2006 BMW R1200GS versus 2008 BMW R1200GS Adventure

2006 BMW R1200GS versus 2008 BMW R1200GS Adventure

R1200GS 2008 Model Comparison With 2006 Model
By AndyC July2008
Check out Andy’s great website www.r1200gs.me.uk


Intro The Ride Electronics
Protection BMW Luggage Performance

Intro – the change from my 2006 GS to a new 2008 GSA
I have been lucky enough to have ridden a 2006 GS for two years and 20,000 miles before upgrading to the R1200GS Adventure in 2008. This entitles me to an opinion and I am happy to share it!

Unfortunately I am no professional bike tester, don’t have Dyno’s etc but I guess most of you reading this aren’t either!

The Adventure I ordered was specced with ESA, spotlights, on-board computer and full stainless steel luggage (it’s made by Touratech for BMW). I purposefully did not go for ASC or ABS – see ‘electronics’ for my reasons why!

The Ride
In a word – better (for me anyway, bearing in mind these things are somewhat subjective)

Comfort on the bike is generally superior. The seat seems more ‘spongy’ and you sink into it a little more than on the standard GS. The slope of the seat seems to pull you into the tank slightly more and my wife on the pillion seat said she felt the profile of the seat was such that she didn’t sit quite as flat but tilted forward which actually made the ride more comfortable pushing you into the seat rather than you sliding back- wards. Bear in mind it may be the suspension settings that are having an impact rather than just the seat.


The suspension on the adventure certainly seems a lot more ‘quality’ and it soaks up the bumps and surfaces with absolute pleasure. When on holiday in Europe recently I just took off across the cobbled streets in Bruge at about 40mph which it was just not possible for my mate on an R1100S behind me to do without shaking out his teeth.

The Adventure does of course carry a lot more weight than the old GS and I can feel this when tracking the sports bikes on the IAM rides and out on the road, but with the correct suspension settings (see the electronics section) I find it relatively easy to keep up, helped by the massive torque out of the corners.

Wind protection is probably the biggest step forward on this bike in terms of ride quality. You won’t find a need for bigger screens, tobinators or any such gadgets as I can quite easily ride with my visor up at 60mph and I am 6’1” tall, although I wouldn’t recommend this as there seems to be a small ‘vacuum’ effect which means that even though there is little breeze, any bug coming your way will get sucked up and over the screen and then dumped back on you full face!

The 2008 Adventure certainly raises the bar in terms of the electronics available on the bike although the first thing most people will ask will be concerning reliability on a bike that is supposed to tour the world (no BMW diagnostic testers in Nepal I believe!)

I didn’t spec ASC (stability / traction control) or ABS on the bike as I am a firm believer that they are not helpful enough to warrant the significant extra investment and seriously enhanced servicing costs. My thoughts over ABS are that there is no excuse for good riding and if you are having to lean on ABS you shouldn’t be on a motorcycle. Whilst ESA is a good idea and an excellent piece of technology similar concerns apply, if you are over the edge of adhesion on a motorcycle you belong on a race track or in a car. My other main concern over traction control is what happens when you borrow your mates bike that doesn’t have it and how it can ‘dull’ your senses as to the feedback from the motorcycle. This is just my opinion and yours is bound to be different and I accept that! The main pieces of electronics that I went for on the bike that are not on the old GS I traded in are the computer and the ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment).

This enhances the basic trip computer on the bike (which is still there) and replaces the main display with options for
1. Temperature sensor (ice warning)
2. Oil check (when bike is in idle and stationary only)
3. Miles per gallon (pretty accurate)
4. Average speed (when moving)
5. Tank range (this gets more accurate the more you ride)
None of which I would consider essential but gives you something to play with when on the bike. They are all accessed by pressing the ‘Info’ button on the left handlebar, holding the button down resets the setting.

Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA)
I love this feature and it really does work. I am no suspension expert and being able to dial in factory recommended settings for the ride you are doing is superb. There are two ways it works. Firstly you tell it the load on the bike (you must be stationary for this) and then the style of riding you want (can be changed on the move) and you can then feel the bike move underneath you as it settles it down to the correct settings.
Settings available are:
1. One-Up
2. One-Up with Luggage
3. Two-Up
These can all have ride style of comfortable, normal or sport
4. Light Offroad
5. Pyscho Offroad (their words not mine!)
and these can have ride styles of hard or soft.
From working with all the settings and having had a chance to use them all in their correct environment I would say that the BMW engineers have done an excellent job of covering the needs of 99% of all riders and it really does make a difference and has heightened my enjoyment of the bike. It’s not cheap, but then if you wanted cheap you would have bought a Hyosung or a Tenere!!

I did raise the question of reliability of the electronics on the GS as it is meant to be a round the world bike and I was assured (honestly) by a BMW mechanic I have known for a while that they are extremely reliable and will well outlast the life of the shock. Therein lies the rub – they are not cheap to replace as it only comes as a unit. The other downside is that you are stuck with original shocks, upgrading to Ohlins etc is not an option.

There has been a lot of discussion over the protection offered by the GS Adventure in terms of BMW original equipment compared to aftermarket parts.

This photo of my bike shows just about every piece of protection available. The screen and ‘winglets’ offer much better wind protection than previously and the hand protectors are different from the standard GS and also work well, although you may well want to tape up the vents in the winter to reduce the breeze over your hands.
The engine bars are fairly minimalist but sturdy and combined with the cylinder head covers give a broad range of protection which I can’t see many of us wanting to step beyond. The other big differences are in terms of the foot pegs that are all metal on the GS Adventure with a rear brake lever that can flip over for off-road riding. You get a lot extra on the Adventure for less than it would cost you to add the parts aftermarket to a standard R1200GS although you obviously don’t have the range of choice.

BMW Luggage
The phrase ‘kitchen sink’ comes to mind but then you’ve probably all seen ‘Long Way Down’ or the far superior ‘Long Way Round’!

Here she is all loaded up for a trip to Donington MotoGP 2008 with tent, sleeping bags, roll mats, cooker, clothes and everything we need to camp, cook and eat for two days – even including the stools to sit on!


The panniers are excellent. I do miss the fact they don’t expand or contract like the standard GS panniers but this is more than made up for by their strength and the luggage strapping points which makes attached anything on top a breeze. They are also rated to a much higher speed (180kmh). I purchased the inner bag for the top box (£50) which is superb and can strap directly to the panniers or where the pillion seat goes with the included connectors.

The top bag is a direct transfer from the standard GS – just about the only thing I never sold and this is powered by a Powerlet connecter. The additional power socket has only just become available as of writing this and installing it will feature imminently in the upgrades section.

I suppose the obvious question is, if you want a performance bike then why did you buy a a BMW R1200GS Adventure?

The fact is that the 1200GS in all its incarnations surprises a lot of people with just how quick, nimble and aggressive it can be if pushed a little. The 2006 GS was a superb ride and could be chucked around with ease if wanted.

The 2008 Adventure is a fair bit heavier but to counter this the ESA means it is set up correctly most of the time and the extra 10% power from the engine (not sure they have redesigned it much – to me it just appears they are letting it now rev to 7-800rpm more than previously) counteracts this to give a ride that I don’t find to far removed from the older GS.

Acceleration is good and the machine will wheelie with ease in the first three gears if the weight is back and caution needs to be exercised with full panniers or you can give yourself a fright. Top speed is around 130mph (that’s German efficiency for you as the speedo only goes just past that) but the key feature of the bike is the torque and acceleration that will pace a Fireblade from 0-60, only the gear change letting them get away as the BMW needs second gear to make it. Cornering is surprisingly good and I have now used Bridgestone Battlewings and both types of Metzeler Tourance (go for the non-EXP’s! as the mileage is much better on the rear) with no loss of confidence on the bike. I would say the Tourances marginally shade it in the wet but the Battlewings will still not disappoint.