2013 BMW R1200GS pricing update here: http://bit.ly/UJU5OZ
Let’s face it, most GS owners will spend the majority of their time on pavement, which is
They say: “The Best GS of All Times!”
We say: “They might be onto something.”
I’m still jet-lagged from BMW’s launch event for the new water-cooled 2013 BMW R1200GS
in South Africa, but I can say one thing for sure: Breathe easy all you GS lovers, the gold standard in adventure touring has not been tarnished. We at MC were asking ourselves before this launch how BMW could significantly improve
what was already the standard bearer for the class. Amazingly, BMW did. A growing fleet of electronics, more power, and a host of ergonomic changes make the 2013 bike even more capable than its predecessor.
That goal seems pretty obvious, but it’s all in the execution. While the 2013 R1200GS is an all-new bike, the lion’s share of attention has been paid to the use of water to cool the boxer engine for the first time in BMW’s 90-year history. But the engine is substantially changed in other areas, including the rotation of ports—the exhaust is now on the bottom not the front, the intake on top and not the back—and position of the transmission in the cases. The other headline for the new powerplant is the use of a wet, multi-plate clutch. And as you might guess, the feel of the new engine and clutch is noticeably different than previous versions.
For 2013, BMW has improved the GS’s off-road capabilities through new suspension functions
Starting the new water-cooled boxer in gear, as I did the first time, involves a very light clutch pull but the bike offers a slight tug forward against the reins. A little drag when cold is common for wet clutches, but something R1200GS owners have thus far been learned to live without. Once warm, the new clutch pack performs beautifully, especially in off-road or slow-speed riding, where only one finger is needed to modulate drive.
As the beating heart of every big GS, the new boxer engine needed to be good. BMW boasts 125 horsepower from the new mill, up from 110 bhp claimed from the previous model. The motor is predictably reminiscent of the outgoing powerplant, but more power and ride-by-wire throttle produce tractable power over a larger span of revs. The engine is a little less tractor-like in slow, off-road situations, and where the quick-revving new engine benefits with increased midrange or high rpm power, it is a little bit less friendly when lugging through a tricky section of dirt.
Hey, what’s that? BMW has hidden the new engine’s necessary radiators in the forward flank
Among the many options debuting on the 2013 GS is Dynamic ESA, an evolution of the previous version’s Electronic Suspension Adjustment. Similar to the software that first broke cover on BMW’s HP4, the GS’s “semi-active” damping control monitors throttle and brake inputs as well as suspension movement to adapt to the conditions. Much like Ducati’s Skyhook system used on the Multistrada, Dynamic ESA is difficult to perceive while in motion, but the bike being stable and compliant in any situation is enough to let you know the system is doing what the designers intended.
Our test route included suburban traffic but mostly consisted of rural roads, both paved and dirt, and offered the perfect environment to test the many ride modes and suspension settings available on the new GS. Three modes—Rain, Road, and Dynamic—have been designed for street use, and range from “gentle” to “optimal” to “direct” in terms of throttle response. Think of Dynamic as “sport” and Road as “normal.” Automatic Stability Control (ASC) is configured for each mode to match conditions as determined by the rider, with Road offering less intervention than the decidedly cautious Rain mode. Dynamic mode is said to allow a “slight drift” on paved roads, though with warm weather and dry roads I never engaged the ASC on tarmac.
As with Ducati’s Multistrada, the ride modes transform the bike significantly, though BMW’s system is decidedly more subtle. Because the adjustments can be made on the fly, the changes can be felt instantly and are truly confidence inspiring. There’s nothing like switching the bike from Hard to Soft when transferring from a smooth canyon road to a bumpy city street—and having the bike turn from sports car to SUV beneath you.
Most impressive, however, is the off-road traction control available. Blasting along one of South Africa’s many hard-packed gravel roads, engaging the Enduro ride mode offered a comprehensive safety net. The ABS is configured much differently in Enduro than for the three road-going modes, and allows for a perceptible loss of traction entering dirt corners. Linked brakes add stability, yet are severe enough to slide the rear wheel on a dirt road by using only the front brake lever.