only a new motor, but a new chassis and a new electronics
WE THREE KINGS
Since the 1200 came into being, the GS has been the
king of the adventure bikes, even though it has had plenty
of company in the category. The three 1200s that we
gathered were our new liquid-cooled test bike, along with
Mark McClellen’s 2007 model and John Bumgarner’s 2010
GS-A. The A version has longer travel, lower gearing, a
larger fuel tank and a few other off-road features, but it still
let us compare generations of 1200s.
The biggest difference? Power. Each bike was signifi-
cantly faster than its predecessor. The 2007 model was
rated at 105 horsepower, but it wasn’t in the same league
as the 2010 GS or the new one. In fact, despite the lower
gearing of the 2010 A version, it was sluggish next to the
new bike. BMW says there’s a 10-horsepower difference
between the two, but it feels like much more. At the very
bottom of the powerband, the liquid-cooled bike is at its
most impressive. If you rev both bikes out, the gap isn’t as
big. Beyond horsepower, there’s a big difference in engine
response. The new bike is much more lively. It snaps to
attention, whereas the other two act like they have massive
flywheel effect and take their time revving. And, if you’re a
longtime BMW fan, you might also notice that the new bike
doesn’t have nearly as much of the Boxer Twist. When you
rev the throttle on the other two, there’s a noticeable ten-
dency for the bike to lean to the right, as if the whole bike
is trying to rotate around the massive crankshaft. On the
new bike, the twist is to the left and is barely noticeable.
Another big difference is in suspension. Our 2007
sample actually had Race Tech suspension, which Mark
claimed was a massive improvement over stock. Even that
wasn’t as impressive as the new bike with its electronically
controlled preload and damping. The adventure model had
the best overall suspension for off-road use, but the new
bike held its own against that bike as well.
How about handling? The big difference was the light
feel of the new bike. It isn’t actually any lighter, but the
difference in feel is dramatic. The front end of the liquid-cooled machine is especially light. The only negative comment that we got from the two diehard BMW owners was
that the new bike’s steering might actually be too light. On
first impression, it lacks the solid, well-planted feel that the
older machines have, but the impression quickly faded as
the riders came to terms with the 2013 model.
TIME MOVES ON
When any iconic motorcycle receives a redesign this
significant, there’s usually a countermovement. The faithful
will rise up and complain that the bike they loved has died
and been replaced by a younger, less substantial successor. That’s not the case here. The two older 1200s were
great bikes in their own right, but both of our BMW fans
were ready to jump ship.
Faithfulness is one thing, but let’s not be silly. o
The first GS was the 800, which was
back in the early 1980s.
Three generations of BMW 1200s make for a very good time in
the San Bernardino Mountains.