No way this was going to end well. Oh, it started innocently enough . . . a leisurely lunch at the historic Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park as BMW wound down the U.S. press launch of its 2010-model R1200GS, now sporting double overhead cams that help push claimed output all the way to 110 horsepower.
Most of the SoCal-based scribblers attending the event had requested “rideaways,” and would be taking a GS back to their respective publications. Saddlebags packed and riding suits zipped, the journalists left Yosemite in informal groups. Leading my gaggle of three Beemers was actor and inveterate bike nut Perry King. Soon as we left the confines of the park and its speed-averse rangers, King set the throttle to 85 mph and never wavered. A nicely brisk pace on well-paved and largely deserted Highway 140. At Merced, though, we caught 99 south and I girded myself for the endless 250-mile drone to Los Angeles on what is one of California’s most heavily trafficked and intensely patrolled stretches of two-lane highway.
King saw it differently, apparently intent on keeping his 85-mph average, CHP be damned. Slicing and dicing through traffic with a deft touch and smooth riding style, he never put a wheel wrong, never caused a car driver to jam on the brakes, never provoked a waved finger, index or otherwise. Nicely done, Perry, but surely we’d run afoul of the gendarmerie at some point in all this high-speed cutting-and-thrusting.
Maybe King had a get-out-of-jail-free card via some odd form of professional courtesy. After all, the 61-year-old actor, still dashingly good-looking, played a detective on the 1983-86 TV show “Riptide.” I just hoped the arresting officer was old enough to have seen the series. Soon I stopped worrying about handcuffs and simply wafted along in Mr. King’s Untouchable Cocoon of Speed & Velocity. No felony stops, no speeding citations, I’m happy to report.
The R1200GS is ideal for this kind of traffic-busting. The chassis is unchanged for 2010, meaning the rider has the same rangy ergonomics, sitting high and comfy in a position of command and control. With the height-adjustable seat in its tallest position, maximizing legroom and minimizing knee bend, and the rake-adjustable windscreen doing a good job of blocking air, running most of the gas out of the 5.3-gallon fuel tank in one sitting is a piece o’ cake.
Also helping keep average speed high is the new cylinder-head setup. First shown on the 2007 HP2 limited-edition sportbike, BMW’s tidy chain-driven, twin-cam arrangement is different from the norm in that each camshaft operates one intake and one exhaust valve, rather than both intakes being on one cam and both exhausts on the other. Each cylinder’s four valves are arrayed radially, and the new motor breathes deeper thanks to larger valves (intakes up 3mm, exhausts 2mm), bigger throttle bodies, new intake runners and a less restrictive air filter. The result is a claimed 110 horsepower at 7750 rpm and peak torque of 88 foot-pounds at 6000 rpm, gains of 5 hp and 3 ft.-lbs. over the previous “cam-in-head” GS 1200s. Redline has also been raised 500 revs to 8500 rpm.
More important than those noteworthy, but hardly earth-shattering, bumps is the spread of power. Except for an unfelt dip at about 5300 rpm, the dohc motor makes more horsepower and more torque than the old powerplant everywhere from just above idle to redline. It also pulls stronger on the top end, feels more refined–a little less “thrummy” than before–and even sounds better thanks to an electrically controlled flapper valve in the exhaust system that opens at higher revs for a throatier note. In total, the changes won’t have owners of ’09 models trading up en masse, but if your GS is several years old and has logged one too many roundtrips to Tierra del Fuego, sure, see your local dealer.
Bring money. While the base price of the pumped-up 2010 R1200GS has increased just $200 to $14,950, most GS buyers opt to pick and choose from the most comprehensive line of factory accessories in the motorbike biz. My testbike, with tubeless wire-spoke wheels, handguards, heated handgrips, anti-lock brakes, on-the-fly adjustable suspension, trip computer, DOT knobbies and hard saddlebags, rang in just south of $20,000.
Given the bike’s versatility, competence and all-around goodness, though, that’s not necessarily a hard sell. This is, after all, a trailbike that’s just as happy two-up touring. A globetrotter that’s more than capable of embarrassing repli-racers on a tight backroad. And it’s a pretty damn good high-speed commuter, too–especially if a charmed lead-foot thespian is leading the way…
David Edwards is the former longtime editor-in-chief of Cycle World magazine, owns a 100,000-mile 1982 BMW R80G/S and has never knowingly seen an episode of “Riptide.”
Editor’s Note: A snowstorm during the launch limited the availability of usable action photos. The aftermath of that storm can be seen in one of the photos above.