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Off Road on a BMW 1200GS

3697 Views 18 Replies 16 Participants Last post by  atleastbehandy

About a month ago I was off roading (in Yamaha Rhinos) with a group of friends and way out in the middle of East Jesus on a steep loose rocky trail we passed two guys going the other direction on BMW 1200 GS motorcycles complete with hard aluminum luggage. This was no hard packed dirt road, this was a tough trail. So today while waiting to get the oil changed in my TW I went over and sat on a and rode a new 1200 GS. About 560 lbs and really tall, I couldn't even imagine taking it half of the places I ride the TW. I only rode it on the street where it was not as smooth or comfortable as my HD Road King. The bike appeared to me to be neither fish nor fowl. Not a great road bike and a very cumbersome dirt bike. is the biggest selling BMW boxer twin by far. I would hate to dump that $21,000 bike in the rocks and try to get it off my leg. Have any of our ranks ridden one of these off road? What is it like? There has got to be something cool about it as BMW sells a ton of that model. What gives???

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There has got to be something cool about it as BMW sells a ton of that model. What gives???

It weighs 560 lbs. and costs $21,000. 3 people on the entire planet can ride one well offroad, and you've already met 2 of them.

GS's are one of those bikes that "seem like a good idea at the time".
Here in South Africa those bikes are extremely popular. SA is the biggest market for the GS in the world. BMW offer a country wide backup service - they will collect you no matter where you have trouble & that includes if you crash (but you have to pay the costs). That is part of the attraction of the bike here. They are also not at as much of a price premium here compared to other bikes; unlike the US where they have a big price premium.

They are brilliant on gravel highways. Guys take them on technical sections but then they are at a disadvantage to lighter bikes. They have 19" front wheel which is also a disadvantage.

I have never ridden one. Know plenty of people who have them. Not the sort of bike that appeals to me. There is a big image thing attached to them & that is an image that repels me.
Ewan and Charlie wannbes with too much money buy them.

But saying that I have a BMW R80G/S, the first model GS. It's actually quite light at 420 lbs for an 800cc bike and the weight is low down. It makes an interesting and useable classic but no serious off roader.

It is widely accepted that for the first few hundred miles you will probably hate it, the back end rises and falls when you accelerate and decelerate and the bike pitches from left to right as you rev the engine due to the torque reaction of the in line crank, flywheel and shaft drive.

I really like it for what it is but I would not buy an unreliable,overcomplicated and overweight 1200GS even if I could afford it.

Have a look at this guys desert racers >
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Years ago, I traded a Suzuki GS1100G for a BMW R80-GS. One of the worst decisions I ever made. The BMW didn't do anything well. It was uncomfortable on the highway, incompetent on anything approaching a trail and totally unreliable. After a year of disappointment, I traded it for a Kawasaki KLR 650. If I wanted one bike that would do almost everything, it would be the KLR.
How dare you even consider a bike with a skinny rear tire..that's like having an affair with your wife's best friend!!!! Just make sure your bike doesn't find out about might throw you off this weekend.
I was in Big Bend National Park a few years ago. There were three guys in my group riding those big Beemers. I thought, how in the world would they get those things through. I'm telling you, these guys rocked those things.

I was amazed at how fast they were able to go (not that fast appeals to me. I own a TW200. Duh!) and how they handled more technical sections. It can be done, but to me, this is one of those situations where, just because it can be done, doesn't mean it's a good idea.
There have been a handful of those BMWs at the last few poker runs I have done. They actually performed pretty well. I was surprised to see how nimble they were. The track snaked through the sagebrush and the terrain included sand, rocks, dirt, whoops, and hills. They are big bikes, but they seemed to tackle the terrain. I did see one guy dump his and I helped him pick it up because he physically could not. It took both of us to upright the bike. Those things are HEAVY!
How dare you even consider a bike with a skinny rear tire..that's like having an affair with your wife's best friend!!!!

Dat dere wuz funny.

Purchasing a Beemer requires an honest pre-purchase self-assessment of your skill level. The technology, horsepower and cool factor are the "hook" that make them attracti9ve impulse buys. BMW's done an excellent job in those regards, but most end up being stylized touring bikes for most riders. Most of us would probably be better served by one of the smaller BMW offerings if owning a Beemer were a priority.

I had an R80 and an 1150. The R80 was arguably the more viable offroad bike for someone like me, in retrospect, and an old GSPD is still on my "dream bikes" list, though I couldn't tell ya why, cuz I'd prolly not enjoy trashing such a rare bike by dropping it. The 1150 was gunna be my around the world bike, but I listed it the day after I tried picking it up alone on a 115 day with a day's worth of arm pump. Fortunately I bought it used and was able to recoup my losses.
It's an even bigger tank than my KLR but if I won the lottery I'd buy one in a heart beat and farkle the thing to death!
First on Sunday, sales on Monday. Paris to Dakar. Baja 500 beach route. Unimproved roads and wide open beaches, deserts, plains, and savanahs, 99.9% of the time at speeds well above those one would consider putting ones foot down.

