Five months have passed pretty rapidly with the Rallye, all to the sonorous soundtrack of a hard-working boxer twin exercising with the sort of aerobic exertion that any triathlete would be happy with. That droning flat braaap has become a rather addictive companion, but with over 5500 extremely diverse miles shared – there are some key observations that have delighted, confounded and disappointed me.
The first is that, regardless of the journey, I’m always pleased to be riding the Rallye. The sheer versatility means that nothing I encounter is ever going to faze it. When there’s a lot of miles to cover in a hurry it’s fast, comfortable, cosseting and engaging. Actually, it’s better than that: it’s fun. There’s a highly irreverent hooligan lurking beneath all that Germanic efficiency. It wheelies on the throttle out of corners and over crests, easily kicks the back wheel out if you’re brutal in the wet (before the electronics reign it back it), and with the HP silencer fitted it roars to each horizon, before popping like a Gatling gun on the brakes. It just makes me smile. The quickshifter/autoblipper is an added bonus, too.
I even took it out on track recently, which drew some amused looks from other riders at Rockingham as I tried to find a part of the track where the GS’s traction control light wasn’t illuminated. Considering the bike choice, and the fact that I was on Pirelli STR Rally semi-knobblies, it was some of the most fun I’ve had on track in years.
That Rallye seat is only just comfortable enough, though, on long rides. If you’re not a salad-dodger like me, then you might prefer a little more seat paddling. The screen is very short for those who do a lot of fast motorway riding, too (see boxout for one solution) – but I must confess to liking the clean airflow over the shorty, which is sometime just replaced by turbulence with bigger screens.
The new Dynamic ESA suspension is a complete revelation. It irons roads smooth under your wheels, making ‘pressing on’ effortless on everything from motorways to country lanes. In fact, it’s almost too good on bumpy back roads, eradicating imperfections that would normall curtail your speed, and resulting in some rather borderline journey times. The throttle goes both ways, but it does open rather easily.
The engine and drivetrain – while smooth in operation – are noisier than I recall on my last GS – so I’m going to test another bike to see if it’s just mine, my imagination, or a genuine observation. There’s no roughness, but the noise at tickover is notable, and the transmission sounds harsh on a closed throttle, which I don’t recall on other GSs I’ve ridden. The exhaust valve is also giving an audible squeak on start-up, too – so I’ll whip the can off and check that it’s moving freely, and lubricate the actuator.
If this were the Rallye’s school report, it’s be an A-. It’s so good, but it’s not quite perfect. It’s ‘must try harder’ subject now is definitely the fuelling, so I need to find a free day to action the much-delayed visit to a dyno to get it sorted.
Screen if you want to go faster
I rather like the Rallye’s stubby original screen, but if you’re doing a lot of touring and want more protection from windblast, then a taller screen is a must. BMW have one on offer, but I’ve been testing the MRA Multi-X-creen. It’s not cheap, at £129, but the quality is superb – and it works well, too. There are almost too many settings available between the bike’s adjustment, and the screen’s – but it means you have near-infinite opportunity to get it perfectly set to your preference.
R1200GS fork recall
The global recall on the GS has now been completed on my bike, which has given me a lot more peace of mind, specifically off-road. We’ve heard of no road failures, and only a handlful of off-road accidents – but getting it done is a no-brainer. The stabilising collar at the top of the fork stanchion prevents any movement where tube meets cap, thus preventing the wiggling motion that can lead to a detachment. I think it looks better than the rubber cover, too.
Show me the way
I’ve been using the new BMW NavigatorVI for the last three months, and if I could be more impressed, I don’t know how. The headline improvement over all previous versions is the incredible screen. Not only is it bigger, less reflective, and clearer – but it hads a liquid depth to it that truly luxurious. The functionality is typically superb, and it never leaves the locked cradle. It’s actually more useful than the main dash, which I barely ever glance at anymore.