The 2010 BMW 1200 GS and GS Adventure will see you to your destination whether around the corner or across the Globe. And unpaved roads will only add flavor to the journey!
Wayne Gerdes and Harry Clark - CleanMPG
- Sept. 14, 2010
2010 BMW 1200 GS and GS Adventure at BMW’s Zentrum Museum in Greer, SC - $14,950 and $17,000 respectively and fuel efficient beyond expectations.
2010 BMW R 1200 GS and GS Adventure - Lead up
While planning review road trip to NY, why not also take a lengthy ride on a pair of BMW's best Adventure Touring bikes? A number of emails and phone calls put me in touch with the BMW Motorrad Press Group. Having previously enjoyed a number of short rides on the 1200 GS’ during the BMW Rider Training and Branding Event
, I knew the GS’ had something very special to offer and looked forward to more than just a quick jaunt through the woods while straddling one.
Our purpose was to test the two of the most famous bikes on the face of the planet. Namely, the R 1200 GS and the R 1200 GS Adventure while discovering their capabilities as long-distance touring bikes. Rather than flogging them on an on/off-road enduro course, we would subject them to the real-world challenges of Adventure Touring, on a real tour, a long one, just to see how they would perform... And hopefully enjoy the journey along the way
With the opportunity to ride into and through the deep inner city, over vast distances of US Interstate, across miles off scenic country road and of course taking on the challenging but extremely fun to ride “Dragon” itself, the GS’ would be put through their paces in what would prove to be anything but a conventional review ride. Not to give away all the details, what we found was the GS’ are bikes you can pick up from your local dealership today and begin an around the world ride tomorrow if that is your calling.
1980 R80 G/S -- 30-Years of GS? No wonder the latest GS bikes are so darn good!
Let us begin by taking a look back. To September of 1980 to be exact when BMW took a risk by launching a go anywhere, do anything on/off- road bike with both power and range never before considered for a Motorcycle with this kind of capability. At the time, off-road capable bikes rarely had over 500 cc of displacement and did not have the ability to ride the pavement with the same degree of confidence. The same could be said for on-road bikes of that era taken off-road as it would create a recipe for disaster.
Enter the first true Adventure bike in the form of the 1980 R 80 G/S. BMW was thinking well ahead of its time with a bike that could tackle anything. From inner city stop light to stop light runs, long-distance Interstate rides and immediately traverse to off-road single track without skipping a beat.
And three decades later, the mighty GS is still known as one of the best bikes no matter the terrain encountered while at the same time, creating one of the most popular segments in the motorcycle world, the all-inclusive Adventure bike.
For a much deeper and detailed look into the history of the mighty “GS”, BMW’s 30 Years of GS… From the Beginning
is a must read.
For 2010 and the 30th anniversary of the GS, BMW has released their best 1200 GS Adventure Touring bikes yet. The new 2010 BMW R 1200 GS and R 1200 GS Adventure, already considered the de facto Adventure Touring standard, has been taken to an even higher level.
The 1,170-cc Boxer engine now achieves 110 HP, 5 more than the previous iteration and does so while offering even more efficiency. Namely, all-new DOHC cylinder heads, lightweight rocker arms, very compact combustion chambers, new larger diameter valves (1.42” to 1.54” on the intake and 1.22” to 1.30” on the exhaust side) and upgraded intake featuring 50 mm intakes vs. the former 1200 GS Boxer’s 47 mm intakes and an air filter element with a higher air flow rate.
Why the GS models? This being the 30th anniversary of the BMW GS line of motorcycles, it was a natural choice. Here is your chance to meet the 2010 BMW R 1200 GS and GS Adventure.
2010 BMW R 1200 GS and GS Adventure – Instrumentation and Specifications
The modern analog and digital instrument package with the Onboard Computer option includes two trip meters, odometer, speedometer, tach, oil temperature, clock, ambient temperature,
fuel level, Gear indicator, aFCD, Ice Warning (37 degrees), average speed and a DTE display. Pic taken during the R 1200 GS’ best segment at 63.5 mpg displayed over 304.5 miles.
The 2010 BMW R 1200 GS and GS Adventure’s full spec’s can be viewed at the following:
2010 BMW R 1200 GS and GS Adventure - First Impressions
Rolling out of the BMW North American HQ parking garage…
Harry – My first impressions of the GS Adventure involved several points. First, at 6’4” with a 36” inseam, most motorcycles do not fit me to the point that they are just too uncomfortable for long distance touring, exhibiting a deal-breaking lack of legroom. When I sat on the GS, the bike simply fit! Amazingly, the bike and the ergonomics are just right, with no modifications necessary. That’s a first in motorcycling as I can easily and comfortably set both of my feet flat on the pavement at stop lights, so the seat height is not excessive in either direction.
The second thing I noticed is the extra-wide handlebars, which take some getting used to. Any new bike takes some acclimation, and of course the big GS Adventure is no exception. But all the controls were where I expected them to be, with no issues with the shift lever, or anything located in an awkward position, so the getting used to part didn’t take long at all.
