Rhisiart’s Beamer – Rhisiart talks about his latest bike the BMW R1200GS
By Rhisiart ap Gwilym (South wales Advanced motorcyclist)~ March 2005Source: www.s-w-a-m.org.uk
I’ve been asked by the higher echelons of the SWAM club to explain why on earth I chose to buy and ride my current bike, a BMW R1200GS, as apparently it has been spoiling several club photographs 🙂 So, to keep these statesmen happy, here’s the explanation…
The Return to Cymru
When we returned mid 2003 from living in New Zealand, we shipped over my Yamaha R6 so that it could be treated to some proper roads – yes, the roads in New Zealand are as good as they are reported to be with little traffic but I can promise you that the roads here in Cymru are much better, in my opinion.
Having been away for only three years, it was a bit of a shock to see how much the sports bike culture had moved on in Britain. I was now embarrassed not only to owning such a bike but also because I wore the same Power Rangers outfit, though I must admit that I was not one of the speed-hump brigade!
Each time I overtook a car, no matter how considerate, I always felt the eyes of the driver burning into the back of my helmet thinking that I was potentially just like the other riders who had recently overtaken on a blind bend at warp factor ten, scraping their titanium elbow/knee/toe sliders before air-shifting up a gear and accelerating down the next straight with their Power Commander controlled scream of their loud can – of course all this while spinning-up the rear wheel. Oh I can hear the stories in the pub already 😉
What makes me laugh now about the above scenario is that Power Ranger could well find him/herself being effortlessly pursued by a Police motorcyclist in their mandatory sit-up-and-beg riding position without even realising it. Still, that’s another story…
So, I decided that perhaps now was the time to change my bike and opt for something more suitable and perhaps more sensible. At first I bought a new Honda VFR 800 but the fancy VTEC gadgetry just got on my nerves when it kicked in at around 7,000 rpm. Ahem, yes I did buy a lovely looking Buell XB12R but with a clutch lever as strong as a Ford Capri leaf spring, I decided it had to go. Besides, I couldn’t see myself traveling too far with a 100 mile fuel range, a pillion and no luggage capability, though to be fair that was not my intention when I bought it.
The World of Honda and BMW
Despite the appearance of SWAM being sponsored by Honda UK, judging by the number of Pan-European’s being ridden, there are a number of quality alternatives amongst the other members. One such bike is the BMW R1150RT being ridden by two of our Observers (matching clothes; matching colour scheme; matching accessories; matching tread depth; matching level of corrosion; matching choked engines as they don’t go above 56 mph, etc.). Still, their faults aside, I figured I’d take one for a test ride until I read how heavy they were. As my garage floor is not made of reinforced Kryptonite, I opted for one of BMW’s somewhat lighter bikes – the R1100S. Not wanting to put potential owners of a R1100S off or to annoy current owners, I’ll just say I didn’t like it and leave it at that.
The Tractor 🙂 – R1200GS
Having heard a fellow SWAM member comment on his recent test ride of an R1150GS – between the froth of excitement and swear words, I could tell that Gregory liked it – I decided to try the new R1200GS out for size. Well, for a start it was too tall as my well formed short legs were unable to touch the ground so they sourced from somewhere a super-low seat for me to make it ride-able. After a short debrief of how to use the infamous indicators, we set off, two-up, for a test ride along unknown roads.
The Test Ride
I was immediately impressed with the amount of torque from idle upwards, especially compared to a sports bike but still not the same killer torque league as the litre bikes. Nevertheless, rapid, effortless progress was easily made through the traffic helped with the high-visibility riding position. The bike was able to absorb all sorts of bumps, poor surfaces, etc. as you would expect of a bike of this nature and the fact that Amanda was riding pillion didn’t seem to affect the ride at all. From idle it would accelerate, through the gears, at a fair lick of speed (faster than you would ride on a day to day basis anyway) and would satisfy any potential speed craving I may have. Sure, it won’t keep up with the sports bikes beyond sensible speeds but this bike isn’t meant for the track.
Back at the dealership, I was happy to immediately part with the deposit but thought it would be interesting to take the same route again, two-up, but this time on my VFR as a comparison.
When I sat on the Honda, it felt like a mini-moto – so small in comparison. When I tell you that the Honda felt big in comparison to my previous R6 you can imagine what the difference must have been like! The Japanese mechanical symphony had replaced the tractor characteristics of the GS but did not make it a better bike to ride.
Along the road out of Cardiff, the bike felt as if it wanted to shoot off instead of just biding it’s time. Riding along in a higher gear would have sorted that problem out but would have reduced rider control. Out on the open road the VTEC gadgetry had its chance to impress us with its burst of speed but in reality hampered us as it lurched forwards before we had to back off as the road was too rough. The GS, by comparison, was able to ride through the bumps and rough surfaces while still accelerating under full control.
Back at the dealer I left the deposit for the next GS to arrive (6 month waiting list at the time) and left for home to advertise the Honda.
The bike has since arrived and having covered just less than 2,000 miles, I can say that out of all the bikes that Amanda and I have owned (Honda CBR-F 600, Kawasaki ZX-9R C2/E1, Yamaha R6, Buell XB12R, Honda VFR VTEC, Aprilia RS125, Honda CBR-RR 250) this is the best bike of them all:
- It’s practical
- Can ride on rough car parks where Pan Europeans need a crane to navigate
- Looks so ugly that it doesn’t need washing
- No chain to maintain
- Doesn’t have a sports bike image so not expected to go fast
- Great luggage
Few body panels so most of bike is exposed allowing a careful eye to be kept out for corrosion (so far none but I’ve been dunking the bike on a regular basis in a certain off-the-shelf product – better not mention it here in case I get a slap. Besides, they’re not paying me to advertise. Feel free to ask though!)
However, it’s not all good:
Costs a fair bit to buy in the first place. When it rains, the water runs along the cylinder head cooling fins before forming torrents of water aimed directly at my shins. When coupled with BMW Rallye II trousers, the water goes straight through and into my boots. Obviously, wind/weather protection is not that good due to the nature of the bike but at normal speeds the elements are comfortable.
As you can see, there’s not much to fault it (and there are solutions:-) but I suppose it’s horses for courses. It’s great for what I want it for, which is for all sorts of riding – slow, fast, observing, touring, lugging luggage around, pillion, etc.
The plan now is to take it around Iceland – I don’t think you could take a Pan around there, though I’m sure John’s Starship Enterprise shod with a set of knobblies might do the trick 😉