Shortly after showing off the 2014 R 1200 GS Adventure to the media at a static event in Pretoria BMW has formally launched its iconic macho-machine with a scenic but challenging off-tar trip from Port Elizabeth to Knysna.And back.With a mix of tarred roads and very technical gravel mountain passes – and several water crossings thrown in for good measure – the route gave us the opportunity to evaluate the bikes under practically all riding conditions.As we’ve reported previously, the latest iteration of the big GS breaks the boxer mould by being partially liquid cooled, allowing the people in white coats to squeeze some additional power – the engine now makes 92kW and 125Nm – out of the venerable horizontally-opposed mill.NEW BIG FEELS SMALLERTo improve its off-road capability, BMW has endowed the Adventure with a heavier flywheel for smoother response, added 10mm to the ground clearance and increased the spring travel by 20mm.GALLERY: Images from the launch rideAlthough the new Adventure has gained weight in comparison with its predecessor (kerb weight is now a whopping 260kg) BMW’s attention to mass centralisation has paid off: the bike feels smaller and lighter and I found myself on several occasions forgetting how big this machine actually is.The front, especially, feels much more responsive than that of its predeces-sor. While a tad disconcerting at high speed, this additional responsiveness inspires huge confidence on dirt.The launch bikes were equipped with five riding modes: Rain, Road, Dynamic, Enduro and Enduro Pro. The last three are ex-works options which make it possible to adjust the settings of both stability control and ABS and, if fitted, the electronic suspension adjustment, to suit the requirements of off-road operation.SUBMERGED ROCKSI kept my bike in Enduro mode during the off-road section, which awarded me sufficient wheelspin and rear wheel lock-up to negotiate with confidence the steep descents and tight curves of our route.As we made our way along the 320km stretch of gravel road its surface changed constantly: from wide, smooth roads with a loose surface to rutted and flood-damaged stretches that hardly deserved to be termed “roads”, to knee-deep water crossings strewn with slippery, marble-like submerged rocks.The Adventure took all of these in its stride, allowing me to practically crawl over particularly technical sections and open the throttle with reckless abandon on the more forgiving sections.Darkness began to fall as we approached our overnight accommodation, which gave me the opportunity to evaluate BMW’s new LED lighting. With the headlight on high beam and the auxiliary lights turned on, everything from di-rectly in front of the front wheel to well into the distance was bathed in a bright bluish-white light.Being tired after a gruelling day’s riding and keen to reach our destination, I rode faster than what was perhaps prudent in the dark but the bike’s lights gave me enough illumination to do so confidently and safely.PLEASURE ON THE TWISTIESAfter the challenges of the first day, the return trip to Port Elizabeth seemed like a walk in the park. However, BMW’s Edward Makwana and his team had more fun in store for us - a mountain pass between Tsitsikamma and Storms River which is closed to general traffic. Surprisingly enough, the road surface was in good condition, allowing me to explore the big bike’s dynamics in the twisties.Like its predecessors, the latest Adventure is a pleasure under these conditions, too. In Dynamic mode the ABS gave me the confidence to approach curves fast and brake hard just before entry, while the combination of the engine’s ample torque and the mitigating effects of the traction control allowed me to accelerate out of them like a bat out of hell.After the excitement of the route thus far the uneventful trip on the N2 to Port Elizabeth was the perfect opportunity to reflect on the experiences of the previous two days. Engaging the optional cruise control, I could relax as I followed BMW’s tour leader, Marchant Maasdorp, to the end point.It was during this portion of the ride that it occurred to me how comfortable the Adventure was on the open road. It retains the wide, posterior-friendly seat of the standard model, which is just as well, because the bigger 30-litre fuel tank means that refuelling stops will be few and far between on the long road.RIGHT FROM THE ORIGINALIf ever there was a Swiss Army knife of motorcycles, it must be the R 1200 GS Adventure. It seems that whatever kind of road you are faced with the big GS will handle it, and handle it well.From the original R 80 GS, BMW has over the years refined the concept to near perfection, to the extent that one is left wondering what else they can possibly improve to keep pretenders to the crown at bay.