Drag site icon to your taskbar to pin site. Learn More

2005 BMW R1200GS

Thursday, April 22, 2004
Bystanders hang around expectantly for Duke to get dunked in the drink. Their wait was fruitless  as the new GS offers more low-speed stability than expected.
Bystanders hang around expectantly for Duke to get dunked in the drink. Their wait was fruitless, as the new GS offers more low-speed stability than expected.
BMW continues to use its Telelever and Paralever systems on the GS, but they have both been redesigned for lighter weight and better performance through the use of forged rather than cast aluminum.

The Telelever A-arm is now made from the quality forged stuff, and it features fully encapsulated ball joints with permanent lubrication, so it is a maintenance-free component. The WP shock that is squeezed by the A-arm is preload-adjustable but has no damping adjustment provisions. Rake remains at a generous 27.1 degrees, while trail is reduced 5mm to 4.3 inches (109mm). Wheelbase is 0.4 inches longer at 59.8 inches.

Out back, the forged aluminum Paralever shaft-drive unit is stronger and 10% lighter, and the single-sided swingarm now pivots in a portion of the frame rather than just in the transmission case as previous, providing additional strength. The And by moving the pivot point slightly downward, BMW says the driveshaft no longer changes in length as the Paralever moves up and down, saving weight because a length-adjustment component is no longer required. Additionally, the oil inside the drive system now never needs to be changed over the life of the motorcycle.

The WP rear shock now shares the travel-dependent damping system with the Adventure version of the R1150GS that is still being sold alongside the new model. TDD changes the shock's compression damping depending on the shock's position in its stroke. Mid-stroke compliance remains supple before the damping circuits close off dramatically when nearing its bottoming point so the suspension is resistant to bottoming. As before, the shock is adjustable for rebound damping and preload, the latter hydraulically via a knurled knob under a rider's right thigh.

Helping further reduce unsprung weight are attractive new cast wheels. While the weight of the front wheel is only slightly lighter than a spoked wheel, the rear is a significant 3.5 pounds less heavy. Serious dirt pounders will still want to opt for BMW's cross-spoke wire wheels that can be used with tubeless tires. They will cost an extra $135 but are a bit more durable in the rough stuff than the alloy hoops. Our test bikes were fitted with 110/90-19 front and 150/70-17 rear Michelin semi-dual-sport tires. They bit the dirt better than they might look, but a set of DOT-approved knobbies will grip much better off-road.

BMW has made the new GS’s frame entirely of steel tubes instead of using an aluminum steering head casting as previous.
BMW has made the new GS's frame entirely of steel tubes instead of using an aluminum steering head casting as previous. By triangulating the smaller steel tubes (and using the engine as a stressed member), BMW says the frame is stiffer and just as light. Note the forged aluminum A-arm of the new Telelever.
With the new suspension and lighter rims, the wheels of the GS respond much quicker to bumps, at both ends. Our travels took us over every kind of road surface imaginable, and it was nothing short of remarkable at how well the suspension ate up everything we could throw at it.

When it comes time to slow the world's biggest dirt bike, BMW's EVO power brakes are there to turn speed into heat. The GSs are fitted with partial-integral ABS in which the front brake lever activates twin 305mm front discs as well as, when appropriate, the rear brake. The rear brake lever actuates only the 265mm rear rotor.

We remember how sensitive BMW's original power brakes were when they came out in 2002, so it was with a little trepidation when we first used them in the dirt. Thanks to revisions in the brake system, the GS's brakes are much less touchy than before and are relatively easy to modulate in low-traction situations; standard braided-steel brake hoses make for an accurate feel. ABS can be intrusive and downright harrowing when used in extreme off-road situations such as going down a steep sandy hill so, as before, the anti-lock system can be shut off when riding in the dirt (or if you want to act like a clown on the street in front of your buddies). 

