My Dad has been a BMW rider for about 20 years now. Maybe it is because of this that I associated BMW motorbikes with “old guys”. When I was 20 years old my Dad owned a K1200LT (or Starship Enterprise as most other people called it) and he also had a R1150GS. We went to a bike rally (Bathurst Rally in South Africa), him on the K1200RT and me on the R1150GS. We did about 400 miles on that trip. I really enjoyed riding the GS. It was a fun bike…not exhilarating, but good fun.
The rally itself was great fun, and was the last bike ride I did with my dad before I moved to the UK. There was a lot to remember about that weekend, but I must be honest, the R1150GS didn’t leave too much of a mark on me.
Fast-forward to about 3 years ago. I was loving my ZX-9R. My Dad had now moved over to the UK, and we are doing a few rides together (camping trips etc.). He still has a BMW and is telling me that I should consider getting one too. No chance Dad! I then watched a little-known series called The Long Way Round and The Long Way Down. There is a lot of criticism about these series, but they do get your adventurous side stimulated! This was when I seriously considered switching to the R1200GS. I wanted to have adventures on a motorbike too! I wanted to be able to ride a bike all day without my back and wrists hating me.
Through my research and taking my budget into consideration, the 2008 model R1200GS seemed like the best bet. Within a few weeks I had sold my Kawasaki (for pretty much what I paid for it) and I took delivery of my black R1200GS.
It rode well, but had a few issues. It looked like it had been ridden the way it was intended and not babied. There was a lot of colour fade from being out in the sun a lot (on the controls and the seat). There was rust on a lot of the nuts and bolts, and it had the dreaded bubbling on the front of the engine. But these were all cosmetic issues, which I wasn’t too bothered about. The first big ride I did I noticed some play in the steering. I also noticed the fuel gauge wasn’t working properly. I found this one out when I ran out of fuel while the gauge showed half full. Both these issues were sorted out without fuss by the guy that sold the bike to me. Oh I almost forgot about the skid plate coming loose while on the motorway. The front two bolts had disappeared. I was hearing a lovely “pinging” noise from the plate bouncing up against the bottom of the engine. This too was fixed for no cost. Unfortunately the fuel gauge broke again, twice, during the two years of ownership (Seriously BMW, that electronic fuel gauge strip was a piece of junk, thank goodness you have gone back to a mechanical float system). The replacement was covered by warranty…the work to do the replacement was not however, and cost 30 minutes of the BMW engineers’ time.
Talking of cost. My first service of the bike, bearing in mind it was a minor service with no issues except having to also replace the fuel gauge, cost me close to £500! Insane! My most expensive service of my ZX-9R was £320 (it was a “big” service, and included replacing the alternator with a refurbished one). Now I know I shouldn’t be comparing the servicing of these two bikes, but at the end of the day I have certain expectations around ongoing costs of owning a motorbike. My next service will not be at a BMW garage. I have had quotes which come in at half the cost with the official BMW garage.
All in all, I am enjoying being a BMW rider. It is in a whole new league for me compared to other bikes I have owned. Yes, other riders tend to not nod or wave back to me anymore, but the brakes are incredible, power delivery is uniform and predictable, handling is surprisingly good for such a big bike, and best of all, every time I get on the GS I feel like I am heading out on a mini adventure.