BMW Motorrad: The Ultimate “Me Too” Bike Manufacturer

Let's face it, there's little that beats German engineering. For reliability, efficiency, value, sheer robustness, you know that straddling a 1200GS you can't go wrong. You can scramble across deserts, bash through forests, and climb mountains. When you want to cross a continent, or circle the globe, the GS is the poster machine. Helped more than a little by Charlie Boorman and Ewen McGregor, this machine has spawned a lucrative middle-aged market. (KTM are still kicking themselves)

And believe me, I love the GS. I had the 650 for 9 months, and have about 20,000 kms on the 1200 traversing the USA. Down the PCH, along Interstates, through Death Valley, and over Yosemite to name a few.

But words like passion, excitement, and innovation are not those that come to mind when you look at the “Hummer” of motorbikes. And in recent years other European marques: Ducati, KTM, even Triumph, have been creating, or re-creating entirely new markets.

And BMW is pissed.

They don't want to lose marketshare to the Italians, Austrians, and definitely not the Brits.

Since 2010, Ducati has built an entirely new genre, now called the Adenture Tourer, with the Multistrada. (Translated: Many Roads – sounds better in Italian). This ultimate versatile, '4-in-1', has captured the heart of that middle aged, lucrative market. Those riders who know that, frankly, they're unlikely to be riding the “Road of Bones” any time soon. In fact most of their riding is in the city, so lightness is key. On the week-end they're likely to crank it through the twisties. Occasionally they'll load up the panniers and tour for a week-end or a week. And very rarely they'll negotiate a graded dirt road in a National Park.

The Multi (like most bikes) is perfectly fine in the dirt. Put decent tyres on it, switch off the ABS, and you can consistently win the Pikes Peak race that until recently was half dirt, half tar. 156 turns on a 20km course up to 14,000'. And people have used it to scale high mountains, and traverse continents.


So successful is this bike that BMW have responded, with the S1000XR. This is an inline-4 (same as the S1000R), with a chain final drive, and it even looks like the Multi, especially with the panniers on. By all reports the BMW is faster, has better handling, and some reviewers found it more comfortable than the Ducati. But every single review (and I found this myself) on the XR finds a handlebar buzz at motorway speeds. Which is kind've a killer for touring, or long commutes.

Also every review but one reckoned they'd buy the Ducati over the BMW. I'm sure BMW will get there, but they still have a little way to go.

And this at a time when Ducati is threatening the almighty GS with the Multistrada Enduro

Ooh Billy

Last year Ducati came out with the ultimate hipster bike, the Scrambler

And now, not to be outdone, BMW have come out with their version of the Scrambler. To my eye this has more of a cafe racer look than a scrambler, but hey, what do I know. What I do know is that this is no longer about trail riding (now subsumed by the Dual Sport bikes). These Scramblers are all about looking hip, with retro gear on, riding about town.

Admittedly, both the Multi Enduro, and the Ducati Scrambler are hardly novel ideas. More evolution than revolution.

They are also all very expensive. These bikes are about status, an identity, a pretension.

The worst reason to every buy a bike imho. Although the worst reason to buy a bike is still a great reason to buy a bike.

But yeah, in the derivative space that is 21st century Product Design, BMW is now officially a “me too” company. Watch this space, I reckon they'll be copying the Diavel next 🙂


Ride West Young Man

I’m loving my motorbike. No, really. I wonder if you’ve ever had one of those activities where you just can’t wait to be doing it again. Where it doesn’t matter the conditions. If you can get protective gear to handle the elements, well and good. If you can’t, the discomfort isn’t enough to sway you from your purpose.

I’ve felt like this about a number of activities. Scuba Diving, Sailing, Camping, Waterskiing, Hiking.

But none more than getting out on the bike. (well, maybe sailing and diving come close). Since returning to biking last October I’ve chosen the bike over the car every time I’ve needed to go somewhere or get something.

Since upgrading to the BMW, I’ve not only commuted on the bike, but also gone for pleasure ride every week-end as well. To date these rides have been to:

  • Marayla and Cattai Ridge Road
  • Old Pacific Highway to the Road Warriors Cafe
  • Wiseman’s Ferry
  • Harboard via Wahroonga Freeway – and last week-end –
  • Berowra Waters via Galston, then back down the F3 from Berowra

Further Afield

Today I took the new BMW for her longest ride yet. From our house in West Pennant Hills, through Richmond, then up the “Bells Line of Road,” across the Darling Causeway to Mount Victoria and then back down the Great Western Highway, M4, M7, M2 to home.
imageView Bells Line Of Road Ride in a larger map

This is just over 220km, and took just on 3 hrs 20, including a 30 min stop. 

The ride up to Richmond is pretty busy on a Sunday afternoon. Thankfully low cloud kept the sun out of my eyes (heading west late afternoon in winter is not a great plan), but the day was otherwise lovely, and mostly warm.

From Richmond the road didn’t get any less busy. It seems every man and his dog was heading up or down Bells Line of Road. Judging from the number of bikes returning, this is a popular ride. Although more popular for cars than the Old Pacific Highway.

You actually turn left onto the Darling Causeway before reaching Bell. This changed my plan for a coffee break at Bell, and added about 40 mins before my first stop. In the future I may stop at one of the cafes on Bells Line of Road itself.

Numb Bum

This is the longest ride I’ve taken since swapping up to the BMW. Actually, if I’m honest, it’s the longest I’ve ridden a bike since my Honda CB750K in my teens Smile

By the time I reached Mount Victoria, I must say that my bum was starting to ache. Rather seriously. So I stopped off at Leura for a Hot Chocolate before heading down the mountain.

The suspension on this bike is pretty hard to say the least.


I learned a bit more about the bike, my competence, and the effects of a long ride. This is all in preparation for bigger adventures in the future.

First off will be to join the Black Dog Ride for 1 day.

With my new Tall Tourer Windshield, the bike is a lot easier to ride above 80 km/h, and easy enough to sustain +100km/h for any length of time. Still for a long distance ride, I’m going to need ear plugs, as the wind roar can get a bit on the tedious side.

I also think frequent breaks will be in order. Quite apart from the numb bum, my thighs, and hands were starting to ache a bit from being fixed in position for the length of time. Especially through the occasional cold valleys in the mountains.

Wrap Up

Would I do it again though? Absolutely!! Great Ride.