The third was that this was a distinctive, good-looking bike in the “old school” sense of having the motor clearly visible, and the various bits and pieces, from the crash bars, bash plate, aluminum panniers, hand guards, oversized fuel tank, and fog lights, all adding up to provide the impression of a burley no-nonsense, highly capable dual-purpose bike fully capable of off-road adventure travel. All of it formed a coherent whole, a machine designed and built to a purpose, rather than merely an exercise in styling. No theme bike, this big GS Adventure; it was the real deal.
Wayne - Whooa, the 1200 GS is a big bike. It is one thing to ride a naked 1200 GS, Multistrada or 1L Sport bike but the 1200 GS fitted with Vario top and side cases as requested is “BIG”! After loading it up with enough gear for a week on the road, I swung a leg over, turned the key, hit the start button and the grin began…
While the standard BMW’esque separate turn signal buttons and another switch to cancel them causes me to swear under my breath, I like every other BMW rider before me will get used to it. While I love the separate button for each turn signals initiation including the E-Flasher mode, please O Lord have BMW design the cancel with the press of the same turn signal button on the next go around
To sound the horn, I have reach down and lift up? If I had a wrench, I could cure this ergonomic issue…
Finally, why does this seat seem so comfortable? It must be due to placing too many miles on quarter-liter dual sports and I forgot what an Adventure Touring bike’s seat is really supposed to feel like off the factory floor?
2010 BMW R 1200 GS and GS Adventure - The Ride
Harry - I was favorably impressed with the ease with which I became accustomed to the 1200 GS Adventure. Shifting was smooth and easy, thanks to the recently revised gearboxes on all the R-bikes, and power and torque were more than abundant, also having been increased on these models thanks to a newly revised engine. We were riding in style, on bikes with a distinctive look and good handling and performance.
Wayne - My left boot (BMW GS Boots no less) actually fits under the 1200 GS’ shift lever which allows me to easily and comfortably shift gears without resorting to the left leg dance that other manufacturers bikes have forced me to perform. Unfortunately, my right boot is coming into contact with the right boxer jug as I press on the rear brake causing me to do a little dance with my right foot when coming to a stop.
Smooth shifting, excellent brakes and little in the way of brake dive thanks to BMW’s Telelever setup up front. In addition, the 1200 GS has an easy clutch pull just like the previous bikes which is going to make the next 7-days a comfortable journey indeed.
Compared to the previous generation’s 1200 GS w/ off-road knobs and while riding mostly slower speed and technical off-road trails, the new 1200 GS on pavement is a dream.
Cycling through the various electronic instrument displays… There is an aFCD but no iFCD like the F 800 GS
Hmmm, the low speed exhaust note is a bit overwhelming and I am wearing ear plugs? The sound must be coming from the new internal exhaust flap and the optional Akrapovic muffler the 1200 GS was fitted with. It emits a much deeper exhaust sound than what I have experienced on boxer equipped BMW’s in the past. Having only traveled a few blocks, this may take some getting used to?
We rolled across New Jersey towards Manhattan and Long Island, following our guide Chris in his car, and trusting him to lead us to his place on Long Island for the night.
R 1200 GS Adventure windshield with vee-shaped groove to manage airflow.
The benefits of a high-tech, adjustable windshield quickly became clear. Chris had noticed the distinctive shape of the GS Adventure’s the evening before and commented on the kind of vee-shaped groove that he thought would move the air efficiently around the windscreen. This was exactly the case, with no buffeting up to 70 mph while a minimum amount of air was flowing over the top. The 1200 GS wind screen while good did not offer quite the same level of protection although both kept the air pressure off the chest which allowed for a more relaxed and less fatiguing ride.
Both windshields are adjustable by means of a pair of hand screws.
Remember the early impressions about a light clutch pull? We found out how well both bikes hydraulically operated clutches worked in the worst of the jam. Neither of us received any undue stress to the left forearm as occurs on most large displacement bikes during similar traffic tie-ups. Thank you BMW!
Heat from the engines was not objectionable with the temperature gauges never rising above the mid-level mark, despite ambient temperatures in the high 80’s and being stuck in very heavy, afternoon NY City rush hour traffic. The first leg of our Adventure through New Jersey and the NYC metropolitan area was complete with everything still attached and the bikes proving that they indeed were ready for anything a deep inner city urban environment had to throw at them.
2010 BMW R 1200 GS and GS Adventure - Day 2
The next morning, we were told to sit tight and wait out the massive gridlock of a typical Long Island/NYC morning rush hour .We watched the action unfold on numerous online traffic cams showing long lines of bumper-to-bumper traffic traveling at bicycle speeds on every road leading into the city. Unfortunately our only way South had us headed through New York.
At 9:30 AM it was time to roll. Absolutely loaded with gear and in staggered formation, we were off…
The on ramp from Old Country Road to the Wantagh Parkway is easily the tightest anywhere and if you wandered wide, you would become a SUV hood ornament as they whiz by at 70 mph. Thanks to our guide Chris, we were prepared. Both GS bikes have ground clearance in spades which was just the thing for a decreasing radius onramp and the need to accelerate briskly. With plenty of horsepower and torque available, our first experience at cracking the throttle and allowing the GS’s to run proved to be a non-event as we negotiated the first merge and many more like them easily and safely with the mornings heavy, fast-moving traffic.
