R1200GS, Mana & Stelvio - Big Boys of Dual Purpose Tourers

So what goes to a tourer besides having a large fuel tank? Loads of carrying capacities, loads of comfy, big windshield and loads of techno gizmos telling directions, right. And yes, a very good pillion seat too. Well, all tourers have these and then some more.
This topic is more about 3 dual purpose tourers from the house of BMW, Aprilia and Moto Guzzi rather than full dressed ones like the Goldwing. These tourers are not that big in the U.S or Asia as it is in Europe. While in U.S, people just take their 4WD for their weekend getaways, it’s the Europeans who are more into these big bikes. In the U.S, it’s more about customs when it comes to weekend gateways with 2 wheelers. Probably the roads, the scenery, the atmosphere, the weather and all makes Europeans prefer their 2 wheel tourers over 4WD.
Any tourer whether a full dressed, a sports version or a dual purpose one, as such are not the best looking bikes, neither are they intended to be, I mean with so much excess baggage, one can definitely tend to look elsewhere is they are looking at a ‘stunning’ tourer and also as such this post shouldn’t be here as the blog more or less celebrates the beauty of a motorcycle. Well, having said that, I am fully and solely responsible for falling in love with these bikes, more because of serving the purpose for what they have been meant. Tourers are big, comfortable powerful motorcycles. Period. Not quite, lets add loads of torque and what… basically we shouldn’t compare tourers by the performance or power factor, I mean to an extent, you can, but when you have brands like BMW, Aprilia and Moto Guzzi, well, there is nothing much to choose at the first place, leave along performance and comfort, so let’s see what kind of accessories you get on these bikes?
Starting off with the new BMW R1200 GS Adventure (the latest avatar of the former R1150GS Adventure), the most striking feature is of course the huge tank with a capacity of 33 liters with approximately 4 liters reserve. 33 liters does mean a lot, I mean you won’t have to search for a fuel pump station for at least 600kilometers with no matter how you ride. At a steady speed of 90 km/h or 56 mph, the R 1200 GS Adventure has a - theoretical - cruising range of 750 kilometers or 465 miles. Now isn’t that impressive? The BMW sports a big windshield which has been designed very carefully. The new windshield diverts the flow of air smoothly past the rider with hardly any turbulence or air swirl and so the head and the chest of the rider are fully protected at high speeds. And there is more as there are specially designed flaps behind the windshield which serve to minimize any diverted wind gush in the flanks (kidney area). Of course, like most touring motorcycles now, the windshield is adjustable for angle, so it offers riders of virtually any size excellent protection from wind and weather in all cases. The luggage rack is made of stainless steel with aluminum top case and they have practical fastening points. The volume inside can be quite generous if you stick to buying authentic BMW accessories. No matter how tall or relatively short you are, you won’t find difficulty in reaching the ground as the two-section seat on the new R 1200 GS Adventure can be adjusted to two different levels on the rider's area.
The rider’s seat is all flat, but plushy which helps the rider as they are without any steps in between and thereby the freedom to move back and forth. The seat height at upper position is of 915 millimeters and in the lower position, its 895 millimeters and so even for a relatively shorter rider, it’s not difficult to find the ground. This is also enhanced by the particular shape and design of the seat itself, which is distinctly narrowed at the front. Of course one of the most important aspect of a tourer or any tourer is the suspension unit. Here the BMW scores heavily by having an extra 20 millimeters spring travel both front and rear compared to the standard R 1200 GS (Non-Adventure) which is supposed to have one of the best suspension units of any motorcycle. The ‘Telelever’ featured on the front wheel measures 41 millimeters in diameter on its fixed tube, while the ‘Evo-Paralever’ at the rear boasts a central spring strut and travel-dependent damping unit (TDD) - the more the spring strut is compressed, the firmer the damper becomes.
Among other helpful features, you get robust stainless-steel pipes protecting the fuel tank and engine effectively from anything you won’t really like getting associated with. The handlebar is made of light alloy with a foam protection element and also has hand protectors as a standard feature on the new R 1200 GS Adventure. The footrests are wide enough and both the gearshift and brake levers are adjustable which aids in various riding positions and individual’s preferance.

