First Ride: 2006 BMW R1200GS Adventure

The ultimate international long-distance carrier

BMW's Adventure has been broadening horizons since 2002. It's become such a sales success since then that this new Adventure blockbuster--starring BMW's latest boxer drivetrain instead of the original R1150 lump--was inevitable. The R1200GS is a beast, but it's weedy alongside the '06 Adventure, complete with taller screen, hand protectors, longer-travel suspension, stainless steel luggage rack and that enormous 8.6-gallon fuel tank.

Underneath, it's all 1200GS. Power comes from the same eight-valve 1171cc boxer twin, fortified with a more powerful, 720-watt alternator and aluminum cylinder-head protectors. Strengthened to carry bigger saddlebags, the steel-tube chassis uses BMW's Telelever front suspension and Paralever single-sided swingarm. Suspension travel is up nearly an inch at each end--8.3 inches up front and 8.7 inches in the rear--and wire-spoke wheels are standard.

Adventure riders need to be tall or brave. Even in its lowest position, the 35.2-inch-high seat sits a bit taller than the standard GS's tallest configuration. Otherwise, Adventure ergonomics are more accommodating. Its height-adjustable aluminum handlebar comes with a foam crossbar pad. The footpegs are wider than the standard bike's for improved control. The shift lever and brake pedal are also height-adjustable.

The most amazing thing is just how well the Adventure behaves--on or off the pavement--despite its massive size. Friendly power and improbably agile handling add up to impressive speed with an equally high level of control. Much of the motor's 100 horsepower is superfluous in the dirt. Still, the broad spread of torque and sweet fuel injection provide plenty of useable thrust despite the fact that you rarely leave second gear. The big twin always seems to find traction at low revs. Tweak the throttle at 2000 rpm and the BMW chuffs forward obediently, with enough grunt to kick the rear end sideways on command.

The chassis is equally impressive. You can't stop this much motorcycle from sliding with a well-placed boot, but the good news is it's so nimble and controllable you may not have to. Compliant suspension keeps the Adventure under control through the bumpy bits. And slowing down is no problem, especially once you've turned off the standard ABS, leaving the linked EVO system (the hand lever works all three discs while the foot pedal actuates only the rear).

Back on the road the Adventure proved every bit as fast and capable as the standard GS, inevitably marred to some extent by the dirt-biased tires' vague feel. The adjustable windscreen is notably more protective. Handling and braking on-road are excellent as well. There's enough midrange for effortless acceleration, despite a 492-lb. dry weight that's 53 lbs. heavier than the standard GS. Theoretically, there's enough fuel to cover more than 400 miles if you're tough enough.

It's a bike fit for hard nuts and heroes. If you're planning to ride 'round the world, no other production motorcycle comes close. It is big, tough, and occasionally intimidating. Better still, the new Adventure is huge fun and improbably easy to ride, even if you're only going around the block.-MC

** 2006 BMW R1200GS Adventure**

MSRP: $16,600

Type: a/o-c opposed twin
Valve arrangement: SIHC, 8 valves
Displacement: 1171cc
Transmission: 6-speed

Weight: 492 lb., claimed dry (223kg)
Fuel capacity: 8.6 gallons (33L)
Wheelbase: 59.5 in. (1511mm)
Seat height: 35 in. (894mm)