View RSS Feed


BMW GS Experience

Rate this Entry
The GS Experience started last year in Australia as a way to give customers a better understanding of what GS bikes could do both on and off road. It's run by BMW Motorad Australia and held in three States over the course of the year. You can book up to two time slots on any two bikes from the GS range. Light refreshments are also provided, along with a t-shirt, all for $49AUD. It provided just the excuse I needed to head back to Melbourne.

The Melbourne event is run from the Toolangi Tavern, about 75 mins drive north east-ish from the CBD. We stayed at Balgownie Estate the night before and they were offering test drives of their own, all be it much more expensive. $700\hr for the Ferrari 458, and $500 for the Maserati, Audi or GTR.

The Toolangi area provides some fantastic twisty tarmac, and ready access to parts of the Toolangi State Forest for the off road sections. For my riding eduction I booked in for the F800GS Adventure first up, and then the R1200GS for seconds.

Arriving at the Tavern for the 11am session, riders signed up for a $1750 excess, got our t-shirts and went through a technical briefing on all the different bikes. I'm not sure what sure what happened to the 10am group but they were running very, very late. In fact we were standing around for a good 20 minutes after the briefing before the riders on that session came back. Not a great start.

A quick check of who was supposed to be riding what and we were finally off down the twisty back road. First impressions: tall seat and riding position but same seat height as my WR. It was too tall for the other bloke riding one so they swapped in a lower seat. Very plush ride, softly sprung, and a seat you could sit on for weeks. I'm not a quick rider and I would imagine some people finding the ride too plush in the twisties, even on a firm setting. I liked it though.

We were about 10 mins down the road before being directed into a large dirt layby where we would get a demonstration of the ABS and Traction Control settings. The tail rider was also our demo rider and we were pretty stoked to discover it was none other than two time Isle of Man TT winner Cam Donald!? Miles Davis, BMW Oz Marketing Manager, was explaining the different modes of ABS, Cam would apply his skills in an applicable demo. Road ABS with no lock up on dirt at all. Enduro ABS with marginal slippage allowing you to stop faster on dirt and have a little more fun, and Enduro Pro (1200GS models only) which gives you full lock up of the back wheel but keeps ABS on the front. Traction control demos brought out the wannabe hoon in most of us, but all up it made for a very effective presentation.

Mounting up and back the way we'd come past the tavern toward the forest section. A quick stop to check off road settings applied where available and for those that wanted them, and then up the forestry road. It was a reasonably well maintained 1.5 lane dirt road so speeds were good, although some riders were exceptionally quick and it was
obvious keeping up was never going to be an option for me. We'd been warned it was a public road and to expect some traffic but a logging truck with 3 trailers in tow came around a tight right hand corner some 2/3rds of the way over my side of the road. It made for an impressive real world demo of off road ABS and nearly required a new pair of pants...

There were some very large potholes, mainly on corner entry and exit but that plushness I mentioned earlier meant the 800GSA made very light work of them. It looks like a huge dirt bike and in reality that's what it is, but I was surprised it never felt heavy or sluggish with its comfort.

We headed back to the tavern for a quick snack, and then I mounted up on the 1200GS -

First impressions: lower to the ground, a first gear that seemed to go on for ever, and shit it was quick! No nose diving under braking and a firmer ride gave it a more stable feel, seemingly much more nimble compared with the 800 despite the weight gain. Smaller front wheel may also have helped. We made it to the layby again and realised everyone had been on the earlier slot so it was decided to skip the demos and get more time in on the dirt. Cam was not offended.

There were a few longer straights past the tavern which allowed some better use of the right hand, suffice to say I was finding 125hp very addictive. The throttle response would have been too much off road for this relative noob but Enduro mode smoothed things out noticeably. Standing on the pegs the bike felt much better balanced than the 800. Totally planted. Until the potholes... Whereas the 800 just glided over them effortlessly, they jarred up through the front forks straight to the bars on the 1200. One of them was so jarring I nearly lost it so decided to slow down. I checked my settings at the half way mark but they all seemed in order so I guess this is the opposite compromise to the 800's compliance off road.

We stopped at a picnic spot for a group photo before heading back.

Trying the bikes back to back like this really highlights the pros and cons of each. The 800GSA is superbly comfortable, and that comfort translated well off road for me too. I'd heard bad things about a heavy clutch on the 800's but I found little to no difference in clutch action between the bikes, both light and easy. The 1200 was also comfortable and I loved the lack of nose dive keeping the front wheel better on track when braking. I had zero buffeting from the screen on the 1200 also, where as the 800GSA got me right under the chin. Standing on the pegs the 1200 fitted like a glove and its balance was instantly confidence inspiring, it just didn't like potholes at all. Off road for the 1200 my take away was either slow down or ride the 800, which is the exact opposite of my on road experience with the 800, ie: slow down or ride the 1200. I still hope I missed a suspension setting on the 1200 for off road use 'cos it's seriously impressive on road.

From BMW Australia's perspective they're very unlikely to get a sale out of me so I don't know whether they'll lock this sort of event down to Aussie's only at some stage, but it was a fantastic experience for me anyway. If you're even contemplating a GS I would certainly recommend it if you can get in.

The following couple of days I spent touring around South Gippsland on my cousins VFR1200 Cross Tourer. The V4 make a better noise than any Beemer that's for sure, and it certainly added to my newly discovered enjoyment of large capacity bikes. He rode his other bike, another Honda, but a 1300 Cruiser of some sort. Would bottom out regularly and he has a pair of boots with steel heel caps on specifically to make sparks when cornering... He's a loon.

So three days of motorbikes followed by three days of CBD retail for the missus... seemed like a good trade to me.

Submit "BMW GS Experience" to Digg Submit "BMW GS Experience" to Submit "BMW GS Experience" to StumbleUpon Submit "BMW GS Experience" to Google Submit "BMW GS Experience" to reddit Submit "BMW GS Experience" to Facebook