adventure motorcycles

BMW R1200GS Detailed Technical Specifications and Honest Review

BMW R1200GS Detailed Technical Specifications and Honest Review

The BMW R1200GS is one the most important lineups ever produced by the German motorcycle manufacturer as it helped change the face of the motorcycling world. Back in the day when BMW announced its GS motorcycle family, there was no concept of a street-legal adventure motorcycle that could tackle off-road terrain just as easily as it could ride on well-paved asphalt roads. At that time, motorcycle enthusiasts had to choose between riding a street-legal and road-centric motorcycle or an off-road-focused dirt bike that had to be transported to the dirt trails using a trailer.

BMW pioneered the adventure motorcycle segment by launching its first GS model, the BMW R80 G/S, that was street-legal, on-road focused, and equally off-road capable. The R80 G/S was a shaft-driven motorcycle that was powered by an opposed twin-cylinder engine and boasted a long travel suspension. Though the first GS model did not attract positive reviews, BMW had certainly achieved a milestone by introducing an innovative concept of an all-terrain two-wheeler. Eventually, the idea of riding an adventure motorcycle grew in people, especially when racers successfully rode to success in different motorcycle races, including the Paris Dakar.

Throughout the 80s, the popularity of BMW GS motorcycles grew exponentially as the engineers equipped the motorcycles in the GS family with larger more powerful engines, better suspension systems, fuel injection systems, and larger fuel tanks for greater fuel range.

Fast forward to 2004, BMW launched the R1200GS model, which was the first completely redesigned motorcycle of this lineup and was powered by the company’s hallmark boxer engine. Though it took a while, the R1200GS models emerged as BMW’s top-selling two-wheelers by 2012. Discontinued in 2019, the BMW R1200GS remained a favorite of adventure seekers and is still a popular bike in the second-hand market. This article will delve deeper to establish the reasons behind the success of R1200GS models while exploring their technical specifications and riding capabilities. If you are interested in owning a BMW R1200GS model, this article will also help you decide if it is the right adventure motorcycle for your riding needs. 

1. BMW R1200GS: An Overview

BMW R1200GS: An Overview
Photo Credit: @motorcyclenews

BMW launched two distinct models of the R1200GS motorcycle: the base model (R1200GS) and the Adventure model (the R1200GS Adventure). Essentially the same, both R1200GS models were powered by the signature two-cylinder boxer engine; however, the Adventure model boasted a larger tank for greater fuel range and an advanced suspension system offering longer wheel travel than the base model.

In 2004, BMW introduced the R1200GS as the replacement bike for the R1150GS, and to keep the fans interested, the company ensured that the newer model had more power, performed better, and felt lighter. Therefore, the power plant of the 2004 R1200GS produced 19% more horsepower than the R1150GS and was still about 66 lbs lighter, which was an impressive weight cut for a redesigned model. But unfortunately, over the years, BMW went completely in the opposite direction adding more bulk to the bike.

The year 2005 marked the launch of the BMW R1200GS Adventure model, which graced the showrooms the following year only to become one of the best-selling motorcycles of 2006.

In 2007, the BMW designers and engineers revised the bike’s horsepower, increasing the power production to 105 bhp. In addition, the 2007 models of the R1200GS were equipped with an Integral ABS II anti-lock braking system, which lacked servo assistance.

The 2008 BMW R1200GS motorcycles were decked with more optional safety and comfort features, including Automatic Stability Traction Control and electronic suspension adjustment.

The 2010 R1200GS models received an improved cylinder head with a double overhead camshaft and a new exhaust flap that created a pleasant distinct note. The power production of the 2010 R1200GS model’s engine also increased up to 110 hp at 7,750 rpm, while the redline limit increased to 8,500 rpm.

In 2012, BMW announced new upgrades for the 2013 model year, including a water cooling system and a 15 hp increase in horsepower. Although the 2013 R1200GS weighed 20 lb more than the previous model, it performed equally well if not better. However, in the start, the bike attracted negative reviews due to its wobbly front-end geometry, a concern that the German manufacturer addressed without delay even if it meant stopping deliveries, and eventually, the 2013 model also proved to be a success.  

The 2014 to 2016 R1200GS models received different upgrades over time, the most prominent being the road handling adjustments.  Some optional features were also introduced, including keyless ignition, LED lights, an anti-theft security system, seat adjustments, ABS software update, and a quick-shifter. 

