If there’s one motorbike that could possibly be described as really style defining, then it might be the BMW GS Journey. Whereas nearly each different producer might now supply various interpretations, the mighty GS stays the blueprint for a way an journey motorbike ought to be put collectively. From the aggressive styling and the massively highly effective engine to the power to hold inconceivable quantities of bags and journey monumental distance each on and off-road, the BMW has outlined journey motorcycling for nearly twenty years.
So, the strain on the designers again in Bavaria to take care of this enviable place is equally monumental. Whereas it’s ridiculous to recommend that that the German model might lose its dominance in a single day, there’s nonetheless a heavy burden of expectation each time the subsequent era of the GSA is revealed. Can BMW maintain enhancing what’s clearly a particularly competent and efficient machine and keep its place on the prime?
Step ahead the larger GS
The launch of the 2019 GS Journey got here scorching on the heels of the usual GS, and with good purpose. Gross sales of the 2 bikes are virtually similar, so to take care of the 2 choices for the tons of of hundreds of loyal and potential consumers the world over is necessary. Only a month or so after BMW had entertained Europe’s motorcycling press in sunny Portugal (and the UK press in considerably cooler and wetter South Wales), we have been invited to pattern the delights of the brand new GSA within the altogether extra agreeable setting of Almeria within the south of Spain. Blue skies, empty roads and a cool glass of Sangria on the finish of the day – it sounded good.
The very first thing to note concerning the Journey is simply how a lot measurement and presence the large GS has. Even after you’ve adjusted your self to the usual GS as being your benchmark, the Journey is that and extra. From the huge 30-litre tank, the superbly crafted crash bars that wrap themselves across the flanks of the bike to the long-lasting beak thrusting ahead, this machine has some critical angle. Assume Ray Winstone screaming ‘Who’s the Daddy?’ whereas swinging a cue ball in a sock…
Select your weapon
There are two totally different contenders to check, and just like the earlier GS launch deep within the Welsh Valleys, there’s an apparent favorite. Within the purple nook we have now the Journey TE, completed in silver and gray with purple accent colors and black wheels – just about the entry degree machine though it did have choices of the aluminium tank, an alarm and the ‘name an engineer’ button on the right-hand bar. Within the blue nook, it’s the completely beautiful Rallye TE variant, dripping with racing cool from the huge GS emblem and the white, pink and blue livery to the white handguards, white body, gold wheels, and naturally, the all-important HP moniker within the aspect cowl. Including in the identical alarm and Batphone-style emergency name trickery, there nonetheless solely an insignificant £300 between the 2 bikes. Which one would you decide?
However in fact, the extra observant BMW aficionados on the market will level out that apart from slight variations in color choices, graphics and the odd little bit of plastic trim, all of which make a distinction, cosmetically the bikes are unchanged since final yr. And that’s principally true though the addition of the LED headlights and the TFT dashboard (extra about that later) are vital inclusions that may have set you again the thick finish of a grand as aftermarket choices on the 2018 mannequin. However the lack of modifications to the BMW’s bodywork are intentional, as what has actually modified for 2019, and what’s the major focus of the brand new bike, is the engine.
New engine tech
BMW has been utilizing the identical four-valve know-how in its bikes for over 1 / 4 of a decade. Sure, there might have been gradual improvement of the boxer engine through the years, from the introduction of water cooling and gasoline injection to the inclusion of polar-bear-friendly catalytic converters, however primarily the core of the motor has remained unchanged. However, for 2019, the engineers have thrown the child out with the bathwater, ditched the previous engine and are available bang up-to-date with their Shift Cam system.
Now It might be straightforward to explain the brand new tech as merely variable valve timing, however to take action can be a disservice to the quantity of labor that has gone into the motor. The brand new system varies not solely the timing of the inlet valves but in addition the size of the stroke; as well as, the 2 valves open asynchronously (not in co-ordination with one another) to create a swirl of gasoline inside the chamber and therefore optimise combustion. If this all sounds too difficult, then it’s value testing BMW’s useful video on YouTube.
