I just got back from the BMW R1200 GS Adventure press launch technical briefing where BMW product managers reviewed what is new on the 2014 R1200GS Adventure. Of course most people know about the motor changes. But in fact there are a host of changes to the bike – some big, some minor in detail. I am writing this late into the night to get this info out quickly to you our readers. Tomorrow we ride the bikes and will have the ability to report back how these new features work in a real world situation. Sergio Carvajal, Product Manager for the GS, provided most of the technical presentation. These are my notes from the meeting. Hopefully all the details are correct. If I find something wrong I will correct later.
Most of the changes in the R1200 GS are related to the engine. As most readers know, BMW came out with a new engine for the boxer in 2013. This new boxer motor features water cooled heads and of course a radiator to cool the water. The cylinders are still oil and air cooled. The new cooling allows BMW to bump the peak horsepower on the bike to 125 ponies, but more importantly, increases the torque and horsepower curve across the range with an emphasis on low end power. The airflow of the engine is downdraft, with the intake ports now on the top of the cylinders and the valve mechanism at the front. The intake has a straight flow into the cylinder and the machining is simpler, reducing weight and increasing horsepower. The exhaust is now routed out the bottom of the cylinders rather than the front, while the intake is on the top. This means your feet and shins no longer bump into the intake manifold.
Some of the stated advantages of the new vertical flow ride-by-wire system according to the BMW press release:
- Throttle body repositioning opens more space for the rider legs
- Single spark system (dual spark no longer needed)
- 15º reduced throttle twist angle (85º to 70º)
- Lighter throttle effort
- No cable friction
- Engine adapts to outside conditions
- Synchronization of throttles no longer needed
For the Adventure model, BMW increased the crank weight by 2 lbs, which in turn increased the crankshaft inertia by 20%. This helps provide the Adventure smoother low end power deliver when you are crawling through rough, rocky terrain. “I felt the throttle on the new standard model R1200GS was hard to modulate” said Bill Dragoo, frequent contributor to our publication and 2010 BMW GS Trophy rider. “It felt very peaky off-road.” Supposedly this increased flywheel mass will make the Adventure easier to handle in the tight stuff.
A new gearbox in the standard GS improves shifting and shortens the length of the engine front to back. The new Adventure model comes with shift-assist, which means you don’t need to pull in the clutch to downshift. The gearbox is integrated into the engine for the first time in a boxer motor, rather than being a separate component like on a Harley Davidson. The engine and gearbox share engine lubrication, making maintenance even easier.
A change I noticed on the bike was the move of the oil filter to the left side of the engine vs the bottom. Not sure how this is going to work out, but it still looked quite easy to change the oil the boxer motor. One of my pet peeves on new motorcycles is the difficulty of oil changes and valve adjustments. The boxer motor has always been one of the easiest motors to maintain in my opinion (other than that clutch, which is now much easier). No need for expensive trips to the dealer for simple tasks such as changing the oil and adjusting the valves.
Another change for the Adventure model is that the gearing of the bike is the same as for the standard GS. Past R1200GS Adventures had a lower first gear to provide more torque right off idle when riding off-road. The new motor has more power, negating the need for the lower first gear.
The new GS motor also features “ride by wire” technology. There is no direct throttle linkage to the intake. This reduces throttle friction and eliminates the need to lubricate your throttle. Of course the downside is your bike is even more dependent on computer electronics – a common issue with newer bikes.
Of course the most noticable change is water cooling. This adds horsepower, torque, and overall engine performance, yet comes with a tradeoff – radiators.
Most newer adventure bikes already have water cooling and radiators, but one of the major draws of the older GS bikes was the lack of water cooling and radiators. The new radiators sit high on the front of the bike but we are not yet convinced the benefit of water cooling outweighs the benefit of simplicity. More on this later.
The GS Adventure sports nice built in engine guards, but the what is up with the skid plate? It looks like it belongs on a motocross bike, not a 550 lb dirt bike that will be banging against rocks. If you plan to do much off-road riding at all, plan on adding an aftermarket skid plate to protect those very expensive parts hanging from the underside of your motor. You have been warned. The cylinder head crash bars are nicely done and seem to provide adequate protection.
New Wet Clutch
A big change for people who take their Adventures off-road is the addition ofa wet clutch mounted to the front of the engine. According to Todd Anderson, VP of Marketing for BMW, the clutch can now be changed by simply removing the front engine cover and changing the clutch like a conventional motorcycle, rather than splitting the cases to replace the dry clutch in past GS bikes. Since riding a big GS off-road requires clutch finesse (and the associated wear) this is a welcome addition for any adventure rider.
