Saturday, October 25, 2014

Test ride: 2014 BMW R1200GS

A few days ago, I arranged for a test ride of a 2014 BMW R1200GS through Riller & Schnauk, my local BMW dealer.  The weather was a cool 8 Celcius (46 F) and quite damp/humid -- a pretty typical morning for late October in Berlin.

They gave me the key to a model from their rental fleet. It had about 9,000 Kms on the odometer, and it was in excellent condition. I went straight to the highway and headed out of town. Within 20 minutes, I had reached a stretch of the autobahn where there are no speed limits. I set the electronic cruise control at 175 Km/h and kept it there for about 10 minutes. Rock solid ride for gobbling up highway miles. Very comfortable, too, although I would make small adjustments to the handlebar position and levers. The stock seat is very comfy, although I suspect the wider ass rest found on the Adventure model is even more plush. I also thought the footpegs were a little close to the seat, with my knees bent a little more than I would like. This would be solved either by raising the seat, or lowering the pegs. I had no trouble to reach both feet flat on the ground, so raising the seat my be the better option.

The new liquid cooled engine is superb: no shortage of power, and the delivery of all 125 ponies is extremely smooth and linear. I didn't fiddle around with the fuel injection mappings. In "normal" mode it was excellent. The brakes: also excellent. Suspension: excellent again.

Overall, this is one exquisite machine. Everything about it was top notch: handling, performance, comfort, build quality. 

Minor annoyances were the heated grips, and also the hand guards.  The heat from the grips was fine, but the diameter of the grips felt small. I would probably consider finding fatter grips. Yes, it's a minor complaint. The hand guards is another minor complaint: they certainly wouldn't provide any protection for the expensive hydraulic clutch/brake control and electronic switch gear in the event of a tip-over, and they don't provide much in the way of wind protection since their surface area is quite small. I'd install a beefy set of aluminum-framed hand guards (à la HighwayDirtBikes). The windscreen is quite functional, and sufficiently adjustable via a large knob on the right side -- although, it would make more sense to have the knob on the left so you don't have to remove your throttle hand while riding. The German mentality when they designed it was probably such that you should not be adjusting it while you are moving anyway.

All in all, this bike is a very sophisticated piece of engineering with an outstandingly refined and precise feel. All of these qualities are reflected in the price tag.

I was gone for a total of 2 1/2 hours, and I returned the bike with 195 Kms added to the odometer. I rode in city traffic, and some 40 minutes or so of modest commuter highway riding, about 30 minutes of missle-cruising autobahn stretches, and probably 45 minutes of twisty rural roads. A very well rounded mix of various riding scenarios.

Over the last few months, I've been thinking a lot about a new GS (among other bikes). The GS has been at the top of my short list, and today's test ride has pretty much sealed it. The likelihood of me putting down a deposit on the new 2015 model is very high, but I'll wait a few weeks before taking the plunge. I may arrange a ride on the KTM 1190 while I'm thinking about it.

A short video from the test ride