However the actual great thing about the brand new system is simply how easily the know-how manages the transition between the 2 states. When the bike is beneath low load, the valves are solely opening by a paltry 2mm, conserving the unleaded however nonetheless providing nice efficiency. Go previous the 5,000 rev mark, or certainly simply crack open the throttle, and the hounds of hell are unleashed as these valves at the moment are opening an enormous 11mm to ship the complete gasoline load to these two large cylinders.
Okay, so how does this know-how truly really feel on the brand new GSA – can the Journey’s imposing dimensions deal with this improve within the motor? Grabbing the Rallye mannequin as the apparent bike of selection, I head out of the confines of the golf resort onto a small stretch of motorway and right away it’s an opportunity to open the faucets and spin up the motor. And it’s a very life-affirming and grin-inducing expertise because the BMW surges ahead deliciously.
With not solely the Shift Cam system but in addition a capability improve of some 84cc from 1170 to 1254, the brand new motor delivers a powerful 9% extra energy than the 1200 (now as much as 136 bhp) and maybe extra importantly, almost 15% extra torque. The change between the 2 cams is totally unnoticeable and, to be trustworthy, with such a shocking journey, you shortly cease making an attempt to note. Quick corners may be devoured effortlessly, and lengthy straights flip into licence-threatening drag strips. Don’t get me improper, it nonetheless seems like a boxer engine, only a actually, actually fast one.
Cockpit and controls
Onto the smaller roads away from the motorway, the slower speeds give a chance to evaluate the Journey’s cockpit and controls and as with the earlier GS, it’s a pleasant place to be. Central to the fairing is the big and fantastically clear 6.5” TFT dashboard, now fitted as commonplace, displaying a clean arc rev counter over the central velocity show. Across the periphery, there’s a choice of different information, from experience mode and kit chosen, to ambient temperature, journey meter and time.
In case you do need to range any of this, there’s a menu change and a straightforward to make use of thumb wheel on the left-hand bar that lets you scroll by means of choices from connectivity to suspension arrange. On the identical left bar there’s additionally an analogue cruise management for straightforward switching out and in on lengthy rides, and with a variety of round 400 miles in that tank, you possibly can have some very, very lengthy rides!
The display is considerably greater than the inventory GS and could be adjusted by turning the knob on the right-hand aspect. The bigger measurement signifies that it isn’t as strong as you may want, and there’s a little bit of a shake happening – not a serious problem however nonetheless there, particularly when it’s on the very best setting. There’s a body between the display and the TFT unit the place the SatNav mounts, and this may be linked into the show and managed by way of the thumbwheel. General, this is likely one of the greatest dashboards we’ve examined.
When it comes to the chassis, the 1250 is unchanged from the 1200, with a metal trellis wrapping across the motor and a separate subframe picked out in black stretching out in the direction of the rear of the machine. The crash bars snake across the barrels, as much as the radiator cowls and terminate simply in entrance of the acquainted roundel on the aspect of the tank. On the rear, the sturdy frames are in place to carry the inevitable arduous baggage that may accompany a very good proportion of the bikes bought.
The suspension is identical mixture of telelever on the entrance and paralever on the rear, which delivers a rock strong and reliable experience it doesn’t matter what you do to get it out of practice. As we have been driving the TE variations of the bike, we had the added benefit of the Dynamic ESA suspension to maintain issues adjusted mechanically on the fly based on load, driving type and nearly every thing else. As soon as set, that is very a lot a ‘change on and let the pc do its factor’ choice.
With ESA suspension controlling the springers, the BMW’s additionally obtained ASC, Automated Stability Management, which manages and optimises the traction and, an actual bonus for such a bodily massive bike, there’s a intelligent Hill Begin Management perform as normal. Cease on something greater than a 5% gradient and the software program hits the anchors till you draw back, with out you bothering to the touch the brakes your self. It’d sound a tad Massive Brother, nevertheless it works nicely.
Fantastic tune the efficiency
As a further choice on the day, and out there as an aftermarket add on, there’s a plug in that goes beneath the seat that accesses the Professional driving modes, with Dynamic Traction Management, ABS Professional, Hill Begin Professional, and a configurable Dynamic Professional driving mode that lets you fine-tune each facet of the bike’s efficiency by way of the TFT display and the thumbwheel. With restricted time on the bike, we didn’t even scratch the floor of what you are able to do with this degree of tech, however when you purchase the GS Journey, there are infinite days of joyful fiddling to sit up for.
