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Thread: BMW R1200GS ... the Swiss Army Knife of motorcycles(?) ... 2005 vs 2015

  1. #1

    BMW R1200GS ... the Swiss Army Knife of motorcycles(?) ... 2005 vs 2015

    A little background. 4 1/2 years ago I found myself looking for a motorcycle that would (1) be suitable for short range 2-up touring (250 mis. days) and (2) be suitable for gravel/dirt roads. This need was created by the "hyper-liteness" of my toy hauler and the fact that we would be boondock camping some distance from pavement in Arizona.

    I was looking for a Wee-Strom when I stumbled across a deal on a 2005 BMW r1200GS with 16,000 mis. It's first owner had bought it shortly before his wife ... started work on becoming an ex-wife. Bike went from garage to parking lot of apartment ... where it sat ... mostly. Second owner bought it when 1st owner was destitute ... and the bike looked ill-kept. Now most BMW buyers do not want an ill-kept looking bike ... but I am not a BMW buyer. Besides the bike ran great ... and a little elbow grease would make the bike look ... better. I got it for a song.

    Gigi pronounced it ugly ... really really ugly. But it turned out to be a very good lighter weight 2-up motorcycle. And most of our 12,000 miles in the next three years were to come during our stays in Quartzsite ... trips to places like Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Baja Sur, Mexico to name a few. It is not quite ST1300 comfy ... but it is comfortable ... and it's nearly 200 lbs lighter then the ST.

    It is also not a dirt bike. Guys who buy one with no offroad experience ... and try to learn offroad riding on one are facing some serious uphill. Sooo much easier to start on a lighter bike. Maybe that's one reason so many are like the soccer moms 4 wheel drive SUV, capable of offroad...but never used there Typically I would ride my DRZ a bit after arriving in AZ and after a good warmup ... begin riding the GS ... even 2-up offroad. Gigi and I explored a number of jeep only places on that GS. If we hit a tough spot Gigi would dismount ... let me ride solo through the tough part ... and remount.

    It is also not a sportbike ... but I found it quite capable of spirited riding. I would put it on par with the ST here...mebbe even better. The limiting factor were the tires ... I sacrificed a little street capability for some offroad capability with Shinko 705s. GS riders tend to love them or hate them. I like them. But I realised they weren't the Pilot Road 3s that are on my ST ... and certainly not the Dunlop Q3s on my VFR.

    The suspension was more than adequate. The preload on the rear was easily adjusted by a knurled knob on the right side and the front telelever had a preload adjuster staged like a lot of older bikes rear shock. The bike never felt overloaded with Gigi and myself and 4-5 days of clothing/gear.

    Power is tractor like. It pulls strong from down low and pulls steady right to red line of about 7,800 rpm. Actual hp was listed anywhere from 85 to 100... regardless I never felt a lack of power. Passing was a non-event with the bike hitting 100 quickly.

    Seat height for me is an "it depends". I have a 28" inseam and seat height is listed as 33". On pavement it was just no problem. Offroad ... ahem ... mebbe. I had the seat lowered by Seat Concepts ... which helped offroad ... but. It made the bike a 300 mile bike meaning ... it weren't comfy. So I got a Sargent seat for onroad and kept the Seat Concepts for offroad. The Seat Concepts pillion seat Gigi reported as "excellent"... and she was comparing it to a Rick Meyer custom saddle on the ST.

    It's 5.2 gallon tank gave it 200 mile plus range which is entirely adequate for touring for me. The bigger tanked Adventure model (8.7 gallon) may be more popular for some especially Iron Butt types ... but I didn't care to tanker so much extra weight about.

    So is it the Swiss Army Knife of motorcycles? I would say it is better than that. Call it the Leatherman Crunch or mebbe the Leatherman Wave of motorcycles ...



    The trusty GS deep in Mexico ... an adventure it carried Gigi and I safely there and back on ... By this time Gigi thought it looked ... less ugly
    The best thing you can buy for your motorcycle is gas.

  2. #2
    Flirting With The Redline 6000 Posts! atomicalex's Avatar
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    More coming, right?
    Katherine goes to Fahrschule - the German rider training thread :: Nine Days in the Alps :: BRC 2014 :: Finding GS Land
    2012 CBR250R (sold), 2001 Super Sherpa, 2004 BMW F650GSa - not a big Ford truck...

