After its first year of ownership, I booked my BMW R1200 GSA into Fersan BMW in Alicante for its annual service and some new tyres. This didn’t go entirely to plan as no tyres were available, I think they forgot to order them, however they did find my bike had missed 2 recalls so a second appointment was necessary.
A week later arriving at the dealership I had about 2hrs to wait so wandered into the showroom to have a nose about before heading to a café for breakfast. After looking at the R Nine T Urban GS 40th anniversary edition, rather nice I might add, I spotted a new GSA with plates on and remembered they had a demonstrator.
A quick chat with the salesman confirmed that it was indeed a demo bike but normally required 1 or 2 days of notice to arrange and prepare, it was quite dirty from a recent outing in the rain. I told him I didn´t mind, and he let me take it anyway.
It was the standard height version, but with the BMW comfort seat. I was pleased with this as I wanted to do a direct comparison with my own bike from a height point of view. It did have a few other extras, primarily the 719 bling kit which on a bike like this seems a little pointless but some people go for it.
Riding out of the dealership, I was immediately taken by how much lighter and more manurable it felt compared to mine, mine is a 2008 bike though, with very low miles but that is still a big age gap and things change. After a couple of kms, the reason for the difference became a little clearer when the low fuel warning came up on the TFT, I tend to run mine full most of the time as the fuel gauge doesn’t work and I rely on the distance covered instead, you can read about how I found out in another article.
After stopping to add a few Euros of fuel, and dealing with the keyless petrol cap, didn’t open the first time but that was my fault, I was back underway. I took the same roads I’d used for the standard 1250 GS review a couple of years earlier and headed towards Venta Teresa in the mountains behind San Juan.
Starting from the BMW dealers you have to deal with a couple of Kms of roundabouts and traffic, not an issue on the big girl, you just have to keep your eyes peeled for the less observant. Once onto the CV800, the road becomes a lovely combination of straights interspersed with sweeping bends which the GSA takes in its stride, there is barely any need for gear changes but I took advantage of the quick shifter and auto-blipper anyway. The action was smooth and easy to use, but I did find it slower to change than on my KTM 790 Duke, especially going up gears, obviously, they are 2 completely different bikes though.
Further on I stopped to take some pictures, and admire the bike in all its glory, its undeniably a good looking bike, in its class of adventure bikes, but the 719 bling is a problem for me when it's all bright and shiny as many GS/GSA’s are its quite cool looking, but in this instance, with a little bit of road muck and rain marks, it looks a little sad. I know the dealership would have prepared it better with notice, but I’m glad they didn’t, seeing it a little dirty gave me a better idea of what it would look like for most owners and I’m not a fan, especially at the option price.
Further into the hills and my turning point at Venta Teresa, no time for coffee, unfortunately, the straights get shorter and the corners tighter and more technical, time to choose the Dynamic settings from the TFT menu, this firm's everything up a little and really improves the ride and cornering, the BMW ESA suspension has come a long way since the first incarnation. This is where my bike differs greatly as I deliberately looked for a 2008 GSA without ESA partly due to the huge cost of replacement units if/when they gave trouble and partly because I very rarely change suspension settings on any of my bikes. I can see the advantage though especially on a bike that is so versatile in nature, having the ability to change from a comfortable setting to a sportier setting on the fly as you approach twistier roads is a great feature.
Heading back down out of the mountains, I played with the heated grips, which now have a better range of adjustment and used the cruise control, a device you don’t realise you need until you have tried it, while I contemplated the changes and upgrades.
The basic drive train, engine gearbox etc are the same or very similar to those tested a couple of years back on the standard GS and are still great, with enough power, enough torque, smooth gear changes etc, to keep you happy. The weather protection is obviously better on the GSA than the GS, as the fuel tank area is bigger, giving you more to hide behind. However, the screen seemed a little poorer than mine. Granted my screen is huge, standard 2008 GSA, the new one is height adjustable and is done relatively easily with gloved hands, even on the move, but in its higher setting, at speed, it vibrates more than I would like and gives less protection overall.
Rolling back into the dealers, my thoughts turned to the purchase price and possible part exchange of my bike. Currently, in Spain, my 2008 GSA is worth about 10,000 Euros with aluminium panniers included. The new bike I tested was around 24,500 and with panniers 26,000 to 27,000 depending on a couple of options. The dealers would probably offer me less so I would be looking at around 19,000 to upgrade, if you know me you can see which way this would go.
In conclusion, if you are looking for a comfortable long-distance tourer, good for solo or 2up riding, with the ability to scrape pegs one day and ride gravel roads the next then the mighty GSA is well worth a look. For me, however, I’ll stick with my older one for now.
Thanks to Fersan BMW in Alicante for the service, recall work and the loan of the new GSA.