Background

The original R1200GS was the most successful BMW model up to that point in time. BMW has never sold so many units of one model so quickly, in fact during its lifetime from 2004 to October 2007 over 100,000 including Adventure models. All were manufactured in its plant in Spandau, Berlin. As usual BMW had updated and refined it throughout that time. They also added new options.

This article documents the main model changes and options I found between my two examples of the original R1200GS, the first manufactured in 2004, the second in 2007.

I bought my first R1200GS new in August 2004, one of the first examples. I had made the mistake of taking a testride and found the increase in performance to be irresistible compared to my previous R1100GS. I ran that first R1200GS for 32,000 trouble-free kilometers and had lots of fun, touring and doing track days. When the revised 2008 model was released, I saw that my favorite and expensive modifications, Aeroflow and Wilbers, would not fit so instead I got a great trade in deal on a low-mileage fully-equipped 2007 R1200GS demonstrator.

gs12_red_black_3_4_left gs12_red_black_side2.jpg gs12_red_black_cockpit
The 2004 BMW R1200GS in rock red metallic with black sidepanels and black seats.

Notes

  1. I gladly acknowledge the help and assistance of my great friend, Stefan Hegnauer. Stefan was forced to make the transition from 2004 to 2007 R1200GS when his 2004 bike was written off in a collision with a car driven by a drink-driver. His feedback, which I quote below, was one of the main reasons that I looked at making the same upgrade.
  2. My first R1200GS was manufactured in August 2004, the second in March 2007. Although production went on til October 2007, very few changes were made after March.
  3. Both my R1200GSs were made for the German market. Some details may differ from those of other countries.
  4. This excellent r1200gs.info website has a wealth of related information. Some of the overlapping info includes:
  5. If you spot mistakes or have other points to add please either contact H. Marc Lewis or let me know Hari@go4more.de.

Model Changes

The following main model changes were made to the R1200GS between 2004 and 2007. Colors
The original bike color options were red rock, desert yellow and ocean blue. Later the ocean blue was dropped and granite gray and midnight black were added. All colors were metallic except midnight black.

Click to see the picture enlarged
The 2007 Color Options:
Red Rock, Desert Yellow, Granite Gray and Midnight Black.
Click to enlarge.

The seats and sidepanels were usually black. But any color bike could be specified with gray sidepanels and/or gray seats as a no-cost option at the time of purchase.

ABS
Probably the most significant change on the bike was to the ABS. The original bikes feature "power" brakes i.e. a servo-assisted system. This works fine especially at high-speed when little effort is required to brake hard. However it lacked feel and had a tendency to be noisy - a pump could be heard whining whenever a brake lever/pedal was operated. It also turned off braking for discernable amounts of time when the ABS was activated leading to a few heart-in-mouth moments!

This was how since the introduction of motorcycle ABS in 1989 every BMW system prevented lock up, by completely switching off braking force for a short period. As each generation of ABS monitored faster and became more sophisticated so the period of switch off became less but it still remained an appreciable amount of time which was obvious (and somewhat worrying) to the rider. This has been described as "digital" ABS - braking is either fully on or it's off, nothing in between.

For model year 2007 the brake setup was unchanged:

It also retained the same integral (or linked) set up with the front brake lever operating the front brake and also the rear. The rear foot brake operated only the rear brake.

But 2007 models have a totally new ABS using a far simpler valve-operated system without servo assistance. The main new components are a:

BMW Motorcycle Integral ABS System
The updated BMW valve-operated ABS fitted to 2007 models.

As before ABS is activated during braking if the wheel sensors detect a wheel slowing relative to the other i.e. it is about to lock. The ABS opens the appropriate divert valve incrementally, allowing some brake fluid to flow into the reservoir instead of the brake caliper. This partially reduces the hydraulic pressure on that brake, preventing lockup. As soon as wheel speeds are the same again, the divert valve closes and the hydraulic pressure is fully restored to the caliper. The fluid that was diverted is then returned from the reservoir to the main system. The process repeats as needed.

