Here we meet the man in charge of making it happen and seeing the GS through to – hopefully for BMW – continued dominance – Antonius Ruhe, project manager for the R1200GS.
“We already had the idea when we started the project in 2007 but it was not decided, it was just one of the discussions. The vertical flow intakes were actually decided before water-cooling and this was a bigger step for us than water-cooling. By using vertical flow you change the aesthetics of the engine as the exhaust exits underneath the motor rather than at the front. We were really unsure if it would still be a Boxer engine as our customers know it with this new look, we feared they might reject the motor. We designed a 1:1 clay model with vertical flow intakes and then developed it to see how it could work from the aesthetic side of things, which was as important to us as the motor’s performance. If the customers say ‘I don’t like the look of that engine anymore’ we are building the bike for nobody!”
“Once we had built this 1:1 model of the engine in clay and solved the problem of making the vertical flow look good we decided that adding water-cooling would not be a problem.”
Did you consider making it 100 per cent water-cooled?
“By making it fully water-cooled the engine would have become very big in its dimensions, which would have scared customers. It was from this thought that the idea of precision cooling came up, keeping the engine small by targeting the cooling in the areas that need it.”
Did emissions laws force you to use water-cooling?
“They were a very important factor. We discussed EU4 when developing the bike and also considered what EU5 may require. We wanted the new engine to be future proof, I think we could have lived for one more generation with an air/oil-cooled engine, but you don’t know what will happen with emissions laws.”
“No, you must stop. We have done a lot of off-road testing and if the bike falls on its side it lies on the cylinder head or handlebar, not the radiator, it is very difficult to damage the radiator. We also tested to see if rocks would kick up from the front wheel and damage the radiator but after extensive enduro testing we discovered the low fender stops this happening.”
The current R1200GS has had some reliability issues, will this model be better?
“We are very aware that there were some issues with the older model and high reliability is one of our goals. We did a lot of testing on the new bike, over 1,000,000km, probably more now, and we have a lot of information. Quality and reliability is always the highest priority for BMW.”
Although the motor is smoother and revs faster, it still feels like a Boxer, did you try to keep the vibration in on purpose?
“Actually no, we tried to get as many vibrations out as possible. It may be a character of the bike but not everyone likes the vibrations. The exhaust sound is the same, we have had some customers say ‘finally, BMW has an exhaust that has an emotional sound’ while other have said ‘it is too loud’ We tried to please both people as when you accelerate it sounds loud but when you are on a constant throttle it is quieter than before.”
“We approached this problem from the other way. We know that our customers want torque in the total range of the motorcycle so we took the old bike’s torque curve and raised it over the whole range. The peak power was not so important, it was the torque that we concentrated on improving. If you look at the power and torque curves they are similar, it is just the new engine’s curves are higher everywhere.”
What is the secret of the GS?
“It is very easy. We sell our customers one bike but they get actually get three. They get a wonderful touring bike but also one that is sporty and also an enduro bike. Some things that are good for touring are not good for sporty or enduro riding and I think this is the secret to the GS, we have managed to make the bike good in all three of these areas which is very hard to achieve. It also looks like an enduro bike, which is important.”
“No, no, no. not at all. A lot of people travel around on the GS and make movies about it and the bike lives from this. Most of the guys who buy the bike don’t have time to do things like this because they have family or a job, but they have this dream and the GS stands for the dream. It is important for us that we have guys like Charley Boorman using the GS for adventures as it proves the bike is capable – the owners would like to do the same, they just don’t have the time.”
Where is the Adventure model?
“Ha, I’m not allowed to talk about this…well, not until the time is right.”