BMW R1200GS £5500

Still the go-to ad­ven­turer, but the bril­liance comes with its quirks, and a stout used ask­ing price…


AS THE TRAIL briefly lev­els out we hit a clear­ing and feel the sun on our backs for the first time to­day. It’s a re­lief – it feels like a sign that things are look­ing up. Af­ter a nervy half hour, I’m re­lax­ing on the Africa Twin, fi­nally be­liev­ing I might avoid en­ter­tain­ing the lo­cal A&E de­part­ment with some fas­ci­nat­ing frac­tures. And at last I can set­tle back and en­joy watch­ing Bob on the GS up ahead. With its pan­niers and top-box, the GS looks wildly in­ap­pro­pri­ate for the tiny trail Bob’s aim­ing it at. The BM has the look of a galleon set­ting forth up a bab­bling brook. But up on the poop deck Capt Bob is re­laxed, gen­tly drift­ing the BM around the faster turns and find­ing trac­tion where the Tiger spins – even with Chris at the con­trols. What a bike. The sheer weight of the fully-loaded GS is in­tim­i­dat­ing at slower speeds, but the re­al­ity is not that bad – be­cause of the off-road friendly rid­ing po­si­tion when you’re stand­ing on the pegs, smooth throt­tle re­sponse, light clutch and feel­some back brake, the BM can be U-turned on mud with re­mark­able ease. In fact, Chris reck­ons the newer ver­sions are now eas­ier to ride than their lit­tle F800GS brothers. He in­structs at the Off-road Skills school, which only uses BMWS: ‘If some­one new to off-road­ing asks what bike they should do the course on, we say the 1200 rather than the 800 or 700. The down­side is you’ve got more weight to move about, but the ad­van­tage is sta­bil­ity – it’s a very for­giv­ing bike. The weight is low down and the clutch makes life easy – the older 1200 we’re rid­ing to­day is ar­guably bet­ter than the new one in this re­spect be­cause its clutch is even softer. The new one can be a bit more snappy.’ Though easy to con­trol our bike’s dry clutch isn’t per­fect – the smell of clutch plates wafts through the woods when­ever we come across a slower sec­tion that re­quires clutch slip­ping. ‘I won­der whether it could be down to the higher first gear of the stan­dard bike com­pared with the Ad­ven­ture,’ pon­ders Bob. ‘I’ve rid­den one of those down this very trail and had no prob­lems at all.’ On road it’s dif­fi­cult to find fault with the GS as it does its fa­mil­iar trick of be­ing all-day com­fort­able while han­dling like a lanky sports­bike. Sure, the Telelever front end takes a while to get used to – it’s not so much the lack of dive as lack of feel that un­set­tles you – but five min­utes into a twisty road and you’ll be gig­gling like Don­ald Trump’s hair­dresser. The GS is a bril­liant, if in­con­gru­ous, scratcher. The Telelever front end isn’t the only quirk with this pre-wa­ter­cooled GS. There’s the switchgear, with an in­di­ca­tor on each bar end, plus of course the small mat­ter of cylin­ders pok­ing out the sides. ‘You ei­ther like the GS or you don’t,’ says Chris. ‘There’s not much mid­dle ground. I’ve got an old R100 and it’s ob­vi­ous that BMW have made their bikes less and less weird over the years but this GS still has a few odd­i­ties – the dry clutch, the switchgear… They’re things you ei­ther fall in love with or get put off by on a short test ride. If you get on and ac­ci­den­tally press the horn every five min­utes you’re go­ing to be in no mood to buy it.’ De­spite its defin­ing lay­out, the en­gine isn’t weird at all once you’re rolling. If you ex­pect an un­so­phis­ti­cated trac­tor you’ll be dis­ap­pointed – there are hints of agri­cul­tural ma­chin­ery from the gear­box, but all re­cent GS en­gines feel char­ac­ter­ful rather than rough. And lung­ing out of se­cond gear cor­ners with that dis­tinc­tive flat-twin bel­low, the GS feels just as fast as the new-fan­gled Africa Twin and will cream the Tiger too, un­less the rider revs its nuts off. Buying a used GS is a cu­ri­ous ex­pe­ri­ence if you’re used to buying Ja­panese bikes. For a start the mar­ket is swamped with cher­ished bikes – full BMW ser­vice his­tory, piles of re­ceipts and well-judged af­ter­mar­ket kit (our bike had an ex­cel­lent tour­ing screen and tour­ing sad­dle, for ex­am­ple). There cer­tainly aren’t many about with stick­ers cov­er­ing crash dam­age and mys­te­ri­ous holes in their ser­vice records. The down­side is that Gses hold their value like few other bikes, which means they seem ex­pen­sive when com­pared with, for ex­am­ple, a Tiger 1050. Our GS has a ridicu­lously low mileage – an av­er­age of un­der 700 miles per year – and feels fit. It’s not per­fect though – there’s paint flak­ing off the front of the en­gine (a com­mon is­sue) and a cou­ple of tiny scuffs on the plas­tics. But de­spite it be­ing two years older than the Tri­umph, it costs al­most £2000 more. It’ll hold onto most of that value un­less you trash it, but the ini­tial out­lay takes some get­ting used to.

‘The weight of the GS is in­tim­i­dat­ing, but the re­al­ity is not that bad’

Ubiq­ui­tous Ubiq­ui­toustin tin boxes are part and par­cel of the usedgs­buy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

(Above)there’snone­ofthat­new-fan­gled Africa Twin nar­row­ness here (Be­low) In a world of TFT dashes it’s all very re­as­sur­ing

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