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BMW R1200GS (2004-2019): Review & Buying Guide

Bike journo for a quarter of a century

Posted:

23.04.2024

2004 BMW R1200GS Review Details Used Price Spec_01
2004 BMW R1200GS Review Details Used Price Spec_02
2004 BMW R1200GS Review Details Used Price Spec_03
2004 BMW R1200GS Review Details Used Price Spec_04

 

Price: £3800-£10,500 | Power: 98-125bhp | Weight: 225-238kg | Overall BikeSocial Rating: 4/5

 

BMW’s GS and GSA (big-tank Adventure) models set the template for the modern adventure bike over 20 years ago with the R1150 GS, a rugged allrounder capable of everything from daily commutes and weekend blasts to epic trans-continental tours across the most inhospitable of lands.

In 2004 the R1200 GS added a dollop of sophistication and modernity to the GS mix, in turn reaffirming what a modern adventure bike could and should be. The GS’s popularity went stratospheric when two actors (one a star, the other less so) set out to conquer the world on a pair of GSAs. Their antics and travels confirmed what amazing motorcycles these boxer-twin BMs are.

The 1200’s model run is long – from 2004 to 2019 – and incorporates numerous updates and a major redesign, as well as myriad different spec levels and models within both GS and GSA guise. The later 1250 and new 1300, while more sophisticated and capable than earlier GSs, are inevitably more expensive, making the 1200 perfect for those on a budget or wishing to dip a toe in the adventure scene without committing too heavily in terms of finance. First generation 1200 GSs and GSAs start from around the £3500 mark, while second bikes can be had from around £6000. Whichever 1200 you choose, you’ll have yourself the perfect introduction to the brilliance of BMW’s most recognised model.

 

pros
  • Brilliant at pretty much everything – still the adventure bike blueprint

  • Well built, robust and reliable (as long as regularly serviced)

  • An affordable entry into the big adventure bike category

cons
  • Not without issues – shaft drive problems in particular can be an expensive fix

  • Big and heavy, especially for smaller riders

  • So popular that you’ll never stand out from the crowd

 

BMW R1200GS (2004-2019) Prices

2004 R1200GS:

Replacement for the previous R1150 GS. Capacity increased from 1130cc to 1170cc, power up from 85bhp to 98bhp and, more importantly, weight was slashed by 30kg. Colours: red, yellow, blue.

2005 R1200GS:

No significant changes. Colours: red, yellow, grey, black.

2006 R1200GS/GSA:

1200 GSA launched, to replace the old 1150 GSA. Colours: red, yellow, grey, black (GS); black, silver, red (GSA).

2007 R1200GS/GSA:

New ABS II system introduced. Colours: yellow, red, black, (GS); white, black, silver (GSA)

2008 R1200GS/GSA:

Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) introduced, as well as Automatic Stability Control (ASC) traction control Colours: yellow, blue, silver, red (GS); white, black, red, silver (GSA)

2009 R1200GS/GSA:

No significant changes. Colours: yellow, blue, silver, red (GS); white, black, red, silver (GSA)

2010 R1200GS/GSA:

More powerful 108bhp, DOHC, 4-valve engine (first used in HP2 Sport) introduced, redline increased to 8500rpm. Internal exhaust flap to boost bottom end drive and reduce emissions. Colours: blue, black, red, white (GS); white, grey, red, black (GSA).

2011 R1200GS/GSA:

Colours: blue, black, red, white (GS); white, grey, red, black (GSA).

2012 R1200GS/GSA:

Colours: black, silver, white, red, blue (GS); black, red, white (GSA).

2013 R1200GS/GSA:

Liquid-cooled motor introduced, making 125bhp. GS heavily revised with new frame, styling and more tech. Adjustable seat height as well as factory lowering kit opened the GS up to an even larger market. Dynamic ESA introduced, plus 5 riding modes and integrated sat nav system. Overall weight up by just over 9kg Colours: blue, grey, red, black, (GS); black, graphite, white, red (GSA).

2014 R1200GS/GSA:

LED lights, keyless ignition, standard quickshifter, and anti-theft system adopted. Colours: blue, grey, red, black, (GS); black, graphite, white, red (GSA).

2015 R1200GS/GSA:

Colours: blue, grey, red, black, (GS); blue, red, black, grey, white (GSA).

2016 R1200GS/GSA:

Colours: blue, grey, red, black, (GS); blue, red, black, grey, white (GSA).

2017 R1200GS/GSA:

Engine tweaked to comply with Euro 4, offering improved fuel economy. TFT dashboard introduced. Adventure model now more popular than the standard GS. Transmission updated to reduce vibration and backlash. Colours: blue, grey, red, black, (GS); blue, red, black, grey, white (GSA).

2018 R1200GS/GSA:

Colours: blue, grey, red, black, (GS); blue, red, black, grey, white (GSA).

