Riding new BMW Motorcycles

With it being summer in the UK, and the two BMW Motorcycle dealers in central Scotland being under new ownership is the wonderful idea called the “open day” when they set out a whole pile of things including food etc, but even better they arrange “demo rides” where you can come along and have shots on a whole number of new BMW motorcycles just by providing details of your (full motorcycle) driving license.

As a result of open days at Motorrad Central East and West, or as their websites call them now Motorrad Central Edinburgh and Glasgow, I’ve had a great opportunity to try out a whole load of different new BMWs this year. The thing about trying out motorcycles is it throws out all of your preconceptions about how you think a bike will ride when you look at it compared to out on the road.

I was at both weekends at both dealers a couple of months apart in Edinburgh first and Glasgow second and this it how it went:


The Edinburgh weekend was first and I popped down on the Saturday – lovely warm dry weather was a great opportunity:

  1. BMW F 800 GS – I hadn’t ridden anything other than my R1100RS for about a year, in fact other than that I had only been on a 250 and 400 KTM Supermoto in recent history, and that was on a track. The F 800 felt very light, although the seat was a bit low for me. The engine was great, albeit a bit buzzier than I expected at higher revs. It had more suspension travel and felt a lot like a supermoto, in fact I stuck my foot out on the last roundabout – couldn’t help myself!
  2. BMW R 1200 GS – This was the bike I was here to try, but I had tried the smaller bike to get my confidence up to spec. This was a revelation – the off road styling led me to expect a big bouncy thing, but all i felt was a machine like my RS with more room and easier to steer. The handling felt just the same, the telelever feel was identical and the controls just fell in to place. I found that I had really bad turbulence off the screen though – my head was bashed about at motorway speeds.
  3. BMW R 1200 GS – I had another shot, but this time with the seat in the higher position and the screen lower. This gave me a bit more room, but talking later I discovered it was still the low seat, albeit in the high position. This felt really really good, no problem with fast or slow manoeuvring and very flickable.
  4. BMW R 1200 GSA – The last run of the day, and as I was about to go they put the standard seat on the normal position. This was a bit strange as I am used to my feet hitting the ground quicker – I could put my feet down flat, but the RS is so much lower. It took a bit of getting used to the extra weight, it was quite scary turning in and felt top heavy, was a bit bouncy in the country and I was still getting some turbulence from the screen. The seat felt really comfortable – the most comfortable bike I have ever ridden. I had big problems with the rear brake lever though – didn’t seem to be in the right place.

In summary, the standard GS was a revelation but the Adventure was a bit scary and big. Although the F 800 GS was nice, the R 1200 GS just felt like a more roomy flickable version of the RS – excellent.

I subsequently had a long discussion about the handling of the ESA equipped GSs and came to the conclusion that with my weight it would be better to adjust the preload to a higher setting – I hadn’t appreciated that this was set before going. I also discussed the brake and it might have been that I had the pedal on the off road setting i.e. folded down instead of up.


The weather wasn’t as nice but stayed dry on the Saturday. The bikes I tried were:

  1. BMW R 1200 GS Anniversary Edition – this was a quick run round the demo route on a brand new bike – fully kitted out with tank bag etc. It was a bit strange with the tank bag (my belly is too big) but looks lovely in the colours. I went for a setting with 1+ Luggage on Normal. Handling was excellent as before.
  2. BMW R 1200 GS Adventure – With the seat on full height I set preload to 1+Luggage and normal and went out for a run. This was a revelation – none of the bounciness and I didn’t notice the top heavy feel as last time. I wondered if this was due to the tank level but the bike was showing 300 miles for range – a full tank. I don’t know what the difference was but this was excellent – same comfort and weather protection, brilliant handling – a lot better than it should be on a bike of this type. I was quite besotted.
  3. BMW R 1200 GS – With a low seat I found it a bit cramped, but with less weather protection it was a bit nicer on a warm day.
  4. BMW R 1200 RT – As the police and ambulance motorcyclists run these I expected a lot from this. Unfortunately I found it was far too low even with what I thought was the seat in the high position, and my feet kept getting caught on the lower fairing. The handling is excellent though – no real impression of extra weight that the fairing would suggest, and the electric screen is hilarious.

So the Adventure is the bike for me, after a lot of miles on it over the weekend I don’t know what the issue was with the first run – whether I wasn’t used to it, or the suspension was on an offroad setting I don’t know, but the handling was excellent with a full load of petrol. I even had opportunity to put it on and off the centre stand and it wasn’t a problem at all.

Now to spend a few years saving up!