By Marissa Baecker
Call it trendy, fashionable, travel chic, faddy, whatever you want, but the BMW 1200 GS is one spectacular set of wheels to see the world from.
Ewan McGregor and Charly Boorman introduced the motorcycling world to the possibilities of adventure travel and lifted any preconceived inhibitions of their viewers by traveling the globe in 2004 on BMW R1150 GS, also the bike of choice of Rush drummer Neil Peart, who upgraded to the BMW R1200 GS after logging over 160,000 kilometres for his epic journeys. But put the celebrity aside, as the bike is the main draw.
BMW has been producing adventure models since 1994, back when the R1100 GS was the top dog. In 1999, the 1150 joined the production line and was replaced in 2004 with the 1200. To look at the 1200 side-by-side with its GS siblings the overall lines of the bikes are the same — straight up and down rides mirroring the looks of a dirt bike with higher ground clearance than the average tour bike.
There are four colour options with the 1200 GS and three with the 1200 GS Adventure. But look a little closer and you’ll see the 1200 has certain subtleties that are worth extra consideration. The Adventure model’s engine, a two-cylinder flat twin, air/oil cooled in both 1200 models, means a little less weight and better performance. But rest assured the bike won’t like standing still for long, which is why it is designed for ‘adventure’ riding and not marketed for your daily commute in rush-hour traffic.
This bike is meant to be ridden. If your legs get stiff and the temperature is cool, you can even stretch out over the cylinders and warm up a bit.
As much as I like the 800, I prefer the 1200. However, I question whether or not the 1200 GS Adventure would be too much to handle with the panniers and full travel gear. However, I think if I were going to travel for any length of time that required the additional cargo, I would want that extra power, especially in any off-road areas.
Dry weight is 203 kg for the GS versus 223 kg for the Adventure, then add the liquids, the panniers, the cargo and you had better consider not only being able to operate the bike but also being able to pick it back up should you have to fully loaded with gear. The 110 horsepower certainly helps, while the six-speed transmission becomes useful in challenging terrain. And the 20-litre fuel tank on the GS or the 33-litre tank on the Adventure (four litres of which is reserve for both) would give you a whole lot of unexplored map space off the beaten track.
Fuel consumption is estimated at 5.5 litres with the GS and 6.1 litres for the Adventure per 100 km travelling at a speed of 120 km/h. Seat height options range from is 850/870 mm on the GS to 890/910 mm on the Adventure. You can purchase an optional carved out seat offering 820 mm and there is a lowering kit accessory that will bring the bike down to 790 mm.
Other features include adjustable handlebars, clutch and brake levers, heated hand grips, adjustable windshield, centre stand for balancing a full load when stationary, luggage rack, and digital information display with optional on board computer and dual head lamps with optional fog lamp. Electronic suspension adjustment is a useful option for those long distance treks when you begin to gather gear and change the weight of the bike. This bike is effortless to ride. So smooth, easily maneuverable from side to side, power when you need it. If your bike is loaded with gear, you won’t sacrifice comfort, or handling with the GS.
The original seat is built for the ‘Iron Butt’ riders. The comfort seat is the only way to go for me. It feels like a dirt bike with the street bike bells and whistles. Peace of mind is also important when exploring new country. Double-disc front and single-disc rear brakes can be changed to ABS with the optional safety package which brings with it automatic stability control as well as tire pressure control.
A three-year warranty and roadside assistance sweeten the deal.
Perhaps the GS is to motorcycle travel as the camel is to the Sahara – won’t tire out, can load it up and it will take you places you only imagined were possible.