2019 R1200GS/GSA:

Colours: blue, grey, red, black, (GS); blue, red, black, grey, white (GSA).

R1200GS/GSA values: Rough £2000-£2500; Tidy £3800-£7500; Mint £8000-£10,500

*Values vary a lot, depending on model (GS or GSA), spec and year. Top dollar is for a late model, low mileage, fully spec’d GSA, with FSH.

 

 

BMW R1200GS (2004-2019) Engine and Performance

The shift from R1150 GS to R1200 GS was far more than a capacity hike. BMW went right through its boxer-twin unit to make it stronger, smoother, gruntier, more powerful and lighter. A full 13 kilos lighter, in fact.

Extending the stroke by 2.5mm lifted capacity from 1130cc to 1170cc. That and the fitment of lighter pistons, crank and gearbox internals – plus a new exhaust system that saved 3kg on its own – helped increase power and torque from 85 to 98bhp and 71lb.ft to just shy of 85. A new BMS-K engine management system provided more sophisticated control of fuelling and ignition, aiding fuel economy as well as response.

Staying ahead of the competition was crucial, however, so for 2013 BMW once again redesigned the R1200’s motor. Bore, stroke and capacity remained the same, but pretty much every other component was improved or upgraded. The most notable change was a move to liquid-cooling, but even then BMW boxed (sic) smart.

The move to liquid-cooling could have added unwanted weight to the engine, so BMW’s targeted use of the technology was particularly cunning. Liquid was used to cool just 35% of the engine (the most heat affected parts) leaving air and oil to manage the outstanding 65% of cooling duties. This allowed BMW to limit the amount of weighty coolant required, as well as the size of radiators needed.

Other changes included vertically split cases, a new crank, redesigned gearbox and slipper clutch, counter balancers and a ride-by-wire throttle – the latter opening the door for five riding modes, traction and cruise control. Output was raised to 125bhp and 92lb.ft. Performance is gutsy, particularly from the 2013-on models, with a far more sophisticated feel than previous GS models. Indeed, the second generation 1200 GS signifies the birth of the modern adventure bike – not just an awkward looking all terrain machine, but a slick, highly capable allrounder with the ability to be all things to pretty much all riders.

 

 

BMW R1200GS (2004-2019) Handling & Suspension

Shedding weight was a priority when BMW created the R1200 GS to replace the previous 1150. A hefty 13 kilos was trimmed from the boxer-twin engine, while a further 17kg was removed from the chassis and running gear. A new tubular steel frame, holding the engine at five different points, formed the backbone of the original 1200, while wider, lighter wheels (the rear alone weighs 1.6kg less than the equivalent 1150 part) allows greater tyre choice and reduced upsprung weight for sharper, more responsive handling.

The familiar Telelever/Paralever suspension was also put on a diet, with stronger yet lighter aluminium arms taking their place front and rear (the rear Paralever even featured a larger diameter hub hole to dissipate more heat than previously). Brakes got a makeover too, with BMW’s inhouse EVO system introduced for 2004 with integral ABS as an option – a system that allows ABS to be turned off when off-road. Steel brake lines were also standard fitment.

2013 not only saw the 1200 GS gain a hefty engine update, but a substantial chassis overhaul as well. An all-new frame – lighter and produced as a one-piece construction with a removeable rear subframe. Even more radical was the swap from right side to left of the Paralever shaftdrive to remove the chance of coming into contact with a hot exhaust system when pushing the bike. Dynamic ESA semi-active suspension was available an option from 2013 – a first for the GS range, while ABS equipped Brembo calipers took care of braking and wider 120/70 and 170/60 tyres further extended the GS’s potential as an on-tarmac weapon.

In terms of handling, feel, feedback and ease of control the GS really came into its own when appearing as a 1200 for the first time. But it’s the models from 2013 onwards that raised the bar to a level where the GS was then universally accepted as THE ultimate adventure bike of its time – a position made possible by continual and clever evolution.

 

 

BMW R1200GS (2004-2019) What to look for

Forks: BMW issued a global recall on late 2013 to mid-2017 models due to reports of 1200 GS fork tubes splitting away from their caps, thought to be the result of stress from off-road riding. Only a safety issue in extreme cases, but worth checking with BMW if a bike you’re looking at has been inspected and/or repaired.

Water pump: Slight weeping or sweating from the engine’s water pump is nothing to worry about, but puddles under the bike or substantial coolant loss could indicate that the water pump or its seal is on the way out.

Suspension: GS riders like to rack up big mileages, so early 1200s will likely be showing 50-60,000-plus on the clock. Original suspension will have lost much of its initial support – a rebuild/refresh is advisable in such cases, so bid accordingly. ESA equipped bikes require replacement units (rebuilds are not possible) so can be expensive to sort.

