R1200GS Adventure - a year in the life

The tax disc reminder prompted me to think about my 'new' bike... it's coming up for a year old now... so here's a review of 11 months with a 2009 BMW R1200 GS Adventure.

When I first rode the bike, it felt very different from the sports tourers / naked bikes Iíd been used to. I didnít think I'd ever really get on with it. My test ride was not great, so I took it back to the dealer and had a cuppa. After a while and a chat with a few people I went out for another longer ride and started to feel more connected with the bike. Even though the bike felt like a tank compared to my little VFR I could see the appeal. I was convinced enough to have a look at the options, picked some essentials and part-exchanged my VFR.

Options

I chose the following options Ė hereís what I think of these tooÖ


  • BMW (Garmin) 550 Zumo navigator Ė essential, with my crap natural compass and a good network of UK, IE and Northern European maps provided
  • Screen mounting for above Ė con, should be part of the navigator but a really solid unit, better than my last RAM Mount system
  • Alarm Ė essential for insurance purposes if nothing else
  • Ally top box (used daily and very pitted) Ė essential for carting my bag and laptop about. Seems to be waterproof but looks like itís done a million miles across Siberia with the pitting and salt streaks
  • Ally Panniers (used once, like new) Ė they threw these in apparently as a deal sweetener so Iíll use them one day
  • Frame for luggage Ė canít do without this obviously but it looks OK (industrial) and saved lots more damage when I slid the bike in the snow December 09
  • Dynamic pack including:
  • Integral ABS - essential for all year riding on this bike
  • Tyre Pressure Control - nice to have, letís you know when pressures get low and Iím surprised how useful this has been for a lazy git like me
  • ASC traction control - essential for all year riding on this big bike
  • Premium Pack including:
  • Chrome Exhaust - not too bothered about that but it does clean up a treat
  • Electronic Suspension Adjustment - not used that often but a handy button to adjust for terrain, conditions, load etc. and I have used it to get more sporty or when I want to cruise with the sun on my back and no stress
  • Heated Grips - essential for all year riding
  • Fog lights - essential for all year riding and the amount of filtering I do as people see the three lights and extra width and tend to move on the wholeÖ
  • On-board Computer Ė use that all the time for temp, fuel range etc.
  • LED Indicators Ė look nice and on little flexi stalks so when the get knocked, slid etc. they twang about rather than snap off


Downside with this bike is that really most of those options are essential in my opinion and should be standard on this type of bike. The way BMW package and price their options is clever to maximise the sale. If you want the essential bits cheaper, you are better off buying the whole package.

Price

The bike was a lot of money; after discounts £13,724 otr with a year tax and half tank of fuel (itís £35 to fill it up so the tight bastards didnít).

Living with the bike

The bike arrived the 3rd week in March 2009 and my first ride was hairy... it was very windy and I noticed the size of this thing meant it was more susceptible to blustery side winds... I felt like I'd make a big mistake as it all seemed too big and unwieldy. I remember a lot of April / May '09 was wet and windy so it was a struggle to adapt at first, especially with the size, different engine character and lack of top end revving out. I did like the lazy low down grunt though.

A chunk of my daily journey is filtering, especially nearer London and I was very cautious when it came to this for the first time. I hung back and didnít go for gaps I would have the week before. The bike is 990mm wide, just shy of a metre to the mirrors and nearly 6 inches wider than the VFR. The mirrors are positioned very high up though, so miss most cars, although they are right on height for van and 4x4 SUV mirrors.

I reckon it took me the first 600 miles before I really got used to the riding position and size and even so if Iím honest I may have clipped a few mirrors filtering, when cars drift in towards me. I have now got used to the bike in over 12,000 miles and reckon I know its handling characteristics pretty well.

The bike feels planted in the dry and the wet and you can even dab the brakes mid corner, mid steer, without it standing up or washing out. Iíve noticeably felt the ASC Traction control (anti skid) kick in twice in the dry/damp when I over cooked it on a slow turn. I also switched off the ASC and had a little blast across an old, flat grassy field. I wanted to feel what the bike was like spinning up/out and how it handled, which as it turns out was pretty neutral. The bike tracks in a decent line and is totally wobble free if you take your hands off the bars (unlike a previous GSX600F). It doesnít really pitch too hard when braking and under hard acceleration Iíve lifted the front wheel an inch off the ground. With the paralever/telever suspension on this bike, a frightened wheelie man like me couldnít get it onto the back wheel if I tried as it keeps everything so neutral.