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by atomicalex View Post
    More coming, right?
    Yes ... but to be honest I had to re-review some of the features on the newer bike ... I recall flying a very updated version of the BK-117 now called the EC-145 with all kinds of new glass cockpit and super impressive and effective stabilisation systems that made a helicopter far more stable than any airplane. I asked the Eurocopter test pilot to explain how it worked and he said it was a PFM system ... Pure Fokking Magic. And that pretty well describes the new 1200GS.

    But let me backup a moment. So if my '05 GS was better than the Swiss Army Knife of motorcycles ... why am I preparing to deliver it to it's new owner this weekend? The answer is 'a failure to communicate'.

    I have been blessed with a flock of "out West Friends" (including Teri and Missy who have yet to visit my rock and dirt paradise ). One of them is a very ancient Irishman who is an inch shorter and double wide me. Paul is a ferocious rider and sits a '11 R1200GS.



    Paul is 12 years older than me, camps when he travels because it allows him to spend more time on the road and thinks nothing of 800+ mile days. And rides incredibly fast in the corners. He is also a head and heart convert (from an ST1300) to the GS.

    He got it in his head I was looking for a low seat for my GS. I have a low seat but use a regular Sargent seat for road work. Anyway he is sending me ebay and craigslist ads for a low seat. I finally tell him that I am planning on buying a new FJR next year, (cruise control, on the fly suspension, traction control, 6 speed). 'OMG why are you buying an FJR when the GS is in every way a better bike?' ... $6,000 is why ...

    Well Paul has test ridden the Wasserboxer and is head over heals about it. So he finds 'the deal' on 10 six month old GSs being sold cheap by a going out of business tour company ... even Gigi thinks it's a great deal ... I read everything I can find on it ... and send a Paypal deposit ... One barely used Wasserboxer is mine ...
    The best thing you can buy for your motorcycle is gas.

  4. #4
    Flirting With The Redline 6000 Posts! atomicalex's Avatar
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    Someone has very good taste in tents, that is for sure.
    Katherine goes to Fahrschule - the German rider training thread :: Nine Days in the Alps :: BRC 2014 :: Finding GS Land
    2012 CBR250R (sold), 2001 Super Sherpa, 2004 BMW F650GSa - not a big Ford truck...

  5. #5
    One of Paul's tenets is to buy quality gear and he is adamant that the secret to camping is a good sleeping pad/mattress. This last visit he was up at 4 am. and gone by 5 am headed for Baja Sur, Mexico. He has lived an extraordinarily colorful life and owned all kinds of motorcycles. I very much respect his views ... even though they are expressed rather bluntly and colorfully. He would make short work of some of the BBO "experts" and surely be banned in short order ...

    Kinda funny ... he will say out loud what everyone else is thinking ...then pause and say with a laugh 'Love and tolerance is the key...'
    The best thing you can buy for your motorcycle is gas.

  6. #6
    "The new water-cooled R1200GS marks the most significant redesign of the world’s favorite adventure bike in over 30 years. Virtually all-new from the tire sizes up, it raises the bar for the segment by several notches and is loaded with advanced technologies that give it unprecedented capabilities. "

    So begins the review of the BMW R1200GS LC (liquid cooled) by Motorcycle Consumer News, one of my favorite sources for reviews on motorcycles. It is a publication that has been quite harsh with BMW motorcycles in the past especially some of the early fuel injected bikes that 'surged' and BMWs denial of that problem. This review however, was full of compliments and accolades.

    I picked up my slightly used Wasserboxer with 1,570 miles on it from a dealer in Thousand Oaks, CA. To avoid paying CA sales tax the bike had to be trailered off the lot. Seeing as how the sales tax totaled 10% I complied with that, trailering it all the way back to Quartzsite.



    The exhaust is switched from the left side to the right side and the drive shaft from the right to the left. The bike is allegedly 3/4 of an inch lower but I couldn't tell it. The engine now makes anywhere from 115 to 125 hp depending on whose dyno is being used but it makes plenty and it is very useable. Redline is 9,000.

    My bike came with all the options except keyless, and from what I've heard that would not be an option I would want. It also came with the three Vario cases which are pretty trick in that they expand if you need more space. But it is in the electronics and their interface with traction, abs and suspension that the PFM takes place.
    The best thing you can buy for your motorcycle is gas.

  7. #7
    Moderator/RiderCoach 10,000 Posts! Clair's Avatar
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    So, other than more weight, what's it really get you over the 800? It's got more power, sure, but my Tiger has oodles of power at an 800. So, why the large versus say the 800GS?
    Ride safe, ride smart, ride ATGATT because sweat dries faster than scars heal

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  8. #8


    The cockpit ...

