Photographer, Videographer, Writer, Motorcycle Racer, Dakar Rally Finisher and BRAKE Magazine's big dog, Llewelyn really likes to do things involving motorcycles. He also likes bicycles, coffee, pop punk and making horrendous puns.
Welcome to obscenity. Nothing screams ridiculous louder than a BMW R 1200 GS hauling off a road jump with an opened Remus singing at 90MPH. Most of the time adventure bikes are sensible. This is not one of those times. Touratech UK have built an R 1200 GS that is most definitely not intended to crunch miles.
There are a large variety of Adventure motorcycle riders; those who travel and choose bikes to do it, those who ride bikes and travel on them and those who use them on a daily commuter basis. Then there are the Nick Plumbs of the world. The Touratech UK MD treats his adventure bike somewhat differently to most. For him it’s about finding the hardest, most interesting off road terrain wherever he goes. What happens when someone takes that approach to a large adventure bike is the Touratech UK BMW R 1200 GS.
The newest generation of R 1200 is an incredible machine, potently fast, quickly handling, packed with genuinely user friendly and useful technology but for Nick it wasn’t enough. The biggest change to his bike is the addition of Touratech’s TracTive ‘Extreme’ suspension, fully adjustable shocks aimed at improving the outright performance of a bike that’s already pretty darn good.
Touratech have two versions of their TracTive kit, an electronic adjustable kit called Plug and Travel that’ll work with all the existing menus on the GS’s computer and a non electronic version, the ‘Extreme’. The preload has to be adjusted by hand, which does have the added advantage of providing absolute control over the settings, it’s cheaper and more importantly is designed to be capable of harder riding.
The entire time the bike is forcing a grin across my face..
Now the standard R 1200 doesn’t by any stretch have bad suspension. The semi-active system works very well, providing both valving changes between modes and whilst riding. Now this is where it gets a little odd and where the big difference in the Touratech system lie. When you hit something hard, or accelerate quickly, brake heavily or anything similar the standard GS changes the internal oil flow of the shocks, to stiffen, soften and so on. The bike has a lots of different sensors measuring the wheel speed, throttle position, current speed, rate of wheel movement and so it. It’s these sensors that the bike uses for its excellent traction system too. That sudden change in damping can be unpredictable and whilst the upside is that it can be very good in a large range of situations, if you only ride in one way then in theory it could be better.
Nick is very much of this opinion so has set about building his ideal R 1200 GS. It’s been lavished with lots of Touratech goodies to protect it from the harm at which he throws the bike, but the most significant additions are the suspension and Remus full exhaust system. We spent a couple of days on the bike to see just how far you could push the bike before it, or we gave out.
A full tilt ride
In its native state the R 1200 GS, much like the KTM Adventure R is an extremely capable bike. Off Road it’s incredibly underrated and the newest generation is an enormous leap forward, which has opened up a wealth of possibilities and riding styles that frankly just weren’t easily achievable previously. It’s a bike that’s got footpegs down, wheelies, ruts, gravel, hills and jumps in its DNA.
Touratech have taken those optional modes that let the GS be a tame, gentle, manageable cub and turned it into a non-optional lioness in full hunt. Right from the word go the bike is clearly only tuned to go fast and hard. Despite sporting a low seat the GS sits higher in the suspension stroke, is perched up and purposeful feeling. As we head out of town toward some country lanes and off road riding the bike feels held back. The open ended Remus exhaust barks away beneath you and the bike is begging to go fast.
Even little things such as pulling away from the lights are purposeful, the sagginess of the standard GS has been negated and everything happens with a huge amount of positivity. This is just around town…
As we head into some of South Wales finest country lanes the GS instantly comes alive, it’s always begging to go fast, it wheelies with negative effort, brakes incredibly and wants to go hard all the time. Big hits in the tarmac are barely noticed, small changes in direction are instant, and it feels far more race bike than adventure. The entire time the bike is forcing a grin across my face, the change in attitude of the bike is dramatic. What’s most impressive on the road is that it really didn’t feel nervous or skittish despite its extremely stiff disposition and for an off-road set-up it isn’t in the slightest bit wallowy.
Doing 50+mph (90km/h) down a rutted, rocky, wet track is plenty fast enough for me..
The biggest issue the bike had on the road and it’s a problem that would later present itself across all terrain, is that at some point you reach the limit of another component of the bike. On the tarmac it was the tyres. The feeling and feedback the suspension provided was so positive, but the Continental TKC 80’s were very much not. Without bashing the tyre, it feels positively like it wasn’t developed to be pushed this way, it walked, squirmed and was frankly unnerving at any type of lean angle. Getting it even vaguely near the edge of the tyre was scary. Not one of us that rode the bike got past this.
The TKC was literally pulling apart underneath us too. The rubber was falling apart and really it’d have been better off on something with a little more solidity and road bias to it, a Metzeler Karoo 3 or something to that effect. The TKC has been a good tyre for many years but in this instance it wasn’t working.
