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BMW R 1150 gs vs. 1200 gs

Comparison between BMW R 1150 GS and 1200 GS motorcycles

1. Introduction

The comparison is going to be between the 2 motorcycles produced by BMW, the German motorcycle pedigree has been long praised within the motorcycle fraternity and has been producing top-notch motorcycles to this very day. This write-up is for those of you adventurous globe trotters who have been searching for BMW's best adventure tourer yet. I've had in my hands the keys to an R1150 GS and since that write-up, it was proven to be the holy grail of all motorcycles in existence. Then fate would have it that during a recent trip to an island on Borneo no less, I stumbled upon a brand new 2016 R1200 GS. Coming from ownership of the R1150 GS and having heard much praise for the R1200 GS, I was very intrigued to discover how much has changed between these two motorcycles and does the tried and true R1150 GS still hold its own today, and thus this write-up came to be. The main objective of this comparison is not to bash one model to praise the other. I strongly believe that both the R1150 GS and R1200 GS are fantastic motorcycles and the customer would be perfectly contented to own either. This comparison will inform potential buyers and existing R1150 GS owners who are considering an upgrade to the R1200 GS just what has been changed and how it fares compared to their old steed. This will be done by detailing all the features implemented on the R1200 GS that were improvements over the R1150 GS and how it enhances or detracts from an already solid platform. Bear in mind this is 100% honest opinion and there will be subjective decisions made.

1.1. Background information

This section provides a concise historical context for BMW motorcycles and the dual sport boxer bikes BMW GS 1150 and BMW GS 1200 in particular. Also, this part aims to give an introduction about dual sport motorcycles in general. It covers some important aspects of R1150GS and R1200GS. Dual sport bikes are also referred to as enduros because of the enduro events it has been used for through the evolution of the bikes to really describe what a dual sport motorcycle is. The slogan "GS" in R1150GS and R1200GS, "Gelande" and "Strasse" which is German for off-road and on-road defines precisely what this type of bike is. Dual sport motorcycle is designed to be used on pavement and off-road. Dual sport motorcycle is designed to perform in low speed and high impact environment off-road encompassing terrain such as dirt, metal, rocks, sand and gravel. These bikes usually sit higher with longer suspension travel than on-road only motorcycles. They still can handle on-road characteristics on highway and commuting such as cornering and high speed. The intent of usage varies, one person may buy a dual sport motorcycle to travel to work and have fun on the weekends riding off-road. For a different person it might be a round the world trip on mixed roads and off-roads to explore different cultures and nature. These are important points because the design of R1150GS and R1200GS has met the best of both worlds in off-road and on-road to cater for different individuals and riders. This is a motorcycle that has a cult following by BMW motorcycle enthusiasts around the world. This particular model has been purchased by persons who previously never owned or ridden a motorcycle in their life. This includes owning two-wheel drive cars and taking a motorcycle license lessons for the first time just purchase a R1150GS or R1200GS. This has been mentioned to show that the image of these motorcycles is very attractive.

1.2. Purpose of the comparison

A method favored by engineers for comparing systems is drawing power speed curves. The trapezoidal rule can be used to find work done over a range of speed for a given power speed curve. Since there only exists one true power speed curve for a system, constructing and comparing these curves will illustrate whether a small change in power train design will be beneficial. The most direct method is to record times taken to cover a particular distance, for existing and modified systems.

Changing transmission speed will have two effects on the time rate of doing work, accomplished by the rear wheel. Ignoring losses, the change will alter the force applied to the gear drive system into the rear wheel (from the product of gear ratio and tension in the chain), and the change will alter the rate of transfer of kinetic energy to a system. Since rate of doing work is proportional to acceleration for rigid bodies, the accelerations of the two systems assuming constant horsepower can be compared to the existing motorcycle systems. Substituting the definition of acceleration for flat-out driving (1000/32.174 times the second derivative of position with respect to time) into the equation of motion results in a second order ordinary differential equation for system acceleration. Solving this equation with the given power as a known function of speed leads to a specific force as a function of velocity. Multiplying this force by v yields the power transmitted to the road by the system. A sum of the power transmitted by the rear wheel and the power dissipated by rolling resistance and air drag must equal the given horsepower, thus selecting a unique solution to the system acceleration.