The 2017 R1200GS motorcycle was revised to meet the European EU4 regulations, and therefore, this model year marked the addition of onboard diagnostic indicator lights and side reflectors. The liquid-cooled R1200GS models featured a damper on the shaft, while the drum actuator, shaft drive, and bearings were also modified. Crashbars were also introduced as an optional feature for the base R1200GS models for enhanced cylinder protection. When selecting an R1200GS model, refer to the model year-wise pros and cons chart of the BMW R1200GS motorcycle provided below to determine which model of this iconic bike is best suited for your riding needs.

2. BMW R1200GS Detailed Technical Specs

BMW R1200GS Detailed Technical Specifications 
General Information 
Manufacturer BMW Motorrad
Motorcycle Type/Category   Dual Sport/ Adventure Bike 
Launched In  2004
No. of BMW R1200GS Models Four 
Production Years 
BMW R1200GS BMW R1200GS Adventure BMW R1200GS (LC) BMW R1200GS Adventure (LC)
2004-2012 2005-2013 2013-2019 2014-2019
Production Status Discontinued 
Color Options  Light White/ Black Storm Metallic  Espresso Metallic  Lupin Blue Metallic 
BMW R1200GS  Engine Details
Engine Type  Boxer Twin Engine 
Other Details  DOHC Four-Stroke  Balancer Shaft 
Displacement  1,170 cc/ 71 cu. in. 
Bore 101 mm/ 4.0 in
Stroke  73 mm/ 2.9 in 
Compression Ratio  12.0:1 12/5:1 (Liquid-Cooled Models)
Cooling System Air/Oil Cooled  Air/Liquid Cooled (Liquid-Cooled Models)
Starter System  Electric 
Cylinder Arrangement  Two Cylinders 
Valve Train  Four Valves per Cylinder 
Lubrication System  Dry Sump 
Fuel Delivery System  Fuel Injection System (Electronic Intake Pipe Injection)
Fuel Control  Double Overhead Cams/ Twin Cams
Exhaust System Closed Loop Three-Way Catalytic Converter 
Emission Standard EU 4
BMW R1200GS Performance Figures
Maximum Horsepower  109 hp at 7,750 rpm  123 hp at 7,750 rpm (Liquid-Cooled Models) 94.43 hp at rear wheel 
Maximum Torque 120 Nm at 6,000 rpm 125 Nm at 6,500 rpm (Liquid-Cooled Models) 97.38 Nm at rear wheel
Claimed Top Speed 124-130 mph 
Claimed Acceleration (0-60 mph/ 0-100 kmph) 4.25 secs 
Claimed Quarter Mile Acceleration  11.07 secs
Estimated Mileage  Approx. 47.42 mpg  
BMW R1200GS Drivetrain 
Transmission System Six-Speed 
Driveline  Constant Mesh 
Clutch  Hydraulically Operated Oil Lubricated Clutch 
Final Drive  Shaft-Driven (Cardan) 
BMW R1200GS Chassis 
Frame  Two Section Frame  Load-Bearing Engine  (Front and Bolted-on Rear Frame) 
BMW R1200GS Wheels/Tires 
Tire Type  Tubeless Tires 
Front Tire Size  110/80 R 19 
120/70 R 19 (Liquid-Cooled Models)
Rear Tire Size  150/70 R 17  170/60 R 17 (Liquid-Cooled Models)
Wheels  Aluminum Gussrader  Spoked or Alloy  
BMW R1200GS Suspensions
Front Suspension BMW Telelever with Optional Electronic Adjustment 
Front Wheel Travel  190 mm/ 7.5 in 
Rear Suspension   BMW Paralever  Cast Aluminum Single-Sided Swingarm Optional Electronic Adjustment 
Rear Wheel Travel  200 mm/ 7.9 in
BMW R1200GS Brakes 
Anti-Lock Braking System Optional ABS in Older Liquid-Cooled Models  Standard ABS in 2013 and Onward Liquid-Cooled Models
Front Brake  Twin Floating 305 mm Discs; Four Piston Fixed Calipers 
Twin Floating 305 mm Discs; Four Piston Radial Calipers (Liquid-Cooled Models)    
Rear Brake  Single 265 mm Disc; Double Piston Floating Caliper 
Single Disc 276 mm Disc; Double Piston Floating Calipers (Liquid Cooled Models)
BMW R1200GS Dimensions 
Overall Height 1,450 mm/ 57 in  1,525 mm/ 60 in (BMW R1200GS Adventure Models) 
Overall Length  2,210 mm/ 87 in 2,240 mm/  88 in (BMW R1200GS Adventure Models)
Overall Width  953 mm/ 37.5 in    990 mm/ 39 in (BMW R1200GS Adventure Models)
Fuel Tank Capacity  5.3 US gal/ 20 L 
8.7 US gal/ 33 L  (BMW R1200GS Adventure Models)
7.9 US gal/ 30 L  (BMW R1200GS Adventure Liquid-Cooled Models)
Reserve Fuel Capacity  1.06 US gal/ 4 L 
Seat Height  850 mm/ 33 in  895 mm/  35.2 in (BMW R1200GS Adventure Models) 
Trail  100 mm/ 3.9 in 
Wheelbase 1,507 mm/ 59.3 in  1,510 mm/ 59.4 in (BMW R1200GS Adventure Models) 
Rake Angle  25.5°
Curb Weight  448 lb 505 lb 492 lb

