BMW R1200GS And BMW F800GS - BMW 2008 - Up To Speed

Adventure For The Middle Class

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by BMW

If an R1200GS twin is too much and those 650 X-singles aren't enough, BMW is betting large stacks of deutschmarks that this latest GS will be just right. The F800GS, aka the worst-kept secret in motorcycling, has been in the works for a couple of years now, because Munich isn't taking chances with a potential franchise player. Its boxer-powered big brother is BMW's best-selling model ever, the standard version in first place followed by the Adventure in fourth. Both bikes get key tweaks for '08 as well. Any new GS is officially a Big Deal.

Finally ready for prime time two years after the pavement-only F800S and ST, the GS version looks to be a much tougher customer. The 798cc parallel-twin shares basic architecture with its predecessors: two cams atop eight valves, two 82 x 75mm cylinders and a 360-degree crankshaft, complete with BMW's predictably unique swivel con-rod balancer canceling endemic vibes. But GS cylinders lean forward just 8 degrees versus the 30-degree cant employed on its street siblings, making room for a 21-inch front wheel. With cam timing massaged for allsurface travel, the newest GS is said to make 62 lb.-ft. of torque at 5750 rpm, followed by 85 horses at 7500 revs, with 90 percent of that torque coming online from 4000 rpm. Die-cast aluminum crankcases bolt stressedmember-style to a new manganese-alloy steel-trellis skeleton. A single aluminum die casting forms the swingarm.

Leading a 62.1-in. wheelbase with 26 degrees of rake and 4.6 in. of trail, the narrow plate-gusseted steering head is designed to allow a generous 42 degrees of steering lock. An adjustable 45mm fork with 9 in. of travel stands in for BMW's signature Telelever front suspension, followed by a single shock with 8.5 in. of travel and a remote adjuster. No shaft. No belt. Your basic O-ring chain transmits power to the 17 x 4.25-in. rear wheel. Brakes? Two 300mm discs spin in four-piston calipers up front, with a 264mm disc and dual-piston caliper bringing up the rear.

It all adds up a 455-lb. package on BMW's scales, complete with 4.1 gal. of superunleaded in a plastic tank that lives under the seat. That's 49 lbs. less than an '08 R1200GS. The standard 34.6-in. seat height presents a hurdle to vertically challenged adventurers, but an optional low seat cuts that number by an inch at no extra charge. The 800's $10,520 price tag-add $890 for optional two-channel ABS-undercuts its big brother by a healthy $4080.

After selling more than 100,000 copies since '04, Munich isn't about to forget the R1200GS. The 1170cc boxer gets a 5 percent bump to an alleged 105 bhp as the redline jumps 500 rpm to an even 8000. The six-speed gearbox gets slightly shorter internal ratios, beefier bearings and a new shifting mechanism to shuffle those new cogs more precisely. A lower final-drive ratio-2.91:1 vs. 2.82:1 in '07-should translate those extra horses into added thrust, especially through the upper half of the rev range.

BMW's electronically adjustable suspension gets dirty on the '08 GS. The optional Enduro ESA toggles between on- and off-road settings with the push of a button. Pavement options are familiar, with spring settings for a solo rider, rider with luggage or rider and passenger, with a choice of Sport, Normal and Comfort modes in each. Choose off-road mode and the basic "medium reserves" cues 50 percent of the available spring preload at both ends. "Maximum reserves" sets preload at full stiff to discourage bottoming through genuinely roughstuff. Damping can be set soft, medium or hard within each spring mode.

But wait, there's more: adjustable doublebutted aluminum bars fitted with optional hand protectors, thicker seat foam near the tank, a new 720- watt AC generator and a gang of subtle tweaks we'll talk about later. Maybe the best news is the $14,600 bottom line-a measly $150 increase from last year. Expect the '08 R1200GS to show up in dealers in late March or early April.

And for you deviants who like to get really dirty, BMW's G450X should materialize in showrooms toward the end of the year. Though it's unclear whether production versions will be street-legal at this point, this one looks like a match for any four-stroke enduro weapon. That's G as in Generation, as in the lineup of sporty mid-displacement bikes for buyers who read Wired instead of Modern Maturity that started with the 650cc X-singles in '07. Lifting technology from the K1200S sporty bike, the fuel-injected, counterbalanced, 449cc single makes about 50 horses at the crank. It's homologated for Euro 3 emissions regulations and lives in a thin-wall stainless steel space frame. If U.S. versions hit the current 264-lb. weight target with a full 2.2-gal. tank, you may well be looking at a contender. In fact, the bike has already won a round of the World Enduro Championship. MC

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