The 2013 R1200 GS ADV vs. The 2014 R1200 GS ADV
Let me say up front, this is not a review by a seasoned motorcycle journalist. It is the honest impression of a GS rider who rides a lot and loves BMW motorcycles of all types. Much has been said about the newest BMW R1200 GS Adventure, by real motorcycle journalists in reviews with lots of technical specs and impressions in publications and websites all around the world. Our friends at ADV PULSE a good job summing up what’s new. So in truth there’s not much more we here at Moto Stella are going to add to that media whirl. What we can offer is a more personalized take on that it’s like to ride the the ’13 GS ADV back to back with the ’14 GS ADV. Jim Downs and Kurt Yaeger take the big Adventure bikes for some Canyon Scratching.
The chance to ride both of these bikes came together in typical Moto Stella fashion – that is to say, with minimal planning and fore thought. Earlier in the week my friend Kurt emailed to say he’s gotten and GS Adventure to ride while he’s waiting on his bike to be ready and suggested we go for a ride. That’s typically all the planning I need for a short trip or even a long one. I’m imagined the bike he had as a loaner GS, some older model, maybe something from a rental fleet, rode hard and lovelessly abused. But I should have considered who I was riding with. Kurt Yaeger’s not your average buddy with an Adventure motorcycle . So I shouldn’t have been surprised to see him will out a 2014 R1200GS ADV. After meeting Kurt’s cat we stood around looking at the two similar, yet different motorcycles. I didn’t take any measurements, but the visual differences of the ’13 model and the ’14 are striking. My Bike, the Triple Black 2013 model is noticeably taller in posture, while the newer model appears to be wider up front. Both have what what I’ve heard people refer to as an, “intimidating” look. A non-riding friend once said my ’13 GS looks like, “something sent back in time to protect John Conner.”
The 2014 model doubles down on the, “REI meets Terminator” aesthetic. I personally like the look of the new bike, although some of the styling trims appear to be aesthetic over functional. The transformer robot angles and the plastic vent ports around the tank give me the impression that this would indeed be the bike to have for the inevitable, future war with sentient robots, though I wonder how all those plastic fittings would hold up over years of real off-road abuse. Like when I did this: Second guessing and navel gazing aside I like the look of the new bike and was eager to give it a ride. Throwing my leg over the 2014 Model the first standout difference is the seat width. Because of the new engine layout, the Motorcycle is more narrow at the front of the saddle then it’s predecessor. The seat pegs are further back and the familiar feel the of fuel injectors against my shins was a welcome omission. In the new water cooled engine arrangement, the intakes are from at the top of the cylinders, not the rear as on the older models. The cockpit is laid out somewhat differently than the old bike. Turn signals are set- up in a more traditional way, with a single thumb control on the left side. The suspension and ride mode controls are spread out on the right and grips. Not getting an official briefing on those, it took me a few minutes to figure out where everything was. Also there’s was a scroll wheel control on the left grip, which I was disappointed to learn is only for controlling the GPS.
Starting the bike was familiar: key on, blinking ABS lights, starter button, fired up instantly. A couple blips on the throttle and the the exhaust note is noticeably different than the ’13 version. Both bike were outfitted with the stock exhaust pipes. One of the thing’s that really sold me on the 2013 GS was the loud, dirt bike-esque “THWAP-THWAP-THWAP,” sound it makes when you blip the throttle. I recall having a huge smile on my face, blipping the throttle at stop lights just to hear it. The 2014 Model is missing that burpy note, sounding more a little more refined and spun-up. More reminiscent of the super precise buzz of my 2000 BMW K1200RS.
Clutch in, Step it down into first, all normal. We start to roll out and as I’m releasing the clutch and starting to roll on a little throttle, the engine RPM climbs but I’m not moving. Let out more clutch and finally it catches way out at the end of clutch hand lever’s throw. That was going to take me a few minutes to get used to. I even botched a few shifts up through the gears because it felt so different than the 2013. The was also a distinct lack of engagement feel in the handle as I engaged in first gear. On the older model, the action of the clutch engaging has a physicality that you can feel in your hand and even hear. That combined with an exhaust note that you feel in your chest created a very connect feel to the bike. When I bought the bike new, back in September of 2013, that sound and feel was a real selling point. The 2014 model seems to be missing that analogue quality. Which makes sense because every thing about the clutch and throttle is different. The clutch is wet, and the transmission shares the same fluids and case as the engine. Also, the throttle is now 100% drive by wire which means that the inputs you give it don’t directly connect to the engine, but rather to a computer that interprets what you want based on the drive mode to help control all the power. I love this kind of tech and actually had to stop myself from playing with the controls and focus on riding. Though, I do wonder about a computer controlled system during the “inevitable, future war with the robots.” I suppose we’ll all have bigger concerns when that happens.
My first stretch of road in the saddle of the ’14 R1200GS ADV, was the infamous “Snake,” in the Santa Monica Mountains Which was actually perfect, because this was where the new model out classed the older one. The power and acceleration on the ’14 is a big step up over the older bike. Rolling on the gas out of a corner presses your eyes back into the sockets and brings a smile to your face. It’s very addicting, and the power delivery is smooth and predictable. Whether I was lugging a bit in 4th or winding it in 2nd that get-up was always there.
Unfortunately we didn’t have time to play with both of the big bikes off road too much. A few burnouts and stoppies on a small dirt over look with vertical cliffs on three sides doesn’t count as a real off road fax-out. I would love spend real time with the newer model in some real world adventure scenarios. It would be informative to test out some of my concerns about the lack of clutch feel on an rocky hill climb or single track. Anecdotally, real riders I spoken to who have and ride the 2014 model have told me they love it, and do prefer it over the previous edition.
Spending a Friday goofing around on Adventure motorcycles in the canyons is just plain fun. While I’m not ready to trade in my 2013 R120GS Adventure for the 2014 model (just yet) I am intrigued and look forward to another ride on it.