R1200GS TE Exclusive
Don’t be fooled by the spec sheet
The GS has been sitting on top of the adventure bike podium since defining the class three decades ago and as a result its designers have focused on evolution of a proven theme. For 2017 it gets self-levelling suspension, cornering ABS and traction control but retains the 1170cc liquid-cooled boxer power plant.
With 125bhp on tap its way down in pure power compared to both the Ducati and KTM. It’s also the heaviest at 244kg, but don’t let its on-paper stats mislead you.
While its motor lacks the top end kick of its rivals, it has a bottom end and mid-range to die for. With a huge dollop of torque in the area where it’s ridden the majority of the time, it delivers effortless performance, which in turn makes it incredibly competent at covering ground with impressive speed. The throttle connection from right wrist to rear wheel remains one of the finest and most satisfying things in modern day motorcycling. Combined with the optional quickshifter fitted to our test bike, acceleration is brisk; the power may not be explosive but that means there’s never too much being asked of the chassis.
While it doesn’t change direction like the 17in-wheeled Ducati, it can be hustled along winding A-roads at a decent speed, thanks to its wide bars and that immaculate throttle response.
Its Telelever front suspension soaks up bumps while minimal weight transfer, aided by the self-levelling suspension, means the GS retains its balance and geometry under hard acceleration and braking. As a result you can take more flowing, sweeping lines before finishing off corners crisply as you are able to get on the gas early. It has no problem living with its more powerful competition.
A soft seat and spacious riding position make the GS easily the most comfortable bike on test, whether your riding at 30mph or pushing on.
There’s not a lot to fault on this comfortable and plush GS; its only weaknesses are that the motor gets breathless at high revs and the analogue dash is antiquated in this company.
is mechanically noisy, but not in an acoustically satisfying way. Another gripe is the lenghthy engine cut-out of the quickshifter, especially noticeable at lower rpm or when the load on the motor is low.
The handling is sharp but remains stable and planted over mid-corner bumps and crests. Aided by the 19in front wheel it gives a sense of security, meaning that a sudden stretch of badly-surfaced tarmac on the line you’ve committed to is soaked up and dealt with without drama.
The big-piston Brembos offer an inspiring mix of feel and outright performance. And this combined with the constantly adjusting electronic suspension means that braking becomes something that the KTM simply delivers. There is no huge front end dive, just predictable weight transfer that gives you a reassurance that there is always plenty left in reserve.
Ergonomics of the Super Adventure are good, the 23-litre fuel tank (reduced from the 30 litres of the previous model) makes the bike slimmer, less top heavy, more manageable and easy to manoeuvre. There is masses of leg room, but with the firm suspension, even in the comfort setting, and hard seat means that much more than an hour in the saddle gets you shuffling around to stave off potential aches. The adjustable screen does exactly what it should in terms of wind protection and can be raised to cater for the tallest rider and wound down to improve visibility when riding technical terrain.
‘The 1200S has grin-grininducing urgency in any gear and a top end that a sportsbike would be proud of’
With KTM and Ducati making such a big play to increase their market share, I thought the GS’S days were numbered. But that’s not the case.
Both the KTM and Ducati offer higher outright performance. They are more powerful and faster. The Ducati lives for fast smooth roads, whereas the KTM is a weapon in any environment and just wants to be pushed… hard.
On one particularly spirited ride in the depth of Wales when it felt like I was using every one of the 160bhp available on the KTM I kept looking in my mirrors expecting to see the GS becoming an ever-decreasing dot in my vision. But it was always right there thanks to the sublime throttle connection and the ability to get on the gas so much earlier. Whoever was riding the GS was always in the mix thanks to being able to exploit every bit of its performance 100% of the time.
The GS was also the most comfortable, offering a plush ride.
On the final day, after spending just shy of ten hours riding on and off-road in Wales including the ride back to Peterborough, I still had to ride 65 miles home. I was tired and had to choose a bike. The Multistrada was discounted due to its hard, forward-sloping seat, the KTM was a consideration, but it didn’t take long for me to pick up the keys to the GS due to its comfort and smoothness.
Splash out on a new GS
Sure-footed and dependable, the R1200GS is still a brilliant bike
A quick twist of the throttle and the KTM will be ahead again