Tribute to R1200GS
Some bikes win races, others transport people around the world, become best-sellers, star in TV shows or inspire a host of imitators and yet only one, as far as we know, has done all of those and more… BMW’S incredible R1200GS.
Born out of the Dakar-winning original GS, before becoming a globetrotter for a whole generation and star of The Long Way Down, the big BM proved so successful it’s been a perennial chart-topper – so much so that it’s inspired rivals from Triumph, Ducati, Aprilia and others.
Yet that basic appeal boils down to one thing – simply how well the R1200GS works, both off-road and on. Or, as the co-star of The Long Way Down, Charley Boorman, told MCN when the latest updated version of the BMW came out in 2013:
“It’s amazing what these bikes can do. Off-road, everybody says the same. Folk will ride up a steep mountain and look back at rocks and boulders and go: ‘I can’t believe I got up there’. They’re incredible. But as well as that, when you go out on the road, they’re really impressive, especially down twisty country lanes.
“Get a good rider on a GS and there’s not much that will catch it.”
In short: the GS does it all: touring, off-road, sporty scratching and more. No wonder, then, that it’s also proved so popular, not only with tens of thousands of riders worldwide, but even with other celebrities such as biker and Rush drummer Neal Peart, Lord of the Rings star Orlando Bloom and even Harrison Ford.
But what’s most impressive about the GS is not how it came about – as a successor to the R1150GS and before that the R1100GS going all the way back to the original R80G/S that was something of a no-brainer. No, instead what impresses is how BMW have kept it on top for over a decade.
Launched in 2004 with 100bhp, the R1200GS has never stood still. Joined by the big-tanked Adventure version in 2005 it was then significantly updated in 2007 and 2010 (first to 105bhp then 110) before getting a complete makeover with new liquid-cooled engine (and now with the shaft on the other side), a host of electronics and more in 2013.
During all that time, and despite the arrival of ever more sophisticated and impressive competitors including Ducati’s Multistrada 1200, KTM’S big Adventure, Triumph’s Tiger Explorer (which was specifically targeted at the GS) not to mention offerings from all four Japanese manufacturers, the big Beemer has always been there or thereabouts at the top of the tree. That in itself is impressive.
More impressive still is the whole GS owning experience. Although the bike has never been perfect, its abilities, the unique range of factory and aftermarket accessories available, BM dealer service, high residuals and more add up to make GS owners very loyal indeed, as more than a few told MCN.
“I own a 2005 R1200GS that I ride rain or shine as my daily commute or for extensive trans-american trips,” Stateside owner Tanguy Adriaenssen told us. “It’s a great machine and the best thing I own!”
Uk-based Graham Bell is another. “I owned a 2007 GS for eight years and it was incredible,” he told MCN. “I used it all year round and it was, bar one occasion, utterly reliable and the finish was like new when I sadly came to part with it.”
But maybe Will Willis, another 1200GS owner from the other side of The Pond, put it best.
“It’s not the kind of machine that you pull up a chair with a box of popcorn and gaze at it for hours on end,” he told us. “It’s the kind of bike that will go anywhere and do anything you ask of it. For the past two years it has turned into my daily companion, my country road carver, off-road attacker, and long-distance hauler. This is my first BMW and definitely not my last.”
The R1200GS – and the rest of the GS family – has that affect of people!
‘It’s my country road carver, off-road attacker, and long distance hauler’ WILL WILLIS, MCN READER AND R1200GS OWNER
There's not much it can't do