BMW R1250GS and Adventure get high-tech upgrades for their 40th birthday
The original intercontinental overlander of the motorcycle world, BMW's R/GS series, has received a bunch of high-tech electronic upgrades for its 40th anniversary incarnation, giving an already well-appointed bike even more appointments for its hoard.
The 2021 R1250GS and its massive Adventure variant keep the same familiar and successful shape, as well as the current model's 136-horsepower, 1,254-cc boxer twin engine. Indeed, apart from some new paint jobs the main upgrade from a physical standpoint is the fact you can now easily screw on an optional set of bar risers without having to get all your cables and hoses extended. That'll be handy if you're really going to plow this thing about off-road or just like standing up.
Otherwise, the majority of the upgrades are electronic, and many are optional. My personal favorite is the new headlight unit, which can now be upgraded to include a tilting, adaptive headlight like the revolutionary unit first debuted in the K1600GT back in 2010. This headlight uses the bike's IMU to read pitch and lean angles, and adjusts the headlight to stay flat and level at up to 45 degrees of lean in either direction, with a few degrees of pitch as well.
That means when you lean the bike into a turn at night, the headlight won't tilt itself completely off the road and leave you hunting in the dark for your path forward, like nearly every motorcycle headlight on the planet does. Personally I can't believe adaptive headlights are taking so damn long to become standard equipment; do people just not go around corners in the dark?
BMW should be commended for pushing this tech forward, even if it's optional. The GS bikes are not your typical city runabout, they're for serious on- and off-road touring, and while we wonder how long a potentially delicate tilting system like this one might stand up to the rigors of serious bush-bashing, it's a genuine safety feature and an excellent option to have.
The GS bikes will now get lean-angle-sensitive ABS Pro and Traction Control as standard, which is always nice, and the suite of riding modes, which control everything from throttle response and rider aid interventions through to settings for the electronic ESA suspension, have been expanded with the addition of a new Eco mode that's basically a new dash outlay designed to help you lay off the throttle and slow down on the fuel consumption, you giant hoon bag.
A further optional upgrade to the ECU can unlock extra Pro riding modes, including dynamic engine brake settings and the ability to change the default mode on startup, as well as assigning different things to your handy mode switch.
There's now an option for hill start assist, which honestly might not be a bad idea on a bike this damn big. There's a 12-V cigarette lighter socket and a 5-V USB port for gadgets, and the option of heated seats, with the ability for the passenger to change their own settings so you can each choose how much you want to feel like you've peed your pants.
In short, it's the big GS's 40th birthday, but you get the (opportunity to pay for your own) presents. This has long been a popular and well-regarded model among older, cashed up adventure-seekers dreaming of long highways, twisty roads, mildly gnarly trails and the odd river crossing. Absolutely adept as a road-going tourer, the GS can make a surprising fist of rough terrain if its rider has the chops to make it dance.
These 40th Anniversary editions make for an even broader range of capabilities. Check out a video below.
Source: BMW Motorrad
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On a side note, it's baffling that Harley Davidson believes they can have any real competition in this segment against BMW, KTM, Honda, etc. Apparently being a marketing executive at HD requires the same degree of precision as being a weatherman.
I saw the HD Trial this weekend for real. It's better looking in reality than in the photos. Agree that HD have been lost for the last decade on the way to go forward but this is an interesting approach. They may not be able to match the BM or the KTM and even be laughed at but if you prefer V twins like me, and you spend 90% or more of your time on normal roads - like me - but want a lighter V twin, go to go anywhere on your free time then the HD could be an option. Comes in at 25kg less than the BM with 145cv. Not bad.
On this GS, I totally love the headlight though. Far more useful than so many driving modes.
Just ride !