Airborne at 50mph isn't the time to tell myself I should have slowed down. I have to keep the throttle open and brace. Landing cleanly and gracefully, I'm surprised to find I'm still in business, so I twist the throttle. The rear end spins up, launching dust, gravel, and a loud "Yee-haa!" before I grab another gear. Somebody forgot to tell BMW you can't go dirt riding on a 496-pound motorcycle.

Concept and Transformation

Introduced to the North American press in Las Vegas, Nevada, the BMW R1200GS is the latest version of the BMW off-road adventure touring series started back in 1980 with the R80GS. And, while the bike has been evolving since then, growing from 800cc to 1150cc along the way, for 2005 the GS has been radically changed. So much so, that the new bike weighs in a phenomenal 66 pounds lighter than last year's bike while pumping out an extra 15 horsepower.

It has also been restyled and looks pretty mean and lean when parked next to the older GS. Thankfully, it has not lost its signature look, and there is no way you are going to mistake the new BMW R1200 GS coming at you on the road. This is no accident, as BMW wanted to make sure the new bike remains "a typical BMW." And, after two days spent thrashing the bike on a mixture of demanding dirt roads and twisty mountain asphalt, I am happy to say they have succeeded.

Engine and Transmission

Displacing 1170cc, this year's engine is the largest version of BMW's famous "oilhead" four-valve twin to grace the GS line, which has been with us since 1994. Producing 100 horsepower at 7250rpm, and an impressive 85 foot-pounds of torque, the new engine is also the most powerful. For reference, last year's 1130cc GS produced 85 horsepower at 6750rpm and 71 foot-pounds of torque at 5500rpm. This power increase comes from a combination of larger valves and a longer stroke. Further down inside the engine, a lighter crankshaft spins the 2.5-mm-longer rods. A new balancer shaft allows the engine to rev higher, while reducing vibration.

To complement the new engine, BMW has also updated the fuel injection to a full-sequential system that breathes through a larger airbox. It is no secret that BMW's fuel injection has given problems in the past, the most obvious of these being a surging condition  -  but after two days trying every type of riding you are likely to encounter, I have reason to believe the new system is absolutely faultless. I've noticed on big twins, that high rpm, low throttle situations seem to be the hardest for the fuel injection, but I couldn't catch this system out. And, whether lugging the motor just off idle in the dirt, or spinning it to the rev limiter on the highway, I received nothing but smooth, seamless and abundant power.

Getting this extra power to the ground, the R1200GS has a larger clutch this year and a new gearbox, which no longer uses sixth gear as an overdrive. The close-ratio gears are helical-cut for slicker shifting and less noise, as well as featuring a new mechanism. I have always found BMW gearboxes to reward deliberate, thoughtful movements. This is not necessary any more! Clutchless up-shifting is a breeze and slipping down through the cogs is as effortless as it gets.

Chassis and Brakes

In keeping with the lighter and stronger theme, BMW's engineers have applied the same treatment to this year's frame, which is actually made of steel instead of aluminum. Using the engine as a stress member, it has a separate sub-frame bolted to the rear. This is also changed, housing the swing arm pivot, where last year it was carried in the transmission cases. The sub-frame also comes with mounts for the side and center stands.

Lightweight steel handlebars, designed to cut down vibration, complement the new aluminum Telelever A-arm up front. The trail has been reduced by 5mm to quicken steering response, while the steering-head angle remains the same. Thicker fork tubes, up to 41mm from 35mm, help reduce flex, and the shock remains adjustable for preload. I didn't make any adjustments during our ride, but if more time had been available I would have set it up to be a little firmer for our dirt adventures.

Out back, a tighter setup was easily achieved with a few simple turns of the adjuster wheel, conveniently located on the left-hand side of the motorcycle. The shock absorber is also adjustable for rebound damping and features travel-dependent damping. This means when the rear wheel starts nearing the end of its travel range, the shock's compression damping is stronger to keep it from bottoming out. This variable compression damping allows for a more compliant ride in the middle of the range. I managed to bottom it out a few times, but really can't see too many GS owners behaving the way I did to make this happen.