For each this bike and the inventory GS, BMW has modified brake provider, electing to go together with American firm Hayes, higher recognized for its mountain bike brakes, for the BMW branded radially mounted entrance calipers. The change is perhaps extra comprehensible in the event that they’d completely outsourced the brakes to Hayes, however the rear brakes stay Brembo and the curves of the Italian models look mismatched to the blocky American-made calipers up entrance. Each work faultlessly with loads of really feel on the lever and pedal whether or not on or off-road, however the mixture of suppliers and design appears anathema to the anticipated Germanic logic.
Good street manners
Again to the driving and the run in the direction of the lunch cease was affected by sluggish hairpins and brief level and squirt straights. The GSA responds with confidence inspiring suggestions from the suspension and with the huge torque of the engine, the bike will pull from low revs in no matter gear you selected. The ABS retains heavy braking beneath management, and the impartial driving place and low centre of gravity signifies that even should you do go in too scorching, the bike will clean issues out and get the job completed with out drama. Though an journey bike, using the 19” entrance and 17” rear helps right here and retains the stability in the direction of street manners slightly than sacrificing stability for off-road heroics.
We stopped for a break from the noon solar on the sweeping Circuito de Almeria, the place a procession of leather-clad heroes have been carving their approach around the sweeping curves and flat-out straights of the race monitor. Wanting around the pit garages, it was an fascinating comparability between the glossy and slippery race bikes and the brutalist structure of the GSA. Subsequent to an S1000RR, the divergence within the type and performance of the 2 BMWs is stark, but each of them are each on the prime of their recreation – that’s a reasonably spectacular achievement.
Hitting the paths
Because the bikes have been operating street rubber for the morning, the identical pit garages have been pressed into use by our hosts to swap over the tyres to some much more appropriate set of Pirelli Scorpion Rally for our foray into the mushy and sandy trails traversing the centre of the extensive Almerian valley. With the motor clicked into enduro driving mode, the rear ABS switched off and the rear brake pedal swapped to the raised place, the GS and I are shortly in our completely satisfied place and completely having fun with one another’s firm.
The dynamic suspension smooths out the tough stuff as greatest it may well and permits the Journey to cowl the panorama effortlessly. On the path, the motor is operating the decrease cams more often than not to ship caramel clean energy however give it a handful and the bike will mild up the rear wheel immediately and rocket you ahead in a bathe of Spanish gravel.
You possibly can undoubtedly really feel that the entrance is a tad much less secure than if there have been a 21-inch wheel there, nevertheless it’s actually only a case of creating an adjustment within the trickier stuff to maintain issues planted. The size between the seat, pegs and bars make the transition from seated to standing very straightforward and, as soon as stood up, the stability of the bike is faultless.
Newbies to the BMW journey vary typically head for the smaller bikes, however the stability of the larger machines is arguably much better. Both method, the extensive pegs grip properly, and the historically vast GS bars make piloting the BMW off-road an entire hoot – one thing this massive actually shouldn’t be this enjoyable! You’ll be able to trickle by way of the nadgery sections with virtually trials-like precision and as soon as the paths open up, set the throttle to warp velocity and let the Journey do what it does greatest.
The brand new boss – the BMW R 1250 GS Journey
Heading again to the lodge by way of a collection of trails after which onto the sun-baked roads, the GSA continued to point out simply how good at each environments it truly is, and simply why this bike has bought in such prodigious volumes and evokes virtually spiritual loyalty. From weekend bimbles to real trans-global adventures, the Journey will do nearly every part you need it to and do it nicely. In case you are a quick rider, it can reward with rock-solid dealing with, large energy and impeccable street holding. In case you are comfortable to cruise and benefit from the journey at a extra modest tempo, then the snug driving place and clean energy supply of the GSA will cosset you all day with a smile in your face. And if you wish to take it off -road, the brand new 1250 takes issues to the subsequent degree.
So, is the 2019 GS Journey worthy to proceed the model’s hard-fought dynasty? Hell sure.
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