The purpose of the comparison is to investigate the effect of changing transmission speed. This involves a study of the acceleration of the motorcycle at wide open throttle. Theoretically, given the same horsepower output of the two engines in the comparison, the engine with the more efficient transmission will accelerate more quickly.

2. Performance

Fuel efficiency The R 1150 GS is known to be a very fuel efficient bike, using about 20 km/L. Comparatively, the R 1200 GS is also an incredibly efficient bike, attributing a travel distance of 19 km/L.

Acceleration and top speed The R 1150 GS could accelerate from 0–100 km/h in approx 4 seconds and had a top speed of 200 km/h. The R 1200 GS is slightly faster, accelerating from 0–100 km/h in approx 3.5 seconds and has a top speed of 215 km/h.

Engine power and torque The R 1150 GS model was powered by a 1,130 cc (69 cu in) flat-twin engine, which produced 62.5 kW (83.8 hp). The later R 1200 GS model is powered by a 1,170 cc (71 cu in) flat-twin engine. At the time a new version was introduced in 2007, the cylinder heads were upgraded for the R 1200 GS, increasing the power to 67.0 kW (89.8 hp). The R 1150 GS had more torque than the first version R 1200 GS (generating 98 Nm compared to 85 Nm). However, in 2007 during the upgrade, the R 1200 GS had then improved with generating 100 Nm of torque.

Motorcycle had an informative and forums - though I only ever found one article of a direct comparison of the two. Ultimately I chose the 1150 over the 1200 just because of how much cheaper and abundance of them were for sale. But these facts and figures will show you the primary mechanical differences between the bikes.

2.1. Engine power and torque

The engine for a motorcycle is a key factor influencing its performance. The system is at the heart of the two motorcycles right down to the opposed twin-cylinder layout. The 1150 engine represents a design that has been around for some time now and seems relatively understressed in comparison to the uprated 1170 engine. This is reflected in power output figures, with the old 1150 engine producing 61 kW as opposed to the 1000 cc air/oil-cooled 1200 engine, which has a power output of 63 kW. The most noticeable improvement in the new engine is in torque output, which has been increased from 85 Nm on the R1150 to 98 Nm across a wide band on the R1200. This increase in power and, more notably, in torque will boast considerable advantages for the R1200 in both on-road and off-road situations, increasing acceleration, hill climbing ability, and general throttle response. The increase in torque has been achieved through increasing the compression ratio and improving on the engine management system. This therefore represents a system that is more modern and well-refined. BMW claims that it is also more environmentally friendly. The engine design in both motorcycles has been developed with the intention of reaching out to different markets. The R1150 is aimed towards the true die-hard boxer enthusiasts, those who crave off-road riding and appreciate the heritage behind BMW's boxer engines. This is no coincidence as this year sees the end of R1150 production with the release of a limited run R1150 GS Adventure model. The R1200, on the other hand, is aimed at attracting a much younger customer who is likely to be swayed by the likes of the KTM ADV or the Aprilia Caponord, to ensure that BMW remains a major player in the adventure-sports motorcycle market. A new engine and revised design have given the classic boxer engine a modern twist with increased power, torque, and a more dynamic overall riding experience.