Note that because the valve opens incrementally, only some, not necessarily all, brake fluid is diverted, so some braking force remains. The rider no longer feels that awkward brake switch-off that characterized previous ABS systems. This is more like "analog" ABS - braking force is reduced as required but not usually switched off altogether.

The main advantages are:

Stefan wrote me: "This new ABS performs just outright fantastic! IMO this is how it should be! As I had one week off I did some riding the past two days and today had the chance to exercise the ABS on cobble stone pavement (you may remember the Tremola / Gotthard Alpine pass southern ramp) - something that previous versions of the ABS did not really like."

"Result: as long as at least one wheel is somehow in contact with the ground there is brake force - considerable brake force I may add. This 'Shit!' period of previous versions when the ABS decided to release all braking for some split seconds is completely gone (or at least so short you don't notice), exactly as on non-ABS brakes. I was not able to get either wheel to skid (except the last few centimeters before a stop). Similar results for braking over sand patches, manhole-covers, ripples etc. Indeed it would be interesting to compare this new version side-by-side to its predecessors. I bet it will win hands-down in any situation except maybe perfectly flat, dry and clean tarmac where it will probably be on par with the old ones (and where you might outperform ABS by switching it off and doing a lot of practice beforehand)".

Center Stand
Probably the first thing an owner appreciates when changing from a 2004 R1200GS to a later model, is the center stand. The original had a lovely curved cross piece that looked really neat. However unlike most BMWs it was difficult to use and required a lot of heaving to get the bike on to its center stand. Once on its center stand, the bike is not balanced - the front tire is firmly on the ground and it takes quite a lot of effort to force the rear tire to touch the ground.

The neat-looking but difficult-to-use 2004 center stand with curved crosspiece.
Note the black tip to the original exhaust endcan.
The easier-to-use 'H' center stand of later models.

For model year 2005, BMW re-designed the center stand. Gone went the curved cross-piece and in its place was a simple straight piece, giving a class 'H' shape. Less classy but more efficient and probably cheaper to make. However the best bit was that BMW repositioned the mountings so the center stand is easy to deploy! Once on its center stand, the balance point is better although it still favors the front wheel.

Sidestand
The original sidestand required regular lubrication to ensure it went all the way down without requiring an additional kick or two.

The 2004 sidestand with aftermarket foot enlarger. The double-spring sidestand of later models.

At the same time BMW re-designed the center stand, they also fitted a new sidestand. This has double springs to ensure it goes down with a minimum of effort.

BTW The sidestands are shaped slightly differently. When the later sidestand is up, it fits more snugly to the bike. So for lazy riders (like me!) who put the sidestand down while sitting on the bike before getting off - it's not quite as easy to hit with your heel without looking!

The 2004 sidestand up - an easy target to hit with your heel. The sidestand of later models - not so easy to hit with your heel without looking!

Also the size and shape of the foot changed. That means there is a different aftermarket foot enlarger for each sidestand.

Shock Absorbers
For model year 2005, the shocks were changed, front and back. The originals were made by White Power and these were replaced by units from Showa. This was probably for cost-saving reasons rather than improved performance. Certainly neither is as responsive and crisp as aftermarket shocks like Wilbers.

The front preload on both requires a C-spanner to adjust. The White Power unit has 9 positions; the Showa 5. Rear preload is remotely adjusted via a black plastic knob on both. The shape and size of the knob differs. The Showa unit has a larger diameter and is easier-to-use.

The rear preload adjuster on a White Power shock absorber. The easier-to-use rear preload adjuster on a Showa shock absorber.

Other Small Tweaks
Over the model cycle life many detailed changes were made. For example the mirrors changed and the silver luggage carrier beneath the passenger seat went from being a two-piece construction to a single piece. You can find details such as these in any of the online BMW electronic parts catalogs.

I have chosen to highlight the following small tweaks.

