30 May 2016

R1200GS Adventure 2016 first impressions

Now that I’ve had the chance to put on a couple hundred miles I thought it would be a good time to collect my thoughts on the R1200GS Adventure, having come from an F800GS and a standard R1200GS.

Let me start by saying I am now certain I made the right choice with this bike as it just feels ‘right’. It has taken no time to feel comfortable on it, from U-turns to filtering (lane-splitting). I mentioned in a previous post that the Adventure pulls together what to me are the best parts of the F800/R1200 into one bike—that is, the characterful liquid cooled boxer engine and electronic toys from the 1200 and the soft, wallowy ride and effortless handling of the 800.

So far, other than a little bit of gravel, I’ve ridden strictly on-road—I’m not quite ready to get it dirty, at least not until after the running-in service at about 600 miles. And it has taken a bit of self restraint to keep the revs capped at 5,000 rpm!

Suspension and handling

This is the standout feature of the Adventure—the ESA system seems to be designed with the extra 11% of suspension travel of the Adventure in mind—it just does its job more effectively than on the standard 1200. Switching damping modes, soft really is soft, normal is normal and hard is noticeably firm. 

Despite the extra suspension travel, the anti-dive geometry of the telelever front suspension works as well as on the standard 1200, and the rear lift under braking seems about the same as well. To me, the raised suspension has many advantages but no drawbacks.

The Adventure also has a 1° steeper steering angle than the standard 1200 (and 0.5° steeper than the 800) which means it’s quicker on its feet to change direction. On twisty, narrow, poorly surfaced British B-roads it effortlessly cuts through the corners, soaking up mid-corner bumps with no drama.


Everything will be familiar to anyone coming from a liquid cooled R1200GS—so you have plenty to play with. Drive-by-wire throttle with electronic cruise control, driving modes (rain, road, dynamic, enduro and enduro pro) with linked ABS and traction control calibration, aforementioned ESA with electric preload adjustment, gear shift assist pro, fairly comprehensive customisation for the onboard computer, daytime running lamps, automatic headlamps, grip heaters (which get much warmer than my previous bikes) etc. New for me are keyless ride and ABS pro.

Keyless ride

As somebody who seems to have some sort of mental illness relating to keys, the keyless ride option was a must when I placed the order for this bike. I forget keys constantly—at best upstairs at home, at worst in the ignition after I’ve parked. Now the key can stay safely zipped into the pocket of my jacket. 

How does it work? When the key is within about 1m of the bike, pressing the ignition button once unlocks the steering, and a second press switches on the bike, ready to start the engine. Alternatively, a long press will unlock the steering and switch on the ignition in one step. Stopping is the same, two short or one long press to switch off the engine/ignition and lock the steering (either to the left or right). 

If the fob’s transmitter battery goes flat, it simply needs to be touched against a special spot on the bike which reads the chip in the fob and allows the ignition button to work for a few seconds.

If the key is moved out of range while the bike is on (but not running) it will switch itself off after 30 seconds. If the engine is running, it will angrily flash a yellow warning on the dash (the engine won’t stop automatically in this case, but of course it won’t restart without the key in range).

The fuel filler cap remains unlocked for about 30 seconds after switching off the ignition and opens electrically via a small lever on top (similar to the keyhole cover on the standard filler cap)—after 30 seconds the lever deactivates.

ABS pro

In plain English, this is BMW’s name for lean-sensing ABS—a feature I hope I never need, and not one I’m in a hurry to test out. 

When braking while leaning in a corner without ABS, either the bike will stand up (and therefore go straight ahead), or the tyres will skid causing the bike to go down. With normal ABS, the bike will stand up and ABS will prevent skidding, but there is the potential to go straight into a ditch/hedge/oncoming car etc. 

ABS pro senses that the bike is banked/leaning into a corner and modulates the ABS to keep the lean consistent, therefore allowing maximum braking without affecting the current radius. KTM was the first to use this system in partnership with Bosch, and BMW uses the same hardware with their own software.