3. BMW R1200GS Engine Performance and Transmission

The BMW R1200GS is powered by a four-stroke, DOHC 1,170 cc boxer engine that was initially air/oil cooled; however, in later models, the boxer engine transitioned to liquid cooled. The boxer engine is well-known for its power production, and in the case of the BMW R1200GS, the horsepower eventually increased to approximately 123 hp. However, the success of the BMW R1200GS’s boxer engine lies in its low-end torque production. When you’re off-road and cruising at low RPMs, the ample torque production ensures a highly responsive throttle, allowing quick and easy adaptation to changing terrain. Furthermore, low-end torque also supports slow-speed maneuvers, hill climbing, and navigating obstacles. Therefore, the boxer engine plays a crucial role in augmenting the off-road capabilities of the R1200GS.

In addition to offering generous amounts of low-end torque, the boxer engine of the BMW R1200GS also ensures a lower center of gravity for greater stability. Despite having a wet weight of approximately 540 lb, the BMW R1200GS does not feel heavy at all; therefore, the boxer engine also helps improve the bike’s maneuverability. The design of the boxer engine is unique, preventing the bike from falling to the ground in case you drop it. This small feature comes in handy when you have to pick the bike up from the ground, providing a significant advantage considering the bike’s weight. When talking about engine design, it is worth mentioning that accessing the valves for maintenance is quite simple - all you have to do is remove the valve cover.  

The transmission system, on the other hand, failed to impress many riders due to its heavy gearbox and dry clutch, which did not provide as smooth gear shifting as many would like. The shaft drive offers a comfortable long-distance riding experience as it functions quietly, does not require any adjustments, and is low maintenance. However, it also has its downsides as it has more power loss from the crank to the rear wheel, and it also hinders the riders from changing the sprockets and the drive ratio.  

4. BMW R1200GS Chassis

Reliable and superbly built, the BMW R1200GS’s chassis further enhances the ride excitement and quality with its distinct and highly capable suspension system with dynamic electronic adjustment. The tubular steel frame offers incredible strength and crash resistance, which is necessary for an off-road capable bike.

4.1 BMW R1200GS Suspension System

The BMW R1200GS features the signature telelever front suspension with a paralever cast-aluminum single-sided swingarm. The telelever front suspension is a distinct feature that  means there is a single shock in the front that is connected by a linkage. The telelever operates quite differently compared to the conventional motorcycle front fork. Due to the telelever front suspension, when the rider applies the brake of any intensity, the suspension separates the braking force and the force coming from the irregularities in the road, effectively preventing the front end of the bike from diving when you are riding on the streets at high speed.

Plus, it does not upset the handling of the bike, unlike conventional front forks that cause the bike to dive down as soon as the brakes are applied. When riding off-road, the performance of the telelever suspension is satisfactory, but many people usually don’t like the feel of it because they believe it contributes to the weight of the bike and proves to be a disadvantage. 

Another advantage of having telelever suspension is the availability of Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustability (ESA), which means the R1200GS has sensors that actively adjust the damping based on the riding conditions. Moreover, the ESA provided an auto-adjusting ride height feature, so when a rider is riding solo, carrying luggage on the bike, or riding with a passenger, the height of the rear suspension will go up or down depending on the load. Riders can choose to adjust the ride height manually or set ESA on automatically for this functionality as well.

Damping is another adjustable feature of the BMW R1200GS suspension system, for which riders have different options: Road Damping Mode, Dynamic Damping Mode, and Normal Damping Mode. In dynamic damping mode, the suspension firms up for sportier ride quality, making the R1200GS a great street for corner carving. On the other hand, the road-damping mode offers a slightly softer suspension feel, which is ideal for relaxed long-distance touring.     