The run down the New Jersey Turnpike went well, with the onboard computers indicating 50.0 mpg (GS Adventure) and 53.4 mpg (GS) with speeds approaching 65 mph, both excellent numbers.
The GS and GS Adventures mirrors work very well, even with both bikes fully loaded. Duffle bags tend to restrict rear view while on the R 1150 and 1200 RT’s when touring, but an unrestricted view from both GS bikes mirrors was a welcome addition.
Riding a GS Means Instant Respect
Harry - Riding through Brooklyn on the way to the Verrazano, I enjoyed the sunshine and views of both Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. I left Long Island as a young man, but I can see why people would enjoy living near the ocean, with quick access to Manhattan and all that the NYC metropolitan area and Long Island offers. On a warm, sunny summer day it all looked surprisingly appealing. Part of that may have been the joy of riding BMW’s latest dual-purpose bike on a fresh adventure.
Another thing I noticed during the second days ride was the exhaust sound which I liked and Wayne did not. It is a deeper, throatier sound and not objectionable in my opinion. Harley sells a lot of bikes and tried to patent the sound of their V-twin motors. Many Harley owners, unfortunately, remove legal exhaust systems in favor of much louder aftermarket ones. It appears that BMW is simply acknowledging that the sound of a motorcycle is part of the package, and is trying to provide what the customer wants. The US market after all is dominated by Harley Davidson, a fact that BMW North America cannot ignore.
-- At our first rest stop at a rest area on the New Jersey Turnpike, we met two Harley riders heading back to Miami after a trip to Laconia Bike Week, in New Hampshire. There is always instant rapport among long-distance riders on the road, and this chance meeting was no exception. With a few minutes of discussion about our travels to the Dragon, one of them commented, “You guys are on the right bikes for that!” You have to give credit to guys riding from southern Florida to New Hampshire on bikes and they were the genuine article. We wished each other a safe and enjoyable journey.
Bikes serve as instant ice-breakers when meeting people in rest areas, restaurants, or anywhere. Most people recognize the adventure of a bike trip and are more inclined to say hello and strike up a conversation.
At our next stop, we encountered a pair of older gals who were interested in our adventure and provided us with some interesting stories about their younger days on bikes. We jokingly offered them a ride, but of course with all the gear there was no room, and no spare helmets, so we bid them farewell and headed on our way.
Just one of the many… Whenever and wherever we stopped, the 1200 GS and GS Adventure
attracted former, current or future rider’s conversation from all walks of life.
Our choice of route, down the Delmarva peninsula turned out not to be ideal due to a series of towns with stop lights, heavy traffic and hot weather. Our goal was to try to avoid Washington, D.C. traffic, which is known to be bad, and to also ride the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel. The best route south is to steer clear of DC and avoid that traffic mess down the Delaware/Maryland/Virginia corridor. At least on a Friday
A Flat Tire and the Real Adventure Begins
: They say the adventure starts when plans go awry and this was setting up to be quite an adventure.
Harry - Proceeding down DE 1, we had a crisis. Wayne and I got separated and shortly afterwards in a traffic tie-up, another biker caught up to let me know Wayne’s GS had suffered a flat front tire. To put this in context, in close to 100,000 miles of motorcycle travel, I’ve only had one flat tire, on the rear. It is highly unusual to have a flat tire on a bike, especially a front tire, and especially on a bike with brand new tires.
After communication via cell, arrangements were made to have the GS towed to a shop while the GS Adventure and I headed to Salisbury, MD for a good night rest.
2010 BMW R 1200 GS and GS Adventure - Day 3
The next morning involved another late start as Wayne and the GS was still at BMW Dealer North of Philadelphia awaiting a tire repair. An all out run down I-95 in an attempt to catch up was all that could be planned while comms were setup for regularly scheduled phone calls.
At least the GS Adventure is making progress
: Back on the road on yet another hot and sunny day, the GS Adventure was pointed South and set at the limit in observance of at least a modicum of hypermiling.
Harry - Riding with Wayne, I’m torn between trying to max out my mpg’s, and flogging whatever bike I am on to check out the available acceleration. These are review rides after all, and they usually involve very high-performance machines. Can’t I flog it just once?
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge may not have been worth the effort because of the heavy traffic along the way, but it was an enjoyable, scenic ride on the Big GS Adventure none the less. There were numerous fishermen in small boats bobbing around in the not-too-calm waters surrounding the bridge and I for one was glad on was on the bike rather than in one of those small boats.
The R 1200 GS Adventure at a scenic overlook at north end of Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
Harry - I’m told that some people have phobia problems crossing bridges, and this one in particular, being a long ocean crossing. Having been a bridge inspector for 8 years, it was a relaxing, fun ride for me. If only the route there had been a little quicker, with fewer maddening delays at traffic lights, and a little cooler.
