BMW’s R1150GS is one of the most popular big trailie bikes on the market, combining real world ability with excellent re-sale values, to please many long distance, high mileage riders.
Now there’s an Adventure option, for those brave enough to tackle some gentle off-roading, or perhaps an excursion to a remote part of the world. Alastair Walker takes a ride up Frodsham Hill – it’s a Mini Adventure.
Let’s start with the obvious; this is one seriously big bike. I mean, when parked on its main stand, the handlebars were level with my shoulders. When I did clamber aboard, I found I was sat high enough to see over the top of MPV type vehicles (posh vans to you and me) in traffic…in fact I considered riding right over some confused muppet in a Previa near Doncaster.
Fact is, on a bike this rugged, you probably would have a decent chance of tackling obstacles that big, as this is one superbly made long distance, all terrain vehicles. Very much a two-wheeled Range Rover.
Like its touring orientated brother, the stock 1150GS, the Adventure has the classic flat twin engine, tick-tocking away beneath it, making useful lunge from 3,000rpm upwards. Peak power is the same as the regular GS, at around 85bhp, but the Adventure has a lower 1st and 6th gear ratios, to make it feel a bit snappier in its pick-up. The big GS always was one of the few bikes I could wheelie and now they’ve made it easier – nice work boys!
The bike does pitch up and down a bit in traffic now, which is a consequence of the longer travel suspension on the Adventure. You can tighten things up with a pre-load screw adjustment if you like, but the bike is still pretty adept at the twisty stuff, so long as you put some work into it. It’s a top heavy bike, but it can handle the twisty stuff surprisingly well.
CAN YOU HANDLE A BIT OF ROUGH?
Well, usually on a Friday night, I’m up for anything in white go-go boots…sorry, I wandered off for a moment there.
Well, the BMW looks like a trail bike, has a name like trail bike, so I decided to go off-road to do some pictures, near some scenic cliffs. A bold move, as it turned out, because the bike is very tricky to ride at low speeds on rocky sections, with the fattest gas tank I have ever seen, which made picking a path close to the edge a bit scary.
If you maintain momentum, the GS Adventure is great along sandy or gravel trails, so long as the ruts aren’t too deep. Get up on the pegs, use the torque of the engine and make sure that any gaps in the scenery are big enough for those wide handlebars – the rest will follow. You can switch off the ABS brakes too, which you need to do, as the front discs can `grab’ a little bit at low speeds on the road.
But the bike is basically too tall and too heavy for serious off-roading. You can’t afford to crash this bike into a ditch – the thing would turn your leg into Pot Noodle if it landed on it. Even if you bailed out early, it would take at least two of you to get the thing upright again. It’s so heavy, it made my Tiger 900 feel like an XR400 by comparison.
So it looks funky, but my advice is, make sure you have your `Mini Adventure’ on the road, not off it, for this bike remains a long distance tourer, dressed up as trail bike.
ARE YOU EXPERIENCED?
I only ask because my gut feeling is that anyone who lacks total confidence in their low speed, or bike-pushing ability, will come a cropper with the Adventure. It takes a careful eye, good balance and that key element, confidence, to manhandle the beast.
At 5 foot 8ins, I was too short to `paddle’ the bike whilst sitting astride it. So I had to get off, place a hand on the redesigned saddle, then push it around, before carefully jumping aboard and hanging half off the saddle, just to balance the bike with one leg. You find yourself planning to `catch’ traffic lights on green, because the Beemer is a tricky machine to keep upright.
If I’m putting some of you off the bike, then good. This isn’t an all-rounder like a Suzuki Bandit, or Honda CBR600, which anyone can jump on and feel at home within twenty seconds. It takes real skill, practice and a determination to plan your riding, to get the very best from the big Adventure.
But this is why the bike attracts such a devoted fan base – once you have mastered something so weird looking, so intimidating, then you feel King of the Road. Nothing can stop you riding to Alaska and back before next Christmas, except your credit card limit. The big GS rapidly becomes a multi-purpose tool, which unpicks the locks on your biking life.
If I had to spend my own cash, I would buy one. No question. A glance at the prices which dealers are getting away with charging for used examples, is all the proof you need, especially in age when residual values on most motorcycles plummet faster than the Baghdad Footsie 100.
But here’s some more good reasons why this bike may be one of the few machines you would want to hang onto, for the duration of the finance agreement, and beyond;
Shaft drive. I can’t tell you how sick I am of seeing Victorian drive chains on 21st century touring motorcycles. One up for all BMW owners.
It handles well. Not like a Ducati obviously, but the Adventure has stability, poise, balance, at speeds from 20mph to 120mph. That chassis looks odd, but it works.
Two people fit this bike. Yep, two middle-aged people, plus luggage, can actually fit onto this bike, without the pillion passenger having to learn tantric yoga to survive a day trip to Llandudno. Marvellous stuff.
It makes you smile every time you fire the button. This is a Tonka toy, a leisure time machine, an iron horse, all rolled into one. Whether you want to cross continents, or commute to work, the GS Adventure makes a massive statement to the rest of the world and you feel good, feel alive, each time you ride it.
BECAUSE I’M WORTH IT
OK you’re thinking, this bike sounds fun, but it’s three grand more than an R6, my mates will call me an old man and my new bike will be compared to the legendary ugly tree of Uglyville-on-Sea…which is near Hull I believe. Very true and on the downside, you also really need to stump up more cash for some extras to make this Adventure package really work for you.
For example, metal panniers which look like Army surplus ammunition cases will cost you £540 – a disgrace quite frankly. Heated grips are standard fit, which is nice, but if you want a top box, that’s another £240. Oh and add £50 for inner bags for your panniers, or top box. How BMW can justify these prices is beyond me, but people pay them, probably because they want to feel they’ve invested in something unique, bespoke, a real quality option. Which the GS Adventure is, but still, I reckon an intercontinental tourer should come with luggage, end of chat.
I’ll be the first to admit that the bike deserves its success, because it is so damn good at eating up miles, whilst leaving you utterly relaxed, ready for more. If there’s a trip you always promised yourself, or you’ve finished with all the race rep posing because your spine is begging for mercy, then the big GS Adventure could be a life-changing motorcycle.
A five star ticket to the other side of the world.
Get BMW bike insurance for the bmw r1150gs adventure.
|Engine||Flat twin, air cooled, four stroke, four valves per cylinder|
|Carbs||Digital fuel injection|
|Rear suspension||Paralever, incorporating final drive|
|Brakes||Twin Brembo 305mm front discs, single 276mm rear disc, switchable ABS|
|Fuel capacity||30 litres|
|Price||8500 OTR April 2003|
|Colours||Black or Silver|
|Options||Optional luggage, clothing, etc|