If you’d told me ten years ago that I’d be ecstatic at the prospect of riding an R1200GS as a longterm test bike, I’d have been breathless with laughter before any sort of verbal response could form on my lips. But back in the here and now, I’m just that – ecstatic. So what’s changed?
Well there’s no point pretending that I haven’t, but not in the stereotypical ways that usually see devout sportsbike fans like me waddling with an arthritic gait towards the new youth provider – an ‘adventure bike’.
No, in a strange reversal of circumstances, I’m faster now than I’ve ever been; I’m actually thinner (hard to believe, I know); fitter (ditto), and my annual mileage has increased, too. So I’m different, but in ways that should drive me deeper towards my first love, surely?
Yes, but while I’m just as much in love with sportsbikes as I’ve ever been (I own several, including a GSX-R750 ‘Slabby’ and a Ducati 996), there’s one other massive variable that has changed, too. And that’s the GS.
The vast majority of my riding is done on road, and give me any ribbon of Tarmac, be it short or long, and I’ll show you a journey that I can do just as fast on a new GS as I can on a sportsbike.
That’s party due to my reasonable (in my mind) moral compass on speed and manners, but also because of the inalienable truth that power is nothing without control.
And when the majority of that control is wrestled from you by disgustingly maintained roads, the weight of traffic on them, and the legislative constraints of using them – there’s no real world advantage to having a faster scalpel.
The GS is part of a new dawn of motorcycles, a subtle evolution of things that have existed before, but become more relevant to this time thanks to their evolving genetic codes, and our acceptance of their merits. The catchall that defines this shift isn’t speed, performance, power, torque, handling, or sex appeal – it’s versatility.
You could argue the word should be ‘compromise’, but that’s no less valuable than versatility, it’s just a glass half empty way of looking at it.
So I ride a GS. Some people will think that makes me a Ewan and Charley wannabe – I’m not. Some people think that means slow and boring riding, but my fellow trackdayers recently found that to be a false assumption.
Some people think it’s too big to really take off road, but I’ve already disproved that after two days of nothing but in the Welsh hills.
Some people think that it’ll probably only cover 1000 miles a year, bashing panniers off car wing mirrors in town centres. 7,500 miles in eight weeks, and not a single glancing blow should put that swiftly to rest.
But if anyone’s really astonished by the truth – it’s me. The new GS could arguably be the most versatile and accomplished bike ever built, and it surprises me on an almost daily basis with its composure and ability to rise to the occasion – whatever that happens to be.
Whether this proves to be some sort of holiday romance will only be revealed by more time together – and that’s exactly what we’ve got…
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