Confessions of a BMW virgin

I recently had a chance to do something I haven’t done in 30 years of riding street bikes; I rode a BMW, the liquid cooled 1200GS to be more precise. And I liked it. Although I’ve been on Tenere’s, Multistrada’s, dual-sports, sport touring, and sport bikes, the GS never really tripped my trigger.

With all the hype I’ve been reading, I jumped at the chance to ride the new wet head. I even picked it over the KTM 1190 that I wanted so bad last year. The fact that the forecast called for ninety degrees helped take the bun cooker KTM off the list. Now on to the impressions from a BMW virgin…

Well, I said I liked it and I did. A lot. Don’t think that it was a complete love fest though. You can read plenty of that in magazine reviews so let’s get the not-so-good out of the way. To say it shifts like a tractor is insulting to tractors. That big clunk my ST1300 makes when I shift into first from a standstill, the BMW does it too. And then it does it when you shift into second, and third, and fourth, and, well you get the picture… And then it does it again on the way back down through the gears. Now it could just be technique, because I was able to make a handful of non-clunking shifts over the course of about twelve hours, but the hundreds of clunking ones were my biggest annoyance. And if thirty years isn’t enough experience to shift right, well I think it’s fair to say that there is room for improvement in the shifting department BMW.

Another area that I wasn’t completely enamored with is its handling on a very tight, curvy road. Although it feels light, especially compared to my 1300, it felt as big as a bus wheelbase wise. I think this part may take more research on my part in the form of riding it some more because I was on this road at the beginning of the day and we may not have bonded yet.

Now on to the brighter side…
The fueling was perfect. Purr-Fect! Although it didn’t have rip-your-arms-off power, there was great torque throughout. 3000-4000 rpm’s was my favorite spot on the tach and rolling off the power wouldn’t practically throw you over the bars like a certain KTM I know and own. In town, a couple of times I let it get down to 2000 rpm and it pulled cleanly back up the rev band. Ducati and KTM could definitely learn a thing or two here!

As far as heat and airflow management, I think BMW did a very good job. It seems a common problem for some of the new high power bikes is getting rid of the heat without cooking the rider. Even though the ambient temp got pretty warm, I never felt an uncomfortable amount of heat from the bike. One time my feet got a little warm, but I think most of that was from wearing 8″ leather boots out in the sun on a ninety degree day. The relatively small windscreen also did a very good job of blocking the wind and not creating a lot of buffeting like many bikes do. An entire industry has been created trying to cure the buffeting issue that most manufacturers face. Well done.

I think the weight is pretty good for a bike this size. Fortunately, I did not have to pick it up off the ground and I might feel differently if I did, but for normal riding it had a very light feel to it. It transitioned from side to side very quickly and easily and it seemed to balance easy too. Those big jugs close to the ground probably helped in that department. Ladies, there is a bright side to getting older… 🙂 The combination of wide bars and weight down low made for a great handling bike that was a pleasure to ride in the curves of the smokies.

I have a love/hate relationship with electronic suspension. In some ways I’m anti-tech. I like the idea of simple and suspension that just works, without having to think about the complexity, the added cost, and the idea that it might leave you stranded on a trip, but in practice, I like using electronic suspension. I love being able to choose the soft setting while cruising down a rough road and then dialing in hard or firm when the road smooths and the curves start coming at you hard and fast without even having to stop to make the change. We are spoiled in this day and age, but I’m sure a day will come when I curse it when it breaks and I have to pay for it. Like I said, love/hate.

And last, but not least, is electronic cruise control…
For those of us who like to travel by bike, real cruise control is an awesome feature to have. Imagine putting a brick on the accelerator in your car to maintain speed…. zooming down the hills and crawling up. We wouldn’t consider it in a car, but using throttle locks and wrist rests is acceptable on a bike. I don’t think so. This bike has real cruise and it really works. Set it and forget it. Up hill and down, it maintains the speed you desire and deactivates with the clutch or either brake, and probably the switch I never used. Why this wasn’t more common before now makes me wonder if other manufacturers ever took their bikes on a trip. I don’t want no stinkin’ keyless ignition or hill hold control, just make sure my bike has cruise.

Well, this is already pretty long and there are areas I neglected to cover, but that is all from this BMW virgin. To summarize, I liked it and look forward to riding it again. Give Dan a call and try it for yourself. At the end of the day, my butt was killing me yet I still was looking for reasons to ride a little longer. That’s about the best endorsement one can make.

Even though I currently have three bikes of my own, I like being able to test drive models I may be interested in. For a little over $200, I was able to ride a $20,000+ motorcycle all day, under a variety of road types and conditions. This is about the fourth time I have rented from Dan and I’ve saved a fortune by not buying bikes I thought I couldn’t live without. I hope GSM Motorent thrives for a long time because their bikes are in excellent condition and Dan has always treated me very well. I just wish he would let me help pick the bikes he buys. There are lots of others I would like to try…

Steve Fox

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: