BMW R1200GS Rallye: A trail blazer
At the end of 2016 BMW updated its R1200GS to make it Euro 4 compliant. While the GS was in the workshop they made some cosmetic changes and revised and smoothed the drivetrain. For 2017 BMW have launched two variants of the updated Euro 4 bike: the off road biased Rallye and the Exclusive, and it’s the Rallye, which bridges the gap between the standard GS and the big Adventure, that appears to be attracting the most interest.
Those who buy a Rallye can go two ways: to the standard road version or the off-road version, which includes opting for off-road biased rubber. You can then add sports suspension (£290), with an increased spring rate, longer spring struts and extended spring travel, which raises the seat height 20mm to 900mm while upping ride height.
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Our Rallye test bike was an off-roader that had been ridden through the BMW accessories catalogue. It bristled with goodies from the Premium package which, for £1645, includes Dynamic ESA self-levelling suspension (the same as the Exclusive TE), keyless ignition, onboard computer Pro, a GPS bracket, and cruise control. An Akrapovic exhaust adds another £860, while the engine protection kit adds £322, the cylinder head covers £188, the headlight guard £87, the adjustable back brake lever £111 and milled HP levers at £95 each. The standard model starts at £12,730 but our test bike would set you back £18,318!
But enough of all that. Riding the Rallye on Spanish lanes and trails, as well as on some proper off-road terrain, was an (electronically enhanced) revelation. Selecting Enduro mode enables off-road ABS front and rear, plus I had the DTC traction control controlling the rear.
Considering I was riding 220kg of GS on dirt, I couldn’t have felt safer or more secure. The seat is thinner and the screen smaller than on a plain GS, while wide Enduro foot-pegs add extra security. For anyone like me with only average off-road skills, the Rallye is far from the intimidating beast you might imagine.
The off-road ABS is hugely reassuring. You can brake relatively hard on gravel or over rock and it seems to find grip with limited juddering or fuss. Later in the afternoon I opted for Enduro Pro (a plug-in under the seat), which removes the ABS from the rear and allows a little more wheel spin.
The DTC is equally impressive. You can dump the clutch mid-corner to send the rear sideways: it breaks slightly then the electronics take over and pull it back in line, transforming you into an off-road god. There’s no banging or misfiring, it’s smooth and impressive.
Steep ascents can be conquered in confidence as the Metzeler Karoo 3 rubber works with the DTC to find grip. If you charge up a gravelly hill on 100% throttle you’ll feel the intervention but at a normal level of riding it’s barely perceptible. And if you’re experienced off-road you can turn off the DTC and ABS, and do so on the move.
Most GS Rallye owners who opt for the off-road pack won’t have just returned from the Dakar and will simply want something easy to ride off-road, and the new Rallye is just that. It flatters the average rider while being a genuine tool for experts.
On the road you have to make allowances for the off-road biased rubber but otherwise the self-levelling ESA delivers impressive comfort for a bike with so much off-road ability. The screen is smaller and the seat is a single unit as opposed to the separate seats on the standard GS, but these are small sacrifices given the Rallye’s performance.
This is the GS that takes the fear out of off-roading. It also looks superbly purposeful and seems set to be hugely popular with the genuinely adventurous, too. In full spec, however, it’s an expensive bike to ride over rocks.