Legendary line-ups continue to trickle through finally to the Indian market, with the BMW GS series being the latest from the hall of fame to touch Indian roads. The dual-purpose GS series can win you a Paris-Dakar Rally and have you cruise you down the highway without breaking into a sweat. The bike I rode came in the special 30th anniversary livery. Tip your hats to the first GS in India — the irresistible R 1200 GS.
It takes some time to get used to this Beemers hulking dimensions. The styling is more industrial, less beautiful, bringing a Hummer H1 on two wheels to mind. There are some fine details, the attractive BMW-typical asymmetric headlight among the more prominent of these. The towering, adjustable windshield provides good wind and dust protection and dirt junkies will like the hand protectors on the handlebars. Instruments include an analogue speedometer and tachometer, plus a digital readout that displays fuel levels, oil temperature, gear position and time. The switchgear has a nice tactile feel and includes a dial-style engine-killer and individual switches on both sides for turn signals.
A large 20-litre fuel tank provides excellent support to a riders thighs, and comes with smart cladding on the side. Both the rider and the pillion will take to the GS awesome riding saddle. The only niggle is that shorter riders will find the riding position really high, and this can be a huge problem for riders on the wrong side of six feet.
The fat, bazooka-esque end can looks fabulous, and a completely exposed rear wheel is eye-catching too. A small tail-light with the carrier positioned just above brings up the rear. Take a close look at the GS and an element that sticks out, literally, is the exposed engine.
The R 1200 GS is powered by an air and oil-cooled 1170cc, twin-cam boxer power plant. Twin cylinders sit horizontally opposed to each other, protruding on either side. Power is transmitted to the rear wheel via a shaft drive. BMW has equipped the 1200s engine with a central balancer shaft between the two cylinders — yet vibrations do tend to filter through when holding under 2500rpm. In keeping with the character of a GS, the engine rocks to the right when revving hard in neutral.
The performance on offer is mind-blowing. Theres 110bhp at 7750rpm and 12.23kgm at 6000rpm. Yet, opening throttle from standstill results in a tsunami-like roll of power rising all the way to 8500rpm with only minimal hesitation experienced at 4500rpm.
Adding to the histrionics is a character-rich and throaty exhaust note. That it can cruise at 140kph all day long only sweetens the deal. Top speed is close to 200kph but a wide spread of torque also makes this bike easily useable on crowded Indian streets. The gears shift nicely on the one-down, five-up gearbox, and the hydraulic clutch is always a pleasure to use.
Sit across the saddle and youll love the commanding riding stance. It doesnt take much riding to realise this is the bike to traverse the subcontinent on. Ride remains absolutely flat over the worst potholes too — even when youre hustling the R 1200 GS at over 100kph. And it gets better off-road. Stand on the smartly crafted pegs, keep a steady hand on the throttle and the GS charges over all terrain with tank-like authority. Traction control made my adventure a wee bit safer. The wide handlebar provides good leverage for quick steering, be it in city or corner carving. Handling always stays sure-footed.
The key to the GS well-rounded ride and handling is BMWs unconventional approach to chassis design. The frame is comprised of front and rear sections, with the engine a stressed member. But the 1200s pièce de résistance is its telelever front suspension. The telescopic forks seen are actually only dampers. Bump absorption is taken care of by a single spring located behind the forks, mounted on to a car suspension-like wishbone that attaches to the bike frame at one end and to the crossmember of the forks via a ball joint. The frame itself thus absorbs the forces acting on the suspension.
At the rear, the paralever suspension is similar to a standard single-side swingarm with the driveshaft running through — a crucial difference being the inclusion of a control arm that adds stiffness.
There is minimal squat on hard acceleration and the absence of diving when braking. You get a pair of 305mm front disc brakes and a 265mm disc at the rear. ABS comes standard on the GS, as on all BMW bikes. The system stays non-intrusive, save for a slight pulsing that can be felt at the rear brake lever during hard stops.
The BMW R 1200 GS tugged at my heart like nothing else. It effortlessly marries the kind of performance that big bikes ought to have and off-roading abilities of a Range Rover in two wheels — all this while weaving through a maze of city traffic. This is truly a bike for all seasons.
The bad news? This BMW doesnt come cheap at Rs 16.34 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai). The Adventure variant throws in a few extras, including a 33-litre fuel tank for still another Rs 2 lakh. The good news? We can expect smaller (read cheaper) but no less capable GS bikes like the R 650 GS and R 800 GS in India shortly.
bmw r 1200 gs
• Price: Rs 16.34 lakh
• L/W/H: 2210/915/1450mm
• Kerb weight: 229kg
• Engine: Flat twin, air and oil-cooled/ 1170cc
• Power: 110bhp at 7750rpm
• Torque: 12.23kgm at 6000rpm
• Gearbox: 6-speed; 1-down, 5-up
• Suspension (F/R): Adjustable telelever/ adjustable paralever
• Brakes (F/R): 305mm discs (ABS)/ 265mm disc (ABS)