The BMW R1200GS is an iconic adventure bike, proven both on and off the road.
This past June BMW hosted the international GS Trophy, taking the R2100GS through the rough terrain of Mongolia. The R1200GS is packed full of electronic goodies while still maintaining it’s on and off-road charm. The torquey 1200cc boxer motor is very noticeable as the cylinders move horizontally, which is visible from the engine configuration. What this translates to is a very low center of gravity; very ideal.
With this low center of gravity the 2018 BMW R1200GS steers quite well even though it’s such a large motorcycle at 538 pounds wet. The engine produces 125 horsepower, and 92 lb-ft. of torque. You really notice the torque in the bottom end of the RPM range, but the top end does just as well. This really is a capable and unassuming bike.
The seating position is fairly upright, which saves your back a lot of aches and pains for those long rides. The seat is almost “in” the bike, rather than on top. This allows you to feel the bike and command it that much more intimately. Seating is also adjustable with the ability to set the height at anywhere between 33.5” and 34.3”, as well as variable seat heights through special order.
Comfort-wise the R1200GS is excellent, and even the passenger seat remains quite comfortable. You’re able to adjust the suspension at the touch of a button, as well as select between different ride modes to get the bike running optimally depending on the terrain or conditions you may be presented with. A fully adjustable rear suspension allows you to set the bike up based on your weight and riding style. In the front there’s an additional shock and spring to help combat front end dive as well as improving ride quality. The clutch is super light, and really short, so slow crawling speeds are left to your balance more so than clutch feathering.
In terms of tech, the BMW comes standard with plenty of goodies, and even more so with added options. On our tester, we see features like heated grips, steering damper, adjustable cruise control, variable ABS which is great for when you decide to take things off-road, keyless ride, four different ride modes, and a very crisp LED display. This display has multiple sub-menus where you can access metrics like tire pressure, service reminders, and trip meters.
If off-roading is a big part of your riding style, it’s nice to see that the R1200GS is shaft driven instead of by chain, so there are no moving drivetrain parts to get muddy or dust. An aluminum engine guard is standard, along with variable ABS as mentioned earlier so you can turn it off when things get a little hairy, and “bark buster” style hand guards that look like they’ll do the trick for bushes or small branches.
The overall riding experience is very good; the bike remains smooth, nimble and torquey. The R1200GS handles sweeping turns with ease, and highway ramps are easy and fun to lean on thanks in part to the low center of gravity. The R1200GS leans down and stands back up with very little effort which is impressive given its size and weight. The geometry of the bike feels perfect, allowing you to manage it fairly easily without putting your foot down at slow speeds.
The R1200GS’ 17” rear tire and 19” front tire seem to be the right combination as bumps seem to do no harm, and ride quality has no sacrifice. Braking is more than good with its 305mm dual disc four-piston Brembo fixed caliper brake in the front.
The fuel tank is a modest 20 liters, with a four liter reserve tank should you ignore your fuel gauge. There’s a unique selection wheel that’s built into the left hand grip that’s utilized for accessing and navigating the menu in the LCD display. Also notable is the easy-to-adjust windscreen. You simply turn a dial and the windscreen moves up or down. One thing that seems to be a useless feature in my opinion is the navigation bracket. It seems to be very intrusive and space occupying. Most riders will just opt to use their phones with a standard adapter or Bluetooth.
All in all, the 2018 BMW R1200GS is a very capable bike that has a proven track record around the globe. It can be a little large and heavy for someone who’s looking for something for tight off road mono-trails, for those people I’d suggest having a look at the 800GS, a much more manageable bike for that type of riding. The R1200GS comes in at a base sticker of $20,300, and $26,495 as tested.