Staff Blog: Swings and roundabouts
First rides & tests
05 June 2013 10:42
Every bike will delight and frustrate you to some extent – it’s an inevitable truth.
While touches of pure and simple genius will provide fodder to evangelise to your friends, there will always be those ‘what were they thinking’ facets that tug at the back of your happiness, and which you hope no-one else picks up on.
The GS isn’t a balanced mix of the two camps, it’s firmly imbalanced in the evangelist’s favour, but there are highlights and lowlights that deserve a mention.
The panniers fitted to the TE boast near genius levels of thinking. While they are, in every obvious sense, hard case panniers – they are also expandable. By simply pulling a bar on the inside of the pannier, the Vario cases expand outwards by a whole 9 litres.
With less luggage on board you can reduce drag and width, without losing out on capacity when you need it. There’s no compromise in their integrity or waterproofness, and the adjuster bar doesn’t rob any space either.
With just a few turns of the knob mounted next to the clocks, the screen will glide from its lowest position to its highest in a smooth stepless motion. There are no tools required, nothing to lock in place, no faff or fuss, no electronics adding weight or unreliability – just turn the knob with one hand, and keep riding.
BMW’s clever boffin types even sussed that popping the adjuster on the right hand side, angled to the left, means that you can operate the knob with your left hand, leaving your right to maintain its grip on the throttle and anchors.
I’d always remove the satnav whenever I’m parked up, just to prevent opportunistic magpies from causing damage in trying to rip it off the mount. However, when you’re buying petrol, nipping into a shop, or stopping at an ATM, it’s great that you can leave the unit in place for a minute or two safe in the knowledge that it can’t just be clipped off while you’re not looking.
The other great feature is the integrated control and communication between the bike and the BMW-branded Garmin. For example: The bike’s clock will set itself from the satnav, and other information, like fuel consumption, flows the other way from bike to satnav. Deft rotation and rocking of the bar-mounted control wheel enables you to drive the unit without resorting to begloved fumbling, too.
There are very few niggles with the big German, which almost makes them more frustrating. With over a million miles of testing under their belts, you’d have thought that these irritations would have been ironed out...
It’s an odd phenomenon, and something I’ve not encountered before. But ride a GS on a wet road, or even worse a wet and dirty road, and you’ll dismount with comedic levels of localised filth clarting various parts of your body.
The back of your legs, from boot to arse cheek will look like someone got you with a mud gun, and given prolonged exposure, your bottom eventually gets rather damp, too. Whatever the aerodynamic fault, it’s odd that it wasn’t discovered and cured before birth.
There’s not an adventure-style bike in existence that appears to be capable of pushing airflow over your head without causing a wild assortment of buffeting disturbance.
The GS is actually better than most, but I – like many of you who have contacted me – find the screen is an inch or two too short for the job. Duck down by an inch and a blanket of calm envelops you, sit up again, and you’re faced with the aural assault again.
Riding into a rainstorm highlights even more screen oddity. Starting off dry, and maintaining good cruising speed, you’ll be properly impressed by the screen’s ability to ensure that you get soaked, regardless of how well you tuck in behind it.
The airflow appears to be able to bend the rain around the screen, concentrating it onto your chest. In the dry, this is manifested by even short rides leaving you with a dirty neck as it performs the same trick with every atom of airborne dustiness.
Lastly in this moany series of dirt related irksomeness – why don’t BMW make the wheel-hugging front fender a bit longer? The broad belly at the front of the boxer twin is like the back wall at the local paintball centre – splattered.
Every bit of road detritus and tar gets flung into its pelt, where it sticks fast, waiting for the application of some serious elbow grease to return it to its former glory. Of course, the raft of recessed bolts clamping the frontal plate to the motor manage to form unreachable recesses, too - utterly resistant to any brush you’ve ever owned.
What doesn’t disappoint though, is the overall package – which is still revealing its depth of talents even after 8,000 miles in the saddle.
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