Just rode home from the US Press Launch for the new R1200GS, LA to ATL in 4 days, with plenty of backroads in between.
As I put together my thoughts for an article in BMW ON, I'd like to begin sharing impressions here, in a more timely fashion.
There really are two pieces of news here, the new motor and the new GS. So I am going to break up my comments likewise.
The new motor(cycle)
Hop on the bike and you immediately think that it's much lighter than previous models, even though it's not. Turn the key, wait for the light show to subside, thumb the starter and man, what a sweet sound! It's Ducati-esque... a nasty little bark with just the right edge.
Draw in the delightfully light-pull lever to disengage the new wet clutch and snick it (or clunk it) into first. As you release the lever, the bike moves out right now. The new throttle-by-wire system fuels the bike perfectly... not like the light-switch hyper-sensitive throttle on previous models.
Run it up through the gears, and the shifting is still, um... clunky through 3rd gear. 9 times out of 10 there is a pretty big "blonk" as you shift from Neutral into 1st. But of course, it will get better as the miles pile up. Flicking the bike from side to side reveals the benefits of a full frame... this bike steers with the same super-precision that my HP2 Enduro has. Frame stiffness is way up and it takes just the lightest hint of countersteering to make the bike change directions.
Compare to previous boxers, where it really doesn't make much sense to rev beyond 5k RPM, this motor is just getting going at 5k and pulls strongly to 8. It's redlined at 9k and the song is wonderful. You best be holding on real good.
RT riders are going to love this motor. I fully expect it to do roll-on acceleration uphill, two-up, with luggage. The motor makes power everywhere. As I rode the Angeles Crest Highway toward home, I often found myself in the tight twisties in 5th gear, with no lag in power when rolling on.
The new GS
While the latest model hex and camheads do feature ESA, ASC and ABS, these are relatively new concepts to me, and were ones I am not quite so sure of yet. The ASC's ride modes include Rain (most intrusive at eliminating wheel spin), Normal, Dynamic (allows some spin) and Enduro (allows a lot of spin in dirt). Enduro Pro is optional via a jumper in the fuse panel under the seat. I need to get the bike to my dealer to enable that. More discussion of these features later, as I get used to them.
As a contrarian, I almost never turn off ABS when riding off-pavement, finding that careful and balanced braking makes ABS useful in these riding conditions. The ABS on the new GS makes this even better, and is truly an assist when riding off-pavement.
Some general riding impressions:
- Clutch is *awesome* ... a huge improvement when feathering over rough ground. IMO, this is the biggest news in off-road performance. It's that good.
- Well, the longer swingarm due to shorter/reconfigured motor is pretty signficant, too.
- Well, the high air intake also solves another major weakness of previous models.
- Better stability in sand, thanks to wider tires (10mm in front, 20mm in rear)
- The throttle-by-wire setup eliminates the lightswitch-like on/off throttle of previous models, which makes it far easier to transit over rough ground.
- The footpegs are really too high, and fold your legs quite a bit. And I am only 5'8".
- When riding with the balls of your feet on the pegs, my size 9.5 boot rubs on the swingarm.
- Air management is very good, but I bet the adjustable windscreen will break on the first significant get-off.
- Popular accessories are going to be lighting, peg lowering, radiator guards.
- Cruise control is a gift from God.
In closing for now, I feel that BMW looked very close at the Ducati Multistrada in setting this bike's tone. While the bike doesn't have quite the horsepower of the Ducati, it has puh-lenty of power and is much MUCH better off-pavement.
Heading toward home on the Angeles Crest Highway. Jeez, the air pollution in LA is bad!
More to come... I look forward to your questions and comments, too.