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Introducing the 2014 R1200GS Adventure

Posted By Neale Bayly, 196896, Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Having often been reminded by my mother as a kid that comparisons are odious, when I climbed on board the new 2014 BMW R1200GS Adventure in Sedona, AZ, it was hard to erase the memories from thousands of miles riding the standard water-Boxer R1200GS. I was there for 200 miles of varying terrain to put BMW’s latest Adventure to the test. The Adventure immediately feels so much heavier, which it is, an additional 48 pounds, but the biggest initial difference was the slower steering due in part to the Continental TKC 80 tires, and a different feel from the engine. As we rolled out of town, though, all of these first thoughts quickly began to melt as I settled in to enjoy the ride.




During our press brief about the new model, BMW had called the new Adventure a “Swiss Army Knife,” but out here alone on the challenging dirt roads leading to Jerome, AZ, some 28 miles away, I marveled at the balance between the engine, throttle, clutch and other controls. I think the BMW team is wrong. It’s more like a Swiss watch

The clutch action is so light and precise, and the throttle more connected to the rear wheel than the standard GS (with its heavier crankshaft), that every input feels completely seamless. The power brakes are the most intuitive system I have used. They have to be, as they repeatedly slow over 700 pounds of man and machine into tight, gravel-strewn corners at speed. Add in the ability to set the bike in Enduro mode – to control the electronics to best serve you in the dirt – and the sophistication of the experience is without equal.

The larger-than-life styling of the new BMW R1200GS Adventure works for me. It’s pure BMW as soon as you see it for the first time, and just looks so much more aggressive and modern than any previous generation Adventure. There is a new beak, a tapered windshield, and two aerodynamic air flaps on the sides to add to the exciting graphics package. The windshield is quickly adjusted on the fly with a simple turn of a wheel; wind protection on the road is everything you’ll need for those long days making miles.

I’ll never forget my first ride on the new 1150 version back in 2002; it felt as if BMW had created the largest, wildest motorcycle anyone would ever make, let alone take off road. Yet here we are some 12 years later, and they have simply eclipsed this first model in size, power and technicality, while making it easier to ride.

I am used to standing all day on adventure bikes and have gotten very comfortable in this position, but know that is not the case for some riders. With this in mind I wanted to see how the bike behaved, so for the first 20 miles of off-road riding I sat, except if I had to raise my butt off the seat for a pothole, rut or similar impediment. I came away very impressed. Sitting will certainly not restrict your ability to explore some fairly challenging terrain, and while your speeds will need to be lower, during adventure tours it might be an advantage as you have more time to enjoy the scenery. When standing, though, you will notice the thoughtful design of a tapered seat meeting a slender gas tank. This intersection is a big part of making the rider feel at ease in the dirt and it’s a marked improvement over previous models.

Reach to the bars is comfortable standing or sitting, and having my back straight with my rear in the saddle and my knees not bent at an extreme angle was certainly similar to existing BMW GS machines. This position is also sufficiently aggressive for working on sections of twisting asphalt for the more spirited moments that arise on a long journey. Nice touches to add to this comfort are multi-adjustable levers and the ability to adjust the rear brake and gear levers to suit your needs. With wider-than-stock foot pegs allowing for a more comfortable platform, it’s clear the Adventure is meant to be ridden all day, and more.

The view forward is clean and functional, with the Navigator GPS located above the compact instrument cluster. With an analog readout for both road and engine speed, it has a highly sophisticated command center beneath the round gauges. Digesting all that this super computer analyzes takes a fair bit of reading, so I’ll leave it out for now; but trust me, if there’s any information you want – from temperature to distance traveled, fuel consumption to tire pressure – BMW has you covered.

You will also find the same multi-controller for adjusting your NAV system as found on the K1600 lineup and the standard GS1200 models on the left hand side handlebar, and this is intuitive and easy to use on the go. Usual BMW pleasantries exist in the form of cruise control, quick-change buttons for the suspension and one to turn the ABS and traction control off, as well as all the normal switchgear.

Visually, the engine is identical to the standard R1200GS, and produces 125 hp at 7,750 rpm and a healthy 92 lb-ft of torque at 6,500 rpm. Compared to the previous generation engine, this is 15 extra horsepower and three more lb-ft of torque. The result is a noticeably stronger and more linear power curve across the range. Where the Adventure engine differs from the standard GS, though, is with an additional two pounds of crankshaft mass that produces 20 percent more inertia. Acting like a heavier flywheel, this one change is the key to the Adventure’s superior power delivery.