4.2 BMW R1200GS Braking System

The BMW R1200GS first generation models featured servo ABS brakes that offered confidence-inspiring stopping power but were quite high-maintenance. In 2008, BMW switched to powerful Brembo brakes and equipped the bikes with normal ABS instead of servo brakes that did not fail frequently and enhanced the bike's overall reliability. As for the stopping power, the twin floating 305 mm front discs with four-piston fixed calipers in air/oil-cooled and four-piston radial calipers in liquid-cooled models provided strong brakes that quickly brought the bike to a halt, effectively preventing accidents. Similarly, the single 265mm rear disc in air/oil-cooled, while the 276 mm disc in liquid-cooled models, with double piston floating calipers, further added to safety and stability.

4.3 BMW R1200GS Wheels and Tires

The bike features five-spoke cast wheels that work well in both on and off-road riding conditions. The tubeless Metzeler Tourance tires offered exceptional grip on smooth asphalt roads and rugged terrains.

4.4 BMW R1200GS Ergonomics Configuration 

The ergonomic triangle is designed to reinforce the multifaceted nature of the R1200GS; hence, its ergonomics work perfectly whether you go for a long hauls, embark on short off-road trips, ride on twisties, or cruise on the freeways, you will always feel supported and comfortable, thanks to the bike’s well-proportioned handlebars, seat, and footpegs. The wide handlebars are placed at an ideal height, offering leverage when turning tight corners and allowing you to adopt a laid back riding position, naturally upright position, or a slightly hunched sportier riding position depending on your changing riding style. Furthermore, the handlebars and foot pegs work in perfect sync when you have to ride the bike in a standing position off-road to navigate obstacles and get a better observation deck to prepare for the changing landscape.

4.5 BMW R1200GS Aesthetics 

The BMW R1200GS has a distinct styling that seems to be inspired by adventure and sports motorcycles; therefore, its styling can be described as sporty, sophisticated, and powerful. With the birdlike beak at the front, perfectly streamlined fairing, muscular looking fuel tank and bulky cylinders, and a sleek narrow seat, the R1200GS will surely make your heart skip a beat. 

4.6 BMW R1200GS Comfort and Tech Features

When it comes to comfort, BMW R1200GS clearly cannot outperform luxurious grand touring machines by American manufacturers, such as Harley Davidson and Indian Motorcycle; however, it offers a decent amount of comfort through its plush seat, reasonable seat height, and superior ergonomics. In the R12000GS, the windshield seems to have a pivotal role in terms of enhancing riding comfort of the bike as it not only moves up and down like other conventional adjustable windshields, but it also tilts at an angle when adjusted at a particular height. This fairly small feature allows you to control the amount of wind being deflected and directed towards you, allowing you to dodge strong winds in cold weather but create a cooling effect in summer. The windshield and fairing combination adds to the bike’s adventure aesthetic and also keeps the staggeringly turbulent wind buffeting at bay.

The high-end tech package of the BMW R1200GS includes all the necessary features, such as cruise control, ABS, traction control, electronic suspension adjustment, riding modes, damping adjustability, and hill start control. However, it is important to note that not all models feature these high-tech functionalities; therefore, to find out which generation or model year comes with the features you need, refer to the chart below.

The stock heated grips are another important functionality that enhance riding comfort 

