BMW R 1250 GS makes for a surprisingly comfortable ride
I am not a fan of big, dual-purpose motorcycles. I love the power and torque big engines possess, but I cannot imagine lifting a downed adventure motorcycle alone.
Taking the latest BMW R 1250 GS ($56,800, with certificate of entitlement subsidy of $3,500) for a test ride gave me sweaty palms.
Some have said the GS was propelled to stardom thanks to Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman's TV series Long Way Round, where the pair rode R1150 GS motorcycles from London to New York in 2004. That feat was proof of the GS' prowess as it devoured everything thrown its way.
But a lanky 63kg rider like me on a 1,254cc 263kg BMW with a bulbous fuel tank and signature horizontally opposed cylinder heads could spark a new comedy series if I ever get pinned under it.
After riding the GS for 20 minutes, I realised my fears were unfounded. The R 1250 GS is 15kg lighter than its predecessor, making it just a little easier to push in carparks.
Despite raising the seat's height, my feet rested firmly on the tarmac while I got a commanding view through the adjustable windscreen.
I loved the bike's automatic preload feature. It calculates the weight on the motorcycle and adjusts the preload to what it believes is the optimum setting. Or you could do it manually and see the GS rise or drop in height like a Transformer.
While all this was going on, its tablet-size thin-film transistor screen gave me real-time information of the changes made to the BMW.
It was overkill as I was faced with more gauges than I needed, from tyre pressures to ride settings to even Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity, which told me how low I banked in corners.
In my excitement, I forgot to tuck my legs at rest stops - my shins occasionally knocked into the crash bars protecting the protruding cylinder heads.
While similarly styled as the previous GS, the new one has smoother accelerating with an additional 10bhp and 19Nm.
It also has safety features that would make bronco-riding a friendly sport.
Adding confidence are the Michelin Anakee Adventure dual-purpose tyres which performed like fly paper.
The R 1250 GS' transmission and engine performance are now more refined. Its wide spread of torque and smooth power delivery are the result of a new BMW ShiftCam technology.
The electronically actuated ShiftCam switches automatically between two intake cam profiles by taking into account engine revs and engine load.
The shift occurs subtly at 5,000rpm as the revs climb towards the 10,000rpm ceiling. Its up-and-down shifter helped cut shift times and matched engine revs perfectly on downshifts.
But without keeping some throttle while accelerating, riders may find it difficult to upshift.
The GS is equipped with disarmable cornering and anti-lock brakes, including customisable traction intervention.
A bonus for GS newbies would be dynamic brake control and hill start control.
The former prevents accidental throttle inputs during emergency braking, while the latter automatically activates the front Brembo brakes when you stop on a slope. To release the brakes, simply throttle away.
While the GS beats the KTM 1290 Super Adventure R and Ducati Multistrada 1260 in torque figure, it loses out to both rivals' 160bhp.
The BMW may not steer as quickly as single-minded road bikes, but it is a comfortable ride capable of doing the century sprint in about 3.2 seconds, and has a top speed of more than 210kmh.