Crossing over to Norfolk, Virginia put me back in traffic and sweltering Southern heat. After several hours, the GS Adventure and I were on I-95 headed south and it never missed a beat. While accelerating hard is anathema to hypermiling, the newest GS bikes now have all of 110 horsepower and 88 lb-ft of torque to work with so merging onto Interstates or accelerating out of tricky situations is quite simply effortless. One reason people ride motorcycles is for the outstanding performance, combined with good fuel economy, a combination that is impossible to achieve in a car.
Mild hypermiling a vehicle with excellent EPA fuel economy ratings yields better results than advanced hypermiling techniques in a gas-hog. No matter how you ride a motorcycle, you’ll use only a fraction of the fuel of someone in an SUV.
The GS back on the road
… With just 3-hours of sleep the day before and the GS’ front tire replaced, the mighty GS had some catching up to do.
An employee of Montogomeryville Cycle in Hatsfield, PA inspecting the 2010 R 1200 GS
just minutes before a hellishly long ride in the heat was about to commence.
With temps between 95 and 101 degrees F and 600 miles of slab ahead, there was just one thing to do. Point her south and ride. Being so far behind the GS Adventure, forget a meet but simply head to Irmo, SC, our near final destination. Riding south down I-95 means shooting through the heart of Washington DC’s Beltway. With temps over 100 degrees F and a 10-mile long stop and crawl accident backup ahead, the 1200 GS was going to be put through a torture test. With the appropriate use of shutting down when completely stopped and opening up huge buffers in order to keep moving amongst the sea of brake lights when things moved back to a crawl, the 1200 GS only saw its fan kick on three times that I can recall. While this was not the Mojave Desert with temps above 120 degrees, the 1200 GS proved impressive in the oppressive 100 + degree temps on the Super Slab and once the traffic mess was cleared, it was back to the PSL for as long as I could continue.
The GS Adventure blows through VA, crosses NC and heading toward the home of the “Fighting Gamecocks”
- The key to doing big miles on a bike is to get rolling early and make plenty of short duration rest stops. With a RAM mount and Garmin attached to the R 1200 GS Adventure, the long afternoon ride continued into the evening and then into the night before arriving in Irmo, SC.
Harry - On the 1200 GS Adventure, I would probably opt for an aftermarket seat. While the stock seat is good and the ergonomics are ideal, I suspect a good aftermarket seat would provide that extra margin of comfort for the 10 hour plus long days on the road. An aftermarket seat with a different choice of foam and finished in leather would probably provide optimal comfort.
The 1200 GS would travel much of the night with a strategic stop at a Rest area where the Air mattress was broken out and a picnic table became an impromptu bunk.
Wayne - While on the longest one day ride of my life with almost no sleep and in temps that we Northerners simply wilt in, I was surprised at how comfortable the 1200 GS was. It would easily outperform me and yet I was not lacking from a sore rear. I was standing up and stretching every few miles as I could have used a bit more seat to peg length but overall, I could live with the 1200 GS as is for just about any ride imaginable. Even one with the adversity I had just experienced. This bike is indeed, “Unstoppable”!
Hey, the instrument-cluster has an automatic day to night and back switchover!
2010 BMW R 1200 GS and GS Adventure - Day 4 To Rest and Day 5, Back on the Road
With the two bikes packed up and back together again, we headed out. After about an hour’s ride, it was time for a breakfast stop. Everywhere we went in South Carolina we met friendly people who were sociable, fun to meet and great to talk to. This local diner was no exception. Southern hospitality is alive and well and the people are as warm as the weather, even in these difficult economic times.
Wayne - Remember that the 1200 GS weighs in at a touch over 504 pounds wet. Add another 100 or so pounds for the Cases and gear and you have a somewhat top heavy bike weighing in excess of 600 pounds. While pulling out into a right turn from a stop sign and thinking I was in first when I was actually in second, I found out the hard way what 600 pounds really weighs. When the engine died, my forward momentum died and because I was already committed to the turn, I immediately discovered that 600 pounds of bike and gear heading towards the ground was far beyond my ability control. While the bike easily survived the drop as it was essentially at zero speed, my ego suffered mightily as a number of vehicles saw me drop a beautiful and practically brand new red 2010 1200 GS to the ground as I went tumbling off like a rag doll
To get to the Dragon, a very curvy section of US 129 from North Carolina into Tennessee, a route was chosen. Since we were so close, a stop at the BMW Zentrum Center, part of BMW’s Spartanburg manufacturing complex (Zentrum BMW Museum
) was a great respite. With a loosely planned trip, we could afford ourselves some recovery time at the BMW facilities where we viewed an excellent collection of BMW cars and motorcycles with a light lunch to recharge our batteries.
Harry with the 1200 GS and GS Adventure at BMW’s “Zentrum” visitor center in Greer, SC.
