The long reign of the BMW R 1200 GS has come to an end after 14 years of wearing the crown of the most popular adventure bike ever.
While other brands have been doing very well in recent years, none could come close to the sales volumes of BMW’s big adventure bike. But kings age, and the time came for the ruling couple to abdicate in favour of younger, more powerful siblings: the R 1250 GS and GS Adventure.
The letters “GS” have arguably become the most iconic pair of letters in motorcycle history, and such was the success of the 1200 GS that BMW were understandably reluctant to subject their top-selling bike to anything more than a gradual evolution. But the Boys from Bavaria eschewed evolution in this case, by making sure that the 1250 iteration of the boxer GS line would shift the goal posts by a considerable distance.
One of the most noticeable advances of the 1250 is the fact that BMW has not only given the boxer motor a significant boost in power, but also reduced emissions and fuel consumption. This comes via BMW’s ShiftCam technology, which enables variation of the valve timings and valve stroke on the intake side.
In addition, the people in white coats designed the intake camshafts for asynchronous opening of the two intake valves, resulting in enhanced swirl of the fresh, incoming mixture and, as a result, more effective combustion. There are other technical changes to the engine as well: a toothed chain for the camshaft drive (previously it used a roller chain), optimised oil supply, twin-jet injection valves and a new exhaust system.
The effect of the ShiftCam technology was obvious when I rode the bike hard – where the 1200 seemed to run out of breath in the upper reaches of the rev range, the 1250 delivers sustained power all the way up to the red line. Power output has increased by 8 kW from the 92kW of the liquid-cooled 1200, while torque increased with a hefty 180Nm from the 125Nm of the outgoing model.
BMW have decided to make their “Pro” riding modes available as a standard, offering the additional Dynamic and Dynamic Pro riding modes and Dynamic Traction Control. The Adventure also gets Enduro and Enduro Pro modes. The traction control system is bank angle-aware, which means you can accelerate hard out of corners, even on wet or dirt roads, without the spectre of imminent disaster looming over you.
But even more reassuring for me was how well the ABS and the new Dynamic Brake Control worked in iffy conditions. The latter avoids unintentional accelerator input by reducing torque during braking to allow full use of the braking power at the rear wheel. Grabbing a handful of brakes at around 100 km/h on dirt (which I did, because I wasn’t simply going to accept the press pack’s promises on face value) brought the bike to a stable and undramatic stop in a distance shorter than I would have thought possible.
The features of the 1250 GS are rounded out by LED headlamp and daytime riding lights as standard, and a 16.5cm full-colour TFT instrument panel which also connects to your smart phone. In conjunction with the standard multi-controller on the left handle bar, this allows you to access a wealth of available information safely and conveniently.
I’ve always enjoyed the boxer-engined GS bikes, but I will admit that while extremely competent, they have been rather staid – great for long-distance riding and adventures that take you from tar roads to dirt tracks to animal trails, but lacking a bit in the excitement department. Now BMW has remedied that – while the 1250 GS, whether in standard or Adventure guise, is every bit as competent as its predecessors, it brings with it something the previous models have lacked: a healthy dollop of sheer exhilaration.
Prices:R 1250 GS
Standard colours -R263 000
Style Exclusive - R265 700
Style HP - R275 000
R 1250 GS Adventure
Standard colour R288 900
Style Exclusive - R297 400
Style HP - R299 500