LISTEN 09:40

In 2004 and again in 2007 we watched Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman embark on their "Long Way" journeys on BMW GS Adventure motorcycles. Sure, they weren’t stock bikes, but how many of us are planning 15,000-mile trips through deserts, inhospitable countries and nearly impossible terrain? If we were, we would also go for tough metal panniers, an extended luggage rack to carry all our essential gear, a taller windscreen and specially adapted shock absorbers and headlights, just as they did. Of course, all those options are available to those of us planning trips within our own country.

The 2015 BMW R 1200 GS Adventure is the latest model in the "Adventure" dynasty that arguably began with the GS 800 back in the early 1980s. New for 2015, the R 1200 GS Adventure has the BMW Motorrad Keyless Ride System, the Shift Assistant Pro, and not one, but two low suspension/seat lowering options available.

Continue reading for my review of the 2015 BMW R 1200 GS Adventure.

  • 2015 BMW R 1200 GS Adventure
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Air/liquid-cooled four stroke flat twin engine, double overhead camshaft, one balance shaft
  • Transmission:
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
  • Torque @ RPM:
  • Energy:
    Electronic intake pipe injection
  • Displacement:
    1170 cc
  • Top Speed:
    125 mph
  • Price:


2015 BMW R 1200 GS Adventure High Resolution Exterior
- image 609583

The first most notable feature of the R 1200 GS Adventure is the fuel tank that holds almost eight gallons. You read that right: eight. On the one hand, that’s an extraordinary amount of fuel with about a 450-mile range assuming 55 mpg.

You can keep the key in your pocket and still lock or unlock the ignition, steering lock and fuel cap.

On the other hand, that’s a lot of weight up high and quite a large tank to get your knees around. New for 2015, you also have a glove-box storage compartment above the tank to hold your bits and bobs.

As an offroad-ready tourer, the GS Adventure has five rider modes. The enduro mode is specially calibrated for knobby tires, but experienced offroad folks are going to like the enduro pro mode. In this mode, the rear-wheel ABS is disengaged so you can throw that ass-end around while wallowing in the dirt.

I love the Keyless Ride System. You can keep the key in your pocket and still lock or unlock the ignition, steering lock and fuel cap. That’s convenient, especially when you don’t have to pull off your gloves to fumble with a key.

The enduro mode is specially calibrated for knobby tires, but experienced offroad folks are going to like the enduro pro mode.

Another welcome features is the Shift Assistant Pro. This lets you shift up or down without manually engaging the clutch. You can have uninterrupted power and save yourself left-hand cramps from pulling the clutch lever.

Even though the lowest seat height option is still a bit tall for height-challenged riders, it’s nice to see that manufacturers are waking up to the fact that they can and should find options to accommodate shorter people. Let’s face it; there are plenty of folks that ride who are under 6 feet tall. The standard seat height is 35.8 inches and you can lower it to 35 inches. With the low suspension option, you can adjust the seat height from 33.8 inches to 33.1 inches. A low suspension/low seat height option lets you adjust the seat height from 33 inches to 32.3 inches. All told, you have the choice of seat heights from 35.8 inches down to 32.3 inches with heel-to-heel leg-arc lengths between 78.3 inches and 72.8 inches. That’s a wide range and will accommodate a large number of riders.


2015 BMW R 1200 GS Adventure High Resolution Exterior
- image 609585

The frame is of the “stressed-engine” type, with the engine serving as a structural member of the frame – a feature that stiffens the frame while reducing overall weight. A modern, single-sided swingarm floats on 8.7 inches of travel from the WAD shock that comes with handwheels for quickly and easily dialing in the preload and rebound damping to your preferences. BMW Motorrad Telelever forks take care of the front on 37 mm tubes with 8.3 inches of travel.

Laced rims add some class and a traditional touch to the bike, which seems to clash with the angular modern look. As an adventure bike, though, function outweights appearance. The 17- inch rear wheel and 19-inch front come plenty wide, with a 170 mm and 120 mm profile, respectively.

