It was a GS Experience with BMW Motorrad a couple of years ago that brought my attention to the subject matter of this article. GS Experience is the brand’s way of making its GS customers familiarise themselves with what their motorcycle is capable of on tricky terrain and be prepared for when the road ends. Having ridden the entire GS line up, starting from the G 310 GS and F 750 GS to the big ones, it was the R 1250 GS that remained the most composed on deep and loose mud and gravel. You see, the front suspension of this large BMW ADV comprises more than just telescopic forks.
What is the prime function of the suspension besides absorbing undulations on the road? To maintain grip under the tyres throughout the ride which is attained through rebound settings. Under braking, the front suspension compresses because the weight shifts forward but how it rebounds can change the way a motorcycle handles. Hence, most modern motorcycles have settings for damping and rebound.
Adventure motorcycles have to have more sophisticated tech in this department since they’re sprung higher off the ground, the suspension has to be set up on the softer side because they need to be off the road at times and there’s typically also a lot more weight. The front end dives quite substantially on an ADV under hard braking than it would on sports bikes which comparatively have a much lower centre of gravity.
Telelever separates the two functions of guiding the wheel and absorbing the undulations on the road. The front suspension then comprises forks, a shock absorber and a telelever arm that connects the forks to the chassis. While the forks do absorb uneven ground below, their primary job is to guide the wheel, and most of the damping is done by the spring strut right behind them. This also allows the forks to be slimmer, hence saving on unsprung weight.
The telelever helps reduce the brake dive that makes for better traction during hard braking. This setup reduces the forces acting on the forks, hence improving the ride quality.
However, the telelever is not flawless. This setup makes a substantial addition to the number of parts in use which means there’s more to maintain and there are more linkages and joints to go wrong. And since there is a shock absorber in the centre, the radiator has to go on the sides which does not help the aesthetics very much.
A strong & independent motorcycle
Did you know that the R 1250 GS is capable of staying upright without a stand? That is just how well-balanced a machine it is. Try searching self-help videos on YouTube about tips and tricks to better handle your ADV and notice that most YouTubers will be using a GS with a boxer engine to demonstrate these drills because despite its large dimensions and big weight, the R 1250 GS offers ease of riding.
A lot of it comes from the boxer that powers it. An engine that juts out from both sides does wonders for weight distribution. Besides this, it is loaded with electronics and the suspension set up is adjustable. Also, the seat height can be made as low as the lowest motorcycle in the adventure-touring category, the Royal Enfield Himalayan at just 800 mm.
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