While heading up US 276 towards the vicinity of the Dragon and after many miles of hot riding, we found ourselves on a very curvy, very demanding mountain road. This was our first taste of the Great Smoky Mountains. Both the bikes and riders survived the first exposure to this type of riding. While both of us have riding experience, when you first encounter sharply curved mountain roads with switchbacks in quick succession and very limited sight distance, it can be quite a challenge to “flatlanders” not accustomed to that type of roadway. The GS bikes helped us quickly become comfortable with the twisties, with excellent brakes, plenty of torque and horsepower, and lean angles far greater than on some of the popular touring bikes. The bikes provided a reassuring reserve in cornering ability, even when fully loaded.
An enthusiastic run up the mountain presented us with a rest area in the Caesars Head State Park, at the top of the mountain. With an elevation of over 3,300 feet, we found pleasantly cool temperatures, a welcome relief from the heat at lower elevations, and nice views of the Smoky Mountains, including a glimpse of some of the switchbacks we had just negotiated.
At least a 30-mile view from the scenic overlook at Caesars Head State Park and
Looking Glass Falls, a scenic waterfall, complete with people swimming beneath it.
Our general goal was to locate a campground at as high an elevation as possible allowing cooler sleeping weather. After Brevard, NC, the GS’s were forced to endure the absolutely most endearing ride through the thick woods of the Pisgah National Forest. Along with the curvy roads, we were mostly in shade and high enough elevations to provide us with excellent riding temperatures and even better scenery!
Shortly after the Blue Ridge Parkway, US 276 dove down in a series of steep downgrades and very tight decreasing radius turns. This was the equivalent of taking the GS’s on a slalom skiing run but the penalty for running off the course was a bit more severe. The emphasis was on braking and managing entry speeds into the curves. The pavement had seen better days, which added to the technical difficulty. It was a fun ride, but disciplined fun where proper caution was necessary. It helped that there was little traffic. And as had been the case in the previous days travels, both GS’ proved once again their prowess in the twisties when the road is anything but a wide and flat slab of Interstate with the only thing to concern yourself with is if you want to get a bite to eat at an exit 10-miles straight ahead.
A few miles later, we came up on the “Blue Ridge Motorcycle Only” campground
which became our home away from home for the next two days.
Camping with the BMW R 1200 GS's
A Nomad Tenure was the home of the 1200 GS for the next two nights.
Besides the more than adequate facilities, including showers, laundry room, coffee and snacks, one of the nicest things was that you crossed a river to enter the campground. The sound of running water at night was an ideal backdrop for a long and very deep sleep.
With our tents set up, we took the bikes out for a great rib dinner at a local diner. We also were greeted by a group of motorcyclists out of the Ocala, Florida area. I was immediately offered a generous portion of whiskey as an après-road libation and boy was that smooth. These guys had been a club of BMW "Airhead" riders who had gradually morphed into a loose collection of riders of any brand of bike with quite literally no rules and no officers. They liked to travel and meet up at campsites just like this one. They were quite a collection of characters, free souls, who liked to ride and enjoy life.
Harry - I’ve found in my travels on bikes that at almost any campground, you’ll meet bikers and be given a warm welcome. This is a fun part of motorcycle travel.
Besides lots of jokes and kidding around, I also received some advice on riding the Dragon, our goal for the following day.
2010 BMW R 1200 GS and GS Adventure - Day 6, The Dragon Awaits
We decided the next morning to stay another night based on our positive experience. This would also allow us to do the Dragon without the bikes loaded down with gear, and not have to worry about finding another campground, or spend a lot of time breaking camp and then setting up again at another location later on that day.
A run into Waynesville, NC for breakfast and a course was plotted to the Dragon. We took US 74 west out of Waynesville, a four-lane divided highway, and then NC 28. At the junction with NC 28, we were reassured we were on the correct route by streams of motorcyclists. They were headed to the Dragon, and we quickly joined them.
NC 28 provided plenty of twisty roads itself and I remember thinking when we got to the end of it that the ride on NC 28 was plenty good enough and that the Dragon would be just an added bonus.
The Tail of the Dragon
-- A little background. During our visit, there was a rock slide which caused the closing of US 129 at the north end of the Dragon, in Tennessee. This was actually a benefit to us as there would be no through traffic heading south on US 129 other than riders coming back from the trek.
The road is posted at 30 mph in an attempt to reduce the accident rate. It is also patrolled heavily by Tennessee State Police. While this may cause consternation among all-out sport bike riders, we really did not mind as anything over 40 mph and some would find themselves in a lot of trouble really quick. Having never ridden the Dragon, we welcomed the efforts at enhancing safety and there was no way we would try to set a new elapsed time on a road we had never ridden!
One of the biggest hazards on the Dragon is meeting an oncoming biker on your side of the road. Getting too rambunctious and winding up on the wrong side of the road is bad form, hurting another biker is even worse. In other words, it was an obligation to be on our best behavior which proved to be a very wise choice.
After soaking up some cold water at Dragon HQ, it was time for us to test the GS’ on the Dragon while under the watchful eyes of the Tennessee Highway Patrol. We heard some scoop about the police having pulled over a group of speeding bikers just as we were about to leave and there was no way we would receive tickets for speeding as that just would not be right
Heading out from the Deal’s Gap parking lot, we negotiated a fairly steep uphill right turn onto the beginning of the Dragon. For the most part, the Dragon is a two-lane highway with no shoulders, and unforgiving drop-offs lined with sturdy trees and other hazardous obstacles. It is a very fun ride with curve after curve of exhilarating motorcycling as long as you keep it sane, keep the shiny side up, and keep it within the painted lines. It also offers pleasant scenery to glance at, briefly, and for the most part no intersecting roads or driveways. Combine all those ingredients with a healthy dash of caution and you have the recipe for a fantastic ride.
