The new £15,990 BMW R1300GS is the lightest, punchiest, most compact, and powerful GS ever. The popular adventure bike now comes with more standard features, a fresh look, and a confusing number of optional options, such as an electronic ride height device, semi-active suspension with changeable spring rates, and a collision warning system that will dab the brakes for you in an emergency. This is in addition to a variety of front and back seats, displays, levers, new baggage choices, longer journey off-road suspension...the list goes on.
It's no wonder that BMW has gone to such efforts to polish the crown gem that has been so important to their success. For the past few years, the Ducati Multistrada V4, Triumph Tiger 1200, KTM 1290 Super Adventure S, and Honda Africa Twin have been biting at the GS's heels, so it's time for a change.
The new 1300 is still a GS, but a smaller, smoother, lighter, more agile, more polished version of its predecessor, the BMW R1250GS. Despite the modifications, including a greater level of specification, a wide range of accessories, and even a clever new robotic manufacturing line at BMW's Berlin facility, it's more of a gentle progression than a revolution. Rather than providing a whole new riding experience, the new GS is merely a vehicle that more riders may enjoy in a variety of scenarios.
It'll never be a KTM beater off-road, won't handle tarmac with the ease of the current Triumph Tiger 1200, and won't be as fast as a Ducati Multistrada V4, but the old GS didn't need to be any of those things to be successful, and it still doesn't. The new R1300GS is a fantastic off-roader, tourer, and scratcher all rolled into one, and it will be difficult to better.
The GS's previous tubular steel chassis has been replaced with a compact pressed steel shell that incorporates the engine as a stressed element. The subframe is now made of cast aluminum. The tried-and-true Telelever front end and Paralever shaft drive rear are lighter, stronger, and have better flex qualities. Standard is a 2.5kg lighter lithium-ion battery.
The styling is the first significant departure from the bulky, decade-old R1250GS. It's a case of 'Honey, I downsized the GS,' since the new 1300 seems considerably smaller than its greater engine. It is thinner, with a lower, narrower gasoline tank that is one liter smaller than previously. Despite its radical overhaul, the GS feels instantly familiar the moment you step onboard, from the curve of its broad handlebars to the color dash, which now includes a sports display.
The 1300 still performs what a GS does best after a day in its comfortable seat during its international debut in southern Spain. It's still a capable adventure-style touring bike that's comfortable for long distances. It's every bit as spacious and comfortable as its predecessor, and there are plenty of nice little detail touches that catch your eye, such as the new phone cubby hole on the tank, the textured finish on the rocker covers and fuel tank, and a retractable center stand tab to make heavy lifting easier.
Its new manually adjustable screen has a slick new form that is gloriously silent at speed, which is a huge tick for an adventure bike, and for the first time on a GS, an electric version is available. The screen operation, as well as the heated grips control and features such as heated seats, radar cruise, and electronic suspension, can now all be controlled by a single switch, eliminating the need to navigate through layers of menus on the dash.
Despite having a new chassis, the new R1300GS rides identically to its predecessor. It remains steady and forgiving, with excellent ride quality. It was never, and still isn't, the world's quickest steering bike, but it's more nimble, accurate, and roadster-like than before. It allows you to maneuver the large Beemer around turns and takes a lot of the strain out of muscling a 237kg bike around. Even with the damping turned up, the suspension can still bounce around on and off the throttle, and it lacks the composure of a machine with more conventional suspension, but it digs in hard and confidently through corners, especially on its sticky new Metzeler Tourance Next 2 dual purpose tyres.
System of spring change
BMW's optional semi-active suspension is also updated. The previous system changed the damping settings of the front and rear shocks while riding and via the riding modes, giving the rider the option of comfort or control. It offered the impression of a firm or plush setup, but the GS now provides you the option of soft or hard springs.
The suspension employs its soft main springs for comfort in the lower riding settings, and additional springs placed in the piggy back shocks come into action to give more support when you're cracking on. The difference between the hard and soft set-ups isn't night and day (though the range is adjustable), and it doesn't transform the GS into an S1000RR, but it's another tool in the GS's arsenal for being the ultimate all-rounder.
The electronic suspension still has a self-leveling rear and now includes a ride height mechanism that decreases the seat height by 30mm, from 850mm to 820mm when you come to a halt and raises it when you get back on the road, which will be a blessing for smaller riders.
For an additional £830, you can choose a higher 870mm rally seat, a radiator grill protection, and spoked wheels. The £1600 Dynamic Package (quickshifter, semi-active suspension, extra riding modes, uprated calipers) was also installed on our test bike, as was a £600 Enduro Pack (engine bars, bar risers, adjustable footrests and levers), and adaptive headlamps (£460).
Despite its size, the old GS's off-tactics were always astounding, with the way it monsters its way up, down, and across the planet. The new 1300 is still a huge bike, but thanks to its more compact form and less weight, it's simple and enjoyable to ride in the mud. However, a middleweight adventure bike or smaller would be far more bearable for the inexperienced. BMW hasn't mentioned an Adventure version yet, but it's very certainly on the way...
It's still a boxer twin, but the similarities to the original R1250GS end there. Despite its new oversquare shape, the new 1300cc air/liquid-cooled motor is BMW's most powerful production twin, but more crucially for road riders, it has higher torque all the way through the revs, notably between 3600rpm and 7800rpm. The bore is expanded from 102.5mm to 106.5mm, but the stroke is reduced from 76mm to 73mm. Peak power increases from 134bhp to 143bhp at the same 7750rpm as previously, while torque increases 4lb-ft to 110lb-ft at 6500rpm (250rpm higher than before).
Its new short stroke engine retains its unique deep burble at low rpm and roars violently when the taps are turned on. Its rorty personality is still at odds with the GS's sensible pants, but the old R1250GS always accelerated with startling venom. The 1300 is much of the same, but with a 9bhp jump (raising power to 143bhp) and 12kg less weight to carry about. 0-62mph is claimed in 3.4 seconds, which is quick, but the GS's strong point has always been how it acted low down, and it remains as urgent now.