BMW R-1200-GS: Go Ahead, Get Dirty

BMW's top-selling bike is equally at home on and off the road

BMW R-1200-GS



It's unlikely that your commute begins in a mountaintop cave or requires that you ford a shallow river. But if you did—and wouldn't that spice up the morning drive?—BMW has the bike for you. The R-1200-GS offers an unparalleled blend of off- and on-road features and is the latest and biggest incarnation in BMW's adventure touring line. Its versatility explains why the R-1200-GS has become such a cult hit and BMW's top-selling model. Equally at home on dirt roads, freeways, and city streets, this bike is a good choice for experienced riders who want to be able to snap on some saddle bags for a weekend meander. It will not only get you out for an autumn road trip in style, it will also take you into the mud for a little less civilized fun.


The bulbous cylinder heads that protrude sideways from the engine do more than protect your legs if the bike goes down on a wet road. A signature of BMW's classic "Boxer" engine, the 2-cylinder design is known for rock-solid reliability. At 100 horsepower, the 1170 cc motor has been tweaked to deliver sharper acceleration and torque at lower speeds, while still offering ample zip on the highway.


To protect the rider from mud and water, the R-1200-GS sits higher than most street bikes. Note the metal plate bolted under the engine, another sign this bike is built to tackle serious obstacles. The bike's tall saddle isn't for everyone: Riders with inseams of under 33 inches will have trouble straddling the bike.


With an oversized 5.2-gallon gas tank and on-road mileage of around 42 mpg, the R-1200-GS can go far between fill-ups. But when the tank is full, the bike weighs in just shy of 500 pounds, and can feel top-heavy. Though this can sometimes make it awkward to wrestle through tight S-turns, the weight helps soak up the bumps when the bike rumbles onto rougher roads.


No bikemaker sweats the small stuff quite like BMW, from safety-enhancing options like traction control ($365) and antilock brakes ($1,040) to niceties such as heated handgrips ($235) and tire pressure monitors ($260). The options add up quickly, though. Starting at around $15,000 including delivery, a decked-out R-1200-GS can easily eclipse $20,000.


Wire-spoked wheels are popular on some contemporary bikes for their retro styling. Here, they're used because spokes are more forgiving on rough roads and easier to fix if a rim gets bent. The knobby tires are a compromise. They add confidence in the dirt but don't offer as much traction on asphalt.

By Adam Aston

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