Consumables

As for consumables, Iíve had one new set of tyres at 9,501 miles. The rear was just legal and the front had a little life in them but I decided to change them both together just before Christmas. I went to BMW directly. They were £20 dearer for the tyres but I didnít fancy the local Brazilian bike shop near work cocking the tyre pressure sensor. The rear was squared as you would expect and a little ripped/knarly but then the bike has a decent amount of torque from low down and Iíve never worried about riding economically. I also had a headlight bulb blow.

I did have a bugbear with the flashing instrument binnacle lights in dawn or dusk lighting and dappled lighting through trees. Itís light sensitive but rapidly changing dappled lights confuses its German brain. A small square of electrical tape over the light sensor mean the instrument lights now stay on and avoid the rave style flashing of before.

The other big difference with this bike over my previous Jap experiences is watching the oil. I donít think Iíve ever really bothered monitoring the oil consumption on a bike, until the light comes on but this is no good on the GSA. The engine is renowned for its consumption of oil and whilst this doesnít worry me too much from the cost perspective, itís a habit Iíve had to develop, to make sure I check it. The sight glass for oil level is pretty easy to see and filling it is no bother. Being a statto Iíve kept a note of mileage each time Iíve topped it up (or when BMW have serviced it). Itís been serviced three times (at 600, 6000 and 12,000) and been in to have the cylinder head replaced when I slid it last December. Even with those, I have regularly topped up the oil with 250ml a fair few timesÖ 3.75 litres in total, so thatís 15 top ups Iíve done in 11 months (albeit over 12,000 miles). For a lazy biker, that is a pain in the arse. The gaps between it drinking oil are increasing though, so it is improving. Service costs have been £163 and £167 and then over £450 for the 12,000 mile because it needed a new rear brake disc (subject to an arguement with BMW now, and they should accept this as a warranty repair as 'goodwill' by the look of things).

In terms of dings, I mentioned in December 09 I had some offís. Two straight drops at a few MPH and one proper slide off (all in the snow). This bike is hugely heavy to manhandle upright again, especially with no grip / traction underfoot in ice. To get this bike upright needs a lot of technique and strength and as itís likely to spill in poor conditions, it has made me more cautious when the temperature drops. The GSA is not for people short in the leg (Iím nearly 6í 2Ē) as I would not fancy paddling this on tippy toes. The seat height for the Adventure model is adjustable by a few mm between really high and really, really high! The non adventure model does have the low seat option which can tailor the suspension and seating to pretty much any height but this is not available with the adventure. When you are on the move though, even at walking pace or slower, the bike is so easy to control. I have filtered through traffic at a virtual standstill and not had to put a foot down.

Why did I buy this bike?

My criteria were for a bike with a decent tank range (350 to 400 roughly on this for me), shaft drive, at least a litre engine, ABS and a decent bit of presence on the road. I also wanted something that would still hold a bit of residual value in 2 or 3 years with fairly high mileage on it. I quickly decided a Pan European or RT wasnít quite for me yet, despite those being decent bikes. I also wanted something a little quirky and with a decent reputation.

I did have to withstand a lot of ďlong way to workĒ or ďEwan wannabeĒ jibes from some people on bike forums or at work but since I cover more miles in a year than a lot of these combined and was buying the bike to be a real daily workhorse I could ignore this. People do tend to shut up when you Ďprove your credentialsí (as they see it) by riding (and crashing) year round.

All in all, Iíve enjoyed the first 11 months and 12,000 miles on this bike. Itís all day comfortable and so far (touch wood) has never let me down mechanically.

Proís

  • Oodles of low down torque
  • Should retain some value at resale time
  • Bike copes with drops and spills
  • Braking and suspension is ace through the twisties (adjusted at the press of a button)
  • Good size screen and extra wind deflectors
  • Huge road presence
  • On board computer is very comprehensive


Conís

  • Height and weight, especially when the 33 litre tank is full (adding another 30 kgs)
  • When itís down, itís hard to get up!
  • Oil consumption is a pain for higher mileage riders
  • Very pricey with options
  • BMW switchgear takes a little getting used to

Sorry that was a long review but I've been thinking about my bike a lot as the miles have racked up... it's been a bit dull on occasion but overall it has done a grand job and never let me down... I might even go as far as saying it's the best bike I've owned... in fact, it is!

Time for a cuppa and if you know anybody looking to buy a GSA show this to them...

ps - I posted this on some other forums too