A wasser-boxer love affair
Talk about preaching to the converted, to have a BMW reviewed by the president of BMW Club Australia – but he really does know his Beemers!
It all started a few months ago when my BMW motorcycle club took a tour of South Africa on bikes provided by SAMA Tours, and mine was a shiny new R 1200 GS. I’ve had a couple of the ‘old’ air-cooled RTs and the new ‘wasser-boxer’ is a significant step up in output and performance. The final outcome was that I was impressed enough to buy a GS for myself, and chose the Triple Black edition with a few nice little extras.
Now the GS is the best-selling BMW model for a very good reason; it does nearly everything well, has impeccable manners and is bloody good fun. This is from a dyed in the wool K 1600 GT owner, who hasn’t always shown impartiality to the adventure bike side of the range.
First impressions: this is a big bike and is tall, so if you are vertically challenged and the stock seat adjustment won’t go low enough for you then consider the lowered option. This is a well proportioned adventure model with years of development culminating in this latest iteration: good LED lighting, manually adjustable screen, a clear and readable instrument cluster, keyless ignition and filler cap, well laid out controls (including the ‘wonder-wheel’ multi-dcontroller), special edition seat, great clearance around the front and back and an overall narrow profile.
No panniers or pannier mounts on mine: I opted for some extras in the way of driving lights, engine guards, bigger bash plate and GSA pegs. GPS mount is also standard on the Triple Black but the GPS is an extra.
Handling for a big adventure bike is remarkable, powering through twisties with aplomb and inspiring confidence in nearly all conditions.
After climbing on board and acquainting myself with the controls, which are being standardised across the BMW range these days, there is a slight delay when turning on the electronics as the self-test runs. You can start immediately but it is better to wait before hitting the start and settling in to that boxer rumble. The engine and drive train have been significantly changed from previous air-cooled models and the balance is now very, very good with nowhere near the vibration that was once the norm. The electronic throttle is very sensitive to a new user, so after slipping into first a delicate hand is needed to balance the throttle against clutch take up; this becomes second nature after a day or two. Normal shifts are smooth and positive but the speed shift comes into its own when powering through the gears, achieving fast and smooth changes up or down without touching the clutch. It does, however, take some re-learning for ‘old school’ riders who naturally blip the throttle with the change; this can fox the speed shift which is trying to do the same task!
Handling for a big adventure bike is remarkable, powering through twisties with aplomb and inspiring confidence in nearly all conditions. Well balanced, the standard Anakie tyres are a compromise for road/dirt and could be better in the wet on sealed roads; they should be treated as the compromise they are.
Electronic assistance on the GS is reaching remarkable levels. ABS Pro is up there with the very best anti-lock braking systems and uses roll, yaw and acceleration sensors to calculate bank angle to give the best-case deceleration possible, even when cornering. Similarly, the ASC (traction control) works so seamlessly that it can be difficult to know it is actually working without noticing the warning light flashing on the dash!
All this assistance can be managed quite easily from the controls on the handgrips, although some of the extremes must be selected before going off-road, such as Enduro Pro and switching off the ABS and ASC. The more normal functions are all controlled either on the fly or set at idle with the engine running, very sophisticated but expect a bit of a learning curve before being completely at ease with the options. Other extras include cruise control, TPM (tyre pressure monitor) and ‘Shift assistant Pro’, all of which are well worth having. For the MY17 model there will (unusually) be a mid-life upgrade that will add hill start, which is a brake lock applied by the front brake lever that holds the bike until the rider pulls away or releases the lock manually.
As well as the usual trips locally around Victoria I have had a couple of 1,000+km days along with group rides, off road meanders and Moto Scout days on International Cycling events. These demand handling and engine response to cover all aspects from high-speed twisties to long distance touring, to very low speed fine balance plus gravel and dirt, every one of which is managed efficiently and without a problem. It is the first bike I’ve had for years that has given a riding stance that doesn’t aggravate an injury related problem, and a bike that I can manage happily for hundreds of kilometres without fatigue.
Coming from a long run of touring BMWs I have found the range (or relative lack of) is something to get used to, varying from 400km down to less than 300km depending on the riding conditions and style. Some may find that more than enough but I’m used to 500kms plus so it does impact on my plans for days away.
One modification I have made is to remove the stock screen, which is woefully inadequate, and replace it with the larger screen from the GSA. There are lots of aftermarket screens to suit all tastes and rider styles and sizes, so if you go for a GS then check what will meet your requirements. Whatever you fit can be adjusted up or down while riding so the bike still offers good protection.
Heated grips and bark-busters standard will look after your comfort on wet and/or cold days, but an unfortunate side effect of the wasser-boxer layout is that both radiators spill hot air around knee and shin height. Nice in winter but on any day above 30-32C the fan seems to kick in on the right radiator and throw hot air onto your right leg; first time it happened I had planned for the hot day with summer (mesh) boots which let hot air through to par-boil my foot quite nicely! Experience has now taught me to wear solid leather boots in hot weather….
Carrying luggage and passengers makes little difference to the handling, the long stroke suspension soaking up the extra weight with the touch of a button to change the pre-load.
In summary, it really is a great bike and deserves the accolades heaped upon it as the best-selling Motorrad product in Australia and around the world. The Triple Black is a ‘special edition’ model and has plenty of extras to justify the cost, but the mid MY17 update will also have new colour schemes to liven up the interest in the model.
Now to see what I can do to upgrade to a GSA and continue this new love affair!
John Eacott #46350