Gear shift assist pro

Readers of my blog know I love this system, and it feels much more refined on the Adventure. From what I understand there are two differences—one is that the system was fitted at the factory (it was retrofitted on my previous bike), and the other is that the Adventure has a dampener built into the driveshaft which reduces driveline shunt (that jerking motion you get when coming on and off the throttle at low speeds). Regardless of whether these differences hugely affect the operation of the GSAP system, it is smoother and lighter on the Adventure than it was on my previous 1200.


Not a lot to say that I haven’t before... The liquid cooled boxer is hard to fault—it’s loaded with torque and a flat torque curve means you can pick a gear and go. The Adventure has a heavier flywheel than my previous 1200 (the heavier flywheel was added to the standard version for 2015 and has been on the Adventure since 2014) and it does seem a bit more resistant to stalling when having a ham-fisted moment operating the clutch when starting off, but more importantly makes the engine a bit smoother and more agreeable during low speed manoeuvres in traffic etc.

The clutch and gearbox is not quite F800GS-smooth when engaging first from a standstill but it’s not far off, and it’s a huge improvement over my previous 1200. The clutch engagement is also much softer—some hydraulic clutches (my previous 1200 included) feel like an on/off switch and this one is more progressive, almost as progressive as the cable-operated clutch from my F800 but requiring about a third of the effort to pull the lever.

These small refinements have all but addressed my complaints about my previous 1200 and come together to provide a much more premium feel overall.


The bike is still in the run-in period which means not applying full throttle and not exceeding 5,000 rpm for the first 600 miles. Since day-to-day I’ve not often had any need to exceed either of these restrictions, it feels like business as usual apart from resisting the urge to open it up on a motorway slip road—but it’s not for long! 

The Adventure weights 20 kg more than the standard version and holds 10 litres more fuel (which accounts for half the extra weight)—performance is not expected to be much different, it goes pretty much as fast as you’d practically ever need. I would say the extra 20 kg actually works in the bike’s favour as it sits over the front axle and means there is less tendency for the front wheel to lift (and the associated power cut from the ASC system)—the bike can use more of its power more often.

The most important part of performance is of course getting it to the road, and the Adventure is equipped with the same Michelin Anakee 3s as the standard version—pretty useless off-road, but an excellent tyre on-road. I will consider giving the Heidenau K60 Scouts a try once these wear out, as I found these to be excellent 50/50 tyres on my F800. Or possibly the new Michelin Anakee Wilds.

Wind/weather protection

The larger tank and windscreen mean it’s more sedate at high speeds—at 70 mph you can speak to your passenger without an intercom (without having to yell), which was not possible on any of my previous bikes. Not ridden in the rain yet but expect it wouldn’t be quite as wet an experience.

Luggage system

The Adventure uses the more robust aluminium pannier/top box system which appears similar to what I had on my F800 (but are actually mirrored due to the exhaust being on the opposite side, and also have slightly more refined latches and locks), whereas my previous 1200 used the plastic vario system.

One thing I liked about the varios was that they could collapse inwards which made the panniers almost unnoticeable in traffic. The F800’s aluminium panniers, however, really stuck out, making filtering through traffic an extremely precise ordeal.

On the Adventure, the aluminium panniers seem to be closer to the bike’s centre line—I’m not sure if this is actually the case, and maybe it is the psychological aspect of the wider fuel tank making the panniers seem narrower than they are, but filtering seemed easier with them fitted than on my F800. Day-to-day I only use the top box—the panniers are only used when travelling.

BMW Navigator V

Last to mention is the BMW Navigator V. This is a revamp of the Navigator IV with which it shares a form factor (meaning the mount and connector is the same) but little else. The screen is bigger, higher resolution and marginally easier to read in direct sun, and the unit is much, much more responsive. It also integrates more completely with the bike, allowing almost all functions to be accessed using the iDrive-type controller on the left handlebar of the bike. It connected without frustration to both my iPhone 6s plus and Sena SMH5 helmet speaker system which I will explain in more detail below.

The unit is notable because it allows access to the bike’s computer systems. This means you can see the status of everything from the dashboard on one simple screen—odometers, engine temperature, tyre pressure, fuel range, current speed etc, and also information such as the VIN and next service.