Being a dual purpose motorcycle, the footrests are extra tough to hold the rider to keep standing for long duration if needed. While the height of the footbrake lever needs mechanical adjustment, the gear shift lever is adjusted by means of an eccentric kinematic unit. The benefits of the new model over the outgoing R 1150 GS Adventure are many like there is a substantial reduction in weight with significant increase in output and torque and now it also has a six-speed manual gearbox. There are additional gizmos on the dashboard like on-board single-wire network using CAN bus technology and newer instruments like ‘Info-flat-screen’. For safety, you would also get an electronic immobilizer.As for the engine specs, yes, it’s the same flat-twin power unit complete with a balance shaft introduced to give the more power and performance. Maximum output from this 1,170-cc engine is 100 bhp at 7,000 rpm with torque peaking at 115 Nm at 5,500 rpm. I of course like the ‘enduro’ look and it looks very powerful which it is! Knowing BMW and their penchant for high-quality materials (such as blast-treated stainless steel on the fuel tank and engine protection hoops as well as on the luggage rack, also epoxy-plated aluminum on the rims and knee covers) the bike has a superior look of technical and functional elegance. BMW Motorrad has proven itself as one of the premier brand when it comes to making off road and dual purpose motorcycles and have proven their suitability in any kind of tracks whether its high off-road speeds, red tarmac mountains or just plain roads. This is a motorcycle with which you just can’t go wrong, no matter from which school of biking you come out from.
Now if you look at the APRILIA Mana, you will most certainly miss many of its features as there are so many and you will most definitely need the manual just to know what goes inside this beautiful bike.
First of all, the Mana is a very practical and functional bike. You need to look beyond the image of Aprilia. Why am I saying this is because people think about the brand in the same pedestal of Ducati and the likes and not that it is not, but people generally tend to have the thinking like ‘Oh! It’s going to be expensive and we can certainly get a BMW for dual purpose with the same credibility’. Yes, you can but the price tag and that exotic pedestal is justified in the Mana in more than one ways. Just to repeat myself, the Mana is a very practical and functional bike. One example of this bike is the parking brake level, located on the left side, just behind the large round Sports Gear System cover, is quickly seen for what it is. When stopped, the rider simply pulls up the lever to activate the brake and releases it before moving off or starting the motorcycle. There are so many small features like this that the owner over a period of time starts appreciating these small things and does find justification for the extra dough shelled out. Small things like an electronic immobilizer system, which has more or less become a standard feature on two-wheelers have been featured on Aprilia since a long time and owners know how helpful this feature is. Overall, what people believe that there are too many features of which probably the rider won’t even use in a lifetime are actually features which the rider finds very convenient after some time. We all know about the Aprilia handlebar controls which are typically innovative, but for the Mana 850, even more changes have been made. On the right control, the rocker-style switch serves a dual purpose - it functions as the engine-shut-off switch for emergency use and when the right side is depressed (along with one of the brakes), it functions as the starter. Just above the red rocker switch is another important input - the Gear Mode control. When the motorcycle is turned on and idling, this button is toggled to select one of three primary engine mapping modes.
On the left control the centre mode switch provides three-way mode control for using and programming the on-board display computer. There are two electronic shift buttons, located within easy reach of the left thumb – the inside button is for Gear UP (+) and the outside button is for Gear DOWN (–). Besides the standard turn signal switch performs the standard left, right and push to cancel functions and front of the left side control housing the Passing Button/High Beam Switch, there is another button below it, the helmet compartment opening control - this electronic release only works when the motorcycle is running. A manual release mechanism is also provided under the passenger seat. Now you again got to thinking so many switches, right! But ask a Mana owner how he feels about it and he will delightfully list down the benefits. There are a lot of lights on the display panel including lights to indicate RPM range when the drive system is in the Sport Gear Mode, turn signal light, high beam indicator light, general warning light, fuel reserve indicator light, all in all, the display and input system is extremely sophisticated and easy to use. There are also the parking brake reminder and a side-stand indicator.
Okay, we are talking about a dual purpose tourer here, not some gizmo freak, so let’s skip the part for now and start with the touring prowess of the Mana. Starting off with the tank, what you see here as the tank is NOT the tank. So, where is the fuel tank? Well, the tank resides discretely under the rider and passenger seats. Why? Read on and you will know the benefits. Anyway, overall capacity is 15.5 litres including a 3.3l reserve. It’s not small, the BMW’s tank is extra big and this is actually the normal size. On average riding it gives an excellent mileage of 20kmpl which means with a full tank, you need not worry about the next fuel pump for over 300 kilometers. The tank is made of plastic which is a good way of reducing weight and it can be accessed via the flip-up passenger seat. It has a non-vented screw-on gas cap and to meet emission standards the tank is treated as a sealed unit, with all gaseous emissions routed to the Evaporative Emission System canister, mounted in a highly visible spot on the right front of the engine. Yes, the system can dent the overall good looks of the bike, but it is there for reasons and no wonders I keep repeating that the Mana is a very practical and functional bike. So why have the tank other the seat.