Radial, four-pot calipers bind on dual, 305 mm brake discs to control the front wheel, and a dual-pot caliper binds a 276 mm disc in the rear. An ABS oversees brake operations to prevent skidding, and if you are an old pro, you can turn the ABS off entirely for absolute individual control over the brakes. While I realize that ABS can add some safety to your ride in poor conditions, there is no escaping the fact that it can also extend the necessary braking distance by a considerable margin. ABS is no substitute for skill, of course, but it does add a measure of safety and confidence.


2015 BMW R 1200 GS Adventure High Resolution Exterior
- image 609577

German engineering has always been top notch, and the 122EN engine in the 1200 GS Adventure is no exception. This 1,170 cc mill cranks out 125 horsepower at 7,750 rpm, and 92 pound-feet of torque at 6,500 rpm, so you have plenty of power available in the mid- to top-end. Red line is 9,000 rpm, which gives us a top speed of, according to the factory, over 125 mph.

This 1,170 cc mill cranks out 125 horsepower at 7,750 rpm, and 92 pound-feet of torque at 6,500 rpm.

The air/liquid cooled, four-stroke boxer engine achieves this output through a number of systems. A BMS-K with engine management system controls the throttle-valve actuator in the electronic fuel injected throttle bodies for precise power deliver and low emissions, and a three-way catalytic converter burns off any excess hydrocarbons.

Mechanical noise in the drivetrain is kept to a minimum by a constant-mesh, six-speed, helical-cut gearbox with a shaft final drive. Slipper technology makes an appearance in the clutch mechanism, leaving the bike with a manageable demeanor when downshifting to scrub off speed before a corner.


MSRP in the 2015 BMW R 1200 GS Adventure is $18,340. Your color choices are Olive Matte, Racing Blue Metallic Matte or Alpine White. BMW covers your new bike under a three-year or 36,000-mile limited warranty. The warranty covers bulbs for six months; paint and chrome finishes are covered for 24 months.


2015 BMW R 1200 GS Adventure High Resolution Exterior
- image 609584

If I stack the R1200 GS Adventure up against the Triumph Tiger Explorer XC, I’m looking at the 1,170 cc opposed twin in the GS Adventure and the 1,215 cc in-line three-cylinder engine in the Tiger Explorer XC. Priced within $1,000 of each other, the Tiger has more horsepower, but you have to wind it up almost two grand more to get it. They’re real close on torque — 92 pound-feet on the GS Adventure versus 89 pound-feet on the Tiger Explorer. Between the two, there isn’t anything that leaps out to make one an obvious winner.

On adventure bikes, being offroaders at their core, seat height is always a concern for me. The seat height of the Tiger Explorer at its lowest setting isn’t quite as low as the GS Adventure with the low suspension/low seat height option, but it is an option and something I’d have to add to the price in order to take advantage of it.

The BMW comes with fatter tires, but in the suspension, I might have to go for the Triumph, with stiffer forks and more torsional stability.

He Said

My husband and fellow writer, TJ Hinton, says, “Even though boxer engines worry my nerves a bit — there is something about the heads being so exposed and vulnerable that bothers me — I have always been a fan of the Bayerische Motoren Werke. Our Bavarian buddies have been cranking out quality products for many years, and this model seems to advance that legacy. Now, if they could just get off the angular-looking “sheet metal,” and build something with some feminine curves to it!”

She Said

"I still don’t see the point in having an adventure bike with no storage. I’d have to add saddlebags and a top case at the very least. A little more offroad-ready than its brother, the R 1200 GS, the GS Adventure comes with knobby tires, hand guards and crash bars, spoke wheels and wide enduro foot pegs. Sure, you could add those to the GS, but you’d miss out on the slightly different steering geometry and slightly more suspension travel the GS Adventure has, making it more geared to offroad. With a heavier crankshaft and resulting flywheel effect, the GS Adventure is surprisingly agile in low-speed maneuvers and the low center of gravity overall makes handling the bike’s weight almost effortless. Even though the GS is supposed to be the "touring" version, I might consider the GS Adventure better suited because of the large windshield and wind deflectors making a more comfortable cockpit for long-distance rides."


