’s limitations as my dirt skills progressed, and it started to hold me back. I found it especially troublesome on steep climbs, where it would kick in on detecting a slip and halt any progress.
The traction control can be turned off, so you have the flexibility to tailor the bike to your needs. The Enduro mode does make the bike feel better on the road, though, with the ABS becoming less intrusive. That said, the Enduro Pro mode, which I have used on an R1200 GS at the Si Pavey off-road school, is excellent for off-road use and has been included on the 2017 model with the Dynamic package (£690).
As I was using the bike both on road and off, choosing tyres to suit the GS would go on to become a complex affair, as finding a tyre that was genuinely capable in both areas was extremely difficult. I came to realise that it was best to choose a tyre that would suit the type of riding that I was doing the majority of the time, and to change to something different when the need arose. Not ideal, nor was it the cheapest option, but it was the only real solution that I could come up with. The road-oriented tyres I used were good on the tarmac but obviously useless when it came to riding on the dirty stuff, while the opposite applied to dirt tyres. The supposedly magic dual-purpose rubber I tried, proved to be pretty useless on both surfaces, being too much of a compromise to be a credible option for me to use.
There are loads of accessories for the bike, which is good for tailoring the ride, but bad for the bank balance. In my time with the GS, I’ve added panniers (£493), a touring screen (£287), handguards (£133), crash bars (£322), an aluminium bash plate (£200), Enduro footrests (£128) and an Akrapovic silencer (£645). And all this was on top of the Dynamic (£680) and Comfort (£525) packages that came with the bike when delivered from BMW, but which are also expensive. I would consider most of these extras, with the exception of the silencer and pegs, essential to the riding I did on the bike and would also recommend a Scottoiler and fog lights to this list too. Altogether it makes the overall price of the bike a little eye-watering and you start working out what you could have bought for the same money.
At the start of last year, I really hoped the GS was going to be a brilliant all-rounder, a bike that I could use for my everyday needs while also allowing me to explore other avenues comfortably and with practicality, and it delivered on all of these fronts and then some – when it was properly kitted out. It’s quirky and extremely versatile nature has completely won me over and now I find it difficult to imagine my life without the bike.
If I were to be leaving on a trip around the world tomorrow, I’d turn to the GS and I think that every rider should live with one at least once. I can also confirm that after a year with the bike, I now fully understand what all the fuss is about when it comes to the GS name.