5. BMW R1200GS: A Quick Look at Pros and Cons

BMW R1200GS Model Year-Wise Pros and Cons 
2005-2007 R1200GS Models 
Strengths 👍 Weaknesses 👎
Entirely redesigned bike; does not share any parts with R1150GS Stiff and heavy transmission system 
About 66 lbs lighter than R1150GS  Dry clutch which was prone to overheating
More power and torque production  (100 hp and 85 ft-lb) Featured servo ABS brakes  (these were quite expensive and failed frequently, leading to higher maintenance costs)
Faster and more stable  Air/oil cooled 
Lowest priced  Oldest models
2008-2009 R1200GS Models 
Strengths 👍 Weaknesses 👎
Horsepower increased by 5 hp  Same heavy gearbox as in previous models 
Redline increased up to 8,000 rpm   Dry clutch with same overheating problem 
Hotter Camshaft  Automatic slip control could not be adjusted  (riders had to turn off it entirely when off-roading)
Increased Compression  Comparatively pricier 
Steep rake angle for nimble handling; 25° (earlier it was 27°)   Steep rake affected the bike’s off-road  stability 
Features automatic stability/slip control system  (a powerful traction control system) Unfortunately traction is not adjustable 
Features electronic suspension adjustment (became the first bike to have this system)  
BMW dumped servos braking system in favor of powerful Brembo brakes and normal ABS system 
Less maintenance required due to removal of servos brakes
2010-2012 R1200GS Model 
Strengths 👍 Weaknesses 👎
BMW changed design of the head and opted for the double overhead camshaft to increase the bike’s redline, power, and make it more sportier 
(an increase of 5 hp horsepower, 3 ft-lb of torque, and a redline of 8,500 rpm was reported on the paper)
Heavy, clunky transmission 
Addition of the exhaust flap improved the sound   Dry clutch 
Great for sport touring enthusiasts Pricier than previous models 
Athletic, fast performance Complicated valve adjustments due to double overhead camshaft layout 
Most refined out of all the air/oil cooled models
2013-2016 R1200GS Models
Strengths 👍 Weaknesses 👎
Liquid cooling for more power   Comparatively refined and compact transmission system  
Completely redesigned model  Weight increased by 20 lb due to liquid cooling 
An increase of 15 hp of horsepower and 4 ft-lb of torque was reported on the paper  Expensive than previous models  
Features wet clutch that performs better both on and off the road; the new clutch was easier to maintain and replace 
Features dynamic electronic suspension adjustment (Dynamic ESA)
Features riding modes, including Rain, Road, Sport, Enduro, Enduro Pro  
Features cruise control 
The Enduro Pro riding mode automatically turns off the rear ABS for off-road riding  
Adjustable windshield could be moved up and down for wind buffeting, protection, and comfort
(windshields on older models could only be moved at a certain angle but not up and down; older models did not provide satisfactory protection from wind buffeting)

Wider tires than previous models  Front: from 110 to 120  Rear: from 150 to 170

2017-2019 R1200GS Models 
Strengths 👍 Weaknesses 👎
Styling of the fairing changed  Weight increased by another 10 lb to make it Euro 4 compliant 
Updated to Euro4 emission standards  2017 models lacked the TFT screen display 
Dynamic electronic suspension adjustment features the load leveling sensor 
This new technological feature automatically adjusted the height of the bike based on the luggage mounted on the bike
Later models had TFT display as an optional feature and not as standard feature 
Features Hill Start Control System  Smooth transmission system 
Features ABS Pro that senses the lean angle and adjust the ABS effect/intervention accordingly 
(excellent safety feature when cornering)
A bit too expensive; many riders just opt for BMW R1250GS instead due to the similar price point and better features in the R1250GS 

Increased weight makes it difficult to handle the newer generation models off-road 

5.1 BMW R1200GS: Worth Buying or Not? 

Overall, the BMW R1200GS is a highly versatile bike that still outperforms many latest adventure motorcycles in the market. There are not many bikes that can effortlessly cruise at 85-90 miles per hour on open roads, offer a reliable adjustable windshield that cancels out strong winds, feature high-end functionalities like ride modes, traction control, ABS, and cruise control, and are capable of conquering harsh and challenging terrains.

For some riders, the R1200GS is an overpriced motorcycle, and certainly, there are much cheaper options available on the market. However, if you can afford to purchase a 2017-2019 BMW R1200GS, then consider looking for a BMW R1250GS instead as it has more features and costs almost the same in the second-hand market.

You must also acknowledge that bikes loaded with high-tech features do not guarantee the best of the both worlds; therefore, if you want a bike that is a complete solution in itself and allows you to transition between different riding styles in one journey, then the R1200GS is a worthwhile investment. It is also worth mentioning that if you can afford a newer generation R1200GS i-e model 2017-2019, then also check for R1250GS as it is available in the similar price range and offers more to riders in terms of styling, performance, and electronics.    

6. Last Words

Being part of the GS family, the R1200GS is a perennial favorite in the global adventure motorcycle market, continuously attracting riders of all ages, riding skills, and riding experience with its uncompromised performance. Therefore, if you are a fan of German make BMW ADV motorcycle technology, opt for the R1200GS of any model and you will find that this bike is a keeper despite its faults and shortcomings. 

With its boxer engine, shaft drive, dynamic ESA system, cruise control, superior ergonomics, and reliable braking system, the BMW R1200GS has a lot to offer in terms of on-road functionality and off-road performance. However, you should make informed decisions and weigh out all of your choices before spending a hefty sum on the BMW R1200GS. Do you want to increase motorcycle luggage storage capacity? Viking Bags offers the best luggage options, including tank bags, side cases, backpacks, duffel/tail bags, luggage bags, and accessories & organizers for your ADV tourers.

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