$5000 Streetbike Surgery - BMW R1200GS Adventure

Perfecting The Gelände/Strasse Principle

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Andrea Wilson

Despite 30 years of relentless mechanical evolution, the longest-playing BMW in company history isn't quite perfect. It's close, but even a late-model R1200GS like this one comes with an inevitable handful of concessions to mass production that, like a fresh case of poison oak, hard-core fans can't leave alone.

Blessed with more of every traditional Gelände/Strasse virtue from suspension travel to the fuel capacity of a small Japanese pickup truck, auxiliary lighting and reasonable tip-over protection, an R1200GS Adventure keeps the serious and the seriously obsessed from building a mountain of accessory catalogs quite as quickly as the standard model. But for anyone truly committed to bashing around the hinterlands-Motorcyclist's Western Advertising Manager Brad Banister, for example-it only postpones the inevitable: regular visits by the UPS truck, followed by a towering mountain of boxes in the garage.

After finding an '08 Adventure with only 1800 miles advertised on Craigslist, Banister wasted no time sealing the deal. "I bought it from a broke stockbroker in New York, which was a story in itself," he says. The bike showed up in Los Angeles with Touratech master-cylinder guards and a set of hand-built Jesse aluminum saddlebags-the gold standard in real-deal expedition motorcycle luggage for the last 17 years-along with a BMW Navigator III GPS receiver. A good start, but why stop there? The bags got a flat-black Rhino Lining-the same spray-on coating usually found protecting truck beds-to blend with the bike's stealthy mission statement.

Even for a GS that spends 70 percent of its life on the pavement, Job One is defending vulnerable vitals from hostile terrain. The Adventure comes with a more substantially armored undercarriage than the standard GS, but the thought of all 4.2 quarts of oil bleeding out of a fist-sized hole in the crankcase miles from anywhere inspired Banister to bolt up a Wunderlich Extreme skidplate and centerstand plate. There are less obvious but equally vital bits of protection on board: Wunderlich guards keep the steering stops from being sheared off if Das Boot should capsize, subsequently stuffing the handlebar into the fuel tank and wreaking all sorts of expensive havoc. A MudSling rear fender extension from Machineart Moto protects the battery, rear shock and precious vacation days from being wasted by chunks of countryside churned up by the rear tire. A Wunderlich sidestand enlarger keeps the stock stand's smallish foot from sinking into soft ground and letting the bike keel over. It all adds up to peace of mind, which really is priceless when you're a few hundred miles from home.

UP CLOSE

With all the armor plating in place, the next order of business was tailoring the fit. The stock BMW handlebar is the sort of compromise we can live without-especially while trying to concentrate on the tricky bit up ahead instead of the nagging back pain induced by the last 10 miles of rocky desert two-track. The cure? Pro Taper's EVO bar (available in your choice of off-road-friendly bends) held by a Wunderlich Quick-Adjust mount. No more loosening/tightening those four bolts to rotate the bar forward for the stand-up sections and re-doing it for the ride home. Wunderlich's internal ratcheting mechanism lets you make the same adjustment in one-tenth the time with no tools for less than what most chiropractors would charge to straighten out your sacroiliac. Besides being much tougher than the stock bits they replace, Vario adjustable control levers add a similar degree of adjustability to the clutch and front brake. A Wunderlich throttle-stop offers blessed relief to the overtaxed right wrist on seemingly interminable stretches of straight pavement. Replace the right bar-end with one of these, dial up a suitable degree of resistance and you'll wonder how you and your wrist managed this long without one.

Though the 1170cc Boxer punches out plenty of steam right out of the box, a Remus stainless-steel header and Hexacone titanium/carbon-fiber canister make the big boy noticeably more responsive to the throttle and more fun to listen to without annoying motorists or other sensitive wildlife. It all adds up to the most functional, versatile motorcycle Banister has owned in 32 years of riding. Comfortable enough for the long haul yet capable of dancing through the twisty bits like an NFL linebacker in ballet class, it may not look pretty to you, but it gets the job done on- or off-road. To a guy like Brad, that's beautiful.

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