Sorry, Mum, but here’s another comparison to the standard GS: I’ve never quite gotten used to the slightly sensitive power delivery from the ride-by-wire throttle system, whether riding two up around the UK, crossing South Africa, or riding at home as my personal transportation. On an open throttle it’s a beast, fast and with incredible power; but there’s something about the system when cold or at low speeds I can’t quite adjust to. Weaned on a diet of throttle cables opening butterflies in carburetors, I yearn for a mapping program that emulates heavier throttle return springs, as it’s a little hard for my well-worn grey matter to adjust. Not so with the Adventure. The relationship between the throttle and the rear wheel is absolutely perfect, and when navigating tighter, technical sections of the rough terrain around Sedona at slow speeds, this was highly appreciated. With virtually no traffic on these Jeep trails, and spectacular views at every turn, they are the personification of adventure riding.

Now, when I’m in complete alignment with the standard GS and the Adventure’s electronics, is when it’s time to pick a Ride Mode. Both bikes comes standard with the option of “Road,” or for inclement weather “Rain” modes, and if you order with the Premium package, the Ride Modes Pro feature adds on Dynamic, Enduro, and Enduro Pro. The last mode requires you to activate a coding plug located under the seat. Here it all gets complicated, with these last three modes working in various ways with the traction control or Automatic Stability Control (ASC) in BMW speak, the anti lock brakes (ABS) and the electronic suspension adjustment (ESA) if Dynamic ESA is selected.

For a short period of time I switched into Enduro Pro mode, which allows you to lock up the rear brake if needed. This mode retains the ABS up front, but allows more latitude before lock up occurs, which is certainly confidence inspiring. The traction control is less invasive, as I found out in the dry, dusty conditions, with an ambitious twist of the throttle exiting a corner. This broke the Continental TKC 80 loose, yanking me straight out of my comfort zone. With the sight of the rear wheel coming round to meet me, and my heart in my mouth, once back in a straight line I pulled over and switched back to regular Enduro mode.

Here the traction control will allow you to hang the rear end out enough to turn the bike, but won’t let the bike get out of control to the extent I described. In this mode the Dynamic ESA will soften the suspension settings for you automatically, so I left my bike on this setting while on the dirt for the rest of the day. More aggressive riders on these knobby tires will prefer the Pro mode I’m sure, but the standard Enduro setting was designed to work with street tires so is a good bit more invasive. The ABS is certainly not invasive; the new Adventure throws out the old wisdom of turning the ABS off in the dirt. Yes, it works that well.

As delivered, the new Adventure will have a more street-focused tire wrapped around the wider, cross-spoke wheels; the Continental TKC 80s were added specially for our aggressive day in the dirt. BMW loves to show how capable their new bikes are by taking us on long, challenging rides during press intros.

Frame and suspension are also virtually unchanged from the donor platform, although the there is 0.8 inches of additional spring travel at the front and rear. To offset this taller suspension, the rake has been steepened by a full degree and the trail tightened 0.3 inches. The net result is just a 0.1 inch increase in the wheelbase from the standard GS to 59.4 inches There is also an additional 0.4 inches of ground clearance, and while the bike will still ground out in the rough stuff if you get too aggressive, it’s a marked improvement compared to earlier generation models I’ve ridden.

In the saddle, stability is without fault at high or low speeds, standing or sitting, and I’m sure a part of this is the additional steering damper. This is true on the road also, and hustling up to Jerome on the last few miles of smooth, serpentine tarmac, we would have surprised all but the most committed sport bike riders with the pace.

You still have to be aware that as tested, with a full 7.9 gallons of fuel and luggage in place, you are in control of a motorcycle weighing well over 600 pounds. BMW is claiming a road-ready weight of 573 pounds. This means you need to make sure to “file a flight plan” if turning on the dirt, or in off-camber parking lots and when in small, mountain towns like Jerome, as you don’t want to be man handling this beast around. With a standard seat height of between 35–35.8”, depending where you set it, you can see how this is going to be a challenge if you don’t plan ahead. People with shorter inseams are going to want to opt for a low seat option, and it’s worth noting you can also adjust the tilt of the standard seat.

You are ready to vote for the new Adventure with your checkbook. For the as-tested Premium package, you will need $21,550 in ready funds. Technically, you could order the bike without all the bells and whistles for $18,200, but only two percent of all new purchasers go this route, according to BMW.