2.2. Acceleration and top speed

Acceleration and speed have a certain romance to them. Whether an individual has an interest in commuting around town or across open land at high speeds, BMW has taken a step to keep up with the Jones' with their change from the iconic R 1150 GS to their latest and greatest R 1200 GS models. Although the R 1150 GS was used to break land speed records back in '03 by being the first single cylinder motorcycle to reach a top speed of 306.2 km/h, and although it is very unlikely one will get their hands on an R 1150 GS or an R 1200 GS (with dirt wheels) to prove once and for all which is quicker, we can compare the two motorcycles by examining the specifications. Due to the direct drive of the R 1150 GS, it is at a disadvantage with acceleration and gives the nod to the R 1200 GS and its 6-speed gearbox. The R 1150 GS posted a 0-100 km/h time of 4.2 seconds and went on to cover 400m in 12.83 seconds at 165 km/h. Conversely, the R 1200 GS reaches 0-100 km/h in 3.7 seconds and is able to cover 400m in 12.6 seconds at 167 km/h. This information was obtained by comparing data from an issue of AMCN and respective sources. The R 1200 GS definitely edges out its predecessor when they are compared on the dirt due to the implementation of ABS and optional ASC traction control. These are features that can be disabled for off-road use but certainly improve safety and control at higher speeds and in slippery conditions. A step in the right direction for safety may influence potential dirt bike riders to purchase an R 1200 GS for peace of mind or perhaps help change the mind of the diehard R 1150 GS fans. The R 1150 GS and the R 1200 GS are able to reach a top speed of +200 km/h. With the increased horsepower of the R 1200 GS and the improved aerodynamics, it is almost a guarantee that the R 1200 GS will reach a higher top speed than the R 1150 GS. However, depending on load and headwind conditions, often the top speed for an R 1200 GS is actually less than what is suggested by the speedometer. The R 1150 GS has a notorious speed limiter at 190 km/h. Information obtained from comparing owner experiences and has not been verified. Due to the long-term continued production of the R 1150 GS and the possibility it may have been used in further land speed record attempts, a number of different ratio final drives have been used to raise top speed or increase acceleration, and each R 1150 GS final drive ratio provides a different top speed.

2.3. Fuel efficiency

The engine capacity increase has little effect on fuel consumption. Expect to get between 14 and 20 km per litre, depending on how and where the bike is ridden. Typically, the R1150 will average slightly better consumption figures than the R1200, due to the smaller engine capacity; examples include a large GS riding mate who gets average fuel consumption figures of around 18 km/l from his 1150, while I get approximately 17 km/l from my 1200, though my riding is often somewhat enthusiastic. In contrast, on a recent 2300 km highway trip to effect some running-in these figures increased to around 18.5 km/l and 20 km/l respectively, no doubt helped by the R1200's more favourable power to weight ratio; though the same cannot be said for a later off-road ride through the Forster State Forest, which saw the R1200 consume 17.5 litres of fuel in one day of low speed riding. The larger fuel tank means the R1200 has a greater range, though given the very small difference in consumption figures, this can be a moot point. Step seat users need to take care not to scratch the paintwork when refuelling, though there is to date no scientific evidence to suggest that colour has any effect on fuel consumption. Given the relatively low induced cost of a litre of regular unleaded in Australia (approximately 80-85c per litre, much of it subsidised by government, little of it going to countries affected by the global oil crisis), these consumption figures equate to very low running costs. This is a good thing for a bike that will cover great distances in relatively short periods of time, with the added benefit that service intervals between the oil and air filter changes decrease as the fuel consumption figures increase; (for advertised figures of semi-off-road riding at 80 km/h in temperature of 32 degrees or higher), the R1150 demands an oil change every 6000 km, while the R1200 demands an oil change every 10000 km... every little bit helps. With the increasing regulation of motorcycle emissions in many countries, the model R1150 and especially R1200 may be one of the last generations of bikes to feature fuel consumption figures of this quality.

3. Features and Technology

Comparing the suspension of the R 1150 and the 1200 GS shows two totally different technologies. The 1150 utilizes BMW's Telelever system up front. It is a double A-arm system that totally isolates suspension from braking and cornering forces. It has about 7 inches of travel. The 1200 has Torque Fork which does indeed cause suspension movement from braking and cornering forces. It has approximately 8 inches of travel. What stands out the most is the rear suspension. The 1150 (this particular model came extremely equipped) has an Ohlins shock with remote preload adjustment and hydraulic damping. BMW's website does not disclose specifics on the shock. The base model 1200 has a single spring with adjustable preload at the bottom of the shock. The more expensive model comes with BMW's ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment). This allows the rider to toggle between pre-defined settings such as "solo", "solo w/ luggage", "two-up", and "two-up w/luggage." It is unclear whether this is better than what aftermarket shocks have to offer. Also, as the technology is proprietary and similar to car suspension, this could potentially make the system unpopular among those who prefer to work on their own bikes. Both models have an optional "ABS" system. BMW has chosen to equip the 1150 GS with only basic electronic gadgets. It has an on-board computer that provides information like fuel consumption, range, average speed, etc. That's about it. The ABS and choice of grips are the only other electronically related. Step forward to the 1200 GS and there are all sorts of gadgets and gizmos. Standard is the familiar on-board computer. The more expensive model comes with standard issue the "ASC" (Automatic Stability Control) which can be turned off for off-road riding. It also now has a spiffy looking multi-function dashboard and several other new electronic systems that primarily have to do with traction control. Although the idea of having computerized systems that aid riding may sound good to some, it seems to take away from riding skill and can make life difficult in the event of repair work to the bike. Both the 1150 and 1200 have the option of heated grips.