The road itself is a conundrum. Harry being a highway engineer is well aware of the geometric standards that are normally applied to the design and layout of highways. Especially US routes like the Dragon, US 129. The Dragon meets no standards whatsoever, which of course is what makes it such a joy to motorcyclists. If this road were designed to modern standards, the sharp curves would be replaced by huge cuts and fills and nothing but long, gradual curves and a boring road would result.
Soon after entering the Dragon, we encountered the first sharp curves. While concentrating on looking ahead through the curves, selecting good entry speeds, good lines and setting up for the next curve or curves is a must. With a good rhythm started, the GS’ proved to be every bit as fun as they became one with the most twisty road possibly in America.
The GS chasing the GS Adventure on the Dragon with Hero Cam attached.
We soon entered Tennessee, and numerous signs announcing “Limited Emergency Medical Services,” an ominous reminder of the very real hazards involved. And of course the tragic past results of riders who had pressed the limits beyond theirs and their bikes abilities, or who had the misfortune of tangling with someone else who had exceeded theirs.
Harry - For us this day, it was the joy of tackling the Dragon on bikes that most people may not have thought of as Dragon-slayers, BMW’s R 1200 GS and GS Adventure models. But Dragon-slayers they were, in every sense, with extremely competent handling, with no diving under braking, and no shaft-jacking while accelerating or decelerating thanks to well engineered telelever front suspension and paralever rear suspension. World-class anti-lock Brembo brakes, 110 horsepower and plenty of torque down low, and ground clearance that a guy on a Harley dresser can only dream of rounded out what were very competent motorcycles. We did hear other bikes scraping in curves while we had plenty of lean-angle to spare and never came close to scraping anything while enjoying the left to right to left to right sharp turns again and again
With a speed limit of 30 mph, we were traveling at no more than 40 mph on some of the straighter sections, so there was no need for anything too radical. Keeping it sane and fun, the idea was to slay the Dragon with the best lines possible, and avoid scaring anyone else or ourselves in the process. We succeeded in that, and left the Dragon with a sense of satisfaction for doing well. We departed on the return ride to our campground. Interestingly, NC 28 did not seem anywhere near as curvy as it did on the ride to the Dragon for some reason?
End of our north – south run of the Dragon, at Dragon HQ, US 129 and NC 28.
Wayne - Wow! I cannot believe a 1200 anything other than a Sport Bike could handle the curves we just encountered as easily and as quickly as the R 1200 GS just did. With the Telelever halting any front brake dive and the Paralever halting any shaft driven acceleration lift, it was almost effortless! A little counter steering and the bike just dove in with both feet while taking you along for the ride. Given the ease at which the bike tackled the decreasing radius and in some cases off-camber turns on US 129, I have to imagine that in a pinch, the 1200 GS and GS Adventure could perform miracles in an accident avoidance maneuver on any street anywhere.
Just minutes after slaying the dragon, the R 1200 GS and GS Adventure.
Two amazingly agile bikes given their size and purpose take a breather.
After dinner and a Wi-Fi break to catch up on our Trip report
, we returned to the campground after dark where one of our new friends from the Ocala group expressed his concerns over our well-being. We assured him that our Dragon outing had gone well and we had just run late getting back.
2010 BMW R 1200 GS and GS Adventure - Day 7 and 8, Heading Home
The next morning we broke camp and began the long journey back. Breakfast Waynesville, east on US 74 to Asheville, NC, north to Johnson City, and then I-81 as far as we could get that first day, which turned out to be Winchester, VA, a little over 450 miles.
As usual, the next day was hot and muggy as we dodged the worst of a nearby thunderstorm. Rain is okay on a motorcycle, but lightening can pose a real hazard. We encountered a couple of hours of light rain crossing Pennsylvania which the GS’ took it in stride. They actually do not feel a thing but it is nice to think that they did.
After the usual ordeal of negotiating the Garden State Parkway, BMW headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey was where one R 1200 GS Adventure in excellent condition had its keys were dropped off.
The BMW R 1200 GS Heads to Times Square and back to BMW the following day
The 1200 GS nearing Times Square
In an attempt to take some pics of the 1200 GS in Times Square, the GS was called upon to perform one more deep inner city ride. About a block before my intended destination, I asked a friendly NY City Police Officer if he would snap a pic while I was waiting at a light. He obliged and I thanked him greatly!
Temps on the pavement ranged from 96 to 98 degrees F with 102 degrees displayed on the BMW’s Trip Computer when riding through the Lincoln Tunnel! It was hot and anytime traffic stopped (it took over an hour to get from the Lincoln Tunnel across town to the Queens Midtown Tunnel), it was scorching.
