Why a BMW….and….why a R1200GS?

David Bancell takes us through the ins and outs of why he made the decision to upgrade to a new R 1200 GS

When I first thought about my recent Oz Trip, and a new BMW purchase, I was in Europe on my annual sojourn aboard my trusty 2003 Honda Varadero (affectionately named Valerie!).

Over nine years and 40,000 miles (UK is still imperial), Valerie never let me down. But, she did have a big arse (panniers and twin upswept pipes don’t help), was a 2003 model, a bit agricultural but solid…but I always wondered why I was so tired after 100mph (UK imperial remember?) trips through brilliant Euro twisties, Autobahn’s, Swiss mountains, French Alps, Italian and French traffic, snow covered passes, brilliant Spanish roads, awesome English green lanes…..etc!

Me & Valerie in the UK – where this all started! My ride in the UK and Europe, a 2003 Honda Varadero.
Me & Valerie in the UK – where this all started! My ride in the UK and Europe, a 2003 Honda Varadero.

When I always return to Oz I hungered for a similar tourer to do the Oz landscape!

But which bike?

I knew I wanted a BIG capacity tourer….at least 1,000cc, with great torque (hate revvers!) shaft drive (hate adjusting chains, oiling, cleaning etc) and MUST be comfy! At 62, I need it!!

The ONE litre+ and shaft drive limited my choice as I saw it….so it was BMW, Honda Cross Tourer/ST1300, Triumph 1200 Explorer, Guzzi Stelvio, Yamaha FJ.

I did consider the KTM 1200 Adventure, especially as two of my Euro riding buddies had them. But, it’s not a shaftie!

I was also “over” Jap bikes and really wanted a Euro.

After reviewing many road tests etc, it seemed to me the Beemer was the best “adventure/touring bike” which suited mainly on the road as I had NO intention of doing off-road, unless absolutely necessary! Yeh, I know, soft-cock…but hey, that’s what I wanted and intended.

Dave Bancell picking up his new BMR R 1200 GS
Dave Bancell picking up his new BMR R 1200 GS

I think 99 per cent of motorcycle purchases are emotive…mine was no different, and I loved the look of the Beemer!! And I loved the reviews, but was sceptical on the ‘reliability” side as I had heard many “stories”, especially in Europe, but BMW offered a brilliant 24/7 Roadside Assistance package as standard – I know, we don’t want to be stranded, but at least there is that comfort factor if needed.

After looking at many second hand units from the above list, and monitoring their “sales” (or lack of), over a period of months I finally decided I wanted the R1200GS but it had to be a new one! Why buy someone else’s problems?

All the reviews indicated that the 2013 re-model was the best GS – totally revamped motor etc, and on top of that the 2015 model seemed to take this to a new level again. Many concerns were that the new 2013 model was somewhat “vicious” in its power delivery, but then concerns were that the 2015 model would be “soft” – in the end the reports only vindicated the 2015 model.

To me the Beemer was the epitome of the long distance tourer and offered the right seat height (I am 188cms, or 6’2” imperial) and the right reach for the bars etc, as well as a shaftie plus 1200cc and seems to me thousands cannot be wrong as well as coming out on top on the majority of reviews! Seems only the KTM was better reviewed, but mainly due to its dirt ability which I am not really interested in. Maybe more power for the road, but how much is too much?

So after all this, I walked in to the local BMW dealership and signed up….along with the usual BMW “everything-is-extra goodies”!! My pockets were very much lighter and I had the somewhat “did I do the right thing” feeling.

Well, now after a total of 10,000klms including running-in from Melbourne to Mt Gambier and return via the G.O.R, and 8500km to Port Douglas via Roma, Emerald and the QLD mid west, I can categorically say..YES! YES! YES! – I did do the right thing getting the Beemer! For me, it is one helluva tourer….easy to ride, lightweight controls, stable, punchy, torquey, comfy, and economical.

I will say right now the only negative issues I have so far experienced are:

The tyres (supplied with Michelin) are very noisy – next set will be Metzeler or Continental or whatever unless anyone has a better suggestion? The Michies grips well, have worn well…but oh so noisy…

The Tyre Pressure Sensors do my head in!! Only on the rear…..seems they have a mind of their own. Every time I put air in the rear tyre, the TPS says it’s ok (42 AS RECOMMENDED), but next morning drops to 39…NEVER lower, so there can’t be a leak!!! Aaaaagggghhh…..Seems these TPS units only want 39psi and no-one is gonna tell it different!

The engine “noise” is somewhat annoying…..I can’t put my finger on what it is…..clutch? Cam gear? Or is it just the tyres? Whatever it is, it reverberates through my helmet, at lower speeds…..annoying.