3.1. Suspension and handling

The 1150GS has 35mm stanchion tube diameter conventional telescopic forks with a single damping adjustment. The rear suspension is an Öhlins or BMW Paralever type, which has found favor in the world of off-road riding, with a direct mounting to the frame which is intended to reduce initial leverage when front suspension is compressed and avoid the top out experienced by rising rate systems. The rear shock has adjustable preload and rebound settings and a shock protector plate as standard. This system has proved to be better than the earlier GS models, but only a few production machines have been seen with it, as the bikes tend to have too soft a setup for this unit, which places it in the same cost/quality category as aftermarket shocks such as the Moab and the Wilbers aftermarket shocks. There is also only 200mm of wheel travel compared with the 265mm on the R1150GS allowing only city and light off-road use. The 1150GS has BMW's EVO braking system (no servo assistance) with 305mm twin discs on the front and a single 276mm disc on the rear, giving ample stopping power and still light enough for the bike's intended terrain. The system is standard and the wheel diameter is 19-inch front and 17-inch rear with D.I.D spoke wheels, fitting tubeless tires. The new 1200GS has a revolutionary front suspension system with BMW's Telelever system. The system uses telescopic forks with external, parallel, wishbones to deflect the front wheel over bumps while the forks only provide springing, not damping. Damping adjustments are made at the swing arm by the shocks attached. This new system virtually eliminates nose diving on heavy braking, front end lift on heavy acceleration, and ensures a high level of grip in wet and dry conditions. The wheel travel remains constant through the compression of the suspension for a safe and predictable ride in all conditions. The system was originally developed for high speed/heavy braking on tarmac roads. Although the system can be set up for a soft ride at low speed, it is not intended for serious off-road use, so this bike is already losing a large part of its identity. The rear suspension remains the same as the R1150GS, EVO braking remains the same, but the new 1200GS has BMW's new integral ABS II system as standard, which uses one control unit to ensure front and rear brakes are balanced for all road/off-road conditions. This is a huge benefit to this bike, as a high percentage of these machines will be used on the road, with the repetition of riders attempting to use R1150GS models off-road being a common sight over the years.

3.2. Electronics and safety features

An item that the 1200 GS has omitted since the days of the R1100 range is the excellent PIAA driving lights that were previously stock items. The 1150 GS also had a hazard warning light feature which is activated by pushing both turn indicators in simultaneously. This is a handy feature for those who do lots of remote touring. The 1200 GS has a function which is a logical progression of this idea. This is the provision of a socket, which activates a function disabling the rear screen and ABS pump. The socket allows heated clothing, which is still available as a BMW aftermarket option, to be plugged into the bike's electrical system, conserving battery power when the engine is not running.

Both bikes have one feature that is now standard on all BMW motorcycles: EVO brakes. This is the latest version of BMW's ABS, which allows the rider to lock the rear wheel and still maintain some steering control. The EVO part allows the rider to switch off the ABS for off-road riding. The 1150 GS has the older version, which is still very effective in preventing lockups on wet or slick roads. But the lack of control of rear wheel lock means that it is nearly impossible to spin the rear tire. This is sometimes advantageous in off-road situations. The 1150 also has one other safety feature: the servo assist. This is a system of power assist for both the front and rear brakes. It is very effective, giving the bike more stopping power with less input, and good feel. But experienced riders report that this can be a problem in remote areas, as the system is a complex set of hydraulics using computer-controlled valves. If it fails, you are in big trouble. The bike will still have braking, but not nearly the same level of effectiveness. This system has been largely revised for the 1200 GS. This works in conjunction with the partially integral and optional ABS II linked braking. The servo assist is said to be more reliable than the 1150 GS version, and the partially integral ABS combined with the much more evolved ABS II is almost certainly a safer system than the non-integral ABS/standard brake setup of the 1150 GS. However, this system still does not allow steering control with a locked wheel as the newer system does. The GS also has a safety feature in the form of a built-in safety switch for the side stand.

