Last updated March 27, 2017
The linformation below was written in 2005 and is now out of date.
Above: a new ocean blue metallic 2005 R1200GS equipped with the R1200GS's new saddlebags, cylinder protection bars, and R1200GS tank bag (left, in Tucson) and with an R1150GS tank bag and Cee Bailey leather saddle (right, in Madison). For more information on tank bags, click here: tank bagsa PDF file. The photo on the right shows PIAA 510 driving lights installed. The black saddles and side panels are distinct from the gray versions sold on European R1200GSs.
I have been riding BMW and other motorcycles for about 40 years. Over the years I have owned and ridden over 50 different BMW motorcycles. Without a doubt, the R1200GS is the most delightful motorcycle I have ever ridden. Why? It's the combination of power (torque), light weight, handling, suspension, brakes, and off-road capability. Together they make a motocycle that is fun and exciting to ride.
Photo above: Here I am riding the R1200GS on a rocky Arizona back trail near Gardner Canyon north of Sonoita. The GS is in its element here, but for me, at my off-road skill level, it really isn't suited for trails much worse than this one. (Photo by Jim Strang.)
In 2004, the R1200GS was named Bike of the Year by Motorcyclist magazine and Open Class Street Bike of the Year by Cycle World magazine, and was presented the Gold Award by the Industrial Design Society of America. In June 2005, Rider magazine named the R1200GS Motorcycle of the Year. In September 2005, Motorcyclist magazine named the R1200GS the Best Adventure Bike of 2005 and named the R1200RT the Best Touring Bike.
My early impressions? This is the neatest motorcycle engine I have ever experienced, subsequently equalled by the R1200RT. Very smooth (counter balance shaft and calibrated counter weight, counter balance shaft drive gears, crankshaft, and integrally counter-weighted flywheel), torquey (85 lbs./ft), and powerful (100 HP). The transmission (all helical cut gears) shifts like a sharp knife through warm butter. The bike is much lighter than the R1150GS that I traded in for it. With its light weight and more powerful engine this motorcycle is a blast to ride. The power assisted ABS brakes, of course, are fantastic and they are only partially integrated on this bike so the rear brake pedal operates only the rear brake. The only change I would wish for would be an electrically adjustable windshield, something like the one found on the R1150RT. I really love that feature.
New owners of the R12GS, take heed: Your speedometer may be quite accurate! It may not offer the ± 5 MPH speed cushion at highway speeds you are used to on BMW motorcycle models since 1969. The speedo on my R12GS reads 70 MPH at a true 69.5 MPH, as checked by a GPS unit. Other owners report similar results.
Here are some of the key changes from the 2004 R1150GS to the 2005 R1200GS. Horsepower is up 18% from 85 to 100 HP. Torque is up 20% from 71 to 85 foot-pounds. Weight is down from 536 to 496 pounds. Displacement is up from 1140 to 1170cc. Alas, alternator output is down 14% from 700 watts to 600 and fuel capacity is down 10% from 5.8 to 5.2 gallons. Later R1150GSs had power assisted brakes, like the 1200GS, but the early ones did not. The R1200GS comes with stainless steel brake lines.
BMW has introduced the second in the so-called hex-head series of boxer engined motorcycles after the R1200GS. It's the R1200RT, which is designed to replace the legendary middle-weight sport-tourer, the R1150RT.
Photo above: Here is Cee Bailey's leather saddle for the R1200GS it is a huge improvement over the stock saddle! Before I got this saddle, I could barely ride the R1200GS for 100 miles; now that limitation is gone.
I have also installed on my R1200GS blackTouratech handlebar risers (photo below, left) that elevate the handlebars. They bring the bars up one inch to a more suitable location for me.
I made an alternative tank bag for the R1200GS by converting an R1150GS tank bag to fit the R1200GS (see photo below, right). The earlier tank bag is smaller and has stiff sides, which allow a BMW electrification to fit easily. (The GPS behind the tank bag is attached to the handlebars, not the bag.)
Some lesser known facts for owners: Electronically, this is a very complex motorcycle. You can't just add lights on a whim. If I add PIAA or other driving lights, I would have to wire them with their own separate switch directly to its new AGM battery. I cannot wire through the ignition. I assume the aftermarket will come up with something someday.
Kisan is working on a beta version of its pathBlazer headlight modulator to be available shortly. To see if it is available or to find the part number for any motorcycle Click Here for a PDF file. This bike and the R1200RT could drive aftermarket electronics folks nuts!