Common Tread

2017 BMW R 1200 GS: Sometimes you have to mess with success

Nov 09, 2016

Few full-line motorcycle manufacturers have a single model that's more important to the company than the R 1200 GS is to BMW. Despite the company's strong move into sport bikes, the big adventure-tourer has long been its best selling model and a key part of its corporate image. So there's a lot at stake when upgrades come along.

For 2017, BMW had to update the R 1200 GS if only to meet the new Euro 4 emissions requirements. In the engine bay, this year's refresh wasn't about increasing performance, but about maintaining it while meeting the new standards.

2017 BMW R 1200 GS
The 2017 BMW R 1200 GS in the Ralleye version (left) and the Exclusive. BMW photo.

BMW split the R 1200 GS into two variants: the Exclusive and the Ralleye. Both have modest changes to the bodywork, but while the Exclusive appears more citified, with its unusual-for-a-motorcycle "iced chocolate" color and gold-painted brake calipers, the Ralleye is more off-road oriented, with blue paint and decals that hearken back to some of the early BMW GS models, but in a much more subtle way than the new R nineT Urban G/S.

Keeping with the same city vs. country theme, the Exclusive rolls on cast wheels while the Ralleye has cross-spoke wheels and additional suspension travel.

I think I'm safe in saying that none of us on the Common Tread team are fans of BMW's complicated pricing structure, in which you get a base price (usually, there is no motorcycle that exists at that price) and then you have to add on a choice of packages that combine various features, such as the Dynamic Package and the Touring Package, in this case. That approach has unfortunately not changed for 2017. The good news is that riders who don't mind sifting through the details can choose from an impressive array of electronic aids and options to make their R 1200 GS more capable.

For example, the GS comes with two riding modes: Road and Rain. An upgrade to the Riding Modes Pro option gets you two more modes: Dynamic and Enduro. This BMW video tells more.

Among the other options along with Riding Modes Pro are advanced traction control and ABS that adjust based on lean angle and the Hill Start feature, which helps you get going even if you're stopped on a steep incline in loose dirt. There's also electronic suspension adjustment, called Dynamic ESA. It makes old-style suspension adjustments a nostalgic memory (if you happen to have any nostalgic feelings for taking a screwdriver and a hammer to a shock collar). The ESA adjusts to road conditions and changes to suit the load if a passenger joins you or if Lemmy sends you on a beer run to fill up the saddlebags with enough supplies to satisfy him and his friends at the campground. Here's a BMW video with more information on Dynamic ESA.

Any company has to tread carefully when upgrading its flagship, and that's especially true with BMW's R 1200 GS. With competition attacking from both sides, from Ducati's comfy and sophisticated Multistrada Enduro to Honda's dirt-ready Africa Twin, the days of the GS easily dominating its category are over.