Designing the new GS

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The R1200GS is BMW’s highest-selling, most important model. So, when it came time to design the new one, it wasn’t take-chances/weird-color BMW that designed it, it was uber-conservative/tradition-first BMW. The existing lines became sharper and simpler. But rather than throw a bunch of “powerfully expressive at you, let’s take a look at what all this clay modeling resulted in.

There’s probably no third-party company out there with more GS experience than Touratech. The first and biggest dedicated maker of Adventure necessities, they’re essentially responsible for transforming GSs from expensive road bikes to machines capable of actually doing stuff a long way from nowhere. They’ve taken an in-depth look at the new bike and come away with this list of 12 things that they think are the biggest upgrades:

1. Better Traction
By having a more compact engine and transmission, the engineers were able to lengthen the swing arm to improve traction, especially off-road, while keeping the wheel-base the same.

2. Wet Clutch
We’re happy to have the smooth and easy shifting action offered up by the wet clutch design on the six-speed transmission. Clutch service will be considerably easier as it’s now accessed from the front of the bike, a big improvement over the previous models that required splitting the bike in two pieces to access dry clutch.

3. One hand adjustable windscreen
Finally, a windscreen you can adjust with one hand! This innovative design allows you to turn a knob with just one hand to change the position of the windscreen to maximize protection from the weather and minimize buffeting.

4. Exhaust moved to the right side
We recently spoke with Hans Blesse, who is currently the head of BMW North America, about his time as the head of product development where he oversaw the liquid-cooled R1200GS project. He told us about the time their product team noticed that many of them had burn marks on their trousers after a day of riding the previous version of the GS. They noted that most people stand on the left side of the motorcycle when maneuvering the bike. This is the same side the exhaust pipe was on, which burned many a pair of expensive riding pants. From that point on, the team decided to put the exhaust on the other side of the bike and the rest of the bike was designed around that criteria!

5. Price
The base price for the new R1200GS is actually less than the previous model, however many of the best features will only be found on premium package versions of the new GS.

6. Electronic Cruise Control
Great for touring, the electronic cruise control is a convenience that long-distance riders want.

7. LED Head light
This is the world’s first production motorcycle with a LED main headlight, which also features an integrated daytime running light. Once again BMW has introduced cutting edge technology, plus the LED day light just looks cool!

8. Semi-Active Suspension
The new R1200GS gets the same semi-active suspension package developed for the BMW HP4 superbike. This Dynamic ESA (electronic suspension adjustment) not only allows user to select riding profiles, but also monitors the movement of the front and rear wheels 100 times per second and automatically adjusts the suspension to fit the riding conditions.

9. Moar Power!
The new liquid-cooled engine produces 123hp and 92 ft-lbs of torque at 6,500 rpm, making this bike that much more exciting to ride on the tarmac. Additionally, the new liquid-cooled motor achieves 6% better fuel economy over last year’s model. It also sounds fantastic!

10. Push-button profiles
The 2013 BMW R1200GS has five riding modes (Rain, Road, Dynamic, Enduro & Enduro Pro), which optimize the Automatic Stability Control (ASC), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and Dynamic Damping Control (DDC) semi-active suspension. This allows the rider to change the traction control, brakes and suspension with one button to optimize the bike for different riding environments. The Enduro Pro setting gives you full rear brake for sliding the rear of the bike around, while retaining a bit of anti-lock for the front.

11. Narrow where it matters
A bike that is narrow in the middle is more comfortable to ride and easier to handle. The designers at BMW spent many nights agonizing over small details to get the bike as narrow as possible in the middle. The result is a huge improvement in how the bike feels – while seated or standing.

12. Feel Light
By lowering the center of gravity and using dynamic dampening control, BMW has created a bike that feels lighter than the previous version even though the scale suggests no reduction in weight. Touratech CEO, Herbert Schwarz, rode the new liquid-cooled R1200GS on a 4,000 kilometer trip through Madagascar. Upon returning from the trip he said, “The new bike feels 100lbs lighter than the previous model even though the actual weight is the same.”

  • disqus_QDN4hkm8zA

    First LED headlight on a production motorcycle? – No. Ducati beat them to it with the 2012 Panigale S (LED high and low beams) and the 2013 Multistrada (LED low beam, halogen high beam

  • Kevin

    Cue the “fat rich guys who don’t take it off road” comments in 3… 2… 1…

  • Florian Neuhauser

    Ducati had LEDs first in production

  • markbvt

    The real question is, has BMW figured out their quality control issues, particularly how to keep final drives from breaking?

    • Stuki

      Is it even possible to have enough units out in the field to guarantee anything with regards to “quality” when you introduce THAT much new, as of yet unproven, tech on almost every new model? These guys are not just pushing the envelope, they are pushing absolutely every available envelope all the darned time! For better (when it works) or worse.

      • markbvt

        Not quite sure whether you’re being sarcastic or not, but I’ll react as though you’re not. What’s so envelope-pushing about this bike compared with, say, the Ducati Multistrada 1200, KTM 1190 Adventure, or even the Super Tenere or Tiger Explorer? It seems to be an improvement over the old R1200GS, yes, and that was a good bike (ignoring the infrequent but serious final drive problems), but I wouldn’t exactly call this one groundbreaking.

        • Stuki

          Not really sarcastic. I also doubt BMW are simply reusing “proven” systems from the MTS etc. Hence, all new systems being launched. I’m just a bit surprised anyone would even presume quality control in the traditional sense, as in don’t release until you’re close to 100% confident there won’t be problems, is even that big a priority on a launch like this. Instead, it seems like the market for this class bike has decided they want the bells and whistles, and is ready to put up with possible teething problems.

