How does the BMW R 1200 GS Adventure fare as a regular winter riding motorcycle?
Well, just fine, I think! It’s mainly a different way of thinking that leads to riding year-round. Here in Germany it is customary for motorcyclists to mothball their steeds over the winter months. You can even get seasonal license plates, most choose to license their bikes from April to October. Then there is a small fraction of riders that ride irregardless of season and weather, many of them in sidecar rigs.
And “adventure bike” is fine for this purpose, too. After all, this type of bike came to be from Enduro machines. They should be able to cope with all kinds of surfaces!
And the Gummicow does. Riding on dual-track roads, over freshly-fallen snow, packed snow, icy patches and through frozen-over puddles is all possible with a sensitive throttle hand. Two riding modes are useful there: “Rain” and “Enduro”. They differ mainly in the amount of traction control that is applied to the rear wheel, less in “Enduro”, more in “Rain”. If the ground is mainly slush and mud, I’d choose “Enduro” and have the rear end wiggle more side-to-side. It does regain traction this way if you keep on the gas!
If the ground is more icy or has hard-packed snow on it, I don’t want so much loss of traction and the often more excursive sideways motion, so I use the “Rain” mode. Of course, it cannot help you on long stretches of ice. You’ll have to ride around them, or over them doing nothing at all (but praying!). If there’s time, pull in the clutch before you reach the ice.
That’s it for forward motion, how about braking? Don’t do so much of it, and if you have to, the BMW’s ABS system has a broad range of surfaces it does find some grip on. I try to test the waters (ha! If only it were so!) with the rear wheel brake and if it stutters and slips, I can often still brake with the front (unified, a bit of rear brake is applied even if you pull the right lever), the R 1200 GS Adventure’s weight distribution is good this way.
Leaving the terrain now, what about riding on wintery roads? Hereabouts they are good and speedy about putting salt on the roads. That makes them rideable as if it was mere water on them. The Continental tyres on the Gummicow have good grip in the wet. Of course, you have to watch out for frozen-over spots, especially at bridges and in the shade of trees.
A lot of that brine lands on the bike and if you value your investment, you’ll have to clean it off after every ride. High-pressure cleaners are a godsend for what would otherwise amount to slave work in the salt mines!
So, you can ride off-road and on, but what about the rider? He needs good personal protection to keep from freezing. Let’s go head to toe.
A normal helmet will keep the warmth in down to about -5°C, go lower and you’ll appreciate a balaclava or a face rag under it. Fogging and condensation are a common problem, more so if you wear glasses like I do. I’ve had to crack the visor open a slit, this is where textile face protection comes in handy.
We can cover (pun intended) the whole midsection with one garment and be comfortable: Touratech’s Companero Worldwide riding suit. Of course, there need to be lots and lots of layers of polypropylene and wool underneath! I like to wear wool socks and PP everything else. The heated insoles I already wrote about. So, we’re covered!
If all this sounds like a lot of bother to be able to ride in winter and perhaps not worth it, well, then you haven’t tried it. There’s nothing to compare this experience with, it’s unique. And that’s priceless!