BMW's R 1200 GS can traverse the nation's breadth without breaking into a sweat. If this is what you expect from your bike, look no further.
Say hello to the first GS in India — the iconic R 1200 GS. It takes some time to get used to this Beemer's hulking dimensions. The styling is more industrial, less beautiful, bringing a Hummer H1 on two wheels to mind. There are some fine details, the attractive BMW-typical asymmetric headlight among the more prominent of these. The towering, adjustable windshield provides good wind and dust protection, and dirt junkies will like the hand protectors on the handlebars. Instruments include an analogue speedometer and tachometer, plus a digital readout that displays fuel level, oil temperature, gear position and the time.
The large 20-litre fuel tank provides excellent support to the rider's thighs, and comes with smart cladding on the side. Both the rider and the pillion will take to the GS' commodious riding saddle. The only niggle is that shorter riders will find the riding position really high, and this can be a huge problem for riders on the wrong side of six feet.
The fat, bazooka-esque end can looks fabulous, and a completely exposed rear wheel is eye-catching too. A small tail-light with the carrier positioned just above brings up the rear. Take a close look at the GS and an element that literally sticks out is the exposed engine.
Powered by an air and oil-cooled 1170cc twin-cam boxer powerplant, the R 1200 GS' power is transmitted to the rear wheel via a shaft drive. BMW has equipped the 1200's engine with a central balancer shaft between the two cylinders, yet vibrations do raise their ugly head when holding under 2500rpm. The performance on offer is stunning. There's 110bhp at 7750rpm and 12.23kgm at 6000rpm. Yet, opening throttle from standstill results in a tsunami-like roll of power rising all the way to 8500rpm with only minimal hesitation experienced at 4500rpm.
A character-rich and rorty exhaust note add to the appeal of this bike. That it can cruise at 140kph all day long only sweetens the deal. Top whack is close to 200kph but a wide spread of torque also makes this bike easily useable on crowded Indian streets. The gears shift nicely on the one-down, five-up 'box, and the hydraulic clutch is always a pleasure to use.
The stance once atop the saddle is quite aggressive. It doesn't take much riding to realise this is the bike to traverse the subcontinent on. Ride remains absolutely flat over even the worst potholes, even when hustling the R 1200 GS at over 100kph. And it gets even better off-road. Stand on the smartly crafted pegs, keep a steady hand on the throttle and the GS charges over all terrain with a tank-like authority. Traction control made my adventure a wee bit safer here. The wide handlebar provides good leverage for quick steering, be it in city or out corner carving, while handling always stays sure-footed.
Piece de resistance
Key to the GS' well-rounded ride and handling is BMW's unconventional approach to chassis design. The frame is comprised of front and rear sections, with the engine a stressed member. But the 1200's pièce de résistance is its Telelever front suspension. The telescopic forks seen are actually only dampers. Bump absorption is taken care of by a single spring located behind the forks, this mounted onto a car suspension-like wishbone that attaches to the bike frame at one end and to the crossmember of the forks via a ball joint. The forces acting on the suspension are thus absorbed by the frame itself. At the rear, the Paralever suspension is similar to a standard single-side swingarm with the driveshaft running through, a crucial difference being the inclusion of a control arm that adds stiffness.
There is minimal squat on hard acceleration and the absence of dive when braking. You get a pair of 305mm front disc brakes in front and a 265mm disc at the rear. ABS comes standard on the GS, as with all BMW bikes. The system stays non-intrusive, save for a slight pulsing that can be felt at the rear brake lever during hard stops.
There's no hiding the fact that the BMW R 1200 GS bowled us over. It successfully marries the performance we expect of big bikes, with Himalaya-conquering off-road abilities, all that while also being easy to ride in traffic. This is truly a bike for all seasons.
The only real bad part about this big bike is its price. At Rs. 16.34 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai), the R 1200 GS doesn't come cheap. But the good news is that we can expect smaller and much more cheaper — but no less capable GS bikes like the R 650 GS and R 800 GS in India shortly.
Keywords: BMW R 1200 GS