          • markbvt

            Except the trouble is that BMW’s QC issues have been in systems they really should have figured out by now. They’ve been building shaft-drive bikes for what, 80 years or something? So why are they having problems with the final drives on recent bikes? The F800GS is another good example — it’s developed a nasty reputation for basic mechanical problems. No amount of electronically-controlled suspension damping or traction control or push-button riding modes helps you when your R1200GS’s shaft drive breaks.

            • Stuki

              I hear ya. But, like I noted, I suspect BMW knows only all too well that success in their particular target market, depends more on constantly staying at the cutting edge as far as new-new technologies go, than bothering to slow things down to the point where they have a shot at working out existing problems before

              • markbvt

                But meanwhile the people who want to ride their GSes long distances in variable conditions are seeking bikes that are reliable, not technologically cutting-edge (which is a bit of a moot point, because this new one is still hardly cutting-edge — all those features have been done by other companies already). The entire idea that BMW would stop caring about reliability in order to focus on technology is absurd, though that doesn’t mean it’s not true. But all of this certainly helps explain why Yamaha and Triumph are happily collecting disgruntled former BMW owners as customers.

                • Stuki

                  For regular Joes wanting to “ride their GSes long distances in variable conditions”, I simply don’t think getting a new one is the best choice. And, again, I don’t really think BMW cares enough to do much about it.

                  For genuine Alpha Globetrotters like Helge Pedersen, with the time, inclination and resources to test everything thoroughly, and fix that which needs fixing before circumnavigating for the 20th time, a new GS can probably be made reliable. For them, all the doodads probably makes the trip more comfortable and less hazardous.

                  And for the meat of the market, Europeans riding their bike in the Alps, or from Italy to Northern Norway and back for vacation, they’re never all that far from getting something fixed. And for them, the extra comforts and “specialness” (not to mention association with the alphas when they “battle” a rainstorm on Norway’s west coast), is probably worth it as well.

                  For those that just want simple, reliable and functional, there’s always VStroms or, even more so, KLRs. And, in Europe and other places, Transalps.

                  I think you are being needlessly dismissive about the technological advances in the new GS (or any other BMW of the past 15 odd years). Does Ducati have the semi active suspension the new GS is touting? And even if they do, they don’t have it on shaftie. And neither do they have the torque reaction “cancelling”, light weight shaft that BMW has had for eons. I don’t really agree any more with BMWs recent direction any more than you do (although the RT is flat out awesome for what it is). I just think it has less to do with incompetence on their part, than with a different set of priorities than they previously had.

  • KeithB

    I know LEDs have come a long way but can they really match the candlepower of a halogen or HID?

    • BigHank53

      Check out mountain biking headlamps. Halogens and HIDs are extinct, and they’ve been fading for five years. Since they’re a standalone system (not integrated into a vehicle) the product cycle has been about eight months.

      • Stuki

        By far the best bicycle headlamp (for street use) is still (as of a few months ago at least) the Big Bang from Busch & Muller. 10w hid with optimal projectors are still better than any similar wattage led array, unless 10w individual leds are now on the market. Which they very well may be for motorcycle applications.

        For MTB, things are easy, since all you really have to do, is dump enough light out there in pretty much any direction. But on the street, where you want max light o the road, minimum in the eyes of oncoming traffic, the point intensity of HIDs still allow for more optimal projector design.

        On an adventure bike, the sheer ruggedness of well cooled leds, are a huge boon, however. One can eve argue that requiring a few of them is a boon; redundancy and all…


      I have a 2008 R1200Gs with HID in both low and high beam. 6K in low and 4.2K in high. Although they are a lot better than stock GS lights, the problem is they disperse to much as opposed to ‘spotting’, but this is a GS problem anyway. And you battle to get them adjusted ‘just right’, I had them now for about 9 months and is still fiddling with adjustment.

      My friend got his new LC GS last week and last night at club meeting he showed us how it lights up the road. More of a ‘spot’ than HID’s and much-much better than my HID’s. He only had to adjust them up a fraction for his taste.

      Yes, they work better and LED does not blow easily. I know there are HID’s that ‘spot’ but I do not know what they are like.

    • runnermatt

      My 3D cell LED Maglight is brighter and shines further than the awesome stock Bi-xenon HIDs on my VW GTI.

  • Tom Witoshynsky


  • Strafer

    The design was already there in the clay
    They just shaved away the extraneous material

  • yipY

    “The new bike feels 100lbs lighter than the previous model even though the actual weight is the same.” I’m sure it would “feels” the same as all the other heavy adventure bikes when pinning your leg under it on a muddy road.Any bike that pretends to be dirt capable should aim to weigh well under 160 kilos: Like the original R80 G/S.

    • socalutilityrider

      Um, yeah. My foot got pinned underneath my Vstrom after unexpectedly hitting a patch of deep sand and I was just stuck there until a couple guys helped lift it off me. Thankfully the steel shank in my boot protected my foot from being crushed. There is no way I would want to go heavier than the Strom, and that is already too heavy for anything past a fire road. I can’t imagine being on anything heavier.

  • Speedo007

    It actually looks better in clay :)

  • Stuki

    “Narrow where it matters”

    Not if you, for some reason, don’t like the “hug a grain silo” arm position BMW handlebar designers seem to favor. Those crazy wide handlebars, angled to keep the elbows pointing outward, does not lead t what I’d call a relaxed riding position.