BMW R1200GS(air/oilcooled) Long Term Review

A brief history of the GS Series

Where to begin with this. Starting in 1980 with R80G/S BMW pretty much created an entire Segment in the motorcycle market, the adventure bike.
To this day BMW dominates this segment with their follow-up models to the legendary Dakar bikes. The bikes in this series have changed a lot over the past almost 40 years and what started out as something that wont the Dakar numerous times these days they are more resemblant of SUVs. The series began with the early airheads(R80, R65, R100) and in the mid 90s transitioned to an oilhead design(R850, R1100, R1150, R1200). Beginning with the R110GS, in my opinion, the direction drastically shifted away from the race bike characteristics towards the mass market adventure bike we know the GS to be today.

The Model I will talk about here is the final series of the last oilhead, the R1200GS built from 2004 – 2013.

Near the Northkapp


The last Oilhead

The R1200GS in this final oilhead version began in 2004 and spanned a lifetime of 9 years with 2 redesigns happening, one in 2008 and one in 2010.
Heres the specs depending on year of make and they differences between them

  • 2004-2007
    98hp, servo assisted ABS system
  • 2008-2010
    105hp, removal of the servo assistance for the ABS, optical redesign
  • 2010-2013
    110hp, revised cylinder heads, overhead camshaft, increased redline RPM

One important thing about the early 2004-2007 i the servo ABS system which caused major grief among owners as the system would often produce errors(sometimes caused by low batterly voltage) and there were numerous complaints on the stiffness of the brake response, models from 2008 onwards, with the removal of the servo assist, didnt suffer from this.

The bike features BMWs traditional Tele- Paralevel design versus the classical fork setup pretty much everyone else uses. This does make for a plush ride but riders also sometimes complain about feeling disconnected from the road surface with this setup. I personally never felt this way and while owning my KTM sometimes longed for the BMW setup as it would, imo, produce a much more stable ride under certain conditions

The Bikes could be ordered with a vast variety of extras, Electronically Adustable suspension, ABS was also an optional extra, traction control and various addon parts from the BMW catalogue. Anyone thats ever looked at the BMW website and configured a bike there will get the idea.

Launched in 2005 BMW would also offer an Adventure model of the bike which featured increased suspension travel, crashbars and a bigger tank. Personally I never fancied the Adventure model as it adds a ton of weight to an already very heavy bike.

The Good

I’ve owned the bike for 3 years and did about 80000km on it and even tough I loved my KTM 1190 the BMW simply was a lot more reliable(and less fun but well get to that). In all my time riding it there were only real issues, one was a faulty ABS sensor(most likely caused by overenthusiastic use of a pressure cleaner) and a leaking drive shaft seal. The leaking seal gave me some concern but in the end the oil loss was minimal and the replacement was easy enough.

The ride itself, was beautiful. With the various suspension settings you could tune the bike to either be super plush or almost sports bike like even tough the hard setting, just like on my KTM, was only really usable on racetrack conditions. Fuel usage was within the norm of what you expect from a bike this size(about 350km with the 20L tank). The build was very sturdy and BMW, as always, put a high quality finish on all of it.


Power(i had the 105hp version) was more than enough and the low center of gravity the boxer engine had added to stability especially in low speed technical offroad riding.

The saft drive is also worth noting. Arguments can be made in favour of chain vs. shaft but im not gonna go into that here, that gets metaphysical too fast. To me the shaft drive was a blessing. Doing 10000km trips without worrying about lube or tensioning is something you learn to appreciate. Of course that was mostly on-road. Offroad things look different as the shaft drive does reach its limits here.

The Bad

I have to think a while here about what was bad about the bike because honestly I cannot think of a lot of things, just nuisances.

There is the stock windscreen which didnt work for me at all. At 1,87m there was so much buffeting and noise that it would become impossible to ride without earplugs and I would end up with a stiff neck every time. Aftrer switching to a Wunderlich Flowjet(for every day use and offroading) and the Windscreen of the R1200GS Adventure Model with an added MRA X-Creen Spoiler that problem was no longer but if you’re a big guy like me you will most likely have to swap windshields if you get one of these.

The suspension while good in unloaded conditions does have its limit weight wise, just like KTM BMW assumes the rider to be nothing but skin and bones so long distance travel with heavy luggage calls for upgraded suspension.

One thing that you also shoul consider when thinking about buying these is that the non-Adventure Version doesnt come “offroad equipped”. There is no crash protection on the cylinder heads, only a flimsy engine guard and cast wheels vs. the crashbars and spoke wheels the Adventure model comes with. Now, the cast wheels actually arent bad. As a matter of fact I would consider them better than the KTM 1190s stock spoke wheels. I’ve punished them quite a lot on my GS and there never was a single bend in them. Ultimately I did get a set of spoke wheels and BMWs spoke design is A LOT better than KTMs as it doesnt require a rim seal tape as the spokes are on the outside of the rim.

One big downside is the weight. Mine weighed in at 270kg with crashbars and a couple of other farkles attached, not exactly what you want in an Adventure bike. On the other hand the low center of gravity sort of makes up for that.

As you can see im having a hard time finding something really negative to say about the bike.

The Boxer engine

Now, heres the real cracker, the boxer engine. I loved it, it had its own character with it’s unique vibes and how the bike would “stand up” if you just rev the engine a little while standing still. There is more torque down low than you’ll most likely ever need. However it’s a matter of personal perference, I know plenty people that hate the Boxer engines for it’s unique characteristics. It does get pretty vibey once you go up in the rev range. Engine Heat, compared to the KTM, never was a problem here. One thing to note is that you just have to get some from of protection for the cylinder heads. Even a small slide on the road will ruin your day otherwise, crashbars are a first choice here but there are various aftermarket crash protectors that just attach to the heads themselves altough those will just transfer any impact energy directly to the engine case.



A verdict is difficult here. I did completely different riding on the GS vs. on the KTM. If you’re somebody who wants to go offroad a lot id say get the KTM, its just the better choice for that. For mostly onroad travel I would definitely recommend the BMW. Would I take it to South America as I did with the KTM ? No way in Hell. A broken shaft drive is a dealbreaker. The price for the GS however is extremely stable so picking up one used for cheap isnt much of an option, even old R1150GS models are still pretty high up in the price range.

I’d say for the riding I did with it(80% onroad) id prefer this one over the KTM. The 1190 has more power but the GS is just a more well rounded package.


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