But, these are the only issues and to be honest, they are minimal….better to get the shitty stuff out the way first!

The Beemer, in my opinion, just does everything “right”, handles brilliantly and is very confidence inspiring.

I love the front end, no dive and very stable. The whole bike just feels so planted both in a straight line and in all turns, even fully laden. In fact I have never ridden a bike so stable…..put the cruise control on and sit back and relax. You can take both hands off the bars, stretch, relax, and adjust helmet, gloves, jacket…and the Beemer tracks like its on rails, even in turns! Brilliant! (Not recommended, I know, but true!)

The gearbox was a little clunky at first, and an upgrade to the software at the first service, plus some miles on the drivetrain definitely made for smoother and fuss-free changes. Not as slick as the Jap bikes, but still nice, especially from third upwards.

I optioned the GPS and was the best thing! It provides not only GPS but engine management readouts which is so handy. I don’t even use a GPS in my car, but, I could never run the Beemer without it.

I also optioned the “speed shifter” (Gear Assist pro) – to be honest, its great but somewhat over-kill for me. You can use the speed-shifter up and down at any speed, but it works best at higher rpm and speed. Again, maybe an over-kill item, but probably a good plus for re-sale. I still like using the clutch, yeah, I know, but I am 62. 

I also purchased the BMW Vario panniers and top box as I preferred the look, the carrying capability (adjustable) and after 10,000km, think they are absolutely brilliant. I really don’t like the frames and aluminium panniers that the “serious tourers/dirt/Long way Round heroes” choose, as when you take the boxes off, you are always left with an ugly array of “scaffolding” – but with the Varios, they have the mounting blended with the bike, and on or off, the bike still looks nice, and functional, style over function? I don’t know really, but the Varios, in my opinion look great, and work just as well.

I also opted for the “keyless ride function” and again, a real bonus! No more keys rattling around and causing scratches on the bike. Love it!

What else can I say? I just love it….now I am home, I am planning my next tour…..Ceduna looks good, via the Coast.

My first big trip on the GS

I decided to head North, all the way to the top, or as far as I could, or wanted….to go. I needed to be in Sydney to see my daughter who was expecting her first child, and my first grandchild. I wanted to go via the Coast to Sydney, but when I was due to leave ( July 17th ) there was that HUGE low that hit Victoria and the Coastal route was the worst affected, so I delayed a few days, it didn’t get any better, and I had to go via the Hume, bugger!

First stop, Holbrook
First stop, Holbrook

Anyway after a nice leisurely cruise on the Hume, I stopped overnight at Tarcutta, and headed off to find the road closed at Bowral due to snow! I managed to get through with the slush lashing the bike!

Berowra Waters – On the Hawkesbury, just North of Hornsby. Nice place to relax.
Berowra Waters – On the Hawkesbury, just North of Hornsby. Nice place to relax.

After a few days in Sydney, I headed north to Gatton, in Qld, near Toowoomba to see my old “racing” buddy, and good friend Martin Hone who has established himself with his partner next to an airfield, due to his light plane activities. The day after I arrived Marty took me up in his mate’s plane……and let me fly it!! What an experience……we even did a “loop-da-loop sideways upside down turn” – there is a technical term for this, but what the hell……I went upside down and round and round!!!!

Dave Bancell with Martin Hone at Gatton
Dave Bancell with Martin Hone at Gatton

After 4 days in Gatton, it was difficult to leave – I loved the place and it was so good to chew the fat about old times with Marty, and Chris.

I planned to go to Central Qld, Roma, Emerald, then head East to Townsville, Cairns, and on to Port Douglas where I had some good bike friends also.

Pt Douglas – amazing coastline, looking South. Part of Four Mile Beach where the Daintree joins the Ocean
Pt Douglas – amazing coastline, looking South. Part of Four Mile Beach where the Daintree joins the Ocean

I had never been this far North before (Lakeside was the extent of it!) so I was excited to give the Beemer a good run, and to experience the Oz “outback”.

I stayed a night in Roma….nice town, and continued the journey to Emerald. To be honest, the road was very boring….but Emerald was a nice town and I stayed 2 nights and explored the area. Heading to Fairbairn Dam was a great experience, and was like an oasis in the middle of a desert!

Fairbairn Dam– like an Oasis in a dessert. Emerald is a nice town mid West Qld on the road to Longreach.
Fairbairn Dam– like an Oasis in a dessert. Emerald is a nice town mid West Qld on the road to Longreach.

Next stop was Mackay, heading East from Emerald. Nice town ….boring roads….

Check in again soon where Dave will take us through Part Two of his getting acquainted with his new R 1200 GS – North to Port Douglas and beyond….