2012 BMW R1200GS spied with water cooling

Dailies -



MCN scooped this spy photo of the 2012 BMW R1200GS being loaded into a van outside a BMW facility in Munich. Previous shots had already suggested water cooling, but this photo appears to confirm it. How? Check out the exhaust headers, which now exit underneath the cylinders — an arrangement facilitated by the increased cooling capacity — and if you squint just right, that might be a radiator fan in one of the front cowl holes. Other changes include radial brakes, and swapped sides for the paralever rear suspension/swingarm and exhaust can. But why is BMW switching from rugged, simple air-cooling on its adventure flagship to more finicky, vulnerable water cooling?

Motorcycle emission standards are being dramatically tightened in Europe over the next  few years. Bikes currently need to meet the Euro III standard while cars are tasked with Euro V. Euro IV is being rolled out to motorcycles in 2012 and Euro V in 2015. Current proposals have that changing dramatically by 2020, with both cars and bikes needing to meet the even tougher Euro VI standard that year. Emissions standards in the rest of the world, including the US, are also expected to tighten over the next decade.

BMW’s air-cooled boxer engine is already stretched to deliver competitive power levels while meeting Euro III standards, so liquid-cooling is needed to maintain or increase performance while decreasing noise and pollutants.

The radiator appears to be located above the rocker arm of the telever front suspension, the same location as the oil cooler on the current bike and somewhere that should be relatively well protected both from rocks and debris flung by the front wheel and in a crash. A too-vulnerable radiator is one of the criticisms most often applied to the BMW F800GS by hardcore offroad riders.


  • aristurtle

    Hmm, I wonder if IMZ can pick up the tooling for the old engine on the cheap…

    • jason McCrash

      That would put a Ural hack in my garage the day they were available. I asked in a couple of threads on Advrider if anyone had swapped a more powerful boxer into a Ural hack. I was told to f off basically. I love AdvRider, but the Hacks section has a lot of tools in it.

      • Mike

        Ah, you must have seen the thread on the oilhead-powered /2, as well, then. No messing around with the classics will be tolerated there. No fun!

  • http://www.pedalgents.com holdingfast

    there were pics of the water-cooled boxer-motor in a german Mag called MO in the May issue.. i can send you those images if you want to?

  • http://www.tripleclamp.net Sasha Pave

    Great spy shot!

    But you can’t complain about the GS getting away from rugged, simple air cooling. They crossed the “too complicated for adv touring” threshold way back in ’94 with the oilhead.

    Shit, some say the r100gs was too complicated compared to the r80, with things like a paralever.

    Just add it to the list: 4 valve, DOHC, FI, Twin spark, Cat converters, ABS, Terelever, EAS, Can Bus, cruise control, etc.

    Water cooling is probably the simplest thing added to this rig in the past 20 years :)

    But I’m somewhat saddened with the news, it’s like when Porsche moved away from air cooling in ’98. Technically it makes perfect sense, but emotionally something is lost.

    • BMW11GS

      The R1100GS is however bullet proof whereas the R100GS is finicky and eats drive shafts at 40,000 mile intervals (if not sooner). Airheads require constant attention and parts are getting scarcer and more expensive. Oilheads on the other hand just don’t die! I don’t care if it is filled with technology like FI, abs, etc, those things never need maintenance and rarely succumb to catastrophic failure.

      • http://www.tripleclamp.net Sasha Pave

        All the GS’s had their problems. The things will last forever as long as you keep replacing parts.

        My 1100gs went through 2 transmissions (2nd gear dies after 40-80k) and the throttle bodies wore out after 120k. The shocks are toast after 40k and if you’re lucky you won’t have to deal with final drive bearings/seals. I sold it with about 170k on the clock and the guy who bought it took it around the world for a 2nd time.

        That said, I got over 70k out of my 100gs and the only problem was the transmission circlip thingy ($10 part, $400 job).