  1. Info Flatscreen
  2. Sidepanel mounting
  3. New Engine Control Unit
  4. Revised Gearbox
  5. Toolkit
  6. Endcan
  7. Software Updates
  8. Transfer

1. Info Flatscreen
The Info Flatscreen displays:

On the 2004 bike, the INFO button on the left handlebar toggles the distance display between:

There is a small black button to the left of the Info Flatscreen which originally was used to set the clock time.

The Info Flatscreen was changed for model year 2005. The basic layout remained the same but it looked different with slightly larger numerals and had some detailed changes.

The 2004 Info Flatscreen. The 2007 Info Flatscreen.

The fuel gauge is a block display on the left. Original models have one large block covering half the tank capacity so after a fill up no change is displayed until half the contents have been used up. Later models featured multiple blocks on the first half of the tank capacity giving a more realistic reading.

Later models use the INFO button to set the time. The small black button to the left of the Info Flatscreen now toggles between the mileage and trip meters.

2. Sidepanel Mountings
The 2004 sidepanel has 4 mountings:

This last fastener proved troublesome and was eventually replaced by BMW.

There were two issues when fitting this lower front mounting. First it was difficult to mate with its small hole on the sidepanel behind which was a small clip. Second it was difficult to fully tighten with its odd quarter turn movement. It was common for it to be mis-fitted even when installed by dealers. When that happened the sidepanel would flop loosely and sometimes the black fastener would fall out. In fact it happened so often that the guys in the parts dept got to know the part numbers by heart! What made this worse was the fact that this mounting of all four is subject to the most force particularly from sudden windblasts from the side.

Several owners (myself included) suffered damage due to failure of this lower front mounting even when it was correctly installed. Mine failed as I finished overtaking a large truck and emerged from its shadow into a powerful sidewind. The sidepanel was violently wrenched backwards and outwards. The two front mountings failed but those excellent rear D-rings held the sidepanel securely. But in doing this the silver plastic tank panel was distorted. I "massaged" it back into place but the fit of the sidepanel was never exact again and it left a small fold mark in the silver plastic. And this silver plastic panel is expensive to replace.

The original sidepanel with two neat, easy-to-use D-rings fasteners. Left, the original black plastic fastener that only weakly holds the lower front mounting.
Right, the fix: torx screw and clip.

The lower front sidepanel mountings were changed in two steps during model year 2007. First the troublesome lower front mounting was replaced by a torx headed screw. Slower to fit but easier to locate correctly and most importantly much stronger. Later those 2 excellent D-rings were replaced for cost reasons with torx headed screws as per the 2008 model.

In my opinion, the ideal is to have the later torx fix for the lower front sidepanel mounting with the earlier D-rings for the rear. Fortunately all parts are available from BMW dealers and retro-fit without modification. If you do this, don't forget to get the correct clips for the torx screw or D-rings to screw into.

3. New Engine Control Unit
At some point after 2004 a completely new engine control unit (i.e. new hardware with faster processors) was fitted. Stefan wrote me: "I have the impression that my 2007 engine runs smoother and at the same time has more torque. There are certainly less vibrations even though a service is needed. In fact when I took delivery the engine was so smooth I had to look twice to make sure it was running..."

BMW's official figures also changed to claim slightly improved fuel economy. At a constant:

4. Revised Gearbox
The gearbox was also revised: downshifting on the 2007 model R1200GS is as smooth as upshifting. There are no longer any 'clonks' even from neutral to first!

However in my opinion there are two issues with the gearbox, a lack of an overdrive and having six gears. The first of these, lack of an overdrive, is an issue for the large percentage of owners who use their R1200GS for touring. Belatedly BMW have addressed this in the 2008 model.

As regards having six gears, it is ridiculous to me that such a torquey engine has so many gears! The R1200GS is not a racing two-stroke that needs a lot of close-ratio gears to ensure immediate response at any speed. The R1100GS covered virtually the same range of transmission ratios perfectly well in 5 gears that the R1200GS does in 6. The R1200GS with its torquier engine does not need a closer-ratio-gearbox than the R1100GS. I mentally curse BMW every time I'm on a track and have to brake hard for a hairpin while simultaneously downshifting from sixth to first. All the R1200GS needed was 4 gears (or 5 including an overdrive ratio for top gear).

