When BMW announces anything new with the beloved GS, people understandably sit up at attention. Why wouldn’t they? The GS is legendary, and it has achieved this status through years upon years of continual refinement.
This is what happened for 2021 – BMW has announced a “new” R 1250 GS and R 1250 GS Adventure. Coincidentally, 2021 also marks the 40th birthday (or is that birth year?) of the GS line.
Why are there quotes around the word new, you ask? Because as we’re about to explain, the more we look at the changes, the more we think new is a bit of an exaggeration. “Thoughtfully upgraded” is a better descriptor.
Still, that’s not to discredit what BMW has done to the two GS models for 2021. So, here, we’ll break down the changes for both big adventure bikes and explain what’s different from last year.
2021 R 1250 GS: What’s New?
Let’s start with the obvious changes first: new colors. The R 1250 GS will be available in four colors:
- Triple Black, which, as you can probably guess, is all black.
- White non-metallic, which is predominantly black or grey with a white beak and white accents on the fuel tank.
- Rallye, which incorporates BMW’s signature white/red/blue motif.
- Edition 40 Years GS. This is a special black and yellow colorway celebrating the original GS color scheme.
Previously, dynamic traction control was an option, but now it comes standard on the new GS. There’s also a new ECO riding mode that comes standard and helps the boxer engine achieve maximum fuel economy by throttling back the power a little via the ShiftCam variable valve timing system.
There’s now a six-axis IMU which is crucial in the operation of a new Integral ABS Pro system, replacing the old ABS Pro. Integral ABS means both the front and rear brakes are applied when the front brake lever is used.
As always, the rear brake pedal only operates the rear brake. With the IMU, Integral ABS (which also uses a new, lighter ABS module) is better able to detect the motorcycle’s position for more accurate ABS action both on-road or off-road.
A cool feature the new GS is now able to achieve with the IMU is being able to modulate the amount of brake pressure it uses for the Hill Start Control Pro System. Now HSC Pro can read the angle of the incline and apply the necessary rear brake pressure.
Another trend we’re seeing with new motorcycles, including the R 1250 GS and R 1250 GS Adventure, is the adoption of LED lights. For these two BMWs, the turn indicators are now slim LED pieces.
What’s particularly nice is the adaptive headlight option. Unlike other adaptive headlights, which simply rotate the angle of the beam whenever you turn, the adaptive headlight on the GS models actually curves, so it’s better able to light up the corner ahead.
2021 R 1250 GS: What’s The Same?
There’s no denying the new features of the 2021 GS models are exciting, but as we said in the opening, calling these models “new” is a stretch. Both the GS and GS Adventure are largely the same overall.
Crucially, the engine is still the same 1254cc horizontally-opposed two-cylinder we know and love, and it still has the ShiftCam variable valve timing technology to give it useable power virtually everywhere.
As far as the components go, not a lot has changed. Aside from the engine, you’re still getting the same suspension. Wheels and brakes carry over, too. That’s not a bad thing, obviously, as both GS models are great on-road and off.
We mentioned the ECO ride mode earlier, but there are still six other modes for maximum performance and/or safety on the pavement, gravel, dirt, or whatever conditions you might find yourself in.
In true BMW Motorrad fashion, rider comfort is key. There are 30mm handlebar risers – an especially useful feature when you’re standing on the pegs while off-road. Cruise control really lets you relax when you’re riding along on a tour, and when the weather turns sour, both GS models have adjustable heaters for both the seat and the grips.
The huge TFT display is bright, colorful, and amazingly easy to read. It really is a stunning display to look at, and it’s, of course, the control panel for a number of the bike’s features.
For those who enjoy being connected, you can pair the TFT display with your smartphone with the BMW Connected App, where you can then view your route, listen to music, and/or make calls while you’re riding – all controlled via the clear display and the BMW selector wheel on the left handlebar.
BMW hasn’t forgotten the fact that today’s cell phones, while capable of so much, also consume a lot of battery power. Especially if you’re going to pair it with the BMW Connected App. To remedy that, there’s a convenient USB charge port located right next to the TFT display, so you can keep your devices charged for your entire ride.
So, what do we make of the 2021 BMW R 1250 GS and R 1250 GS Adventure? Consider this an evolution, not a revolution, of the GS line. A few choice upgrades that used to be optional are now standard, which should enhance the riding experience.
Of course, BMW is leaning heavily on the 40th anniversary of the GS line, and the anniversary black/yellow colorway should be popular for diehard enthusiasts.
If you already own a 2020 GS, should you switch it up? We’d say...probably not. Not only would you be taking a big financial hit by trading in a year-old model, but the changes don’t warrant the need to immediately make the switch. However, if you’re riding an older model and have been sitting on the fence about a trade-in, now may not be a bad time. Especially if you haven’t experienced the new ShiftCam engine – it’s a real treat.
The decision is up to you, but you certainly won’t go wrong if the 2021 BMW R 1250 GS or R 1250 GS Adventure ends up in your hands.