- 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350
- 2013 Audi A4 allroad
- BMW HP4 the World’s Lightest 4-Cylinder 1000cc Sport Bike
Anyone who’s stopped by the kilometer offices knows there are always several nice bikes on hand. Ducatis, Triumphs and BMWs dominate, but there are even a couple old Hondas around that we don’t much talk about. Needless to say, when someone here gets an itch to ride, there are usually options. The most popular, you ask? Hands down, our long-term 2010 BMW R1200GS.
When it first showed up, it seemed like a hulk compared to some of the smaller, lighter bikes we were used to. But universally, one good initiation ride calmed all concerns over its rideability. With the low center of gravity afforded by the boxer engine, it turned out to be a much better handler than expected. And perhaps because ours arrived fitted with the lowest possible seat height, it never felt top-heavy when stopped; even our shortest riders were able to put two feet down at rest.
Good riding days in the Midwest can be few and distant. With its large windscreen, heated grips and handlebar shields, the R1200GS extended the riding season by a few weeks, at least for the heartier among us. Much to our own surprise, we found ourselves riding it well into the fall season last year, a good month or more later than most of the other bikes here saw duty.
Helping its case as a daily commuter was the addition of aftermarket panniers for toting computer and camera gear home. While a backpack strapped easily to the rear parcel mount, adding the boxes vastly increased the bike’s functionality, especially when the weather proved to be unpredictable, as it did on several occasions. This setup also proved valuable for storing riding gear when we arrived at a couple more formal events, like the BMW Championship golf outing last September, where arriving by bike helped commandeer a choice (and highly coveted) parking space near the main entrance; not having to walk around the golf club in riding gear (or worry about where to store it) on a late-summer afternoon was priceless.
In its time with us, the R1200GS averaged about 42 mpg, and in the course of the 3500 or so miles we had it, it consumed a couple quarts of oil. It left us with 3817 miles on its odometer, and the service indicator alerted us of a pending visit right before it went away.
Our one regret in the year we had is that we never had a chance to go off-road with the GS. Our hope was to get to one of BMW’s motorcycle training courses at its Performance Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina, for a bit of proper instruction on one of the school bikes, and then eventually take what we had learned and do some further skills development on our own. We even lined up some proper off-road gear from BMW’s catalog.
While we had intended to use the TrailGuard two-piece suit ($1048) for off-roading, it turned out to be a pretty decent all around riding suit for on-road as well. The jacket features large, flexible armor for the back and shoulders, and generous, easily-accessible pockets. The right sleeve even contains a phone pocket, perfectly sized for an iPhone, with internal shielding to deflect radio waves from the body. The pants, likewise, contain numerous large pockets and appropriate armoring in the hips, shins and knees. Both pieces feature multiple zippered vents for when the riding gets warm, and the upper and lower pieces can be zipped together to form a more weathertight one-piece arrangement. Unfortunately, the suit is not waterproof out of the box, as zip-in Gore-Tex liners must be added. Those, however, did not become available until after last season’s riding time, so we never tested them. The bike may be gone, but we’re holding onto the suit and hope to report back on the waterproof liners at a later time.
The R1200GS made a huge impression on the entire staff here. Despite its size and power, it’s a gentle giant to ride, and was easily the most comfortable bike in our stable for a long-distance excursion. It will be missed. In the meantime, a new F800GS has arrived; we’ll just have to wait and see if it’s as endearing.