BMW R1200GS Review

Ride Along With Our Expert BMW R1200GS Review

WRIST: Aaron Frank
MSRP (2013): $19,520
MILES: 9,676
MPG: 42
MODS: Wunderlich wind deflector

Indecision is one of my (many) afflictions. I can't help it. I'm a Libra. I was just born this way. Which is why BMW's GS is the perfect motorcycle for me. A few weeks ago I had a rare weekend without responsibilities, so I loaded the Kriega Overlander 60 soft bags with camping gear and aimed north for my BMW R1200GS review. The first 120 miles along I-43 up Lake Michigan's left coast was dispatched in complete comfort, cruise control set at 80, and Dynamic ESA electronic suspension dialed to Soft.

Just past Keshena I turned right on Highway 55, Wisconsin’s Tail of the Dragon. In Dynamic engine mode with D-ESA set to Hard, a sportbike couldn’t touch the torquey, long-travel GS over the next 35 miles of bumpy, undulating curves. At Boulder Lake I headed deep into the Nicolet National Forest, roosting and splashing 10 miles of logging road before carefully picking my way down a mile of snot-slick single-track. Off-road-specific Enduro mode traction-control and ABS settings kept me upright all the way to a remote backcountry campsite on the Oconto River, where I finally unloaded the Kriega bags.

That I could do everything from freeway droning to peg scraping to single-track plonking on the same day on the same bike says everything you need to know about the R1200GS: the perfect bike for indeciders like me who want everything from a motorcycle, all the time. That this latest version of the GS, the first BMW to get the new water-cooled engine and so many other upgrades, does all the above so very well tells you what an amazing job BMW has done refining the GS platform over the past three decades. I’m ready to call this the best all-around motorcycle on the market, hands down.

Except for a one-time issue with a waterlogged cruise-control switch that corrected itself once the bike dried out, I have had zero mechanical issues in the near-10,000 miles I’ve ridden this bike. There were two manufacturer’s recalls—to replace the ride-by-wire twistgrip and clutch slave cylinder—but the underlying problems never manifested on my machine. It’s become sport among some (mostly KTM owners) to pick at the reliability of previous-generation GSs (see: faulty final drives), but this latest version, completely redesigned, seems well built and durable. (Web ridership mostly agrees; and, for you conspiracists, I have never once experienced “violent headshake” on this bike.)

And this GS has hardly been babied for my BMW R1200GS review. My first ride lasted two days and 2,200 miles, direct from the US press launch in California where I picked up the bike with just 121 miles on the odometer and rode it essentially flat out back to Wisconsin. And it certainly didn’t get easier after I modified the bike for off-road use. In combining my own off-road ineptitude with the sheer momentum generated by 550 pounds moving at speed, this bike has spent a disproportionate amount of time belly-up—and I have to say, thanks to crash protection from Wunderlich (crashbars), SW-Motech (hand guards and bellypan), and Touratech (rear rack/crash cage) it crashes better than even my KX250F. I could pull the bars off right now and the underlying bike would look brand new. (Which I’m sure BMW will appreciate, should I choose to return this testbike. Right now I’m thinking strongly about keeping it. And for once, I’m feeling uncharacteristically decisive.)

This has been the great takeaway from this long-term test, my first real adventure-bike experience: It's too easy to slag ADV machines as SUV-like impostors for poseurs who rarely venture beyond their zip code—and then only for a latte. Set up correctly, however, the right ADV will literally take you anywhere. BMW's latest R1200GS —the original and now the most-evolved ADV, developed by the most on-point manufacturer in the modern motorcycle industry—is one of the best there is out of the box, and it's only better after 10,000 miles.