You see, the tank is not the most frequented component on a touring motorcycle. Usually you get the full tank and here it’s good for the next 300kilometers. There are other things which are more remembered during any tour for example the tool kit compartment. So Aprilia located the helmet/tool kit compartment strategically in front of the rider in the space erstwhile reserved for a fuel tank. Even with the motorcycle running, the trunk can be opened electronically via the left handlebar switch. The trunk can also be opened manually by inserting the key in the rear seat lock just below the taillight, flipping up the rear seat panel. The compartment has a courtesy light on the left side wall, however leaving the trunk open for extended periods of time will keep the courtesy light burning, putting a drain on the battery. The compartment is quite large and it can efforlessly hold a standard helmet along with the tool kit. Of course there are other storage facilities as well but the one mentioned is a standard. The other feature of a tourer is the suspension system. Aprilia suspension systems are all very good, in fact there is little to complain about suspension systems of Italian brands and the Mana’s is also Aprila and Italia! The rear shock, mounted on the left side, is mounted in line with the large diameter tubular trellis frame tubes. This shock layout helps keep the overall wheelbase short. The placement of the shock means that both spring and dampening adjustments can be made quickly: a small sticker on the shock body identifies recommended settings based on rider, passenger and luggage combinations – a small thing overall, but indicative of the attention to detail evident on the motorcycle. The front fork lacks adjustments but has been set-up for a wide-range of riding conditions. Factory seat height is 810mm with a very comfortable rider portion of the saddle.The odd thing is that the height is not adjustable.Adjustment ergonomic available are the shift lever and the rear brake pedal that can be repositioned somewhat via individual adjusters. Also the handlebars could be rotated slightly. Let’s not talk about performance as it will deliver more or less everything you throw it at. The engine is very quiet overall. The Mana with the 839cc V-twin SOHC 4V per cylinder motor provides enough punch and has a very very effective CVT transmission and not to mention its two main modes of drive, Sequential or Auto-Drive. The manual Sequential Mode has seven gear ratios by using the standard foot lever or you can also use the Up and Down buttons on the left handlebar control. By default, the Sequential operations are set in the Sport Gear mode. In all, three engine mapping modes are available: Sport, Touring and Rain. Sport Mode offers the most power - the engine runs at a higher RPM, gear changes are rapid and more engine braking is evident. For constant or sustained high speed runs, the Touring mode is optimal as the engine runs at a lower RPM and fuel consumption is increased. Rain Mode is the ‘softest’ mode and made mainly for urban and city driving. Although rider-selectable, the feature, by default is controlled by the Mana’s Auto-Drive system. In Auto-Drive, all the rider has to do is use the throttle and brakes - the system automatically handles the rest. During braking and deceleration, an additional mode ‘Semi Automatic’ can be brought into play, allowing quicker downshifting and more engine braking, etc. This additional mode is automatically engaged if the Gear Down (–) is activated, in which case the LCD display will display the Gear in use beside the DRIVE identifier. If the Gear Up (+) is activated, Semi Automatic mode will be disabled and Auto-Drive will resume. Talk about being innovative.Here is a bike with a high-output V-twin motor and a well-mapped engine and transmission management system which is for the true touring types with an occasional dash of city driving, sports racing and all. The higher price as you must have noted are due to the design features, the various technology and convenience of use for all kinds of riders. It’s no doubt good looking, very versatile and the best thing is that it can suit all type of riders. For academic purpose, engine output is 76 horsepower and 73 Nm torque at the crank. It has a primary belt drive and secondary chain drive for transmission.
And then we have the massive Guzzi. The MOTO GUZZI Stelvio is huge even to look at. Look at that massive engine. But don’t worry, even if you are 5’6”, you will be able to slip your leg. You see, to start off the seat height is adjustable, seat height on the lowest setting is 820 cm and on the higher setting brings it is up to 840 cm. Seat height is adjusted manually by inserting the left and right seat bracket cut-outs into one of two height adjusters at the front and then selecting one of two vertical holes at the rear in which to thread the removable screw knobs. Yup, just like old times!
