Motorcycle Of The Year
The Icon, Overhauled
BMW didn't need to update the R1200GS for 2013. In fact, many GS junkies probably wished the company wouldn't. The GS was already BMW's best-selling model, representing more than 30 percent of the firm's total annual sales, and it was widely regarded as the best bike in the wildly popular adventure-touring class. BMW had nothing to gain and everything to lose by fiddling with the GS. An ill-conceived or poorly executed update could easily compromise everything the GS had achieved—especially alongside aggressive competition from Ducati and an insurgent KTM. But BMW today is not the same conservative, tradition-bound company it was back in 2004, the last time the big GS benefitted from a major overhaul. The German manufacturer is no longer content to rest on its two-wheeled laurels, no matter how successful those might be. The same relentless pursuit of mechanical perfection that resulted in the stunning K1600GT and HP4 (flip forward and peep "Best Touring Bike" and "Best Sportbike" winners) has now been applied wholesale to the original adventure tourer, the bike, one could argue, that started all this ADV madness 32 years ago—and with brilliant results.
Nothing was sacred when it came time for BMW to revamp its flagship—not even the signature Boxer-twin engine that turned 90 this year. Now water-cooled for the first time, this is the smoothest, most powerful, most satisfying Boxer yet. The steel-trellis chassis is likewise all new, with revised geometry and "EVO" iterations of the patented Telelever and Paralever front and rear suspension systems, for handling that is both sharper and more stable than before. The advanced electronic systems that already incorporated electronic suspension adjustment, traction control, ABS, and more, have been upgraded with four switchable ride modes and auto-adjusting Dynamic Damping Control lifted from the revolutionary HP4. Everything BMW knows about building great motorcycles has been incorporated into this bike.
It's one thing to throw technology at a motorcycle—every company active in the ADV segment does that. It's something entirely different to build a cutting-edge motorcycle that works as cohesively as the new GS does. When we attend a BMW press launch, the thing that most impresses us is that everyone on staff, from the chassis engineer to the electronics programmers to the design chief, rides—and rides really well. You can tell immediately that the new GS (like the K1600GT and the HP4) is built by people who love to ride and who know exactly how a proper motorcycle should work. More than anything, this is what makes the current crop of BMWs great. And the GS, which is equally at home on an American interstate, an Alpine pass, or a cinder-covered singletrack, is by our reckoning the best of the bunch.
The R1200GS is the quintessential Motorcycle of the Year: a benchmark bike that continues to define and lead its class; a shining example of the cutting edge of motorcycle technology; a clear statement of the strength, power, and vision of the manufacturer that built it; and, most importantly, a damn good—make that great—bike. BMW took an enormous risk in revamping the GS from the ground up, a risk that really paid off.