The On-Going Adventures of
The 2006 BMW R1200GS
My R1200GS pictured here in October 2006, with a new Sargent Seat
GS Riding Impressions
First impression of the bike is that it is tall. With the bike on its centerstand, I find the easiest way to get on is to step on the nearside footpeg, stand and swing my leg over the seat. Placing both feet on the footpegs and gripping the handlebars, the riding position feels very comfortable. Still on the centerstand, I place my feet on the ground and find I'm tiptoeing the ground with my feet. Once I roll the bike forward off the centerstand, however, my feet are just short of being completely flat-footed on the pavement. The stock GS seat is adjustable for both a high and low position, and I currently have it in the high position and decide to keep it there for now.
Starting the bike is as easy as turning on the key and a push of a button with my right thumb. With the fuel injection, I don't have to worry about turning on a fuel petcock, pulling a choke lever, or any other such nonsense. The bike starts easily, and I immediately notice how quiet it is with the stock exhaust. A turn of the throttle, and it just kind of purrs. The throttle seems quite responsive, as I sit there with a grin on my face.
Noticing the small display next to the speedo and tach, I can see that I'm full of fuel, the oil temperature is low and that I'm still in neutral - so far, so good. There's a red indicator on regarding the ABS brakes, but I remember that it will not go out until the bike is moving. Sitting there at idle, I can feel the vibration of the twin cylinders, but much less than other boxer's that I've ridden in the past (this is the first I've owned). If I blip the throttle, I feel a very slight pull of the bike to the right but it's hardly noticeable.
Time to ride so I pull in the clutch, and a quick tap on the shift lever and I'm in first gear. Letting the clutch out, rolling on the throttle, and I'm moving. I notice that the red ABS indicator has gone out (good), and shift into second. The bike shifts smoothly, both up and down the six-speed gearbox.
The GS has a very upright, comfortable riding position. The placement of the footpegs allows for a relaxed bend in my legs. With my hands on the handlebars, my arms are comfortably bent at the elbows, and my forearms are basically parallel with the ground. The rear of the gas tank is quite narrow, making the bike feel slim when seated.
My first ride of the bike, and all ready everything feels very natural. With the tallness of the GS, I find myself positioned higher than other motorcycles, and I'm looking down at most of the cars on the road. This should certainly help in making the GS more visible to the other vehicles on the road.
The throttle is very responsive, and the torque of the engine is definitely felt every time that you pull on the throttle. The motor is strong and smooth. It's obvious that the engine counter balancer is working to smooth out the vibrations typically associated with large twins, especially as the revs build up. With the pull of the strong engine, you just don't realize how fast you are traveling until you glance down at the speedometer. You could be going 80 mph and it feels like 30.
As I come to a stop on my first few rides, force of habit has me pressing on the rear brake lever and pulling on the front brake lever. However the synchronized braking system actually operates both brakes when the front brake lever is pulled - something to get used to. The ABS brakes work very well, with a positive and progressive feel to the brakes. When you need to stop in a hurry, hold on tight because grabbing loads of brake certainly stops the bike quickly, but without locking up the wheels.
My GS came with Michelin Anakee tires, and they feel very good on all types of surfaces. They track straight, even on grooved pavement and steel-grated bridges. The tires hold very well in cornering, allowing you to achieve a pretty severe lean angle if you want to.
The GS provides a very comfortable and stable riding experience. On the road, the front and rear suspension work so well that you simply don't notice them - which is what you want. The suspension just sucks up both the typical small road bumps, as well as the large pothole that you occasionally run across. The suspension also aids in providing the GS's extremely confident feel in cornering. On twisty roads, you forget about the bike's large size as it takes the corners so well. It feels very stable while leaning the bike left, then right, then left again through "S" turns' and the bike's torque pulls strongly out of the corners.
The windshield does a fairly good job of providing wind protection. With it's large size, the bike does experience some buffeting in strong winds. The windshield is adjustable, which helps some. Some GS riders buy an after-market windshield to improve the air flow, but it hasn't bothered me enough yet to do so.
Overall, all of the various parts and pieces of the GS work together to provide an extremely stable, confident and, most of all, fun ride.
After 7500 Miles
I've taken my GS on the highways and around town; pavement, gravel roads, dirt roads and trails; I've ridden through hail storms and rain storms; in 100 degree weather and below freezing; and I still love my GS. It's just a very versatile bike that is capable of performing extremely well at just about any type of riding you want to do, other than full off-road or motocross. In the leagues of large adventure bikes, it's probably not as off-road capable as a KTM 950; but I think it probably more than makes up for that in its on-road manners.
I still find it to be one of the most comfortable bikes I've ever ridden; whether I'm riding a few miles to work, or riding hundreds of miles in a day. I've really gotten to like the Michelin Anakee tires for pavement riding. I've ridden through some pretty nasty storms, and have never felt uncomfortable on wet pavement. On dry pavement, I can't wait for the twisty roads to lean the bike over in the turns. Although I originally thought the stock seat was OK, I definitely appreciate my Sargent Seat on longer rides.
I have reached the limit of the Anakees on some of the dirt trails I've taken, and will be buying some Continental TKC-80's for dirt riding this coming summer. For some of my off-road riding, I've also reached the limits of the suspension. The stock shocks do pretty well on the milder trails; but even after adjusting the preloads and spring tension, I can bottom the shocks on some of my off-road riding. After-market suspension (Ohlins or Wilbers) may also be a future purchase.
So far, I've had no mechanical, electrical or other problems (knock on wood). My Vario Top Case fell off once, going through a washboard section on a dirt road, and now I just remove it for my off-road riding and use soft luggage instead. It's been a very reliable ride so far.