2014 BMW R1200GS | DOIN' TIME

Taking the big brute on a 300-mile, no-mods warm-up ride

  • WRIST: Aaron Frank
  • MSRP (2013): $19,520
  • MILES: 5,560
  • MPG: 35
  • MODS: None

Once the Endless Winter of 2014 finally released its grip on the upper Midwest, I unplugged the Imperial Stormtrooper’s umbilical Battery Tender connection and readied it for the season’s first ride. I started the way I imagine most GS rides begin—by adding another farkle. I’ve been sitting on a set of bright-enough-to-burn-paint-off-a-Prius Denali D2 LED driving lights from Twisted Throttle, so I decided to throw them on. But I didn’t get five minutes into the project before realizing the supplied SW-Motech light bar was an interference fit with the previously installed Wunderlich crashbars, so I had to press pause and order other mounts that would allow me to hang the lamps from the crashbars. That’s right—now I’m farkling my farkles. This might be a sign.

Extra illumination or not, I was determined to ride. It was still cold enough to display the snowflake dash icon (illuminated when temps drop below 37 degrees Fahrenheit), but the sun was shining and I had an electric vest, heated grips, and an oversized Wunderlich Ergo Marathon windscreen to cut the chill. I plugged in and set out toward the alphabet soup of county highways cross-crossing Southwestern Wisconsin’s Driftless Area, where twisty, single-lane farm roads—and the occasional public ATV trail, open to plated dual-sport bikes—awaited.

I wasn’t 5 miles from home, crossing the Marquette Interchange high above downtown Milwaukee, when I fell in love with this big brute of a bike all over again. I recalled a conversation with BMW Design Manager Alexander Buckan at a press launch last fall where he talked about the transformative power of the GS’s riding position—how you feel an overwhelming sense of command and control as soon as you climb onto the tall seat and grasp the wide handlebar. I felt as indomitable as a Stormtrooper dodging dump trucks and middling minivans in the morning rush, the sensation only enhanced by off-season ergonomic adjustments including SW-Motech 40mm bar risers for an elbows-up “attack position,” and toothy off-road footpegs—also from SW-Motech—that lock my boot soles in place (though I wish that, in the lower of the two available positions, the peg surface sat flush with the mount rather than below it, which occasionally interferes with boot placement).

This was also the first ride since installing the Remus HexaCone exhaust system. I can confirm BMW’s liquid-cooled boxer engine sounds great uncorked, retaining the flat twin’s inimitable dogfighter drone but with an awesome new bark thanks to the quicker-revving engine character. I didn’t feel the 3 to 5 pound-feet that disappeared from the midrange on the dyno—the GS still snap-wheelied on-demand in low gears and pulled hard off corners everywhere else—but I did notice fuel economy took a dive, falling from an average of 40 mpg to 35 mpg. Losing almost 30 miles of range on an ADV bike that has only a 200-mile effective range isn’t ideal. Still-melting snow meant most trails were too wet to ride, though the back roads were so covered with sand and gravel they might as well have been trails. Praise ABS! Still, this 300-mile warm-up revved me up for another season of all-roads adventuring. Now, back to those Denali lights.