BMW's New Enduros

Text: Ramona Eichhorn • Photography: BMW AG

BMW Motorrad starts out what promises to be an exciting year by unveiling a new range of enduro bikes in various classes for different purposes.

The BMW G 450 X is pure dirt bike and addresses young hobbyists as well as professional racers. Although it is street legal, the fun factor on pavement is zero. With a seat as hard as a board, a short range and no windshield, this sport enduro is uncompromisingly designed for the sandbox.

Perfectly combining on- and off-road capabilities the BMW F 800 GS is the light twin for the big trip. Lengthy spring travel, a 21-inch front wheel, a 4.2 gallon tank and a butt-friendly seat are value-added points that will appeal to the off-road oriented, long-distance traveler.

The strength of the BMW R 1200 GS is paved twisty roads, whether good or bad. Although street-oriented, this enduro performs quite well on gravel roads too. The Adventure setup aims even more at long-distance riders.

BMW G 450 X

BMW's first sport enduro in the 450 class is full of innovations.

Where drive and frame are concerned, the Bavarians differentiate from their competitors with sophisticated high-tech solutions. The frame geometry is designed to be as off-road capable as possible. The central element of this concept is the amalgamation of the bearing axle of the swing arm with the axis of rotation for the output shaft so that there is no change in length of the chain on compression and rebound. By keeping the vehicle mass closely concentrated to the center of gravity, this configuration minimizes the effects of the final drive on the vehicle's overall response.

There are two major advantages realized by this concept. Despite a short wheelbase a longer swing arm can be utilized, enabling maximum traction from the rear tire. Secondly, the compact, DOHC, 50hp single can be positioned farther to the rear, allowing the cylinder axis a more forward (30 degree) tilt, resulting in long, straight intake tracts, thus placing the fuel injection nozzle and the dual throttle valve fuel injection system in an ideal position.

According to BMW, the G 450 X is fast revving, has good traction at low revs, and delivers the power smoothly. Other unique features include an under-seat fuel tank that holds 2.2gal, an easy to change air filter placed above the engine in front of the seat, and a high-mounted intake funnel that permits deeper water crossings. Because the clutch sits directly on the crankshaft, the frame tubes can run straight between the swing arm pivot and steering head, resulting in a maximum stiffness that belies the ultra-light 19-pound frame. The upper bow of the frame tubes directly connects the suspension strut mount and the steering head. The rear wheel forces brace centrally on the frame via the suspension strut. Consequently, the light rear frame bolted to the main frame only has to bear the weight of the rider.

A fully adjustable 45mm Marzocchi upside-down fork absorbs rough bumps with 11.8in of travel, while a single Ohlins shock provides 12.6 inches out back. Single Brembo discs respectively decelerate the 21-inch front and the 18-inch rear wheels. Special attention was paid to a slender waistline for maximum freedom of movement for the rider, especially in a standing position. The G 450 X is said to handle like a 250 motocross bike, and its prodigious tracking stability, low weight, powerful engine and high-tech spring elements promise constructive advantages in hard competition races. Experienced riders Sascha Eckert, Simo Kirssi and Joel Smets had already put it to the acid test during competitions; and their criticisms and suggestions influenced further developments and fine-tuning of the delivered bike.

BMW F 800 GS and BMW F 650 GS

The all-new BMW F 800 GS feels just as comfortable on road as it does off. Its 85 horsepower, liquid-cooled, parallel twin derived from the F 800 S/ST models was slimmed by 2.2lbs and reconfigured to better handle all-terrain demands. The cylinders only incline by 8.3 instead of the 30 degrees found on the S/STs. This allows for a longer, 9.1-inch front wheel travel and a shorter wheelbase. The high-revving engine gives a spontaneous response, and the torque is excellent. Fuel economy is impressive, delivering better than 50mpg. The under-seat positioning of the 4.2gal fuel tank promotes a low center of gravity and contributes to optimal weight distribution. Thanks to new frame geometry, respectable ground clearance is also achieved. The sturdy steel tube frame supports an aluminum double-strut swing arm with a conventional O-ring chain drive. A tight turning radius makes handling easy in tricky off-road situations. The design of the vibration control mechanism is inventive too: instead of conventional counterbalancing shafts, an additional, balancing connecting rod moves contrary to the others, thus balancing the first and second level mass forces. Fewer vibrations are the result. With the closely stepped six-speed transmission, the 800 GS accelerates from 0-60mph in 3.8sec, with a top speed in the neighborhood of 125mph. The 21-inch front wheel guarantees good riding stability, especially on loose ground. It has two fully floating brake discs up front, while a single-disc brake stops the 17-inch rear wheel. ABS is available as an option. Ready to ride the bike weighs 456 pounds.

Its little sister, the BMW F 650 GS, is built on the base of the 800 GS, with the same 800cc engine, but is more on-road oriented. It has a lower seat, weighs less and is less powerful.

BMW R 1200 GS and BMW R 1200 GS Adventure

The R 1200 GS is the best horse in BMW's worldwide stable. Even with more than 100,000 bikes sold, the engineers refused to rest on their laurels. Instead, they decided that after four years the time had come for technical updates and a facelift. The main components of the steel tubular frame remain unchanged, and the Telelever front and Paralever rear suspensions also stay. The electronic suspension adjustment (ESA), on the other hand, is new. Now the rider has the choice of on-road or off-road modes that facilitate the Telelever and Paralever damping adjustments with the touch of a button. The R 1200 R derived Boxer engine achieves 85ft-lbs of torque and 105hp, thus increasing the power by 5 percent. With a redesigned six-speed transmission, revised gear ratios, and a slicker shifting action, traction and acceleration in the upper half of the speed range improve considerably.

Though not immediately obvious, there are a number of new styling cues. The upper front fender is shorter, hand protectors are now directly fixed to the handlebars, stainless steel deflectors have been added to the tank, the taillight is now LED, and adjustable aluminum handlebars complete the package. As before, double discs handle the braking on the 19-inch front wheel, and a single disc slows the 17-inch rear. ABS is optional. The GS rolls off the assembly line with light alloy cast wheels or optional spoked wheels. The powerful AC generator puts out a stout 720W. The 5.3gal tank takes super unleaded, but the bike can also digest regular in a pinch. Filled up, it weighs 505 pounds. Thicker foam padding and a newly redesigned seat make long-distance traveling even more comfortable.

The go-anywhere R 1200 GS Adventure basically got the same revamp. But the 8.7gal tank, height-adjustable seat, bigger windshield and 0.8in longer suspension travel will make it more expensive than the R 1200 GS.