When I attempted to stop for pics while crossing 42nd and whatever the cross street Times Square was on, the local police presence forcefully waved me forward…
2010 BMW R 1200 GS and GS Adventure - Fuel Economy Results
R 1200 GS FE Data
- Topped Off in New Castle, DE.
- First fill in Fredericksburg, VA: 261.2 miles on 4.789 gallons for 54.542 mpg. aFCD displayed 56.0 mpg (bike computer indicated average fuel economy). Distance to empty per computer was + 7 miles.
- Second fill in Oxford, NC: 270.8 miles on 4.860 gallons, for 55.72 mpg. aFCD displayed 57.3 mpg. Distance to empty was + 4 miles. Flat tire in DE, 100 + mile tow truck ride north and the trek began anew…
- Third fill, Roebuck, SC: 248.4 miles on 4.779 gallons for 51.977 mpg. aFCD displayed 54.7 mpg. Distance to empty was + 1 mile.
- Fourth fill, Bryson City, NC: 304.5 miles on 4.987 gallons for 61.059 mpg. aFCD displayed 63.5 mpg. Distance to empty was -10 miles.
- Fifth fill, Draper, VA: 278.7 miles on 4.894 gallons for 56.947 mpg. aFCD displayed 58.8 mpg. Distance to empty was + 2 miles.
- Sixth Fill, Chambersburg, PA: 289.8 miles on 5.006 gallons for 57.891 mpg. aFCD displayed 58.8 mpg. Distance to empty was -4 miles.
|FE Rating Origin||EPA Rating||CleanMPG Observed FE|
|US||48 mpgUS||56.4 mpgUS|
|British Imperial||57.6 mpgIMP||67.7 mpgIMP|
|European Metric||4.9 L/100 k||4.17 L/100 km|
Review MPG data: 1653.4 miles on 29.315 gallons = 56.401 mpgUS.
R 1200 GS Adventure FE Data
- Topped Off in New Castle, DE.
- First Fill - Courtland, VA: 6.242 gallons
- Second Fill - Dillion, SC: 5.815 gallons
- Third Fill – Roebuck, SC: 4.755 gallons
- Fourth Fill - Bryson, SC: 6.403 gallons
- Fifth Fill – Draper, VA: 5.433 gallons
- Sixth Fill – Chambersburg, PA: 5.244 gallons
Final Fill ODO (2302 miles) - Initial fill ODO (702 miles) = Total Distance (1,600 miles)
Total gallons Consumed: 33.892 gallons
|FE Rating Origin||EPA Rating||CleanMPG Observed FE|
|US||45 mpgUS||47.2 mpgUS|
|British Imperial||54 mpgIMP||56.6 mpgIMP|
|European Metric||5.23 L/100 k||4.98 L/100 km|
Review MPG data: 1600 miles on 33.892 gallons = 47.209 mpgUS.
2010 BMW R 1200 GS and GS Adventure - Conclusions
Performance - The 1200 GS looks mean enough to conquer the world and in literally hundreds of cases, it has! With a 1.2L engine that would propel a compact car with oomph, that same engine in a 500 pound bike just means its “crazy powerful and fast”. I personally will never be caught riding at 125 + mph while using the GS’ true capability but I know those that do and the only way to comfortably get there is with displacement. The 1200 GS provided that and more.
Fuel Economy - While not offering a quarter liter’s 100 + mpg, they in turn will never be able to offer an off the show room floor go-anywhere Adventure Touring solution without thousands of dollars in mods and even then, ramp em up to the speeds we were traveling on the GS’ and the fuel consumption is not going to be all that much different. 56.4 mpg from a bike capable of dusting a Super Car while also being able to take on light trail as if it were an Interstate highway is damn impressive!
The new sound - I understand the reason for it but I never will grow accustomed to the throaty note at low RPM’s. As we left a rest stop in PA, I pulled my ear plugs in order to hear the GS at speed while only impeded by my Arai. With the 1200 GS running at 65 + mph, the exhaust flap is out of the picture and the Big Bore Boxer, even with the Akrapovic add-on, was now offering a strong yet smooth auditory presence. If I were to ever own a 1200 GS, the Exhaust flap would be the first thing to go. I also know I would be one of the very few to pull it.
Emissions - I have been enamored with BMW Motorrad’s bike emissions program for years and the 1200 GS is no exception. The latest FI solution, combustion control and a fully-controlled three-way catalytic converter combine to make the air cleaner for all of us. Add in the strong evap controls and it is just one more reason to appreciate the engineering that has gone in to make the 1200 GS’ what they are today.
Ride and Handling - Only after riding the Dragon did I come to fully appreciate the BMW Telelever and Paralever systems. The bike stays flat whether accelerating or decelerating allowing “you” to decide where the bike is heading with minimal effort instead of fighting a standard sprung bikes tendency to go where it wants to go under a harsh decel or fast accel due to ever changing chassis geometry. While describing it in words is all but impossible, those that own and ride the mighty 1200 GS can tell you first hand, the systems work and they work darn well.
The seat - While there are aftermarket solutions to cure most bikes of their seating quirks, I rode over 500-miles on day three with only the slightest bit of seat discomfort. It is really not that bad for an OEM and especially compared to most of the smaller displacement dual sports which after just 100 miles can in many cases lead to sheer agony.
Controls - My only real issue is with BMW’s insistence on doing something different than everybody else. They have it right with the two separate turn signal controls including the E-Flashers but have it so wrong with yet a third switch to cancel… Please just make the cancel occur on the same button that initiates the signal and be done with it. And add the F 800 GS' iFCD to the 1200 GS' On Board Computer while you are at as well
Weight - This is a problem for me. Even at 6’ +, 210 pounds, and a 34” inseam, that single drop taught me a lesson. Afterwards, I never fully regained the confidence needed when coming to a stop at a sign, a light, parking to refuel or even stopping for a bite to eat. While the 1200 GS will never match the weight of an MX bike or lightweight 250 – 650, it is not the type of bike just anybody should go out and purchase. Of all the bikes I have ridden over the years, the 1200 GS would be my first choice if asked to ride around the world tomorrow as its on-road manners are really that good for such a large Adventure Touring bike. Where I would have problems is riding back and forth to the store or work every day as it adds that wee bit of apprehension knowing full well I would at some point in the future be staring at a beautiful R 1200 GS lying on the ground and me damn near in tears for having dropped it like a rookie…
Vario Cases - While I did not mention them above, I was saving the best for last. Can Nirvana describe a case? Expandable and collapsible, waterproof, utility and storage beyond anything I could ever imagine. While not cheap, if you want all of your gear for a week or three on the road stored in a secure and orderly fashion, the Vario Cases are the bomb. For an inside look at what they provide, consider the pics and write-up in the following: Vario Case being expanded and collapsed and attached and detached to the mighty R 1200 GS.
All in, the 1200 GS is the best bike I have ridden to take around the globe. I only wish BMW offered a lighter weight 450 GS with all the “fixins” so I could take it around the block just as easily…
I enjoyed my road trip on the new BMW R 1200 GS Adventure. Similar to the 2009 BMW R 1200 RT I road-tested a year ago, it exhibited the same engine smoothness and lack of vibration, courtesy of a recently added balance shaft, the same easy-shifting transmission, and the same convenient onboard computer with various info screens. I was thinking during the ride that I could certainly be happy with the big GS Adventure as my sole motorcycle.
While some inseam-challenged people may have a struggle with the physical dimensions of the bike, it fit my 6’4” frame and 36” inseam perfectly and provided me with excellent ergonomics. I had been concerned about how my back would hold up on such a long journey, as even longer trips in my car can cause problems. I found that with the ideal ergonomics of this bike, with good seating position, that problem was not a problem at all.
As BMW says, this is a do-it-all bike… But they’re not for everyone. Shorter riders will probably not find the 1200 GS bikes comfortable or practical. That is okay because there are other BMW bikes available including some with lowering kits and low-seat options.
I did find something to quibble about and that one item was the feeble horn. This is the one item that should be replaced by a much louder one. I’m a strong believer that bright colors and loud horns help a motorcyclist’s cause, and that loud horns should be mandated. Perhaps the wimpy horn is a result of some ill-conceived EU noise ordinance? Or maybe not? The whole purpose of a horn is to make noise, and the one on the GS’ falls short. At least compared to the wonderfully loud dual-Fiamms thoughtfully provided as OEM equipment by BMW on my 2003 R1150RT.
Knocking that out of the way, this is a great bike in the time honored tradition of a “standard” bike, with ideal seating position and ergonomics, a well done concept that has been further refined by BMW over the last 30 years.
This has resulted in a motorcycle with excellent fuel economy, performance, and handling. And part of that performance is abundant ground clearance on curvy roads like the Dragon, and excellent anti-lock Brembo brakes. What more could one ask from a motorcycle?
Besides offering very good fuel economy, these are high performance motorcycles. It used to be any motorcycle that could do 0-60 mph in less than 4.0 seconds was considered extremely fast and both GS models ridden are rated with sub-4.0-second times. This is another reason for saying that while the primary purpose of the GS models may not be racing, they can certainly give a good account of themselves, especially on the curviest mountain roads. Add to that a heritage of Paris-Dakar off-road victories, and you have a choice of motorcycle that posts impressive credentials. Add to that the fact that these newest models are the result of 30 years of improvements, resulting in supremely capable touring machines that are lighter weight, provide increased power and torque while offering a wider variety of available options than ever before.
All that performance in a pair of machines that returned 47 and 56 + mpg respectively, and you have machines that you can feel good about touring the country on.
Individual behind the scenes
Sean (rarely will you catch him smiling for the camera
) Lobosco behind the “Unstoppable” R 1200 GS Adventure.
We want to thank both Roy Oliemuller and Sean Lobosco of BMW North America Motorrad for entrusting their latest 2010 R 1200 GS models to CleanMPG for a fantastic week of discovery. It should be noted that these bikes are the very latest versions and it was an honor to check them out. Neither of us was disappointed by any means.
Wayne and Harry