Now the difficulty with a bike like the Touratech R 1200 is that at some point something has got to give and honestly, that thing was my bottle. It’s testament to the performance of the suspension, but there became a point where the bike probably had more performance left to give but an element of self preservation kicks in and doing 50+mph (90km/h) down a rutted, rocky, wet track is plenty fast enough for me.
At some point, when pushing a 230kg bike you are going to find some limits.
The suspension, well it deserves a gold medal really. It’s really, really good. Compared to the stock ‘Enduro Pro’ mode the general feel is stiff. Like, British man’s top lip stiff. But where the Tractive team have succeeded is that stiff isn’t harsh, not even close. The suspension has maintained a progressive feel; it’s why it wasn’t horrendous on public road and around town. It soaks up the little bumps well, it doesn’t deflect off rocks all that much either. When you consider that a bike that big isn’t deflecting off rocks it’s impressive. One of the biggest pluses for me is the improvement in response to rider input. The end result of that is that it’s far easier to pre-load than a standard bike making line changes, holes, rocks and other such obstacles far easier navigate quickly.
Having non-active suspension isn’t something I was sure about before riding this bike, it’s one of the key features of the GS but when it came to pushing hard on the bike it was absolutely key to the improved performance and confidence. For the overwhelming majority of users the semi-active system is fantastic but the ‘Extreme’ suspension made it easier to powerslide, easier to wheelie and easier to brake all because you feel like you know exactly what to expect. This was absolutely apparent when powersliding, the ease of maintaining a slide was ridiculous. It surprised me that the 1200 could become any easier to drift. The predictability is the key here.
Whilst I do feel that the suspension is very, very good, it could be a touch better again. There is a point on faster jumps and g-outs where you get a little bit of wallowing, the bike has a little bounce about but it’s not dramatic. It wasn’t actually something that was bothersome, it’s present in a standard GS far more so and as such its not really a worry. It would be good to dial that out but as I said, it really was minor and not dangerous.
The Touratech Extreme Tractive Suspension is a very cool, un-required, indulgent bit of bling
Neatly that returns us to the previous point about limits. At some point, when pushing a 230kg bike (500 lb) to speeds approaching that of a dedicated sport enduro bike you are going to find some limits and really thats what hold back the suspension on the GS. It’s no longer the limiting factor. On a standard bike, the limits of all the components are around the same place, there is a harmony and as such you accept that the bike can go here, do this and only go so fast.
Now that this bike has had one of those components moved to a new level it shows that the tyres, the telelever, the weight and therefore the inability to change direction, stop quickly or be precise enough are now the limits. Those are features that are fundamentals of a GS’s design and really there isn’t much we can do about them. It’s a big bike and if you do ride to the very edge of those limits and make a mistake it’s not rescue-able like it would be on a much smaller bike. Nothing is pretty and about crashing a big bike. [/column]
The Touratech Tractive Suspension is a very cool, un-required, indulgent bit of bling. Prior to riding the bike I didn’t really understand the point, the standard bike never left me with a desire to push harder than it already could.
Now that I’ve spent some time on one, my opinion isn’t hugely different. There is nothing wrong with a standard GS and unless you fit into the 1% of adventure bike owners who can or more importantly want to push their bike to the edge of it’s capability then really, dig into your pockets and get buying. The quality of the product and feel of the product is good. The preload adjusters are not hugely easy to turn by hand, the rebound adjuster on the rear shock is hard to access with the supplied tool and the location of the front suspension means it’s difficult to make any changes with out removing the suspension. It’s not a missive issue however as it doesn’t really need much changing.
The Touratech GS really is a bike for the hooligans amongst us. Honestly it’s not GS I feel you could do any long trips on because you’d quickly get bored with speed limits and sensible terrain, it want to push on all the time. That said a part of me will miss the added performance next time my legs swings over a standard GS.
Before this test we weren’t going to write anything about the Remus exhaust system. But after riding the bike for a couple of days we feel it’s important to to tell you that if you want more from your R 1200 GS, it’s in there. It’s not like it needs more power, the GS is more than quick enough the Remus has put a meatier, fatter feel right from the bottom.
On top of that, it’s a very pretty exhaust. Remus have stepped their aesthetic up massively in recent times and the aggressive nature of the exhaust looks great. The model we rode had the baffle removed and it was loud. The not is deep and fat, it sounds amazing to ride and is exceptionally bad for fuel consumption. A lot of time is spent accelerating quickly just to experience the gorgeous note again.
Now it’s worth noting that without putting it on a dyno we can’t say definitely that the Remus is pushing more power or torque, but it certainly feels improved through the seat of the pants, however noise and excitement can be a fantastic placebo. The official dyno sheet is claiming 5.7 PS and 5NM increases without the baffle. On top of that it is lighter at 1.5kg for the stainless system, the stocker is around the 4kg mark. How much difference that makes to the bike is questionable but it may help justify the £1000 price tag.
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