Behind the behemoth windscreen is the dais and the handlebar which is 910 mm and quite comfortable for a full day tour. The huge windscreen is manually adjustable through a 5.5 cm (2.0 in) range. Some critics has mentioned that the screen on the highest fitting cuts out the air completely, but there is increased buffeting on the top, sides and bottom of the rider’s helmet, which translates into noise, and discomfort and as such the lowest setting provided a relatively calm cockpit environment as the helmet is in the airstream and there is minimal buffeting on the sides and along the bottom of the helmet. In one way, the Stelvio is a crossover between a full dressed and dual purpose tourer. Take that massive size, those indicator/ signal lights in the rear view mirrors and then look at the seating posture, the endure style built… it seems to be a fusion of the two class. And probably it’s a good thing as it may cater to a larger audience, but then again, may keep a larger audience at bay. The mirrors stick out beyond the bars while the external wire harnesses does detract from a decent handlebar environment. But as said, tourers are not meant to be good looking first, right? They have to be very practical. And practical the Stelvio is. For example, the mirrors are extremely functional and have the best rear view sight. Another good feature is that the Stelvio has a combination of analog and digital information displays in one neat instrumentation and information pod.
A large analog sweep tachometer dominates the left and centre portion while the multi- function digital display LCD sits in the lower right quadrant. Sometimes at bright daytime, it gets difficult to keep tabs on the LCD screens, so the analog tachometer is very practical for such purposes when you are touring as you keep a tab on the RPM.
The Stelvio has stylish black heat caps that have been installed as the rear portion of the each head surface. Further down, both the rider and pillion seat sections are broad and firm and has the large and well-shaped comfortable rider section and excellent cushioning. Compared to the former two, it’s quite heavy at 250 kgs, but the weight is very evenly distributed so once aside the stand, you won’t have problems in maneuvering it for parking. Fuel capacity is 18 litres which should see you run 350 kilometers without a look out for the fuel station.
The information displays are very comprehensive and has all the information you need but of course you have to go through the manual. There is a large "Mode" switch on the left hand control to start accessing all the info. Then the left hand control also has the horn button and the standard left/right/push-to-cancel switch. Also standard is the headlight Hi/Lo/Flasher switch. The left hand control also has the electronic release for the right-hand fairing compartment. For safety, to open this lid, the motorcycle has to be in neutral with the ignition switch turned on. On the right hand, you have the combined kill-switch/starter button along with the Hazard Light button and the ABS button (of course on the ABS models). As a standard option now-a-days, you have the key-based immobilizer system. Just like the Mana, two coded keys are provided with provisions up to four keys. As for storage, the lower left side of the motorcycle has the saddle compartment keyhole. Using the ignition key, the cable-activated switch releases the rear seat lock, allowing the rear section to be lifted up and off. This under-seat area features a large storage box for holding the small tool pouch, the owner's manual and his/ her small helmet. Another feature which is not very common is the power plug installed in the right front wall of the storage box rated for up to 180W. This is sure going to help a lot, if nothing at least to charge your mobile, what say? The glove compartment on the right fairing is long, narrow and deep.
The other important feature of the tourer is the suspension. The Stelvio's suspension is pretty good, the front end features a 50mm inverted hydraulic front fork with preload and spring adjustment, while the rear features a single shock absorber with adjustable rebound and spring preloading, and both are easily accessible. By default, it is set for the mixed road conditions which in a way are suitable for all terrains. Of course Moto Guzzis are famous for their suspensions and swingarms. Here too in the Stelvio, the massive single-sided swingarm assembly houses the CA.R.C. (Cardano Reattivo Compatto or Compact Reactive Shaft Drive) drive system. And of course as usual, it is very very well built and has one of the best shaft drives among all motorcycles. On the left side of the motorcycle, the eye catcher is the combination of the catalytic converter and exhaust can assembly blocks which are quite massive.
Again, we really don’t need to go at lengths to discuss its performance. Just so you know, this big 1151 cc twin is a high revving engine. The 8V motor is very powerful and the machine is built to be used hard and to cover large distances. It develops 110 hp @7500 rpm and 108Nm @ 6400Nm with a 6 speed transmission using a shaft drive as mentioned. All in all, this is a bike, okay a big bike which is probably more suited to touring than the other two more because of its high performance and bigger engine. But then again even the BMW is big where as the Aprilia is very much suited for actual dual purpose, that is touring, off roads, urban driving and all. It’s very little to choose from. Guess, ultimately it will come to a personal decision as to what you want. A big tourer like the Stelvio which has some limit in city roads, a sexy stylish Mana which is a bundle of tricks and the most rider friendly or the R1000 GS Adventure which like a typical BMW is a pure breed workhorse, choice is yours, but rest assured when you have brands like BMW, Aprilia and Guzzi, you just can’t go wrong with anyone of these 3 boys.


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