So, now you are tearing along enjoying the extra power, flying through the turns faster thanks to the new frame and upgraded suspension when a desert tortoise decides to take a breather in the middle of the road. No problem. With power assisted anti-lock brakes that feature a partial-integral system, you are in safe hands. The front brake lever operates the two 305mm floating discs up front and the 265mm rear when necessary. For dirt riding, pressing and holding a handlebar button on the left-hand switchgear, before turning the key in the ignition, disables this system.

Accessories and Arrangements

The BMW R1200GS features a wide variety of accessories, as well as some neat standard items: hand protectors, hazard lights, saddlebag mounts and the aforementioned ABS. The accessory catalogue presents a choice of black or gray seats. These come low, standard or high to give a variety of seating positions that start at 32.3" and go to 35.4", so you can customize the seat to your height. You can also have a chrome exhaust, or change out the stock cast-alloy wheels for chrome cross-spoke wheels if you are going to be spending a lot of time in the dirt.

Another neat feature is the ability to customize the look with a choice of either gray or black side covers. With three-color combinations for the bodywork, and two for the seat, BMW offers twelve different looks. My personal favorite is the heated handlebar grip option. Fitted to our bikes during the test, they were just the ticket when we climbed up to a chilly 7,000 feet on our first morning ride. And last but not least, there's an anti-theft alarm to help protect your investment.

Test Summary

That BMW took us over such a demanding test route speaks volumes to me about the high degree of confidence they have in the new BMWR1200GS. I can't personally see too many owners riding them as hard as we did, but the good news for those who want to, the bike does it all with aplomb. A useful dirt tool, an agile back-road scratching machine, and a super comfortable highway cruiser with a 210-mile fuel range, the new BMW R1200GS is most certainly a bike for all reasons.

Technical Specs

Retail Price $ 15,100
Warranty three years or 36,000 miles
Maintenance Schedule 600/6,000/every 6,000 miles (1,000/10,000/ every 10,000 km)
Importer/Distributor BMW of North America, Inc.

Type 2-cylinder, 4-stroke
Cooling air-cooled
Valve Arrangement 4 valves per cyl.,sohc, w/adj.rocker arms
Bore & Stroke 101.0mm
Displacement 1170cc
Compression Ratio 11.0:1
Carburetion fuel Injection. BMW Motor Controller - BMS K
Exhaust Emission Control stainless steel, three-way catalytic converter, two-into-one.

Gearbox 6-speed
Clutch 180mm dry, single plate with hydraulic actuation
Final Drive shaft drive

Frame three-part, engine/cast aluminum/tubular steel
Wheelbase 1519mm (59.8 in)
Rake (horizontal/vertical)27.1°/62.9°
Trail 109mm (4.3in)
Front Suspension BMW Telelever
Stanchion Diameter 41mm (1.6in)
Adjustments preload only
Travel 190.5mm (7.5ins)
Rear Suspension BMW EVO Paralever
Adjustments preload and rebound damping
Travel 200.66mm (7.9ins)

Wheels & Tires
Type five-double-spoke, cast alloy
Front 2.50x19
Rear 4.00x17
Front Tire 110/80 x 19 tubeless
Rear Tire 150/70 x 17 tubeless

Front Brake EVO, front/rear disc w/optional partial integral/ 2 four-piston floating calipers
Diameter 305mm (12.0 in.)
Rear Brake single, two-piston floating caliper
Diameter 265mm (10.4 in.)
Combining yes

Dimensions & Capacities
Seat Height 840mm (33.1in)
Wet-Weight 225kg (496lbs)
Fuel Capacity 19.7l (5.2 gal)

Claimed Horsepower (measured at crank)100bhp@ 7250rpm
Torque 85lb/ft @ 5500rpm
Top Speed NA
Acceleration NA
Fuel Consumption NA
Fuel Range 337km (210 miles)
Equipment Hazard warning flashers, hand protection, ABS- Partial integral, Saddle Bag Mounts, Gray seat, chrome exhaust pipe, gray side cover, black side cover, heated handlebar grips, Anti-Theft Alarm, Cross-Spoke Wheels, Black seat.

RoadRUNNER Test Diagram
Engine 5/5
Chassis 5/5
Brakes 5/5
Comfort 5/5
Luggage w/accessories 4/5
Equipment 5/5
Design 4/5
Bike for the buck 5/5