Air Intake moved
One major benefit of the new boxer engine is the air intakes have been moved high onto the motorcycles. Anyone who has ridden a 1200 GS across a stream knows they were prone to engine flooding from the low intakes. Now, like a land rover with a snorkel attached, the new GS Adventure should be less prone to water getting into the engine during creek crossings. This is a noticeable improvement in our eyes.
Removable rear foot pegs
The GS Adventure offers removable rear foot pegs. We are not sure how important this is in the scheme of things, but a nice to have option.
Another major change to the bike was the switch from an injection molded fuel tank to an aluminum fuel tank. The reason given by BMW was to increase fuel capacity because of the thinner walls of the tank, and the ease with which complex curves could be molded into the tank, resulting in more knee space. The new GS Adventure carries almost one gallon less fuel than the prior model, but BMW claims because of the improved efficiency of the bike it gets about the same mileage range as the prior GS Adventure – close to 435 miles. Of course, in their presentation they also claimed the GS Adventure achieved 55 mpg as compared to 51 mpg for the older GS Adventure. I am not sure where those numbers came from, because I typically get 35-40 mpg on my 2008 GS Adventure when ridden at a moderate pace.
The benefit that I saw of the new tank is in the thinner profile of the bike. The new GS Adventure seems much thinner at the seat/tank junction, both in the frame and at the fuel tank. This will make the bike much easier to ride off-road and make the seat height not seem quite as tall. Our first ride is tomorrow so we will see on that point.
The potential downside of the tank becomes the ease at which it can be damaged. The old injection molded tanks were bullet proof. The new ones, not so much. They seem as if they can be easily dented. Time will tell if this is a good move.
Also new to the GS is a small storage tank on the top of the fuel tank. This is a pretty tiny space, just big enough for earplugs or maybe a small set of sunglasses. An iPhone 5 won’t fit in the space, so you know it is small.
One big change that mostly goes unnoticed is the change in the frame geometry on this new Adventure. First up, all R1200GS bikes feature the new engine, which is smaller and more compact. This allowed frame designers to move the rear swing arm pivot forward 2 inches. Designers kept the same wheelbase by lengthening the swing arm. This was first pioneered in MotoGP bikes and the improved handling from this long swing arm strategy has trickled down a bike that is as far removed from MotoGP as whale is from a barracuda.
The Adventure stands out from the standard GS with a steeper steering head angle for quicker handling. The bike has 0.8 inch more suspension travel than the standard GS so the decreased steering head angle keeps the handling quick like the standard GS. Yet this steeper head angle could result to less stability, both off-road and on the highway with a heavy load on the rear of the bike. To compensate, BMW engineers installed an integral nonadjustable steering damper as standard equipment on the Adventure. This helps keep the bike stable at high speeds even with a load.
The frame on the GS has been changed to a continuous tubular steel bridge-type frame with a bolt on sub-frame and the aforementioned removable foot pegs. The rear subframe and easily be removed and replaced in case of damage. The overall frame is substantially stiffer than the older GS frame for improved handling and better road feel. Of course you may need to be Valentino Rossi to notice this improved handling, but still, it is there.
What IS more noticeable to the average GS Adventure rider is that the frame is narrower in the seat/knee/saddle area. I haven’t ridden the bike yet so can’t speak on that, but I know that will be a much anticipated change. That should help the bike feel less tall when stopped, and easier to handle while standing and riding in rough terrain. I personally like to control the bike with my knees and feet while riding off-road in difficult terrain, and hopefully this slimmer profile makes it feel closer to a “skinny bike” – although I doubt anyone would ever mistake the big GS Adventure for a skinny dirt bike!
To go along with the new frame, the GS Adventure sports wider front and rear cross-spoke wheels and tires – 120/70 x 19 up front and 170-60 x 17 out back. I personally love the GS Adventure tubeless wheel design. It is much easier to repair most flats with a tubeless tire, especially when out on the trail in the middle of Wyoming on a hot summer day with flies buzzing around your head and buzzards circling overhead in anticipation of your failure to get your bike fixed. Changing tires is also easy for anyone with just a bit of mechanical skills.
There are a LOT more changes to the bike, especially in the area of electronics. I am running out of time to get this first report out to you. I will cover the new electronics after I have had a chance to ride the bike, which is in about an hour. Stay tuned.