We remember how sensitive BMW's original power brakes were when they came out in 2002, so it was with a little trepidation when we first used them in the dirt. Thanks to revisions in the brake system, the GS's brakes are much less touchy than before and are relatively easy to modulate in low-traction situations; standard braided-steel brake hoses make for an accurate feel. ABS can be intrusive and downright harrowing when used in extreme off-road situations such as going down a steep sandy hill so, as before, the anti-lock system can be shut off when riding in the dirt (or if you want to act like a clown on the street in front of your buddies).

In addition to slow-speed turning  brake and clutch modulation  and riding on hills and in the sand  the Jimmy Lewis school also instructs how a bike behaves with its brakes locked up  including the front as demonstrated here.
In addition to slow-speed turning, brake and clutch modulation, and riding on hills and in the sand, the Jimmy Lewis school also instructs how a bike behaves with its brakes locked up, including the front as demonstrated here.
On the street, it's impossible to make a case against a superb set of anti-lock brakes such as the GS's. The EVO system's power actuation pushes the pads against the rotors in an instant and, with ABS, a rider can hold that pressure all the way to a complete stop without fear of losing the front end. Velocity retardation is even more special on a Telelever-equipped bike, as there is negligible front-end dive even under maximum braking. The front shock has plenty of top-out room that allows the front end to rise up under acceleration, transferring weight to the rear for better traction.

With its large-diameter front wheel, turn-in on the GS isn't very quick, even with its wide bars. But make no mistake: A GS can be a formidable machine with the right hands at its controls. Just ask the Ducati and R1 riders we passed on Infineon Raceway when we took the previous GS to a Reg Pridmore CLASS School. We have little doubt the new GS, with its vastly improved power-to-weight ratio, would be several seconds a lap quicker. Yes, we know it's not meant for the racetrack, but that's a noble part of the GS's do-it-all character.

But, you might think, isn't posing as a dirt bike a little pretentious?

Well, this new GS has made us change our thinking on that. You'd feel the same way if you had the kind of ride we had aboard this luxury dirt bike.

The GS coddled its rider on the boring highway stints through the Nevada desert, a rider's only worry being which of five positions the new adjustable windscreen was set at and whether to turn the heated grips down a notch before fingers turned medium-rare. A naked bike would be a different story.

Slow and methodical is the best way to navigate the GS off-road  but it nonetheless held up to merciless thrashing at higher speeds.
Slow and methodical is the best way to navigate the GS off-road, but it nonetheless held up to merciless thrashing at higher speeds.
Later on we turned onto a winding, rocky, gravel road that led us down to what was perhaps the only running stream in the county. Any doubts as to whether any of the yellow, red or blue monsters would make it down the steep incline, across, and then up the other side were dashed when the more experienced riders in our group began splashing through. Wouldn't want to try that on our Mean Streak.

Further on, a wide, graded gravel road would test the GS. After testing stability at 30, 40 and 50 mph, some of my fellow journalists and I upped the pace to 80 mph. Hmmm, couldn't do that on the R1..

Another turn took us on a narrow two-track dirt road that climbed in and out and around canyon and valley, riddled with stones and bordered occasionally by some serious drop-offs. It was like a supermoto version of the Pike's Peak Hillclimb. Leaving the GS in second gear, even at a walking-pace around the most sinuous of corners, that torquey Flat-Twin just fed nibbles of power in an even dose so as not to lose traction. With speeds and traction both of the low variety, the nimbler feel of the new GS was very evident. Don't think I'd want to try that on an FZ6.

Once again finding pavement that would lead a twisting journey to the main artery, we set off at higher speeds along the narrow and unmaintained road that snaked its way up and around rolling hills. It was like a paved roller coaster just for us, complete with g-outs, ragged road surfaces and 80-mph air. The GS was perfectly in its element, with more suspension travel than a streetbike and more top end than a supermoto bike. 

