BMW R 1250 GS ’40 Years GS’ Review
Motorcycle Review by Adam Child ‘Chad’ – Images by Joe Dick
Do you remember what you were doing in in 1980? They were crazy times and among the madness of shoulder pads and hair spray (that was the men), BMW launched the very first BMW shaft-driven R 80 G/S. Capable both off-road and on, it catered to a whole new motorcycle market. And since creating this new sector, BMW has dominated it, evolving the GS over four decades in to the technological tour de force that it is today.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and other manufacturers quickly followed in the path of the GS. Only in the last decade has the GS’s crown been wobbled by a wave of powerful new bikes from KTM and Ducati. The Japanese manufacturers have also jumped into this most profitable sector with attractive, cost-effective bikes, like Honda’s popular Africa Twin.
In the face of this growing competition, BMW has been forced to up its game, which leads us nicely into the new R 1250 GS 40 Years GS Edition. It is the most advanced and luxurious GS to date, with new rider modes, updated tech, a six-axis IMU instead of the previous five-axis unit, new adaptive headlights, along with an updated heated seat (rider and pillion) and grips. And all daubed a brilliant yellow. But is it worthy of the makeover?
I was lucky enough to ride an original GS on a recent trip to the BMW factory in Munich, and I revelled in the simplicity of analogue clocks – remember those? – and no rider aids. For 2021, aboard the most sophisticated GS to date, and comparing it to the original, it’s like comparing an iPhone to a cup and piece of string.
BMW has thrown the accessories catalogue and a host of ingenious gadgets at this new GS. Cornering headlights are nothing new, but existing systems simply illuminate an extra light when cornering, while the BMW system actually moves and pivots the lights. The adaptive headlights are linked to the new IMU which measures lean angle and therefore knows how far over the bike is and thus where to point the headlight. The headlights will even adjust depending on the weight on the rear of the bike, dipping slightly when you add a pillion and luggage.
The IMU has been enhanced, and now takes readings from six axis rather than five, as with the previous model. The DTC (Dynamic Traction Control) uses the new IMU to compute the variance between wheelspin and a wheelie, or ‘lift-off suppression’ as BMW calls it, meaning in the Dynamic Pro and Enduro Pro modes, when you pop the front wheel up, you still have some TC – something which wasn’t possible on the old bike.
There are seven modes to pick from, plus a new Eco mode, along with Dynamic Pro and Enduro Pro modes as standard, both of which allow you to personalise or deactivate the rider aids. The system knows the difference between a wheelie and wheelspin, therefore I’m unsure why you’d want to de-activate the very clever traction control, unless you’re seriously off-road. The Eco mode is brand-new for the Anniversary model and, in an effort to improve fuel economy, restricts power to 100 hp and 109 Nm of torque, which is a significant drop from the peak power (136 hp) and torque (143 Nm).
There are also some neat little styling touches, like the gold-anodised spoked wheels and yellow handguards that come as standard on the Anniversary GS. As I mentioned earlier, heated seats for both rider and pillion are now available, something dissatisfied pillions have been asking for for years, and which is why our model didn’t have the OEM yellow seat. There are always heated grips on a BMW, but they are now updated and five-way adjustable as per the seat. And then there is the yellow-and-black ‘bumblebee’ livery – which appears to generate a love/hate response.
In perfect BMW buyer-tradition, it’s so easy to get carried away box-ticking the desirable, must-have accessories. Our test model featured the Shadow Billet Pack ($1340), hence the lovely anodised and milled mirrors and levers. It also featured the Akrapovic muffler ($1360) and LED fog-lights ($580). The free pillion package adds the heated rear pillion seat and replaces the sporty yellow screen with a standard item. Once you start to add the accessories the bill soon starts to climb.
