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2010 BMW R1200GS Review of the new King of the Dirt?


by Marc Cantin ,

Editor’s note: We tested the 2010 R1200GS on pavement, and our own Luc Brière (a.k.a Doctor Dirt) got his hands on the bike during the first road test. We thought we should give him the chance to really put it through its paces in his own private playground, the unpaved roads in the Bois-Francs region of deep Quebec that he flatly refuses to show us. Here’s the account of what happened during the second sliding-oriented test.

What the properly equipped BMW adventurer must wear - padded, waterproof and livable in hot weather. (Photo: BMW)

During a brief first ride in the rain, I noted how BMW had improved the big GS for 2010 by fitting the sporty twin-cam HP2 engine, toned down for this model more reminiscent of enduro bikes while proving distinctly punchier than the old, pre-2010 engine. Torque, for instance, is typically constant on this type of machine, but on the 2010 version it starts off strong and then increases measurably along with the rpm, which on gravel roads allows you to use the engine to actually turn the bike, much like a “Drift” car does.

A first test focusing on the road
The 2009 1200GS’s calmer engine didn’t allow for some real dirt riding techniques, which exponentially increases fun and safety when zipping over soft terrain. And contrary to popular lore, if you do leave the modern ABS brakes and traction control on, the performance/safety ratio goes up a large notch, almost surprisingly so, on pavement as well as wet earth.

However, during my initial test ride over sodden dirt trails with the 2010 GS, the 19-inch front wheel (like on most other adventure bikes) shod in a “90% street” tire, and the street-soft suspension, gave no grip whatsoever. It seemed like it pushed through the earth rather than roll over it. Consequently, even if the engine was working hard, the front end refused to bite down in the dirt, and did not provide a base to allow me to steer the bike with the throttle – it just wanted to understeer straight off the road. My conclusion after that first test was that we were dealing with a great engine in a touring bike masquerading as an adventure model.

(Photo: BMW)
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