        Now I’m on my third GS (1150). They’re far from perfect, but I still love the ugly faithful bastards.

        • BMW11GS

          Yeah you are right in that each generation has its blemishes, but they are usually related to the final drive/drive train like you experienced rather than the added level of technology over the years. The M94 transmissions are notorious for eating their second gears, ugg. The throttle bodies are a bit annoying too when they start rattling.

          • http://www.tripleclamp.net Sasha Pave

            Troo true. I’ve never seen a dead fi unit, abs or anything wrong with the 4 valve heads etc. I love that BMW has taken off with the techno slant, they’ve shown that they can lead with technology and put a fair bit more research into it than most other brands.

        • Tony T.

          I think considering how long most people keep their bikes, 120k is a pretty incredible stretch. I would hate to see what kind of maintenance some sport bikes require at that kind of mileage.

          • http://www.tripleclamp.net Sasha Pave

            Very true. I don’t think there are any other brands I’d feel comfortable putting so many miles on.

            For example I shipped a gs overseas for a 7 month tour with 120k miles on the clock and never worried if it would be a problem. I don’t think I’d do the same with anything else short of a transalp.

  • BMW11GS

    that rear tire looks larger than the 150 width they currently come with. Hopefully they didnt go too much toward the Ducati multistrada’s 190 width. Also note radial front brakes!

    • markbvt

      I’ve heard rumors of a 170-section rear tire.

  • Your_Mom

    The intake is also moved to the top of the cylinder. The water cooling may be due to tightening emission regulations, noise, and the need to make more power to keep up in the horse-power race.

  • Richard

    But hold on…what’s the point of the boxer cylinder layout now that air cooling is gone? Surely a flat parallel twin would be more compact? Or does emotional attachment outweigh engineering common sense??

    • http://cynic13th.livejournal.com/ cynic

      That was rhetorical question right…

    • jason McCrash

      Balance. Same reason as why they designed it that way to begin with (along with putting the cyl.out in the open air for cooling).

      • Wereweazle

        +1 for balance. Above 5mph, any of these opposed twin bikes feel like a bicycle.

    • BMW11GS

      easy richard, before you accuse BMW owners for mechanical nostalgia, having the cylinder in the airstream still allows a large amount of air cooling thus reducing the size of the water jacket/radiator

      • Richard

        Thanks Guys, I’d forgotten about the balance aspect.

  • Coreyvwc

    But why is it a two wheeled battle tank?

    • Scott-jay

      Now we’re approaching reality: Hummer’s are water-cooled, too.

  • http://www.xenophya.com Xenophya

    Noise is also a big issue and a water jacket helps to reduce this in drive by noise tests.

  • jason McCrash

    With this and HD sorta adding water cooling to their big tourers I can’t wait to read in the next few years how “water cooling is the greatest” from pirates and ATGATT’ers. And while they focus on that the rest of the industry will be moving towards electric and/or hybrids, leaving them behind once again,

    • http://www.tripleclamp.net Sasha Pave

      I think BMW did a good job introducing water cooling on the k bike in nearly 30 years back. But you’re right it’s a bit odd making the leap now on the boxer platform. They certainly had many chances over the years.

  • dux

    When the Euro shits the bed and eats itself in a year or two, no one will care about cat. 4 emissions. They’ll care about riots instead.

    • http://www.tripleclamp.net Sasha Pave

      I’m getting ready to loot the Touratech headquarters once that happens!

  • 1

    What a joke in the first place, putting any restrictions on motorcycles.

  • http://vtbmwmov.org Eben

    I totally read that headline as ‘R1200GS spoiled with water cooling’.

  • raphmay

    BMW fitting water cooling to the R1200GS will be like when Porsche fitted water cooled flat 6′s to the 997 911. Everyone moaned about tradition and history, but after a while they accepted it was progress.
    Still, as an owner of air cooled bikes, an R1100S and a CB250 you can’t go past their looks and their simplicity.