Australian pricing for the R 1250 GS 40 years GS Edition is expected to be $35,870 Ride Away. But it’s fair to say that if you add a few accessories, some of which are mentioned above, this is never going to be an option at the more affordable end of the adventure-touring spectrum. I know it is a lot of tech, and arguably it’s a class-leading bike and perhaps even undercuts Ducati’s new Multistrada V4S in similar spec’ – but just be aware when you start ticking the accessories boxes it’s easy to spend the kids’ university fund. Oh well, they can rely on HECS….
Winter seemed to take over as soon as I took delivery of the test bike, and I was thankful of the extra accessories, especially the heated grips and seat. You now have a range of 0-5 for the grips and rider seat, and thankfully 5 is almost too hot. Even when the temperature dropped to zero, the heated seat set on maximum was almost too much…
No matter your experience it is easy to forget how good the GS is. The Shift Cam Boxer engine is a cracker, with so much torque and perfect fuelling. Power and torque are unchanged and more than adequate, while the riding position and ergonomics feel like they were made for me. Back to back 650-plus kilometre days are easy without any body parts complaining, this is a true globetrotter with an awesome combination of performance and practicality. In fact, all the class-leading points of the current GS remain, but the Anniversary model just brings a little more to the party.
Now there are even more gadgets to play with, and even more information and loads more buttons, but BMW has made it all relatively straightforward. The huge full-colour screen is accessible, relatively simple to navigate, and stunning to look at. It’s like having a full-colour TV screen at your fingertips. The font is clear and, as a former BMW owner, I know that initially daunting navigation wheel on the left bar soon becomes second nature. Ever so simple.
I don’t know of any other bike (that’s not a BMW) which gives you as much information so clearly and simply. There’s even more info than Ducati’s latest Multistrada V4 offers. Other manufacturers’ bikes have large dashes too, but the BMW offers menu upon menu of data and advice, plus you have the integrated Sat-Nav as an optional extra. After a full day in the saddle everything quickly becomes second-nature, including switching between riding modes, increasing the level of heat, or setting the cruise control. The only downside is that the switchgear isn’t backlit, which makes it hard work at night when you are not yet familiar with every button, and is something many other manufacturers have addressed.
The Eco mode is a new fuel-saving addition that curbs power and softens the delivery. When you flick into the Eco mode, a small digital indicator appears in the top right of the screen to show how economically you are riding. This guide, and the reduced power, helps to improve fuel efficiency, and obviously increases the range. I rode at a brisk pace on both motorway and country lanes, and averaged 4.8l per 100km in the standard road mode. I repeated the same task on similar but not identical roads in Eco, and averaged 4.4l per 100km. So not the most scientific of tests (it’s also worth noting that above 130km/h, you’re off the radar and apparently not riding economically enough to register with the Eco gauge) but if you stay within the gauge and ride smoothly, you certainly achieve improved mileage figures and fuel range. The downside is being restricted to 100hp. It isn’t great and you have to make sure you judge overtakes accordingly. I confess I ended up in a panic while attempting a quick pass of several cars having forgotten I was in Eco mode.
The Dynamic Pro mode is at the other end of the spectrum with full power and liberal intervention from the rider aids, such as the rear ABS, deactivated or reduced, and the ability to personalise settings within it. The system can now determine the difference between a wheelie and wheelspin. On the road I prefer a small and controlled lift over rises and crests rather than the rider aids dramatically cutting the fuelling. And the new system works well; the TC jumps in when the rear starts spinning (easily done in the conditions we encountered on the test), especially when leaving a dirt track and riding onto a smooth road. But over crests and off-road the front wheel lift was controlled by me and not a far-too-clever computer. For experienced riders, this adds another string to the bow of the GS, making it more rideable and rewarding than ever. But if that’s not your bag, in every other mode the front lift is controlled, and, of course, you can personalise the Dynamic modes to your taste.
