I'm just back from the BMW Offroad Skills Course
at Walters Arena, where I did Level One. A bit basic to start with, but it builds quite nicely into some challenging stages. We were provided with the new R1200GS, and it's the first time that I have taken anything that size and weight seriously offroad.
There is no doubt in my mind that the new GS is quite astonishing in what it can do, and that the sophistication of its electronics are a large part of that. There is also no doubt about the amount of punishment that they can take, watching them being chucked down tracks, hills and into ditches and being abused pretty much in all ways by the various students.
Tyres make a HUGE difference, and it would be a fool who takes anything of this size and weight offroad without changing to knobblies and expecting it to perform.
I have owned an R1200GSA for 5 years now, and had no problems whatsoever. The new GS has moved the game on considerably. The engine has got some pretty useful power just where you need it, and pulls like a train. On the wet and sometimes slimy tracks at Walters Arena, I was amazed that I managed to get it into 5th gear at full chat with the confidence that I was not going to bin it. Great offroad ABS and traction control, it has to be said.
I don't think that KTM and BMW owners will ever agree about who's is best. Money no object, I'd have one of each.
However, we should not lose sight of the fact that while they both have good offroad capabilities, neither of them are motocrossers, so there are plenty of bikes out there that are better offroad, but few that are better on both.
Having now seen this second part of the group test, I see that they stuck with the road tyres, and respect to young Pavey for riding the bikes that way. You can see, though, that even with his skills he struggled for grip at one or two parts of the track. We were hooning ours with the TKC Knobblies over that same jump, and the approach and landing areas are pretty slimy when wet. There is no way that I would have attempted that with the standard fit tyres, even assuming that I could have reached the jump without dropping the bike first.
Just to re-iterate, these behemoth bikes are far, far more capable offroad that most people would them credit for. For most, I suppose that they'll never believe it until they've either seen it o done it.