BMW R1200GS Rallye Sport Review

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Epic. This must be the best BMW I’ve ridden to date and I’ve ridden and owned lots. This review has nothing to do with BMW Motorrad Japan’s kindness either. 600km in the saddle today . Not tired. It eats miles like any other GS. Perhaps the biggest fault with the liquid cooled GS Adventure (I’ve owned one) is a slightly detached feeling beneath you. It’s not that you don’t trust it but sometimes you’re never quite sure what is going on below. The GS Rallye Sport changes all that. While perhaps not as crisp (nor should it be) as the S1000RR superbike the Rallye’s handling is exceptionally communicative. Loads of feedback. Ironic that the Rallye is supposed to be a hard core off-road GS but it’s on-road manners are better than most of the other road going bikes in the BMW stable. Let’s break it down.

Handling 5/5

While it is 20kg lighter than the GS Adventure it is a totally different bike. Despite the same 19-inch front tyre I kept turning into corners too early to begin with as it darts like it had a 17″ up front. Not a criticism. Just a pleasant surprise. Once you get used to the quick turn in you forget your waltzing with the fat bird from the Flight of the Valkyries and start doing the tango with Marlene Dietrich.

Handling is very neutral as all GS are with a dash of shaft oversteer when pushing and hard braking while down shifting. There is no understeer whatsoever in sharp bends despite the 19″. The suspension is self leveling and never got flustered at any speed (of course the speed limit was never exceeded… erhem). Even in the wet the feedback was confidence inspiring.

Even in wet weather with patchy road surfaces  the Rallye just ploughed through. It never got bumped off line and kept relaying what was going on.

I had a small jaunt off road but not enough to pass judgement.

Brakes 5/5

They are the same spec as the GSA but somehow the bite is much stronger with good progression. This was surprising. I’m big on brakes after my accident. The brakes are linked  when the front lever is pulled but the rear is independent and offers good feel.

Engine 4/5

The engine is sweet with 125hp of power. There are times you thirst for a bit more top end but it is tractible everywhere in the rev range and has enough hustle. A KTM will eat its lunch with 160hp but it’s  real world power.

Economy is good. The 20 litre tank is good for 350km, maybe 400km if ridden gently.

Gearbox 4/5

The new synchro box is pretty decent. It has a quick shifter which is smoother down than up. I’ve ridden the S1000XR with a quick shifter and on the move it’s fine. It is when pulling away from a stop when you feel the fight between the clutch control and the computer controlled hydraulics. It feels cumbersome. The GS Rallye doesn’t suffer like this which also allows you to turn it on a dime at walking speed. Impressive

Ergonomics 4/5

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The dash is simple to read and the Navigator V is much quicker than its predecessor with clever functionality on the left handlebar mounted swivel mouse. I haven’t played with the settings of the navigator but it seems to have been designed by a dodgy taxi driver sometimes sending you on such a long way round that it seems implausible. I tried to go from Fukushima to Minami Soma (around 60km) and the navigator said 256km. Hmmm. This has been so on several I’ve tried.

The weather on the way from Fukushima to Sendai was a deluge. Wind and weather protection was good but I’d elect for the shorter screen as the standard screen in high or low setting sends wind flow hits my helmet right at ear level.

Seating position is perfect (for me). With suspension in dynamic MAX mode and the ride height with seat in high position it is around 890mm. The seat is plush and the backside didn’t give out over the 600km. In fact it is far better than the GS Adventure’s bench. Heating would be a nice option, especially for a pillion.

Mirrors are pretty useless. More a fashion item. They should be squarer instead of triangular.

I initially didn’t like the idea of keyless but after today I see its benefits.

Summary

It is such a leap forward. They have taken the best selling adventure bike around and dialed it to 11. Flummoxed by nothing. Good looks and practicality. Anyone who owns a GS should ride one. You won’t believe how much better it is than what you have. In fact don’t ride it because you’ll regret it when you hand the keys back.

I’ve owned a R1100S, K1300S, K1600GT, a liquid cooled GSA and still have my oil-cooled R1200GSA. With the exception of the one I’ve kept, most of them have been technological masterpieces but lacked ‘soul’. The Rallye on the other hand has bags of character and I’ve been smiling all day at how unbelievably good it is. Sorry Lee I’m not giving it back!

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