What’s hot and not about the new GS
Believe it or not, BMW has been producing the GS range continuously for 37 years now. The first R80GS saw the light of day back in 1980, and I’m not sure even the Germans knew at that time how important a model it would be in shaping the company. Thankfully BMW has continued to refine and re-define its line-up to arrive at the current spec of bikes we have grown to love. And just when we thought it would be impossible to improve the GS any further, the latest rendition – the BMW R1200GS Rallye X – has hit our shores with a vengeance, and has moved the goalposts into the next field.
The Rallye X is special. It’s not just a new paint job but a raft of new parts added to the already very good GS platform, which together have created possibly the most versatile bike I have ridden. You could argue that the standard machine is already very flexible, but the more off-road-oriented X adds even more scope.
Having spent two days fanging around the Victorian high country and testing this beast to its limit, here’s what I think are its strong points, and not so strong points…
Long travel suspension
The biggest change between the GS, Tour, Rallye and the Rallye X is its long travel suspension. It sits higher in standard configuration than the other bikes, and with that height comes massive benefits off road. Serious off-road users of the GS in the past have been nobbled with a lack of travel and bottoming absorption, but with 210mm of travel up front and 220mm at the back the Rallye X can go places and do things that standard GS users can only dream of. Spring preload can also be adjusted via the switchblock to give three possible options (minimum, dynamic or maximum), allowing the rider to choose the right set-up for his or her needs.
The latest incarnation of the boxer twin is one of my favourite features of this bike. The 1170cc air/liquid-cooled engine is a torque monster. It creates 125Nm at 6500rpm, making the flat twin very tractable. The workable rev range starts from as low as 1500rpm when lugging up a hill, and there’s a sense of confidence that it will keep on keeping on when it counts. In my two days on board the X I didn’t stall the bike once in some pretty tough going, and that’s good enough for me to give it a big tick.
BMW has been working at the forefront of improving rider safety and rider aids with electronic trickery since it brought the first motorcycle ABS system to the market in 1988. Things have progressed a long way since then, and now the GS is one of the most electronically advanced motorcycles in the adventure field. The Rallye X is optioned up like the GS Tour, coming with four rider modes, switchable traction control, and a nifty electronic shift-cut system that allows you to shift up or down gears without using the clutch.
Although the Rallye X weighs in at close to quarter of a tonne fully fuelled and ready to ride, it’s amazingly well balanced. At walking pace the weight disappears, making it very easy to manoeuvre in town or when the going gets rough. The lack of front fork dive is noticeable due to the Telelever front end, but normal handling characteristics apply, letting you get on with the job of riding. The chassis reacts very well to rider inputs and changes of weight distribution, markedly improving the machine’s off-road handling.
If there is a downside to the GS it must be the complexity of the electronic system. Although everything works perfectly in the standard four modes, if you’re the type of person who wants to personalise the electronic settings it’s quite a job. Of course, over time most owners will learn how to change the programs, and this should negate the issue.
The BMW Rallye X sets a new standard for the already potent GS range. If you’re looking for on- or off-road fun, this bike can do both in the same day – not too many other machines on the market can match its diverse capabilities. At $27,250 (+ ORC) it’s up there in price, but you are getting a lot of motorcycle for your buck.