Once at a rest stop, the ne'er-do-wells I was riding with were giggling with excitement as we bounded off our bikes to share our tales of derring-do. Personally, I was not only excited because of the fun of the ride, but also because of what it meant to me:

2004 BMW R1200GS
The R1200GS can be thrown around but you want to be somewhat careful with a dirt bike this expensive. Note the bash plate under the engine that protects the sump, which was tested extensively.
I could finally reconcile myself with the idea of an adventure-tourer like the GS. Short of a supercross track, this bike can do anything you could throw at it, and there is good fun to be had by taking it off-road.

Add in BMW's new Vario luggage and it would be the ideal mount to take on your next 'round-the-world adventure. The Vario saddlebags ($375 each) and top-case ($508 including mount) expand by 9 liters at the flick of a lever, offering secure storage for up to 130 liters of stuff. Other options include heated grips ($185 and well worth it), different sidecover colors, engine guards and a GPS navigation system.

The GS also has several clever details that are worthy of a bike that costs $15K. As with all BMWs, the GS is equipped with a quality toolkit that includes a tire-repair system; the rear seat can be removed to reveal a large luggage rack; the evaporative canister is now hidden behind the rear subframe instead of obnoxiously in the open as on the previous version; plastic guards protect and shelter hands; and the footpegs have removable rubber inserts that dampen vibration when on the street and can be removed to reveal a cleated surface for when things get slippery.

Other than the smallish fuel tank, there's not much about the GS to gripe about. The new duck-billed front fender is several inches shorter than the honker of previous, but it still grabs the air in heavy crosswinds. Also, the air climbing over the windscreen will buffet a helmet slightly, getting worse the further it's positioned upright. Still, it's well worth the added protection from the elements it provides. Of course, we'll bitch about the three buttons needed to use BMW's awkward turn signals, but it seems as if they're never going to listen. At least they're now self-canceling.

The GS’s windscreen  seen here in its lowest setting  is adjustable over five positions.
With the R1200GS, your journey will never be limited to the roads more traveled.
But for smaller riders, the biggest problem with the GS is its bigness. Having Paris-Dakar veteran Jimmy Lewis leading us around on gravelly soft sand showed the limitations of both bike and rider, as my feeble little legs failed at providing a strong enough tripod for the beastly enduro. At a combined speed of about 2.3 mph, I performed R&D durability testing of the right-side magnesium head cover no less than four times. BMW claims the GS weighs 496 pounds wet, but I could've sworn it weighed a ton the fourth time I had to pick it up. And for the record, the handguards will break if they're driven into a big cactus, trust me on this one. They at least did their job and protected these very hands that are typing this tale.

The bottom line: BMW dealerships will be flooded by GS owners trading their bikes in on the R1200GS, a fantastically versatile bike that has the ability to reach a much wider demographic swath than the slower and chubbier old model ever could.


Share your thoughts on the '05 BMW R1200GS in the MCUSA Forum. Click Here

Other BMW Street Bike Reviews
2014 BMW R nineT First Ride
The 2014 BMW R nineT that may not deliver the adrenaline kick of some high-performance bikes, but the stripped-down modern classic proves hard to beat in production of sheer two-wheeled joy.
2014 BMW S1000 R Comparison
Anxious to get in on a piece of the action, BMW joins the streetfighter class with its all-new S1000 R.
2014 BMW R1200RT First Ride
BMW updates its Reise-Tourer with the liquid-cooled Boxer Twin, cush electronic aids and ergonomic revisions. MotoUSA takes a spin on the redesigned R1200RT.
2013 BMW F800 GT Project Bike
After logging a couple thousand miles on the F800 GT, BMW’s latest middleweight sport touring motorcycle proves to be a capable and highly functional mount for urban living.
BMW C650GT vs. Honda NC700X
The amenities and performance characteristics of the BMW C650GT make it a hard act to follow. Will the Honda NC700X live up to the challenge?
BMW R1200GS Dealer Locator
BMW R1200GS Highs & Lows
Highs
  • Legit two-wheel SUV
  • Power-to-weight ratio
  • Build quality
Lows
  • Fuel range
  • Still big
Related BMW R1200GS Articles

Login or sign up to comment.