7 Sept 2014

One year on with the R1200GS

You may have read my recent article Two (and a half) years on with the F800GS—however, yesterday marked exactly one year since I was handed over the keys to my 2014 R1200GS, so I thought it would be appropriate to share my thoughts.

Last June I found myself in an optimal position. I no longer had any debt—at all—for the first time in my life since my teens. Following my Alpine adventure I found the weak point of the F800GS was its seat which caused a rather numb bottom after only a couple hours of riding.

I booked in for a test ride of the new R1200GS and found it to be in a different league compared to the previous version—and, most importantly, extraordinarily comfortable. I wasn’t ready to exchange my F800GS so I negotiated with the dealership until we arrived at a mutually agreeable leasing rate and monthly payment, and put in my order for a red 2014 TE (touring edition) version with a few extras. The bike arrived at the beginning of September 2013 and I took delivery a few days later on 6 September.

R1200GS in Surrey UK

Since then I have put more than 6,000 miles on this bike, alternating between it and my F800GS for my daily commute, and including my European trip a couple months ago. Earlier this year I had the novel Gear Shift Assist Pro device fitted which added a new dimension to this bike’s capabilities by enabling upshift and downshifts without the use of the clutch—great for both city and country roads!

Reliability has been spot-on with no unplanned visits to the dealership. A characteristic of the engine is an intermitted tick from the right cylinder at idle—this is common to all these bikes and relates to the cylinder decompression device which activates below a specific rpm, but does not affect the function of the engine. Following my trip in June I experience some slight surging at constant speeds in the 3–4,000 rpm range, but after the 6,000 mile service was carried out a week later, this resolved completely.

Builds of the current generation R1200GS from launch until early August 2013 occasionally suffered from a batch of dodgy handlebar switches which failed following water ingress (due to rain, hosepipes etc). Nokia (the phone company) who manufactures the switches for BMW made a change to the design of the membranes which has resolved the issue—failed switches are covered by warranty, of course.

Oh, and it crashes well.

I enjoy both my bikes immensely for different reasons, and I can say with certainty that the gloss has definitely not worn off the mad R1200GS!


Most of the reviews of the R1200GS sound like they’re written by BMW’s PR team and, until you’ve owned one, it’s easy to be skeptical. The bike is an oxymoron in a sense—it goes, stops and handles both on and off road far better than one machine should.

Compared to other bikes in its class it is on the lighter side—but make no mistake, this is still a 240kg beast. However, all the weight is down at your feet which means it feels like a bike half its weight once underway. It is extraordinarily easy to position on the road and follows your intended path almost telepathically—whether riding alone, or 2-up with loaded panniers. The available torque is so strong and immediate that virtually nothing else can out-accelerate this bike up to about 100mph.

All features are directly accessible through physical switches—no digging through menus to switch off traction control or ABS. Suspension damping and throttle sensitivity can be changed on the go and make a tangible difference to the rider. Preload adjustment is carried out by a button when stopped.

The R1200GS is suited to long distance riding and days end without fatigue.

Off road on gravel or packed dirt, the bike is easy to control and the electronics rein in lairy behaviour beautifully. On mud or sand, knobblies are definitely required, however.

BMW have done well with the compromises inherent to dual sport machines—there are better specific touring or dirt machines, but no other bike combines these classes so effectively.


  • Characterful boxer engine gives this heavy adventure bike near-sportbike performance. 
  • Enduro mode makes best use of road tyres on gravel or hard packed trails. 
  • Excellent full LED lighting makes riding at night a pleasure. 
  • Gear Shift Assist Pro option adds another dimension to riding with clutchless up/downshifts. 
  • Excellent wind/weather protection and cruise control make short work of motorway journeys. 
  • Spoked wheels take tubeless tyres. 
  • Suspension design and electronic damping provide smooth, stable ride/handling and provide true anti-dive braking. 
  • Effortless, light handling even when fully loaded.


  • Some drag in the clutch when disengaged, and sharp clutch engagement takes getting used to.
  • Insurance premium quite pricy in London.
Do you own a liquid cooled R1200GS? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!