The old heavyweight boxer had been around for decades, was becoming clunky, drank too much and sounded a little flatulent. Young pretenders were faster and more agile and were challenging the top position, so management sent the old fella off to training camp.
What emerged from the Bayerische Motoren Werke gym was quicker and more modern, with a few new tricks up its sleeve. First amongst these was that the horizontally opposed twin cylinder boxer engine became liquid cooled, which as well as helping it deliver more power also meant that the authorities in the EU would allow it to get back into the fight once again. It handled better too and added a bunch of electronic wizardry to its abilities, including integrated sat nav, adjustable traction control modes and electronic suspension adjustment. I rode it, loved it and bought one, a 1200cc GS Adventure; my first BMW since the 1980s.
Now, the GS is not only the class leading adventure bike, it is also the most popular bike in the UK; with second place taken by the GS Adventure, the slightly more off road oriented version. This means that the two most successful bikes in this country weigh about 265kg, have engines bigger than many cars and cost north of £15,000 once you have optioned them up. This makes them very important bikes to BMW, vitally important that they stay ahead of their rivals and not rely on past glories, which is why, 4 years on, they have released the new improved model.
So, how have they updated the old slugger? The headline news is the engine now has variable valve timing to lift its power in a more linear way through the rev range, increasing the number of horses under its cam covers.
BMW boxers have always had clunky gearboxes, less the snick of a well oiled Lee Enfield rifle bolt and more the slam of a 4 pounder breech – BMW’s engine did have its origins between the wars after all. The 2019 model that I rode recently was nicely improved over even my GS, itself a significant improvement over the air cooled model it replaced. Actually the most noticeable thing about the new GS was that I didn’t really notice the gearbox.
The bike is a little heavier, but doesn’t feel it, and feels better balanced which is probably more down to more low down torque and the smoother gearbox. It’s quicker too, spinning up the rev range just like a BMW Boxer doesn’t, which considering it has grown from 1200 to 1250cc is impressive.
There is a beautiful new TFT screen with a super clear readout to replace the little dials with dainty lettering of its predecessor – I’m I doing 40 or 50mph? It has always puzzled me how manufacturers will pour resources into improving the performance and technology of a bike or car, then leave a couple of basic flaws left over to irritate you. Therefore, although the dials have become a large screen, the sat nav still obscures the top 1/5th and visually still looks like a bolted on afterthought, even though the electronics are brilliantly integrated into the bike. It’s also a Garmin so if you are pre-planning a trip on your computer then you have to put up with some of the least intuitive software I’ve ever used, as clunky as the gearbox used to be.
The handguards are a carry over from the previous model which, technically speaking, means they are crap. Carefully designed to look sculpted and sleek, whilst cleverly directing rainwater directly onto your thumb and lower hand they are a triumph of aesthetics over functionality. If you buy this bike, get straight on the internet and buy some Barkbusters.
So, conclusions? The new GS has a great engine, much improved gearbox, more riding modes and settings and a lovely (if slightly obscured) TFT screen that works brilliantly. It’s quicker and smoother to ride than its already immeasurably improved predecessor and at least now you can see how fast you are going.
Will I buy one? The problem is that, like many BMW riders, my bike is now fitted with numerous farckles (including new handguards) and it does just what I want it to do, carrying me across the Welsh mountains most weekends.
I’ve also got a summer road trip planned to the Italian lakes so changing my bike now is not practical. But, boy is it tempting, BMW have built a fabulous bike.
Air/liquid-cooled, twin-cylinder four-stroke boxer engine.
Bore x stroke 101 mm x 73 mm
Capacity 1,170 cc
Max. output 92 kW (125 bhp) at 7,750 rpm
Max. torque 125 Nm at 6,500 rpm
Unladen weight, fully fuelled/road-ready 263 kg
Max. permitted weight 480 kg
Max. load (with standard equipment) 217 kg
Usable tank capacity 30 l
Thanks to Cotswold BMW https://www.cotswoldgroup.com/motorrad/