The lights on a GS have always been extraordinary, but now they are on a different level. You roll into a corner, and the lights gradually roll with you, projecting into the bend rather than directly ahead into, say, an empty field. As you can imagine, the adaptive headlights are remarkable when riding aggressively. I was purposely braking as late as I dared, yet even in the softest semi-active suspension mode the front lights stay level, and even tilt upwards slightly. Same on the power. When I grabbed a large handful of throttle in first gear – TC light flashing, rear shock squatting and any normal headlight likely to go looking for low-flying aircraft – the adaptive system simply dips to illuminate the road ahead.
To seriously ride off-road you really need off-road biased rubber, like the optional Metzeler Karoo 3. The standard Bridgestone A41s are OK on dry gravel and hard-packed off-road surface, but they were never designed to take on wet mud.
The specific Enduro Pro mode is also designed to work in partnership with off-road biased tyres and I know how good the big GS is off-road. Don’t be perturbed by the size and weight of the GS, the Boxer engine gives the bike a lovely balance at low speed and rider aids are there to help out. But change the rubber if you’re determined to get muddy or want to hit the sand.
It is almost impossible to fault BMW’s R 1250 GS in whichever iteration you decide works for you. The top spec R 1250 GS 40 Years GS Edition isn’t a gigantic leap forward over the old bike, but rather more of a significant step.
In tricky commuting conditions I ended up using the new Eco mode a fair bit, saving fuel and increasing the range. The improved rider aids are a nice touch, and the adaptive headlights are certainly an improvement, and personally, I like the gold spoked rims. If you own a GS you will probably be tempted to test ride the Anniversary model simply to sample the new gadgets. Just check the bank balance before you do as you just might find yourself trading up and ticking those accessory boxes…
|BMW R 1250 GS ’40 Years GS’ Specifications
|Design||1254 cc Air/liquid-cooled two-cylinder four-stroke boxer engine with two spur gear driven camshafts on top, one counterbalance shaft and BMW ShiftCam variable intake camshaft control|
|Bore/Stroke||102.5 mm x 76mm|
|Power||100 KW/136 HP /7750 rpm|
|Torque||143 NM / 6250 rpm|
|Fuel||Premium grade fuel, unleaded 95 RON|
|Valves Per Cylinder||4|
|Throttle Valve||52 mm|
|Emission control||Controlled three-way catalytic converter, exhaust emission standard EU-5|
|Headlight||LED H7 12 V 55 W|
|Rear light||LED brake light / rear light|
|Clutch||Oil-bath clutch with anti-hopping function, hydraulically operated|
|Transmission||Claw-operated six-speed transmission with helical-cut splines|
|Secondary Drive||Cardan Shaft|
|Frame design||Two-piece frame concept consisting of main frame with rear frame bolted on, engine supported|
|Wheel guide, front wheel||BMW Motorrad Telelever, central spring strut, Ø 37 mm|
|Wheel guide, rear wheel||Cast aluminium single-sided swinging arm with BMW Motorrad Paralever, WAD spring strut, spring preload adjustable infinitely variable hydraulically by spring strut, spring preload adjustable infinitely variable hydraulically by handwheel, rebound-stage damping adjustable (Optional: Dynamic ESA)|
|Spring travel, front/rear||190/200 mm|
|Steering Head Angle||64.3 °|
|Front Brakes||Front Twin disc brake, brake discs with floating mount, Ø 305 mm, four-piston radial brake callipers|
|Rear Brakes||Ø 276 mm, twin-piston floating calliper brake|
|ABS||BMW Motorrad Integral ABS Pro (partial integral, optimised for inclined|
|Wheels||Aluminium cast wheels”|
|Front||3.00 x 19″|
|Rear||4.50 x 17″|
|Front Tyres||120/70 R19|
|Rear Tyres||170/60 R17|
|Overall length||2207 mm|
|Overall Width||952.5 mm|
|Seat Height||850/870 mm (800 to 900 available via options)|
|Kerb Weight||249 kg|
|Total Permissable Weight||485 kg|
|Fuel Capacity||30 l|
|Fuel Consumption||4.75 l/100 km|