For your Premium package you get a list of all new items: Dynamic ESA, on board computer pro, GPS preparation, cruise control, LED headlight and Ride modes pro, with LED auxiliary lights, saddle bag mounts, heated grips and tire pressure monitor (TPM) as in the previous years. These are all on top of the standard ASC, integral ABS, steering damper, stepless windshield, on board computer and a host of other features that come standard. Engine protection bars, hand protection, the adjustable seat to mention a few. Color choices range from racing blue metallic matte, alpine white or olive matte, so you have an interesting choice here, too.

Acknowledging the GS as the flagship of the GS line, BMW has done it again, improving, refining and sharpening their Adventure without losing any of the character and personality that has attracted people to these large enduros since 1980. Round-the-world travelers choose it as their mount of choice for decades, for good reasons, but you don’t have to be heading across the Taklimakan desert to enjoy the new R1200GS Adventure. It’s equally at home in your own state, but with a fuel range of over 400 miles, and the ability to carry six months’ of gear, it’s ready to take that round-the-world-expedition whenever you turn the key.



Tags:  r1200gs 

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Riding in Brazil: Natural Beauty, Amazing Food, Adrenalin

Posted By Fran Kammerer, 189189, Saturday, October 4, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, January 28, 2015
The bikes pushed steadily through the thick, soaking fog. The dense Atlantic forest surrounded us in the night, and the only hints of civilization were the occasional signs announcing the Rio do Rastro ECOhotel and the trucks barreling along in the opposite direction. The flat agricultural land gave way to mountainous terrain by mid-afternoon, and by dusk we had fueled the bikes in the last town we would be seeing for a while, a resort town called Urubici.

The heat of the day had given way to cool mountain air which soon turned to miserable cold, cutting through our mesh jackets and pants and made worse by the sweaty grime on our bodies. We spotted a sign pointing out a “Mirante” (vista point) to the left. To our right, we were barely able to spot a pink concrete portal reading Hotel Rio do Rastro. But we were looking for the ECOhotel, so we plowed on through the fog.

The road abruptly became a steep, downhill corkscrew, and we soon realized we had passed our hotel, as we were now riding the acclaimed Serra do Rio do Rastro. There would be nothing but forest and steep drops for miles ahead and because we had reserved the room back at the top, we knew we had to turn around. The road was so narrow and steep, I wondered how I would turn the bike around, and the trucks kept on coming at us through the fog. Soon, I found a wide shoulder on the side of the road and pulled over. Would I be able to turn the 400-pound, fully-loaded bike on this steep and narrow road? I began pushing the bike remembering to look where I wanted to go. I made the turn but stalled the bike in the middle of the foggy night. What had I gotten myself into?

About five years ago, my husband Eric and I learned to ride motorcycles. A year later, we bought our current bikes. He rides a 2010 R1200 GSA, and I ride a 2010 F650 GS. Yes, they are big bikes for new riders, but we needed solid bikes to make a 50 mile daily commute on I-80. We have ridden quite a bit together since then and have racked up more than 40,000 miles on our bikes, including trips to several states as well as a weekend at Rawhyde Adventures. So when Alberto, an online friend, suggested we ride in Brazil, it sounded like the natural next step in our quest for adventure. After all, I was born and raised in Brazil and speak fluent Portuguese. I figured if we stayed away from the crazy big cities like Rio and Sao Paulo, how bad could it be?

Soon, I was researching BMW motorcycle rentals, and Eric was looking for reasonable airfare. I found two places that rented BMWs and while working on the April availability of motorcycles, we were also talking about the upcoming trip with Alberto over Skype. Seeing that we were struggling with finding bikes we liked and seriously concerned about riding out of a huge city like Sao Paulo, Alberto suggested he lease us the bikes. Did I forget to mention that he is a partner in a BMW motorcycle dealership in the town of Cascavel? That came as a big relief since Cascavel is relatively small and close to the area we wanted to travel. Eric immediately booked us tickets to Foz do Iguaçu.

After a long flight, we were grateful that Alberto drove to Foz to pick us up and take us back to Cascavel, two hours away. There, he would not allow us to simply rent his bikes and leave, but, in true Brazilian fashion, he took us to lunch and introduced us to many of his motorcyclist friends. One of these friends even planned a route for us to ride, recommending hotels, restaurants, and even gas stops along the way. That night, we ended up having dinner at the house of some new motorcycle enthusiast friends, and the night ran late. The next day we picked up the bikes, got through the paperwork and were led by Alberto to the edge of town to send us on our way. There we were, Eric and I, on our first motorcycle trip outside of the U.S.

