2010 BMW R1200GS | First Ride

Double stuffed

By Roland Brown, Photography by Paul Bryant, Jason Critchell

It's a classic GS experience. Half an hour ago I was cruising comfortably along a Spanish motorway. Ten minutes ago I was scratching down a twisty back road with my toes clipping the asphalt. And now I'm standing up on the pegs on a gravely path snaking through the Andalusian countryside.

This off-road excursion isn't very ambitious; it's just a short detour before it's time to get back on the road and return to our hotel. Then again, most GS owners' globe-trotting daydreams aren't rooted in reality. But aspirations are a powerful marketing tool, and BMW has sold nearly 200,000 R1200GSs since the model was launched six years ago.

For 2010, both the GS and its heavy-duty Adventure sibling received updated top ends. The new mill maintains the traditional 1170cc displacement and four valves per cylinder but doubles the cam count and increases valve diameter (up 3mm for the intake and 2mm for the exhaust) and lift for more peak power. Performance is increased to a claimed 110 horsepower at 7750 rpm-5 up on the old unit. The new motor revs 500 rpm higher, too, maxing out at 8500 rpm. It's stronger by several horsepower almost everywhere from 2500 rpm to that limit, especially at 5000 and 6500 rpm, where it's got about 10 more ponies. There is, however, a distinct dip between those points, where the old engine briefly claws ahead.

The engine tweak is the primary update, but other minor changes include a new cable-operated exhaust power valve, plus reworked baffles inside the single silencer. Styling is unchanged save for new color options, and the red bike I chose looked good with its accessory hand guards. Having always admired the GS's tall, bird-like profile, I was glad they hadn't muddled with the appearance, although I was less impressed by the messy-looking exhaust power valve. But firing up the new DOHC twin unleashed a notably louder, more aggressive exhaust note that's instantly exciting. The bike's ability to pass emission tests presumably owes much to that unsightly valve, so all credit to it.

The aural accompaniment made me keen to give the GS some stick as we set off from the launch base near Malaga in southern Spain. The plan was to follow the coast road east to Motril before veering north onto the steeper, twistier roads of the Sierra Nevada. Even before we'd gotten out of town and reached the open road, it was clear that the new sound was matched by extra performance.

The improvement isn't dramatic, but I'm sure I wasn't imagining the extra spring in the boxer's step as it charged forward in response to a tweak of the throttle. The bike pulled from 2500 rpm without complaint, punched hard through the midrange, and generally felt lively and wonderfully flexible.

Occasionally I noticed a slight lag in throttle response near that 5500-rpm torque dip, but it wasn't a problem. Apart from making a quick pass on the freeway, there was no real incentive to work the GS hard. I much preferred to short-shift through the six-speed box, riding that wave of torque for which flat-twins are so well known.

Fuel economy doesn't seem to have been affected by the four-valve layout. Assuming the accessory onboard computer is accurate, the GS averaged about 33 mpg despite some pretty high cruising speeds. That equates to a range of well over 150 miles from its 5.3-gallon tank.

Comfort is another aspect that's basically unchanged, which is no surprise because it has always been outstanding. The one-piece bar and thick two-piece seat, in conjunction with well-placed footpegs, give plenty of room. The only inconsistency is the windscreen, which is a hair too low to fully block the windblast, even when lifted to its highest position. BMW doesn't recommend using the Adventure's taller screen (which fits), because the standard model's mounts aren't as strong. But some riders have done so, and I'd be tempted to do the same.

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