I do love a few good stats and it delivers on this front as well—it’s possible to view the number of gear changes, average throttle position, applications of both front and rear brakes and ambient/engine temperatures from the last ride.

One thing that frustrated me with the Navigator IV was that it was never happy to be connected to both my phone and headset at the same time—it prevented me from using the helmet controls to initiate Siri, start/stop music and answer phone calls (admittedly a rare occurrence). The Navigator V addresses this. Pair the phone and the Nav V can access data such as weather and traffic via the Garmin Smart Link app (which must be running in the background on the phone). Provided you don’t play music directly from the Nav V (which I don’t do) the headset is then paired using the handsfree profile (HFP). This configuration allows the headset to operate the phone correctly (Siri and music/phone) and also allows GPS directions and alerts to come through, as well as access to the phone’s address book to instigate calls from the GPS itself. While it’s possible to pair the headset and GPS using the A2DP protocol (which allows playing stereo music) this means the phone is only useful for calls and would require duplicating my music library on the GPS.

One complaint—the Nav V comes with 8 gb of internal memory which means with the full EU maps loaded it only has 180 mb free. Put another way, this is not enough space to perform a map update. This is not a cheap unit at around £500 so it seems like nickel-and-diming to death to require the user to spend another £5 on an SD card—either having 16 gb onboard memory or throwing in an SD card would have been much kinder.


Nothing retro about this bike—the design language says ‘technology’ and is purposeful, functional and certainly impressive (I wouldn’t say beautiful, though). I quite like it—in fact, I think the Adventure’s design is more appealing than the standard version—particularly the black engine, frame and wheels.

The silver spoked wheels on the standard version were dirty in a day and a pain to clean due to the textured, anodised surface which held brake dust and dirt. The black wheels are the same texture but at least the grime won’t show as much.

I like that the aux/fog lamps are bolted to the upper crash bars on the Adventure as this is much more robust than the flimsy plastic mounts on the standard 1200.

I struggled with the colour when I placed the order—the white (with red lettering for 2016) was boring and the red had a seat in a slightly different shade which drove me crazy... so I ordered it in ocean blue metallic matt without ever having seen the colour in the flesh—now that I have it, I’m glad I went with this colour, it suits the bike well.


I insure via BMW’s own insurance (which is actually the cheapest for me, cheap being a relative term when living in London). For the Adventure, my premium increased by £25 but they required a tracker to be fitted which was carried out by the dealership before the bike was delivered. It has proven very sensitive as simply moving the bike off the centre stand triggers a text alert. If the bike is moved more than a few metres the tracker company is alerted which results in a phone call—if they are unable to get through they notify the police and provide ongoing location updates. The unit is claimed to provide up to 3 months of location updates even if the bike’s battery has been disconnected. I’m also able to view the location of the bike online at any time. I’ve not had trackers previously but they do provide considerable peace-of-mind. This particular unit only functions when the ignition is switched off (i.e. it doesn’t track the bike’s location when the engine is running for the conspiracy theorists)!

I fitted a tool tube inside the left pannier holder which is just the right size for me to keep my bungee cords clean and dry without them taking up valuable space in the smallish top box.

I have an R&G Racing drive shaft protector on its way. In my opinion this is something no one should be without (it prevented my last bike from being written off when it slid down the road in the Czech Republic in 2014)—at £17 it’s a steal and replaces the dust cover on the drive shaft to prevent contact with the ground.

I’ve also ordered Touratech upper crashbar extensions and a side stand foot enlarger to stabilise the bike when parked on soft surfaces. The extensions were somewhat reasonable (for Touratech) at £200 and the stand enlarger was about £30. Unfortunately both are on back order for up to 6 weeks so more on those later. While I have no doubt Touratech make high quality and well engineered parts, they are very expensive—they are also the only manufacturer of crashbar extensions which integrate into the factory bars on the Adventure.


I took a few photos while out and about the last couple days—I didn’t feel like bringing along my Nikon D-SLR so these iPhone snaps will need to do :)