5. Toolkit
An unwelcome change for most owners was that the standard toolkit from model year 2005 onwards lost a lot of tools and the tire repair kit! The full set was still available but only if purchased separately.

However the good news is that H. Marc Lewis has detailed this separately and makes many practical suggestions.

6. Endcan
The 2004 model year endcan has a black tip as shown in the picture featuring the 2004 center stand with curved crosspiece.

The exhaust tip was changed to gray/silver for model year 2005.

7. Software Updates
BMW, like most manufacturers nowadays, updates its software from time to time usually to address small problems that have been highlighted by dealer. There was nothing critical but several small updates were made to the R1200GS software and these were usually delivered by dealers during routine servicing.

BMW is not a software manufacturer per se, so some software industry-standard testing doesn't seem to have been adopted by BMW yet e.g. regression testing. This includes testing software updates to ensure previous functionality is not affected i.e. the update fixes the problem its supposed to but otherwise the software still behaves like it used to. As an example many owners reported differing behavior when charging using the electrical socket depending on which version of the software their bike was running!

8. Transfer
The 2004 models had a color-coordinated R1200GS transfer on the gray panel below the passenger seat. This was dropped from model year 2006 onwards.


The color-coordinated R1200GS transfer in red rock metallic from the 2004 model.


Options

 

The 2004 option list was:

The following were added to the option list later.


A BMW R1200GS in desert yellow metallic with optional spoked wheels.

Chromed Exhaust Downpipes
Hmm, only BMW could do this. The stock downpipes are stainless steel that look silver in the showroom. As soon as the engine is started for the first time, they change color to a light dull brown.

The optional downpipes are chromed and look a little shinier than the unchromed ones in the showroom before the engine is started. These chromed pipes also change color when the engine is started for the first time but end up a blue-purple color.

The stock unchromed exhaust downpipes turn light dull brown. The optional chromed exhaust downpipes turn blue-purple.

Note that this applies to all BMW boxers not just the GS. Also either set of downpipes, chromed or not, can be polished to a good shine - all it takes is (a lot of) time and effort. However looking at most boxers even when sold secondhand in dealer showrooms, almost no one bothers.

Luggage
As usual BMW provide a lot of luggage options including tankbag, topcase and sidebags, as shown in the picture.


A R1200GS fitted with optional BMW tankbag as well as vario topcase and sidebags.

The hard luggage is generally neat, well-built, well-sealed plus and can be keyed to the ignition. Also with the passenger seat removed, the tops of the bags are at the same height as the rack creating a useful large flat area. On the other hand the hard luggage is expensive and heavy.

The bags create a useful large flat area with the passenger seat removed. The easy-to-use vario lever but its mechanism robs up to 8.5 liters internally per bag.

The bags are heavy and called vario because of their unique feature. A lever inside allows the bag to be quickly and easily expanded from one position to another - useful on a trip. In the thinner of the two positions, the overall width of the cases when fitted to the bike is c.81mm only slightly more than that of the cylinder heads, c.75mm. When expanded, overall width increases to c.93mm for an extra 9 liters carrying capacity per sidebag.

Many owners including myself were misled by the 2004 brochure which claimed a 46 liter capacity for the topcase and non-exhaust-sidebag. (By way of comparison, 46 liters is large enough for 2 full-face helmets). On that basis I ordered a full set of hard luggage with my bike. So imagine my surprise when they arrived and I found that even when expanded one helmet was all they could take.

Perplexed, I went out and measured the bags, inside and out. I found that the exterior dimensions indeed give 46 liters capacity. But the vario mechanism to alter the size took up a lot of space internally giving far less useable space inside. BMW finally acknowledged this in a paper only fix in their brochures from 2006 onwards - the cases never changed. For reference both sets of figures are as follows.