Brakes: Early 1200s come with servo assisted brakes; the servo units are known to fail over time. If there’s an issue, it should reveal itself on a test ride. ABS sensors can give up the ghost, too. Check the condition of the discs on high mileage bikes. Anything showing 50K plus shouldn’t still be on its original discs.

Final drive: BMW’s shaftdrive system is great, but it’s not maintenance free. Internal lube should be refreshed every 20,000 miles – some owners change it every 10K, and that’s a smart move. Check for oil leaks both where the shaft connects to the back of the transmission and also where it meets the rear hub; the internal seals can fail, as can their corresponding bearings. Check the unit for play – there should be no side-to-side movement. Repair can be horribly expensive.

Electrics: Early 1200 GSs will be 20 years old by now, so electrical gremlins are a potential pitfall of ownership. Kill switches can fail (jet-washing allows moisture an invite to corrode the internal contacts). Later models feature extra electronics, making failed sensors and poor earths even more of an issue. 2013 models can suffer from side stand switch failure (the bike won’t start), but this should have been addressed under warranty.

Gearbox: Can be stiff and hard to engage gears. Not a huge issue, and easy to spot if you get a test ride before buying. Clutch slippage/wear can also be a problem, but usually only on higher mileage bikes. If the clutch shows signs of wear on a test ride, haggle accordingly.

Fuel pump: A problem on bikes made between 2011-2014. Fuel pump units cracked due to the excess stress applied by a supporting washer. BMW issued a recall to sort the issue.

 

 

BMW R1200GS (2004-2019) Rivals

 

Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin, 2015 | Approx Price: £5800-£8000

Power/Torque: 94bhp/72lb-ft | Weight: 228kg

Agile adventure tool that’s capable on both road and dirt. Honda’s sohc parallel-twin motor has plenty of grunt (aided by the bike’s light weight), but is noticeably better in 1100 form. Doesn’t have the character or lineage of the GS, but looks great in HRC inspired red/white/blue with classy gold rims. Good value and also available with a semi-automatic DCT gearbox.

 

KTM 1290 Super Adventure S, 2015 | Approx Price: £8000-£10,000

Power/Torque: 160bhp/102lb-ft | Weight: 229kg

Proper adventure bike with superbike performance – KTM’s 1300cc V-twin engine is immense, packing 160bhp and over 100lb.ft. Comfortable, great two-up, and great fun through the twisties – the KTM’s chassis and WP suspension is superb – the 1290 S  is a strong competitor of the GS. Residual values aren’t as strong as the BMW, so bargains can be had. If you want to go off-road, get the R model.

 

Triumph Tiger 1200 Explorer, 2015 | Approx Price: £5000-£9500

Power/Torque: 135bhp/90lb-ft | Weight: 242kg

An accomplished adventure tool, but has a different feel to the GS; the Tiger carries its weight higher up than the well balanced GS, so isn’t as comfortable off-road as the BMW. Triumph’s 1200cc triple engine is a peach, however, with endless grunt throughout the range and a strong 135bhp top end. A superb long distance tourer, both solo and two-up, but not quite as polished as an all-rounder as the 1200 GS.

 

 

BMW R1200GS (2004-2019) Verdict

If you’re looking to experience the thrills of the adventure bike world for the first time, you could do a lot worse than start with a BMW R1200 GS. If anything, these well-proven boxer-twins are the perfect first-timer tools, offering an irresistible blend of rugged charm with mid-2000s tech in a package that’s still astonishingly capable both on and off road. For the money, the R1200 GS is nigh-on impossible to better.

 

 

BMW R1200GS (2004-2019) – Technical Specification

Original price

£9275

Current price range

£3800-£10,500

Capacity

1170cc

Bore x Stroke

101mm x 73mm

Engine layout

Air/oil-cooled, SOHC, 8v, boxer-twin

Power

98bhp (72kW) @ 7000rpm

Torque

84.8lb-ft (115Nm) @ 5500rpm

Top speed

132mph

Transmission

6-speed, dry, single-plate clutch, shaft final drive

Average fuel consumption

47 mpg

Tank size

20 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

207 miles

Reserve capacity

n/a

Rider aids

ABS

Frame

Steel backbone

Front suspension

Telelever with central spring strut

Front suspension adjustment

Adjustable preload

Rear suspension

Paralever single gas shock

Rear suspension adjustment

Adjustable preload, rebound damping

Front brake

2 x 305mm discs, 4-pot calipers

Rear brake

265mm disc, 2-pot caliper

Front tyre

110/80 19

Rear tyre

150/70 17

Rake/Trail

27.1°/ 101.6mm

Dimensions (LxWxH)

2210mm x 915mm x 1450mm

Wheelbase

1507mm

Ground clearance

195mm

Seat height

895-915mm

Wet weight

225kg

 

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