    Going left to right ... first you have the rotary dial just inside of the grip that controls the GPS. The GPS in addition to doing GPS type stuff also monitors several parameters of the motorcycle and engine.

    Then lower left is the horn and UJM type turn signal ... a departure from the BMW type signal. Toggle the switch that is above and right of the turn signal up ('trip') and you get odometer, two trip odometers and range with current fuel. Toggle the switch down for "info" and you get outside air temp, engine temp, avg fuel consumption 1, avg fuel consumption 2, avg speed, tire pressure frt and rear, date, and oil level.

    The next switch controls the ABS (top) (which since I was onroad 99% of the 2200 miles ridden so far I didn't mess with) and the preload and damping (bottom). The preload has 4 settings, 1-up, 1-up w/ luggage, 2-up and 2-up with luggage. The damping has three levels for each preload, soft, normal and hard. But the suspension also responds to the road surface and braking and acceleration. PFM.

    Above this is the hazard switch and above that cruise control. It slides left for off and right for on and the small switch ... push for incremental speed increase (1 mph) and back for decrease. The cruise is cut off by brakes or clutch or by rolling off throttle ... or by moving the switch left. Pretty intuitive really. And the cruise is very good. It holds to within 1 mph and is smooth ... much better than the cruise on my truck or car which may be a function of hp per pound.

    That covers the left side switches except for the high beams on the front of the left grip. Did I mention it has really bright LED headlights ...?
    The best thing you can buy for your motorcycle is gas.

  9. #9
    The right grip controls are fewer. The bottom red is the start/kill switch. The next up is the "mode" switch and this is seemingly simple. Let's start with "rain" mode. The throttle is the smoothest with a longer rotation from idle to max. The traction control and abs is set for the most sensitive. The suspension is set softer than what is selected for preload and damping.

    Next is "Enduro". Then comes "Road" and finally if you decide you want to race there is "Dynamic". There is also "Enduro Pro" which cannot be set without removing the seat. This will allow sliding the rear tire and no ABS. A word here. I have squared corners on my old GS. Spinning up the rear tire on gravel/dirt on a 535 lb motorcycle to steer from the rear ain't like doing it on a 300 lb bike. It's fun on my DRZ ... it feels risky on a GS. I'm sure there are plenty of Baja and Dakar types that can do it "kiss my hand". I hain't one of them.

    On the other hand if I see I've got miles to go offoad I'll be shutting off the ABS. When the surface gets gnarly it's more hindrance than help...

    The top most switch is the heated grips. I love heated grips ... it makes the difference between miserable miserable and a fine and pleasant miserable ...

    I think I've mentioned I've ridden the bike 2,200 miles. About 600 miles have been 2-up and about 200 of those were with full luggage. From my perspective it is an excellent 2-up motorcycle. My wife after a 350 mile ride as pillion said "You can sell the ST... this bike is great..."

    I rode 1400 miles on a 4 day trip that included a lot of excellent twisties. The bike inspires exuberance. It feels sure footed and planted yet it flicks easily and quickly. How much is the bikes natural dynamics and how much is the electronic drive and suspension wizardry is beyond me.
    The best thing you can buy for your motorcycle is gas.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Clair View Post
    So, other than more weight, what's it really get you over the 800? It's got more power, sure, but my Tiger has oodles of power at an 800. So, why the large versus say the 800GS?

    Well you might ask the top 35 finishers in last years Iron Butt competition the same question since the smallest bike was an 1150. The winner rode an ST1300, the next three were FJR1300s followed by a mix of 1200s and Goldwings. A Ninja 250 did manage a 37th.

    It's not that smaller bikes can't do it ... it's just when serious miles are to be laid down a bigger bike is more comfortable and less fatiguing. And 2-up with luggage there is no comparison. Gigi and I have about 30,000 miles 2-up on our ST1300 and another 8,000 or so on our old GS. She won't ride on the back of the VFR800 to her favorite restaurant in town.

    That's not to say that there are not times I prefer my 800 (VFR) on longish trips. I rode with friends in the mountains of VA, NC, TN and GA a few years ago and the bike I took was my viffer. I rode a friends FJR for about 100 miles on tht trip and much preferred my VFR.

    A final note. The new GS only weighs 530 lbs but handles curves like it is 100 lbs lighter and handles loads like it is 100 lbs heavier. But it's not perfect. I noticed the clock is a minute fast...
    The best thing you can buy for your motorcycle is gas.

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