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Reader test: BMW R 1200 GS

2010-03-25 06:46

Lourens Kruger

I got my 1200 GS in August of 2008 after a period of about two years without a bike due to a car taking me out on my 650 BMW funduro. Anyway I swore I would never ride a bike again, but I suppose it is something that just never gets out of your head.

I have now been riding for 18 months on my 2005 model R 1200 GS and love every moment of it. With all the road works in Gauteng for the last couple of years, I could not have purchased a bike at a better time. Even though the bike is wider at the handle bars and higher than “normal” bikes, I still have no problem moving through bumper-to-bumper traffic while cars are just standing still and waiting for better days.

It used to take me anything up to an hour and a half to get to work or home respectively, but with the bike it has come down to between 20 and 30 minutes.

Anyway I am a technical guy and like stats and figures so here goes:

Average mileage covered per month – 1500 km
Average fuel consumption - 4.8 l/100 km (20.8km/l)
Best fuel consumption - 4.4 l/100 km
Worst fuel consumption - 5.3 l/100 km

Maintenance costs   

Guys, this is where it gets rough. The bike’s service intervals are 10 000 km or once a year.
I purchased the bike privately with 27 500 km on the clock with a full service history and the first 30K service cost me over R6000 as it was a major service.

The big culprit here was the brakes. I am sure the brake pads supplied by the agents are covered in gold and diamonds or something. Just the parts cost for the front set and rear set brake pads were R3 200, then add another couple of labour units as well for the fitment.

I dread having to get the brake pads replaced again. I have, however, enquired at Full Throttle in Cresta and the brake pads would cost R1 100 for both sets front and rear. I just need to then somehow fit them myself…

At 32 000 km my left handle bar electric switch decided to not do anything when the indicator switch was pressed. All other buttons (dims, brights, pass, info, ABS, horn) still worked, but the switch is a completely sealed unit and cannot be opened or fixed.

The agents supplied me with brand new switch and fitted it for me for R2 400. Tyres were replaced at 34 000 km. Currently the Maxi tyres have done about 12 000 km and the rear has about 10% left. The front is still fine with between 50- to 60% left.

Riding a GS

First, getting that right leg swung over the seat with a stuff bag on the backseat takes a month or so of practice.
It has a lekker high upright and comfortable driving position with exceptionally good wind protection, however at very high speeds the wind does get noisy.

I changed the setting on the screen to one notch higher and it made a huge difference. Before the wind would hit me just above the eye brows, now it just misses the top of my helmet. This is rather good seeing that I am 1.8 m tall.
The seat also feels like a lazy boy compared to a couple of other bikes I have ridden, however any seat becomes uncomfortable and hard after riding 700 km or so in one day.

The performance is phenomenal compared to other bikes in this segment. Acceleration if very brisk and reaching normal touring speeds is absolutely effortless. That’s basically the best word to describe the GS’s driving character; everything is effortless.

Coming back to my dreaded topic on brakes, well they are awesome as long as they are not worn out.
This bike can stop on a dime at any speed, and is basically quicker to stop than any normal person can hang on to the bike. I regularly go for out rides with two of my friends who own Suzuki VStrom 1000 bikes and I can outbrake them anywhere over and over.

I must admit though the VStroms seem to have a much higher top end than the GS. But when it comes to fuel consumption, the GS thrashes the VStroms with its frugality.

I have a lekker top box and also a stuff bag on the bike that I use for storage like rain suits, helmets, laptops, groceries, etc.

Good points

It's a good sized bike, very comfortable even with pillion on back. Engine offers excellent performance. Good torque of 115 Nm. Any gear anywhere and it just still pulls forward. Also very smooth power delivery. I moved from a 650 single cylinder bike to a 1200 boxer with no problems at all. (650 singles are actually very tricky when the revs are low down and it starts coughing and “somma” wants to throw you off)

Lots of accessories available at every fish and chips store for GS bikes (very costly though). Also a lot of riders seem to go overboard and 90% of the stuff is actually not needed or not really that much better than the standard equipment.

Exceptional fuel consumption for a 1200 bike.

Lots of BMW-Motorrad garages around and they seem to stock a hell of a lot of parts, not like some other brands where everything always needs to be ordered if it is not a spark plug or a sticker kit. They also seem to fix everything first time right, again not like other brands I have to deal with when taking my son and two daughters little off road bikes in for servicing or repairs.

Suspension is weird in the beginning as the bike actually does not nose dive when braking hard on the front. Yes it does go down slightly but not at all like other bikes. Once you get used to this riding on other bikes without the tele lever front suspension is actually very uncomfortable. So I list this as a goody.
I managed to get real cheap insurance though 2Wheels.

Bad Points

Servicing at agents can be very costly when some items are replaced. Every second bike on the road is a GS.
Very costly when purchasing bike from agents. Lots of GS bikes available privately, just check them out very carefully before even thinking of handing over the dough.

I keep hearing some bad stories about the final drive (shafts drive) giving in and that it costs somewhere in the
region R23 000 or more for the new parts alone. Obviously when I ask the agents about this I get a different answer.

Don’t drop the bike. Yes it actually is rather good in protecting itself with light drops like I did while turning the bike around in my garage with my son on the back. But believe me picking the bike up takes a lot of effort with a long rest period afterwards, and this is not even the adventure model that weighs in at 30kg more give or take one or two either side.

Not so comfortable in really rough stuff, like small foot paths with lots of technical obstacles here and there, but I suppose a KTM 990 will also have the same problems that the GS has in this regard being weight and size.


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