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Since 1999, the #1 Motorcycling Magazine for Women and the Men Who Ride with Them









MOTORCYCLE REVIEW: BMW R 1200 GS

A true adventure bike

By Debra Kuick
2/14/2006

Editor's Note: This road test is a condensed version of what we normally would run for a review of a motorcycle. Our test rider Debra Kuick did not set out to do a complete road test of the R 1200 GS, hence the article being a short review with no actual riding shots. However, we wanted to give you a preview of what the motorcycle was like from a woman's point of view so if you are interested, you could explore the bike further on your own.

I was in Barstow, California, the last fuel stop on a long, hot ride to Las Vegas. It was 9:00 at night. I just spent the last seven hours riding the 2005 BMW R 1200 GS across a very hot and crowded desert highway. When I finally got to the hotel and poured myself off the GS, I sat down and thought about what I enjoyed about this bike. It's definitely a fun machine very different than your average street motorcycle. The R 1200 GS is, afterall, an adventurer tourer designed to travel on unbeaten paths like gravel and sand.

Test rider Debra Kuick, normally a sportbike rider, enjoyed the change of pace on the adventure tourer R 1200 GS.
Test rider Debra Kuick, normally a sportbike rider, enjoyed the change of pace on the adventure tourer R 1200 GS.

This adventure touring motorcycle from BMW handled the tenuous ride down California's Grapevine, otherwise known as Interstate 5, with ease. The pinned throttle, the unrelenting heat -- none of it fazed the air/oil cooled Boxer twin-cylinder GS. The fully loaded saddlebags and a full gear bag didn't even begin to challenge the 7.9 inches of suspension travel on the rear shocks.     


The stock seat can be adjusted up or down from between 32.3 inches to 35.4 inches. I stand 5 feet 2 inches, so I knew even the lowest setting was going to a challenge. Fortunately, Kris Besely, the sales manager at Marin BMW Motorcycles in San Rafael, Calif. (who supplied me with this test bike) put on an optional lower seat which brought the seat height down to 31 inches. I could just barely touch the ground. I am an experienced rider so I could manage the bike without my feet firmly planted on the ground. Shorter and less experienced riders may find the high seat a bit more of a challenge.

In addition to the lower seat, my test model had the optional heated hand grips which came in handy during my ride. The well-established BMW Motorrad Integral ABS braking is a standard item on the GS. Both wheels are braked when engaging the handlebar lever. The footbrake operates the rear wheel brake. For off-road riding, the Integral ABS can be switched off. I only road the bike on the pavement though.

The GS showed it's true handling colors riding through Death Valley and Yosemite. On twisty roads the intuitive nature of the machine came to the forefront. The four valve, twin cylinder shaft drive GS accepted any challenge I put before it. At a twist of the wrist the 85 ft-lbs of torque pulled me through the turns with confidence.

What a tall bike for Debra who stands 5 feet 2 inches. But a skilled rider like herself can handle any size motorcycle.
What a tall bike for Debra who stands 5 feet 2 inches. But a skilled rider like herself can handle any size motorcycle.

At the end of my 1,300-mile trip I was quite impressed with the R 1200 GS. The ABS brakes worked great, but I am left feeling like a spoiled child after having such a luxury at my disposal on a motorcycle. And I don't think I'll ever go touring again without heated hand grips -- definitely a must have if you don't like being cold.

The thing that was missing was a cruise control of some kind to give your throttle hand a rest. I'd probably get a more comfortable seat. It was a little firm for my taste. The gutsy 6-speed twin motor and handling is what surprised me the most. My usual preference for GP race bikes and inline four rocketships sometimes leave nothing for the imagination, but the GS is all about imagination.

Thanks go out to Marin BMW Motorcycles for the use of the GS. Visit BMWMotorcycles.com.

Women seeking adventure on-road as well as off-road will love the BMW R 1200 GS.
Women seeking adventure on-road as well as off-road will love the BMW R 1200 GS.

The Specs Women Care About
Displacement: 1170cc
Seat Height: 33.1 inches
Fuel Capacity: 5.2 gallons
Wet Weight: 496 lbs.
Colors: Granit Gray Metallic, Ocean Blue Metallic, Rock Red Metallic, Desert Yellow Metallic
Price: $14,700.

Women Riders Now Recommendation
Dual sport bikes are becoming popular with street riders these days looking for that extra adventure. BMW leads the pack with its history of adventure touring motorcycles. The R 1200 GS won't disappoint. The seat height is on the high side, but you need that lofty suspension when going off-road. This bike is not meant for treacherous off-roading. The tires are not designed for that. The R 1200 GS Adventure with its knobby tires is the bike meant more for the dirt. This GS works great for those gravel roads that veer off the main highway that you otherwise would have to ride right by on your street motorcycle.     

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