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BMW R 1200 GS / BMW F 800 GS: doubt is beautiful

30 mayo, 2021

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I wish all the doubts that arose were like having to choose between two such versatile and versatile BMWs as these GS.

The German brand has traditionally been a great defender of the trail concept of our protagonists. The acronym GS stands for Gelände / Straße (off-road / road) and over the last 28 years it has always had in its range a trail with a boxer engine, as we remember that the first version is from the year 80. The latest version of its traditional GS It is from 2004, and three years later it won aesthetically with stainless steel side covers, a newly designed front fender, the rear light with LEDs, the colorless plastic turn signals and the magnesium cylinder heads like those of the HP2. In addition to a series of technical improvements, including eleven more horses and a reinforced gearbox with better touch. Remember that it is the same engine as the 1200 R.


Outside of its traditional GS family, BMW has entered an enthusiastic expansion phase in recent years that has resulted in bikes such as the K 1200 S series, equipped with an in-line four-cylinder, something unthinkable just ten years ago, and a Series of models featuring an in-line twin like the one on this 800cc, which is truly exceptional.

The F 800 GS is the trail that BMW never made because it completely stands out from the boxer range, with an 800 cc engine and 82 hp, inherited from the F 800 S and ST; a tubular chassis and conventional suspensions. In other words, abandoning the Telelever and the Paralever system that is preserved in the GS 1200, BMW now offers a very interesting trail that weighs 40 kg less, yields 20 hp less and costs 2,758 euros less than the 1200. Logically, many of the Potential users wonder which of the two BMWs can best suit their needs. It is a reasonable doubt that we are going to try to clarify.

Before getting into the matter, we can tell you that the mother GS, that is, the R 1200 GS, is a motorcycle more suitable for long distances, has more brilliant performance than the small 800 and defends the values ​​that have prevailed for so long. in the GS family: the boxer engine and the Telelever type suspensions at the front and Paralever at the rear.

The F 800 GS represents a complete revolution in the brand with its new two-cylinder, it mounts conventional suspensions and, in addition, it is more agile, light and suitable for off-road. Actually, performance aside, I would say that it can overshadow the traditional GS, although the R 1200 GS is clearly more road-going and in it the passenger travels much more comfortably.


Both have a comfortable driving position, but the 1200 version is clearly better in this regard because its seat is larger and more ergonomic. On the F 800 GS, the intersection with the fuel tank is narrower and is conditioned by the fact that it is located under the seat. For this reason, it is located higher and the inlet of the fuel tank filler neck is also on the side, which is more convenient than on the R 1200 GS, where when refueling you have to raise the fuel hose a lot post.

On twisty roads, the large version is less agile than the small one, but on the other hand, the boxer’s generosity, torque and power make it more aggressive and perhaps exciting. The engine has more torque and more inertia than that of the 800, it is somewhat lazier, but it breathes very well underneath, and this is appreciated when riding on slow tracks or roads. In short, it has a very grateful torque. On this R 1200 GS, the Telelever-type fork and the Rear Paralever have their advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, on asphalt they allow you to enter the curve with the brakes applied, and the front suspension does not sag when braking. It is an effective system, although it requires some practice and has its defenders and its detractors. The cardan system is especially appreciated in hard braking, but has the advantage of low maintenance over the small GS.

The F 800 GS carries a lot of weight on the front end, which is very good on the road; Well, if it were not like that, with the 21 ”wheel it would not give as much confidence when entering the curves. It is precisely the dimensions of the front wheel that make it possible in the mountains, compared to the 1200, to better absorb stones or uneven terrain.

The suspensions surprise by how well they allow combining off-road use with asphalt. The fork feels good and the braking is powerful and progressive, almost worthy of a supersport. The ABS braking system is not recommended on off-road motorcycles.

In the BMW R1200 GS it is theoretically optional, but in reality all units sold in Spain arrive with this integrated device. In this way we have to accept it whether you want it or not, but fortunately it is disconnectable. Of course, when the ABS is deactivated, it seems that the brake booster also stops working.

On the other hand, it presents some difficulties with the front suspension, since although on the road its Telelever system allows you to brake very late, practically with the motorcycle tilted, on roads it can become a problem because the suspension is not very absorbent. So both the ABS in both and the front suspension system of the R 1200 GS are presented as two aspects that condition the use of these bikes on roads and tracks.

Furthermore, the R 1200 GS does not appear to be designed for standing riding. The footpegs are somewhat low, and the handlebars, too far back. The rear suspension works well and the limit is set by its own weight. However, if we go on long off-road trips through unknown terrain, which is what we advise on this type of motorcycle, after all, you may find surprises in the form of ruts, holes, dry streams, etc. With the GS 1200 you can go to the limit if you ride hard, but if you go in a more relaxed plan, it is difficult to exhaust the suspension travel.

The 800 version is in this sense more appreciative. What’s more, I would even dare to say that it is an exemplary motorcycle when it comes to versatility… It has a good engine for off-road use. It’s smooth at low end and the power comes in controllable. In this sense it is better than the boxer, and since it does not have so much torque, it is easier to open gas. In addition, it does not have lateral inertia and, when cutting gas when braking, the motorcycle does not stop suddenly as a result of the retention, it turns much looser. In medium it goes well and in high it runs a lot. Besides, it has enough power to drive in high gears without ever collapsing.

The riding position is good for standing; the bike is narrow at the footboards and makes you feel comfortable. Driving seated is not much use on roads, and we cannot overtake the body at the entrance of the curves, so we can turn just as quickly standing up as sitting.

With the F 800 GS you feel more in control than with the 1200, both on the road and on the slopes. On the R 1200 GS, the front suspension limits its toughness and the rear is a bit slow to recover, but improves a bit with more spring preload. The impacts in the receptions of the jumps are very progressive, something that does not happen with the 1200, and in no case does it stop or the bottom of the motorcycle touch the ground. The shock is good, but its rebound is too fast for riding on the mountain. This, together with the configuration of the chassis, gives the impression that the bike is firing us from back to front when leaving the potholes.

The tires of the 1200 GS have little grip and, when the wheel slips, it is difficult to recover. Even when braking, the same thing happens and due to its lack of grip it seems that it brakes less than it actually brakes. Those of the 800 transmit more confidence. Both mount a screen that is appreciated in long distances on the road. However, especially in the large version, rolling down the mountain, in a bad fall or when landing from a jump, you can get it stuck in the chest.

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