Yesterday we looked at the comparison, on paper, between the new BMW S 1000 XR and its natural peers, the road-biased adventure tourers. But this one is special. Because the BMW R 1200 GS' forebears effectively birthed the popular category we call adventure tourer. And while motorcycles like the Ducati Multistrada and the BMW S 1000 XR do not really take off-roading seriously, the BMW R 1200 GS always has had more than a modicum of ability and the antics of one McGregor and one Boorman cemented a legend that runs hard and strong even today. So, how does the BMW R 1200 GS compare to the off-road ready adventure tourers?
What does an off-road ready adventure tourer really mean? In the case of a motorcycle like the Ducati Multistrada Enduro, it could mean the ability to order the hard(er)core Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres instead of the all-rounder Trail IIs. It could mean software that accommodates a locked-up or sliding rear tyre, which is true for all of the three models in the table below. In the case of the Enduro and the GS Adventure, it means 30-litre fuel tanks designed to allow you to run distances without worrying about fuel stops. All three have relatively long-travel suspension as standard which is vital to the off-road ability - to be able to handle the big shocks of rough roads and ensure that the rider is comfortable and the wheels stay on the ground so that the motorcycle can be controlled.
In all cases, it also usually means a 19- or 21-inch front wheel with a spoked rim running, ideally, tubeless tyres. This is important to note. The bigger wheel means that the motorcycle is less likely to be deflected off its path which is a boon in hard going. Smaller wheels have less gyroscopic inertia and are easier to deflect. That's why scooter turns so fast and feels o hard to ride on rough roads. The idea of a spoked rim is that the method of construction means a wheel that is able to bend a little and absorbs big shocks and keeps going. An alloy wheel is stiffer and lighter but more likely to break in an impact. The spoke wheel is also easier to repair because it disassembles into a set of spokes, a rim and a hub. Usually, a spoke is more likely to bend or break which is relatively speaking an easy fix.
2017 BMW R 1200 GS Adventure
A nuance here is that not all manufacturers make spoked rims with tubeless tyres. BMW and Ducati both have the spoke heads sitting at the edge of the rim so that the central rim hosts a tubeless tyre.
The final point that needs to be made is ground clearance and seat height. The ground clearance here is roughly 200mm but electronic suspension-equipped motorcycles like the Dynamic+ and Pro models of the GS and GSA and the Multistrada Enduro can rise up further if needed by a small bit. But off-road motorcycles also mean tall saddles. The Triumph is the lowest here at 840mm while the GS Adventure is positively a mountainous 890mm. The truth is that the numbers shouldn't automatically scare you. If the saddle is narrow enough at the front, even short inseams can reach the ground sufficiently from these lofty heights.
Triumph sells two models in this space, the XCx and the fully loaded XCA. Priced between Rs 13.60-14.02 lakh, these are good places to start looking at an off-road capable adventure tourer. Like all the four motorcycles here, the tyres are road-biased but capable of some performance off-road although serious off-roading will go better with off-road biased tyres, naturally. The Tigers 800 have been around for a while now and proven to be credible India-worthy motorcycles, and the 21-inch front wheel is a proper asset off-road. It, however, makes the Tiger feel less connected on tarmac at big lean angles.
The thing to remember is that the base BMW R 1200 GS is not all-electronic just like the Tiger. And it is priced less than Rs 2 lakh higher than the Triumph too! What would be the reasons to look past the Tiger to the other motorcycles? Well, if you have bigger budgets, the other three motorcycles offer a lot more performance, street-cred as well as electronics that make for a dramatically different riding experience. In fact, the Tiger's now an old design and we expect Triumph - which has already refreshed the Bonneville, Speed Triple (not in India) and Street Triple (coming soon) ranges - to show us an updated Tiger line towards the end of this year as 2018 models at the year-end motorcycle shows.
Technically, we should include the base GS Adventure as well. Both motorcycles are relatively non-electronic. And in that sense is quite good value, especially the R 1200 GS Standard when compared to the Tiger XCA. For the BMW propeller on the tank and the 125PS boxer engine, you'd basically lose some bells and whistles - cruise control, auxiliary lights and so forth from the XCA. But as much as that sounds good, the customers clearly favour the more electronic versions of the GS.
The spec sheets of the Ducati Multistrada Enduro and the Dynamic+ or Pro models of the BMW R 1200 GS and the GS Adventure will make your head spin. These motorcycles, thanks to their size, permit manufacturers to pack in technology. These, ladies and gentlemen, are some of the most advanced machines on earth.
In this company, clearly, the Ducati twin-cylinder is special. It uses many things, including the world's first continuously variable valve timing system to make a heady 160PS and 136Nm, the most in this comparison. And we know from our experience that, while the height and bulk of the Enduro can feel unwieldy at slow speeds, the Enduro is not a slow motorcycle and its fabulous ride quality means it's nearly unstoppable.
On the flip side, the BMW matches the Ducati's marvellous semi-active suspension set-up and adds automatic pre-load adjustment which means the motorcycle should always feel exactly right. BMW's Telelever and Paralever systems also make the GS a wonderful tourer because the suspension absorbs bumps and braking with a noticeable lack of dive. This is something that people who are comfortable with the way regular forks behave will have to get used to.
Unfortunately, the BMW pitch loses some steam when it comes to pricing. The Ducati Multistrada Enduro comes fully loaded at Rs 17.50 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi. In comparison, the Dynamic+ models of the GS and GSA are set at Rs 19 lakh and Rs 20.90 lakh respectively. With the Pro trims set another Rs 50,000 higher.
Is this premium justified? Take a look at the specifications below and let us know!