2004-2010 BMW R1200GS | SMART MONEY

BMW's popular GS has some issues but lack of versatility isn’t one of them. READ MORE

If you dream of owning a tourer, a canyon carver, a trail bike, a ‘round-the-worlder, and a daily commuter, but your budget will stretch only as far as a single bike, don’t buy a lottery ticket––get a BMW R1200GS. You won’t be alone. The big boxer has topped BMW’s sales charts for years, and it’s easy to see why. At its debut in 2004, the 1200 took the stage 66 pounds lighter than the R1150GS it replaced, with about 20 percent more horsepower. The counterbalanced engine was substantially new, and a big jump in refinement over the 1150 Oilhead. BMW, wisely, left the basic concept alone: The 1200 is a fairly large evolutionary leap, but it clearly follows the GS lineage.

BMW occasionally likes to confuse us, so the R1150GS Adventure overlapped the 1200’s early years, riding high on its starring role in Long Way Round. That was until 2006, when it took on the base GS’s updates and became the R1200GS Adventure. All 2008 GSs came with ABS, a 5-bhp bump, and optional electronic suspension adjustment and traction control. The 1200 Adventure got a return engagement in the LWR sequel, Long Way Down.

Both trips showcased the GS’s strengths, such as a burro-like indifference to overloading, and a few of its weaknesses, including more weight than is feasible while axle-deep in Siberian mud, and the difficulty of troubleshooting some issues while riding through the back of beyond. There are a few routine jobs DIYers can tackle, and many more they should steer clear of. For example, the CANbus wiring can go haywire as a result of something as simple as splicing in driving lights or an electric-vest plug. Unless you’re a better-than-average tinkerer with a garage full of diagnostic tools, buddy up to a dealer.

The driveway inspection of a used 1200GS starts at the final drive. Most last the life of the bike, but a few have the lifespan of a mayfly. With the bike on the centerstand tug the rear wheel side to side. Any play at all is cause for concern. Oil seeping from the final drive, or any indication that it’s been disassembled at some point, is reason enough to consider another specimen. Check for oil leaks near the back of the engine, particularly on the left side where the rear drive attaches to the crankcase. This could indicate a blown seal that will eventually require replacing the clutch.

If the bike has been taken off-road, look at the underside for signs of damage or corrosion. If the grips and peg rubbers are new and shiny and the rest of the bike isn’t up to the same standard, be wary. Check the spoke nipples to see if they’re rounded off, a possible sign of inexpert trailside wheel repair; the GS’s spokes penetrate through the edge of the rim, and take special expertise to true.

Other reported problem areas include graunchy gearboxes and short-lived batteries. Accessories like panniers and crash bars add some value to the price, but check them for bent brackets, rust, and missing bolts, especially on bikes ridden off-road. Look at add-ons with a jaundiced eye, and decide if you really need cases big enough to haul a wildebeest carcass back to camp. You might be able to get cheaper ones that are just as useful for your purposes, making a stripped model a smarter buy. As always, a well-documented service history is a big plus.

Can go almost anywhere except up trees. More available accessories than you can shake a platinum Visa card at.
Mocks you with its prowess. Parts and repairs notoriously pricey.
Watch For
Final drive slop, oil leaks, off-road abuse, outstanding recalls, useless accessories.
The wildly popular GS has some issues, sure, but lack of versatility isn’t one of them. World-class bike for worldwide travel.
2005 | $9210
2006 | $9955
2007 | $11,030
2008 | $12,020
2009 | $13,040
2010 | $14,040

Buying Smart
The 1200GS's shaft drive and tubeless tires simplify maintenance chores on the street, but can be liabilities off-road where weight, complexity, or a bent rim can bring everything to a halt. While easy and fun to ride on pavement, the big boxer can be a double handful off-road, as anyone who's watched Ewan and Charley lifting their overloaded bikes in knee-deep mud will testify. If you plan to follow in their wheel tracks, get some training specific to venturing into the wild on the big GS.


Looking for one bike to do it all? If you’re big enough and brave enough to handle it, BMW’s venerable GS will take you anywhere you want to go.