Does buying a GS mean you’ve given up?
There is something about a fully loaded BMW GS that bikers either love or hate. As Jock found out when he bought his R1200GS, there are many reasons why so many people buy the Range Rover of bikes.
There was a time when old buggers like me, even at the height of their dominance, were tiring of superbikes for all manner of reasons. For me it was the futility of riding a litre bike on track, exploiting the potential of one of these machines, only to return to the road and find that no matter how good you think you might be, the roads realistically can’t offer the adrenaline a track does. It resulted in the throttle position percentages going down quicker than a 10-dollar hooker and the stress levels going up faster than the Shanghai Tower escalators.
I like a bit of knee down as much as the next person, but over the years I got bored with local riding, so I added a bit of variety with a fair bit of touring here in Blighty as well as mixing it up in Johnny Foreigner Land.
In the process, I went from superbikes, to supernakeds to super pissed off having to lug a petrol can around just to get the distance to bum ache ratio about right. Seeing Europe via their petrol stations was becoming less of the touring I wanted to do, so a cunning but straightforward plan was laid. Get a decent bike with a decent sized tank. Not the most sophisticated of plans I suppose but driven by the essentials.
Over the years friends had turned to the BMW R1200GS, obviously leaving themselves open to a good ribbing with every Touratech purchase they made. The GS crowd have an image which if we’re honest, many riders can’t stand. Polished adventure bikes, dirt free, doubled down on weight from ‘farkles’.
Yep, even the slang made me want to slap the McGregor out of them. But, the adventure bike crew have a secret weapon if you have a strong arse (I’m not judging here). Big tanks, big range. And for me that was an appeal, if not the image.
Looking at the BMW range I decided on a K1300R instead. Big tank, better image and still naked enough to keep the speed down. However, the demo didn’t go as planned. Hyperspeed, heavy steering and a few other minor grumbles left me disappointed.
‘Try a GS’, said the sales guy. ‘Feck off, I’m not that old and sad’ was my reply. ‘Have it for the day’ was the comeback. Eyebrow raised at a free bike for the day, I couldn’t say no. ‘Bugger it, let’s see what all the fuss is about’.
An hour later I was proper hacked off. Despite the image and every single nerve ending in my body screaming ‘NO!!!!’, I liked the bike. A lot. It was stupidly stupid fun banging up and down the gearbox with the quickshifter/autoblipper on something that felt like an overgrown mountain bike.
It shouldn’t have brought a smile to my face, but it did. I giggled all the way through that test ride. It handled the road as well as I could ride them. Braaap, braaap everywhere from the Akra piped boxer twin; I was hooked.
Lots of switches on the handlebars soon became obvious. If you press or move a button, it’s for a simple purpose. No scrolling through menu after menu to select an option, to then select a function.
Electronic suspension on the TE (which is pretty much the only model BMW sold at the time, no right-minded owner would buy one sans-gizmos), numerous fuelling modes, it made riding the bike and switching whatever you wanted on the go second nature.
115bhp at the rear wheel seemed more than enough to push/pull the big lump around, two up, luggage and farkles loaded. And a 200 mile plus tank range for the GS, 300 plus for the GSA (bigger, taller, more farkle possibilities), was the answer to my needs.
So it was with a heavy heart I realised I had become ‘that’ rider I used to look at and in my helmet judge at the same time while nodding to out of comradeship, more often than not that nod not being returned, the bastards. But I always wondered if they were really a biker, or just some rich bugger with a bike. (I can be a dick at times I admit).
Alan at Vines BMW in Guildford did me a grand deal on a new 2015 R1200GS TE, full luggage, full spec, BMW logo’d kitchen sink and all. Cognitive dissonance conquered, I’d finally succumbed to old age. Textiles were now on the shopping list, but in the end I bought touring leathers and a tough looking Icon Variant Battlescar helmet to try distance myself from the image I perceived the bike to have.
Then I put decent tyres on it (OEM Anakee 3 tyres being light years from the feel decent sports rubber gives) in the shape of Metzeler Roadtec 01’s and ragged the bejesus out of the bike around Europe, the UK and never once saw dirt, cos well, it’s a GS and most of them never do.
The GS became almost painfully boring. Not because it is boring, it’s far from boring. But it’s boringly really fecking good. It’s like the best washing machine you can buy, in that it does the job you want it to do with brutal efficiency, but with the minimum of fuss and really not something you’d brag about owning or share photos of during your weekly AA meetings.
Yes, some of them rust, or have paint flake off, or break down, or all manner of things every other bike might do. (Mine didn’t). But what it does do that many other bikes don’t do, is every single thing pretty damn well.
The latest GS really is the product of every other model before it and whilst that may seem obvious, how many other bikes can really say that the manufacturer took pride in improving it year upon year, for so long without replacing it, until it became the class leader in such a brutally wonderful but sterile way?
I slipped on an SC Project end can for added ‘fuck you’ to the image but also so it could do the ‘scaring the crap out of people standing next to it on start-up thing’ that makes me grin every time.
It did touring all day so well I’d remember the booze-up that night, not the journey to it. It commutes if you want to, why not? Yes, it’s wide, but then plenty bikes are. You’ll see the odd GS on track every now and then. Why not, it’s a smooth bit of tarmac to exploit the fantastic brakes, flexible engine and steady handling.
On the road my biggest moan was all the judgemental riders coming the other way who rarely nodded. I was now the victim of my own prejudices. Ah fuck em I thought, I’ll just nod to the other GS owners. We can be smug about what we know of the GS, that other riders don’t, which admittedly doesn’t help the image any really. Smug GS owners, yeah, I know how that sits with other riders. I feel the internet bristling at that statement as I type this.
Next: Jock buys a BMW S1000XR and compares it to owning the GS.