BMW has put a lot of resources into motorcycle safety and technology over the past years, culminating in the features available on the 1200 GS. Some of them are shared by the 1150 GS, while others are not.

3.3. Comfort and ergonomics

Both motorcycles are equipped with ergonomic design seats. The R 1150 GS factory seat is quite comfortable and has plenty of surface area to move around on. For long distance touring, a seat "re-shape" may be in order, as the stock saddle can become uncomfortable on long days or rough terrain. Lots of happy riders swear by aftermarket seats such as Corbin and Sargent, while many others prefer to add a gel pad or an Air Hawk cushion to the stock seat. The R 1200 GS seat is relatively unchanged in rider comfort but it is shorter in length. This is to make it easier for shorter riders to reach the ground. The stock seats of both bikes can be raised or lowered by the dealer to customer preference. The R 1150 GS seat-to-peg distance and handlebar position is quite comfortable and well-suited to long days in the saddle. The same can be said about the R 1200 GS. Neither bike will leave you feeling beat up after a full day of riding. However, more aggressive riders who stand on the pegs frequently may find that the R 1200 GS handlebar position puts too much weight on the wrists when standing. This can be corrected with a bar-raise kit that offers a variety of different height bar options. Both bikes offer heated grips as an optional factory accessory. Maintaining a comfortable hand temperature is crucial to maintaining good control of the bike in cold or wet conditions. Stepless grip heaters are arguably one of the best accessory purchases you can possibly make for any motorcycle. This factory option is still available for the R 1200 GS today and has not changed since the R 1150 GS.

3.4. Optional accessories

Adding know-how, equipment, and comprehensive accessory options for the R 1200 GS and the R 1150 GS confirm the technological lead of the new BMW enduros, also as far as optional features are concerned. The proverbial variety of BMW Motorrad accessories leaves nothing to be desired. Alternative seats, for example, through their ergonomic shaping according to the preference of the rider, ensure long-distance comfort. These are amongst the most frequently chosen accessories by GS riders. This is followed by the preference for the comprehensive luggage systems and effective protection against wind and weather. The trend towards further individualization of the motorcycle also becomes clear in the focus on the sporty rider. For this target group, the new BMW Motorrad off-road aluminum parts form an effective supplement. The 'Premium Sports Package' of the R 1200 GS ideally matches the rider seeking a motorcycle with a high level of riding dynamics and an individual sporting character. The upgrading of the alternative as an enduro bike through a supplementary circuit aims to improve the hill climb capability. This ability, indeed a weakness of the GS two-valve in comparison with its four-valve sister, can be compensated with the alternative of fitting narrower gauge tires on both models and the installation of the 'Enduro gearbox'.

4. Price and Value

Given the very similar characteristics, one would expect the costs of owning both the 1150 and the 1200 to be comparable. In fact, the data demonstrates that the 1200 is a more expensive motorcycle to own. The 1200's initial cost is greater than that of the 1150 by approximately $700. Taking into account that the 1200 was a new model at the time of this study whereas the 1150 had been available for several years and was purchased used at a lower price than new, tells us that purchasing a 1150 new would be the better deal. The higher initial cost of the 1200 results in an increase in yearly depreciation. The total depreciation of the 1150 averaged around $1400 which is about 9% of the cost of a new 1150. The total depreciation of the 1200 averaged around $5600 which is around 15% of the cost of a new 1200. This can be interpreted as the 1200 losing its value more rapidly than the 1150. Rapid depreciation is a disadvantage when considering the value of the 1200. With more miles, the total depreciation can be expected to increase. Overall it is easy to see that the 1150 is the better motorcycle for a buyer who does not want to spend more money for a new model. Secondly, the costs for maintenance of both are relatively close. The average yearly repair costs are $340 for the 1150 and $510 for the 1200. One must consider, however, that these values may increase over the years to match the repair costs of the 1150 due to the fact that it is still a new model and still has an above average repair cost when compared with other BMW models.

