I'm amazed to see there's no catagory for the R1200GS yet. It's one of those love/hate bikes, a giant trailie with an odd engine and whacky suspension, to match it's strange appearance. Not to mention the odd but useful indicator switches (one on each hand, and a cancel switch on the right) and the maintainence free shaft drive. Thing is, love it or hate it, you can't ignore it's presence in the motorcycling world.
The R1200GS came out in 2004, replacing the old workhorse R1150GS. Since then BMW have improved it marginally each year, and now the latest 2008 models offer in incredible array of accessories, from heated grips, electronic suspension adjustment from the flick of a switch, all sorts of luggage options, and satelite navigation and ABS, to name a few!
I own a 2005 model, and absolutely adore it. The front telelever suspension takes some getting used to as there's not as much feel as you'd find from normal forks, but once you've built up some confidence you really start to notice how agile and unstoppable this bike really is.
Well, I say unstoppable, but that's actually far from the case. The Servo assisted brakes have had some negative comments about worries for failure and lack of feel, but again it's something to get used to, and once you are you'll amaze yourself with how much stopping power there is when you need to slam the anchors on.
The engine is quirky, but lovable. It's a flat 2 cylinder air/oil cooled lump, which means you've got cylinder heads poking out either side. Fear not though, the pegs will hit the deck before the cylinders, and if you feel so fit, your knee will hit before the pegs. You get around 100BHP from the engine, which is ample due to the gearing, which means you can quite happily wheelie off the throttle in 1st and 2nd. The only bad thing about it is the stock exhaust, which tends to make it sound pretty muffled and boring. Stick a full Remus system on there and you'll be laughing, as it sounds great, takes away some weight and gives you a bit more power.
The sound is classic flat twin, popping on the overrun, growling at full throttle and purring inbetween.
The handling is what suprises most. The bike weighs 200kg dry, but holds that weight so well, and thanks to all that whacky suspension gubbins, a well ridden GS will see off a sportsbike on any terrain other than the track, though it'll do well there too.
It's comfortable, though I did have to change the seat on mine to one made by Sargent, as it was becoming painful after an hour or so, but that's a matter of personal opinion really, much like the screen, which I find quite good. You're well protected in the rain anyway.
The R1200GS isn't without it's faults though. The gearbox is typical BMW, a bit clunky and has a tendancy to find neutral if you don't really boot it into second. Also with all that techno wizardry, mine has seen the inside of the dealership a few times. Every time it has been repaired under warranty and I've had a loan bike, but still it's a bit annoying. Most of the faults are really simple though, and I think I may have just been unlucky.
Overall, I'd say this is just about the perfect bike for all occasions. It's fast, fun and comfortable, and offers great offroading capabilities. BMW also have just about the best aftersales package that you can get on a bike, so you're well covered should anything go wrong. They also love to give test rides, so if you're considering it, go and have a try. You might get hooked though, so don't say I didn't warn you!