BMW bumps up the tech on its largest dual-sport motorcycle

When something is advertised as being dual-purpose, it usually comes with compromises, but that rule doesn’t apply to BMW’s largest dual-sport bike, the R2017 BMW R 1200 GS. BMW has been tweaking the R 1200 GS since its introduction in 2004 and that model and its slightly more off-road-focused brand mate, the R 1200 GS Adventure (GSA), have been the Bavarian company’s best-selling models each year since and including 2012.

Some people buy dual-sport bikes thinking they might venture off road once in a while, but mostly stick to the pavement. You could just stick to streets with the R 1200 GS, but you’d miss out on its capable off-road performance.

Big, comfortable, heavy, and powerful, the R 1200 GS can take you anywhere you want to go, but you will need good off-road skills. And that’s no joke. Learning only the basic off-road riding skills necessary to stay upright on a tall bike that weighs 538 pounds fully fueled and is powered by a 125 horsepower motor is a bad idea. If you have the off-road skills and the confidence that comes with them, however, the R 1200 GS’s fans and sales numbers show that you won’t be disappointed when you hit the trail.

The R 1200 GS’s twin-cylinder boxer 1,170 cc engine delivers 92 pound-feet of torque at 6,500 rpm and 125hp at 7,500 rpm. The bike’s six-speed transmission and shaft drive have proven their reliability over the years. BMW uses a combination of liquid and air cooling, electronic fuel injection, and ride-by-wire throttle control. Top speed is 125 mph.

New for this year is a button-controlled Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) atht lets the rider choose the ride characteristics. The standard ride modes are Rain and Road. If you go for the Optional Ride Mode Pro, you can add Enduro and Dynamic modes for more granular control. Automatic stability control is standard, as are Hill Start Control, and Dynamic Traction Control. That last mode is impressive in that it automatically adjusts the bike’s traction based on its lean angle and other suspension dynamics.

ABS (automatic braking system) is standard and controls the braking pressure so neither the 19-inch front tire or 17-inch rear wheel will break loose. You can turn off the ABS if you wish for a little more adventure off road — but that’s not recommended if you’re not experienced in the dirt.

The R 1200 GS comes standard with cruise control, heated hand grips, a small fairing and windshield, and saddle bag mounts, but no bags. The seat height is adjustable from 33.5-inches to 34.3-inches. That’s pretty high with a lot of bike to get your legs around so you can place both feet flat on the ground. With factory options and suspension adjustments, you can get the seat height as low as 31.5-inches and as high as 35.1-inches.

The 2017 BMW R 1200 GS starts at $16,695. The R 1200 GS Adventure adds a larger gas tank (7.9 gallons compared to a 5.3-gallon tank for the GS), a greater front rake angle, longer front suspension travel, and rims and knobby tires that favor off-road more than the tires of the GS, which are more suitable for the street. The GS Adventure’s starting price is $18,695.