First Ride: 2008 BMW R1200GS

Ride with the Valkyries.

2008 BMW R1200GS - First Ride

2008 BMW R1200GS - First Ride

BMW's best-selling model, the highly versatile R1200GS, has undergone a general revision for 2008 that goes a lot deeper than slightly refreshed styling. The GS looks as neat and sharp as ever, but on the road it feels a million bucks stronger and much more fun.

The revised front-end geometry and the general upgrading of the chassis make the new GS feel a lot newer than it looks. The front end is new in both the suspension unit and the rake. Steering-head angle is reduced from 27.1 to 25.7 degrees; consequently trail has gone down from 110mm to 101mm and the wheelbase has been reduced .5 inches to 59.3. The new steering geometry is not only more modern and responsive, but also improves weight distribution. A slimmer tank at the junction with the seat moves the rider forward, further improving weight distribution. These changes make the steering more neat, precise and responsive while still feeling solid; despite its tall (34.3-inch) seat height, the new R1200GS is a natural leaner around even very tight corners. It feels surefooted, with great feedback through the grips, and is perfectly neutral and stress-free even when ridden hard.

The available Enduro Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) offers three different modes. Both spring preload and shock damping can now be adjusted on the go by simply pressing a button on the left handgrip to select the preferred setting. "Comfort" is perfect on rough off-road surfaces. "Normal" is good for everyday riding on backroads or downtown cobblestones. "Sport" gets the best out of the chassis on smoothly paved, twisty tarmac. The setting selected is indicated on the instrument info display (also optional) and also reveals average speed, fuel consumption, range-to-empty and time of day.

The motor gets important revisions as well. The 1200cc Boxer Twin now produces 105 hp (a 5-hp boost) and redlines at 8000 rpm. This upgrade has been accomplished by bumping the compression ratio up to 12:1, while a hotter camshaft actuates the four valves per cylinder. The motor is responsive; torque peak of 85 ft.-lbs is at a mere 5750 rpm, but it starts pulling strongly from as low as 3000 rpm. The beefed-up six-speed gearbox has received more accurately spaced ratios, so the engine feels ready to respond in any gear.

This teams up beautifully with the more precise, solid and responsive chassis, to make the new GS a great pleasure to ride and a versatile, comfortable bike in the process. But it is the solid throttle response that sets the new R1200GS in a class of its own. The bike produces very good acceleration (0-60 mph in 3.3 seconds) and surges down the road at a twist of the grip with a vengeance—you can almost hear “Ride of the Valkyries” in your head as you surge forward. Pulling a wheelie is just a matter of yanking the throttle open in any of the first three gears. And it does it all with the class of a great BMW Boxer Twin, which is also part of the fun.

Slideways! BMW's GS is surprisingly handy off-road.

Tanzanite Blue...

On-road handling is precise, solid and fun.

For 2008, USA buyers will have the choice of four colors: Nambia Orange...

Author's test bike was equipped with cross-spoke wheels ($495); tougher for off-road use and no tube is required.

The mini fairing might not mean much in terms of low-to-medium speed comfort (or styling), but it makes high-speed cruising a pleasant and stress-free experience. Windblast and buffeting are acceptable to at least 110 mph.

Or Graphite Silver Metallic. MSRP is $14,600.

Titan Silver Mettalic...

This motor is the culmination of 85 years of BMW flat-Twin (Boxer) powerplants. It makes a claimed 105 hp.