Before I talk about the trip, I need to explain some of my fears. On the drive from Foz to Cascavel, I had the opportunity to observe Brazilians driving in that region. Although I had driven many years in Brazil, this was different. For one thing, I would be on two wheels, without a cage around me. Additionally, motorcycles in Brazil are everywhere. When we were last there nine years ago, we hardly saw any bikes. Now it seemed everyone had a motorcycle, both men and women, and they ride like lunatics. As if that weren’t enough to make me nervous, the night before we started our ride our new friends warned us that the road we would be on was very dangerous. “Many people die on this road, stay in the ruts made by the truck tires, and watch out for the trucks because it’s harvest season.” Ugh!

When Alberto finally sent us on our way, I was scared, tired, and on a strange bike. I was riding a G650GS, the lowest bike GS Alberto had in his stock and Eric was riding an F800GS. The road was indeed bad, and there were lots of trucks, speed bumps and speed traps.

Because of all this, we underestimated the travel time and arrived to our first planned rest stop way after dark. We pulled into a small town called Palmas and proceeded to look for a small hotel that had been recommended. It was dark, there were a lot of trucks around, and we got lost in the narrow streets. When we stopped by a couple of gentlemen and asked for directions to the hotel, they began to try to explain all the turns we would have to make until one of them said “never mind, follow me!” Sure enough, we made so many turns I started thinking he was pulling our leg, but soon enough he led us right up to the front door of the hotel. He waved and quickly drove off. The hotel cost $45 a night, was quite clean and comfortable, and served a hearty breakfast buffet with fruit, juices, yogurts, cold cuts, fresh breads, pastries, scrambled eggs and cakes which were all included in the price of our stay.

On the following day’s ride we started getting used to passing double-trailer trucks and got better at spotting the dirt-camouflaged speed bumps. Before long, we were enjoying the beautiful countryside and gaining some serious weight from all the wonderful Brazilian food. Everyone was very friendly wherever we stopped, although they were a little surprised at seeing an older couple riding motorcycles. I say older, because we didn’t see many riders over the age of 30, especially women.

At the end of the third day we found ourselves at the bottom of the Serra do Rio do Rastro and I stalled my bike. But, being a BMW, she started up without a hiccup (unlike my heart, which was hiccupping a lot) and we headed back up the mountain. Sure enough, when we rode off the road into the dirt under the pink structure that said Hotel Rio do Rastro, we saw the small letters “ECO” which in the dark and fog were invisible from the road. From the portal-like entrance, we proceeded into the darkness, not seeing anything ahead and blindly trusting the occasional double arrows on each side of the “road” to show us the way. The long driveway wound down a hill, and we bounced along through ruts and over rocks. At the bottom of the hill we went through a little creek that crossed the driveway and were splashed by a wooden water wheel on the side of the road, barely distinguishable in the fog and dark. A lodge reception light appeared ahead of us, and when we pulled up we were treated to a cup of wonderfully thick dark chocolate, the keys and directions to our cabin. After changing our clothes, we wandered down to the restaurant and enjoyed an amazing dinner and some wonderful local wine.

The next day we got lost on our way to the coast and had to cut through 22 km of dirt road. Again, it was hot, and we were soon caked in red dirt. But, once we got to the asphalt and proceeded to climb again, we again found ourselves in fog. Soaking wet, cold and filthy, we arrived late Friday night before the Easter weekend in the city of Florianopolis. That was the hardest riding day of the trip.
On the motorcycles, we visited three states in the southern portion of Brazil and spent most of our time rushing from one town to another because of all the people we promised to visit. Though scheduling issues only allowed us to ride for one of the two weeks we had planned in Brazil, it was an incredible week. Miles and miles of coastal rainforest, amazing views, incredible weather, and…the FOOD! The hospitality of Brazilians is unbeatable, and we felt like royalty because of everyone offering us food and lodging. They gave us directions and were disappointed when we didn’t have more time to ride around with them. We returned the motorcycles unscathed and are very grateful to Alberto for the opportunity he gave us.

In a country with so many motorcycles on the road I noticed that car drivers were very aware of motorcyclists. Motorcycles there are a useful, economical and often the only affordable way to travel, and car drivers seemed to respect that and even make room for bikes, allowing them to split lanes. I hope that someday this courtesy will be common the U.S. as well.

It was a wonderful ride and we’re planning to go back again for more beautiful Brazilian scenery, delicious food, and, for sure, more adrenalin.


Tags:  adv  brazil  r1200gs 

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