Engine: Air/liquid-cooled two-cylinder, four-stroke opposed-twin engine with two spur gear-driven overhead camshafts and one counterbalance shaft
Engine Type: 122EN
Displacement: 1,170 cc
Bore: 101 mm
Stroke: 73 mm
Piston Stroke: 73 mm
Maximum Power: 125 horsepower at 7,750 rpm
Maximum Torque: 92 pound-feet at 6,500 rpm
Maximum Engine Speed: 9,000 rpm
Compression ratio: 12.5 to 1
Mixture control / engine management: Electronic intake pipe injection / BMS-K+ digital engine management with electromotive throttle actuator
Emission control: Closed-loop three-way catalytic converter, emission standard EU-3
Maximum speed: over 125 mph
Alternator: three-phase alternator (510 watts nominal power)
Battery: 12 V / 11,8 Ah, maintenance-free
Clutch: Multi-disk oil-bath clutch, slipper clutch
Transmission: Constant mesh six-speed gearbox with helical gear teeth
Drive: Shaft drive with bevel gears
Frame: Two-section frame, front- and bolted on rear frame, load-bearing engine
Front Suspension: BMW Motorrad Telelever; stanchion diameter 37 mm, central spring strut, 8.3 inches travel
Rear Suspension: Cast aluminum single-sided swing arm with BMW Motorrad Paralever; WAD strut (travel-related damping), spring pre-load hydraulically adjustable (continuously variable) at handwheel, rebound damping adjustable at handwheel, 8.7 inches travel
Castor: 3.6 in (92.7 mm)
Steering Head Angle: 65.5 degrees
Brake, Front: Dual floating discs, diameter 305 mm, four-piston radial calipers
Brake, Rear: Single disc, diameter 276 mm, double-piston floating caliper
ABS: Standard (part integral, can be switched off)
Wheel, Front: Cross spoke, 3.00 x 19 inches
Wheel, Rear: Cross spoke, 4.50 x 17 inches
Tires, Front: 120/70 R 19
Tires, Rear: 170/60 R 17
Length: 88.8 inches above luggage rack
Width: 37.5 inches across mirrors, 38.6 inches across hand protectors
Height: 57.1 inches, windshield in highest position
Wheelbase: 59.4 inches
Seat height, unladen: 35.0 / 35.8 inches
Inner leg curve, unladen: 76.8 / 78.3 inches
Curb Weight: 573 Pounds
Permitted total weight: 1,058 Pounds (381 pounds front, 677 pounds rear)
Payload (with Standard Equipment): 485 Pounds
Fuel Capacity: 7.9 Gallons
Reserve: approx. 1 Gallon
Fuel Economy: 55 mpg at a constant 56 mph
Recommended Fuel: Premium Unleaded (max. 10 % ethanol, E10)
Warranty: Three years or 36,000 miles, limited warranty
Color Options: Olive Matte, Racing Blue Metallic Matte, Alpine White
Price: $18,340
Allyn Hinton
Allyn Hinton
Writer and Associate Motorcycle Editor -
If it had moving parts, it had Allyn's interest from a very early age. At age 11 when bicycles were too simple to hold her interest any longer, her father found her taking apart the lawn mower. When he asked why she was doing it, she replied, “I need to see how it works.” That curiosity and mechanical drive served her well over the next 40 years as she pursued careers in both the automotive and motorcycle industries. Having shared her love of motorcycles with her now husband, biker TJ Hinton, Allyn brings that love and knowledge to TopSpeed as writer and associate motorcycle editor.  Read full bio
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