BMW GSs are quite capable on fairly technical terrain. I've only ridden GSs on pavement, and they felt quite similar to my old XR750 desert racer, except taller and heavier and slower to respond. I suppose they ride a bit like my old XR750 desert bike offroad, too. That would be a different riding style than most dualsports, specifically a style that prohibits removing one's foot from the pegs and sufficent speed to plane the front contact patch upon soft surfaces while maintaining insufficient speed to plane the rear contact patch. Cornering at speed on low traction surfaces is either a controlled drift or crossed up like a dirt tracker, but with feet on the pegs. A third method of cornering, not often used due to level of difficulty, is laying the bike over in the corner then wheelying with the throttle. With the bike leaned over, the front wheel lifts to the inside while the rear wheel may or may not slide to the outside. It is a very quick way to corner in limited traction situations, and should something go wrong, a very quick way to pay a lot of medical bills. When you think about it, the tire sizes on a GS make a lot more sense--they are closer to flattracker sizes than motocross sizes, because that is essentially how the bike is intended to be ridden.

In slow going, the extra heft of a heavier bike provides inertia that limits the terrain's ability to knock the bike around. To a point, anyway.

I'll put forth the notion that the difference between a dualsport bike and an adventure bike would be the differences in riding style. That is why the 650cc dualsport/adventure bikes really tend not to be really good for anything--they are light enough to sort of be ridden like dirt bikes and heavy enough to sort of be ridden like adventure bikes, but at the same time a bit too heavy to ride like dirt bikes, a bit too light to ride like adventure bikes. They do a lot of things, but nothing exceptionally well.
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How dare you even consider a bike with a skinny rear tire....that's like having an affair with your wife's best friend!!!! Just make sure your bike doesn't find out about might throw you off this weekend.


Below is my wife Veronica (brunette) and her best friend Karen (blond). They both have skinny rears but are entertaining none the less! There are 5 dirt bikes in my garage. Although the TW is my favorite, sometimes it's fun to "feel the love" of a different bike! LOL


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I have both. 05' R1200GS and 00' TW200. They're my only 2 bikes. I wouldn't sell either, just upgrade. The GS is like a pickup truck, it carries me and a ton of crap on my 50 mi. round trip to work and home @ 70 mph with no problem. I've driven it from FL to NC twice, driven FS roads and some semi-technical trails through the Tellico trail system. It rides 2 up pretty well and I get 225+ mi. from a tank of gas. Down side is that it is a heavy bike (is a workout going through surgar sand in FL) and any repair will cost an arm and a leg. I do love it though for what it is. The TDub on the other hand is like a jeep. I carry light loads, can cruise along a good clip and go just about anywhere the GS won't because it's a hell of a lot lighter. Down side is the small fuel tank and slower speed (I'd like a larger electrical system too). The numbers don't lie. The GS is BMW's best selling bike, over 500,000 from what I've heard. Now they're more expensive than ever but if you've got the money, I say a good choice. Don't get rid of the TW though....
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I think a GS would be a good candidate for a trailer hitch to tow a TW. Tons of low and midrange pull.
BMW= Bring More Wallet. Over engineered, over complicated and over priced. The new Yamaha Super Tenre is tearing BMW a new one.
805gregg, Re: the S10: Is it?

Can you point me to some websites?

I'm not arguing the point, as I'm impressed with the S10; just want to study more.

I've ridden an R1150RT-P, and, yes, I found it quite heavy; probably more so than the S10 I sat on at the Vancouver MC show. In defense of the RT-P, it's a pretty nice ride on asphalt at 70 to 80 MPH, where it's in its element.

So far, though, the TW stays in the stable for the kind of off-roading me and my ol' buddies do, and as a quick, inexpensive into-town commuter. Wife likes it also.
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I had not a 1200 but a 650gs ride it off road= not fun. Them I buy a TW ride off road= fun. Now I got a big cruiser for the road, the Tw and the ct 110 for trail riding and Im happy. Now I miss the F650gs on the road, was such a good bike but... and this bike was 482 lbs
Last fall I took a 1200GS from Las Vegas, down to San Diego, up to Death Valley, and back to Las Vegas again.

That bike lives for the highway.

I would cruise at 70mph in 6th gear, pull out to pass a car, full throttle, by the time I pulled back in front of the car I was going 100mph. And the whole time it was smooth and comfortable and stuck to the black-top like hot bubble-gum.

Off-road was a different story... The bike is pretty tall and heavy with a lot of weight on that front tire. I never low-sided, but felt like it was pretty easy in the sandy parts to lose that front on a corner. So most of my riding was up on the pegs with my weight shifted toward the back. I kept pumping to keep the rear tire hooked-up (since it only had the stock Mezzler dual-sport tires) as such, it was pretty tiring! However, I could go much faster than the jeeps that were crawling through. Yay for two wheels! I didn't want to go too crazy because a flat tire in the desert would have been a royal pain.

Actually the most fun on that bike was the canyon roads North of San Diego. Despite it's size, the GS is very nimble. I was attacking the twisties with relish. In third gear, I had enough low-end grunt to take the corners, blip the throttle on exit, and pull a wheelie to the next corner! Actually, it became hard to keep that front tire down while accelerating up hills. Occasionally the road was covered with gravel, however, which kept me from going too fast.

So in summary, the GS can handle some occasional off-roading, but it really lives for the pavement. And if you do plan to take it off-road, you might want to hit the gym first, because it will tire you out!
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