Luggage item 2004 figures
(Exterior volume)
Difference 2006 figures
(Useable inner space)
Topcase 37-46 liters 7 liters 30-39 liters
Non-exhaust sidebag 28.5-37.5 liters 8.5 liters 20-29 liters
Exhaust sidebag 37-46 liters 7 liters 30-39 liters
Overall total 102.5 - 129.5 liters 22.5 liters 80-107 liters

Notes

  1. The topcase is normally mounted on top of the (plastic) grabrail with strengthened supports. But despite this some owners have reported losing their topcases when on top of the grabrail. As an alternative BMW offer a kit to mount the topcase in place of the passenger seat. In this position no topcases have been reported lost.
  2. The topcase and non-exhaust sidebag are internally identical. The same internal BMW carry bag fits both.

On-board computer
An optional on-board computer enhances the functions and features of the Info Flatscreen. The INFO button on the left handlebar toggles the displays between the:

It also warns the rider of:


Optional on-board computer in the Info Flatscreen:
oil level ok.

ASC
(Automatic Stability Control) prevents wheelspin and wheelies. By stopping wheelspin it stops the rear from getting out of line with the front. It is useful when for example riding across small patches of poor grip surfaces like water or gravel.

BMW calls ASC "the logical counterpart to ABS." It was optionally available on model year 2007 bikes provided they had ABS as it uses the same wheel speed sensors.

ASC is activated when the throttle is applied and the wheel sensors detect the rear is accelerating relative to the front i.e. the rear is about to spin. Then the engine management system reduces power in a two-step process. In the first step, the ignition timing is retarded. If that doesn't stop the spin, the engine management unit cuts fuel injection briefly.

ASC:

  • can be switched off via a button on the left handlebar even when riding
  • has a special offroad setting which allows for more slippage on loose surfaces
  • has an auto-check function that in case of failure for any reason illuminates a warning light.


Optional ASC is controlled via a button on the left handlebar.

Notes

  1. ASC uses wheel speed sensors to provide simple traction control that prevents wheelspin. Honda offered the same simple traction control they called ATC on their 2002 ST1100. However very few owners actually bought ATC so Honda dropped it for the ST1300 launch.
  2. ASC provides "anti-wheelspin" and "anti-wheelie" but not "anti-highside". Do not confuse ASC with the advanced traction control used by the factory teams in MotoGP and WSB racing that incorporates a gyroscope to factor in lean angle. ASC cannot stop highsides when exiting corners and applying too much throttle too early!

TPC
Tire Pressure Control system displays the real-time tire pressures in the Info Flatscreen. It uses sensors in the wheels to wirelessly communicate with the bike. (Each bike with TPC uses a different wireless frequency to avoid mis-readings when riding with other TPC-equipped BMWs).


TPC (or RDC in German) displays real-time tire pressures in the Info Flatscreen:
2.4 bar front and 2.9 bar rear.

Akrapovic Titanium Endcan:
 

  • first became available in model year 2007
  • is 4kg lighter than stock at 2.2kg
  • is said to have a fuller, "fruitier" sound
  • has little, if any, effect on power
    (it has EC type approval which means that it complies with noise legislation and has no more than 3% more power).


Optional Akrapovic titanium exhaust endcan.

I'll leave it to Stefan to explain about the mounting which some owners have complained about. "The whole exhaust system expands by a couple of millimeters when hot. To cope with this (and manufacturing tolerances) the stock exhaust has an oval hole allowing the end can to move."

"The Akrapovic uses a normal round hole and screw and does not allow any movement of the clamp holding the exhaust. As the exhaust system still expands the end can is pushed through the carbon fibre clamp, and retracted again when cooling down. As there will be invariably some dust or dirt on the end can this constant motion creates small scratches in the titanium sleeve where this shifting takes place. To my knowledge this happens on all Akrapovic exhausts be it BMW branded or not. Certainly not quality engineering in this respect. For me it's no problem though, but YMMV."

Copyright © 2008, by Hari Ahluwalia & H. Marc Lewis. All rights reserved.