4.1. Initial cost and depreciation

Depreciation is another factor to consider. Generally, new motorcycles depreciate significantly as soon as they are ridden off the showroom floor. During the first 2 years of ownership, the average motorcycle will depreciate 30-40% of its original value. The R1150 GS and R1200 GS are still too new for an accurate depreciation analysis. For the R1150 GS, purchasing a used bike may be a good option. Since the model is one year older, the prices of used 1150 GS's will be considerably lower. This is a good opportunity for buyers to find a bike in good condition at a lower cost. For an owner of a used 1150 GS looking to upgrade to the 1200, selling the 1150 GS to purchase a new 1200 GS may not be justifiable. The higher price of the 1200 GS will likely make the difference in cost too great after factoring in the loss of value on a relatively new 1150 GS.

Initial cost and depreciation are a very important factor when purchasing a new motorcycle. The initial cost for the 1150 GS is $13,245, compared to the 1200 GS at $14,900 - a $1655 difference. A prospective buyer must justify if the additional cost of the 1200 GS is worth the extra performance and functionality that it provides. This will vary from buyer to buyer. A motorcycle is a discretionary purchase, and some buyers may have disposable income that justifies purchasing a more expensive model. For others, the cost difference may give reason to investigate the used bike market, where they can often find lightly used 1200 GS's available at a price close to a new 1150 GS.

4.2. Maintenance and repair expenses

Basically, maintenance and repair expenses are proportional (just like depreciation) to the quality and value of the BMW. Actual reliability on both bikes is very high, and I'm not alone in considering that the 1150 was one of the very best BMWs ever built in this respect. It's been said that the difference in reliability between the R1150GS and R1200GS is about the same as the gap between the R1100GS and R1150GS: not much. And since the mechanical layout of the two R1150 and R1200 models are so similar, it basically means that the R1150GS has been an exceptionally reliable motorcycle. In the latest years things have been a bit different: BMW has been forced to recall certain R1150 models, the R1100S and the R1100RT due to the fact that due to the usage of inferior parts, the reliability of the final products were concerning. But the same fate hasn't befallen the R1150GS, so I would say that any reliability issues with the R1150GS is of no fault of its own and is related to the recalls from the R1100 series.

4.3. Resale value

Higher initial purchase cost of the R 1200 GS over the R 1150 GS can be justified to a degree by the inclusion of items such as hydraulic adjust rear suspension, better front forks and a 6-speed gearbox and some styling improvements. There is also good value for money available in the R 1150 GS due to very competitive pricing on late model low mileage bikes. To some extent, a 1150 GS can now be viewed as an economic means to a very capable motorcycle given the recent financial squeeze placed on new bike buyers. The best financial decision in terms of depreciation is to buy a second-hand R 1150 GS over a second-hand R 1200 GS. So in terms of initial depreciation, the R 1150 GS is the clear winner. Depending on the source of any statistical information found, R 1200 GS depreciation rates can be anything from disappointing to a flat-out injustice. Owners can be left licking their wounds with the knowledge that they have lost thousands of pounds or dollars worth of value in a very short space of time. An unfortunate attribute or assumed attribute of the 1200 is its tendency to part company with expensive major components. When faced with very high repair costs, some owners will opt to sell their bikes with damaged engines, gearboxes, or ABS components as spares and repairs. These bikes often end up categorized and/or worthy of writing off. This is a significant contributing factor for the machine's rapid depreciation rates. Generally speaking, one potential buyer's loss is another buyer's gain. In other cases, potential used bike buyers are deterred by troubles regarding final drive failures and oil consumption. Buyers of a used R 1200 GS can opt to play it safe by purchasing models with specific component/service-related improvements; however, the most cost-effective of these improvements may only be found on the very latest R 1200 GS models. Buyers purchasing bikes from new is a risky move with any machine due to the sting of depreciation. It can be done more safely with the R 1200 GS by selling on the machine before the end of its warranty period in an attempt to minimize potential losses. Used bike market values for the lowest spec 1200 GS with high mileage can make for quite the bargain. For example, the bike may be worth only marginally more than a late model 1150 GS with fairly low mileage.