You don't need me to tell you how BMW's R/GS has shaped the biking landscape over the last 43 or so years. Unless you happen to live in the middle of desert or next door to the local chopper club, it will be the familiar Boxer rumble of the R 1250 GS (and R 1200 GS and R 1150 GS...) that soundtracks your and everyone else's days. They are everywhere, these GS things, and they’re everywhere because they are brilliant – it’s that simple.
Since 1980 the GS has evolved from the niche Dakar-inspired R 80 GS to the global blockbuster that is the R 1250 GS, in all its many guises. The GS platform has become the most refined and evolved in two-wheel history, with each new iteration reconfigured into a marginally more capable, versatile and desirable adventure machine.
Except that now those Germans have only gone and torn it all up – started again – like the last four decades meant nothing, because the R 1300 GS is, from top to bottom, a brand-new motorcycle.
Where to start? The R 1300 GS (and it is exactly 1300cc) is more powerful and has more torque than the R 1250 it replaces. It is lighter, has a new frame, slicker packaging, a rethought Boxer engine, is more adjustable and carries an armory of electronic technology that was barely imaginable a few years ago. Perhaps most shocking of all, there's a new, flat-tank look too; one that echoes the HP2 Enduro of the early 21st century while also hinting at more performance.
We flew to Malaga in Spain for two days, and spent close to 500 kilometers (or 310 miles) of testing, both on and off-road, to put it through its paces. But with a hatful of model variants due, plus so much new technology and so many tweaks, upgrades, and general improvements; not to mention enough bundles, packs and optional extras to send the BMW configurator into meltdown, we barely scratched the surface of this new generation GS. Here at RideApart, we will have to visit the GS many times over.
The new flat-twin design, which has a 106.5mm bore (up from the 1250’s 102.5mm pistons) and shorter 73mm stroke (down from 76mm) is the most oversquare boxer engine yet. Intake valves go up from 40mm to 44mm, and exhaust valves go up from 34mm to 35.6mm. The compression ratio also steps up from 12.5 to one to 13.3 to one.
Peak power is up from 134 bhp to 143 bhp, making this the most powerful production boxer, while peak torque is up from 105 lb-ft to 110 lb-ft, with a minimum of 95 lb-ft on tap from as low as 3,600 rpm all the way up to 7,800 rpm.
ShiftCam variable valve timing remains, along with the 1250's 9,000rpm rev ceiling. With the gearbox located beneath the engine, this new boxer is more compact than the 1250's, and lighter too.
BMW engineers wouldn’t reveal specifics about how much more compact it is. But to save 3.9 kg (about 8.6 pounds) on the motor alone, plus 6.5 kg (about 14.3 pounds) on the powertrain including the gearbox and shaft drive is a stunning effort.
On the road, we had the standard Eco, Rain and Road riding modes, plus the optional Dynamic Pro, which optimizes the rider aids, smart suspension, and power characteristics to suit the moment.
I initially opted for Eco and enjoyed watching the icon on the top right of the screen inform me how smoothly and economically I was riding before, as the pace and roads perked up, dialing in workaday Road mode.
As with the R 1250 GS, fuelling at low speed is faultless. The optional Shift Assist Pro (an up-and-down quickshifter) has a featherlight action and is more precise than the old bike's, while each clutch-free gear change is sweetly matched by the rpm.
Despite making the new Boxer unit massively oversquare and upping peak power by some 9 bhp, you don’t feel the need to chase the revs. The R 13 drives very much like the current 1250 GS but now does so with even more energy and snap. There is also that fresh blanket of torque that drives the R 13 forward with ridiculous ease as it accelerates out of 30 mph limits in top gear.
I deliberately rode the GS in a gear too high as the GS stomped through the Malaga countryside, and was blown away by the endless surge of instantaneous and immaculately metered torque available to my right hand. We all know how rapid a GS can be, but the way the new bike shovels you along on just 60% throttle is truly impressive. It asks so little of the rider.
Power-wise, a seven percent hike doesn't look too dramatic, but the R 13 revs with a freedom unimaginable by Boxer owners of a decade or so ago. In Dynamic mode especially, it responds to a handful of rpm by piling forward with more aggression than any flat-twin I've experienced.
It grunts, drives, punches, revs – even wheelies in third gear on a whiff of clutch – and it is, without question, more lively and fun than the exceptionally fun and lively R 1250 GS.
Perhaps the most radical shift for the new R 13 is the move to a frame constructed from sheet steel, rather than traditional tubes. According to BMW, this "shell" frame offers greater stiffness and also makes for more compact packaging, while a new aluminum rear subframe bolts on in place of the older tubular steel item.
Up front, a new Evo Telelever suspension system promises improved stability and steering precision while, at the rear, the Evo Paralever is longer and claimed to be stiffer than plain old non-Evo Parelever of the 1250.
The base model GS uses conventional, manually adjustable suspension units front and rear, but I’m guessing the vast majority of bikes will, in all probability, largely feature the new semi-active Dynamic Suspension Adjustment (DSA) system. It electronically adjusts spring rates as well as damping rates, thus massively increasing the versatility and adaptability of the GS in the process.
The new system can also automatically rapidly drop the seat height by 30mm at slow speeds by removing preload from both ends of the bike, helping shorter riders – who can feel somewhat daunted by the height of a GS – to get feet to the road more confidently.
You feel the difference between the old bike and the new as soon as you throw a leg over the new seat. For a 5ft 7in rider like me, it is much more accessible, especially as a flatter and smaller (by one litre) fuel tank makes the bike instantly more manageable. Even without lowering the electronic suspension, I could get two feet securely, if not quite fully, on the ground. And even shorter riders can also opt for a lower seat.
The curb weight of the R 1300 GS is a claimed 237 kg (about 522.5 pounds), some 12 kg (26.4 pounds) lighter than the R 1250 GS. On the road, it feels lighter still. The R 1250 GS has legendary natural balance, but it still feels like a big machine, especially when fully fueled. While the 1300 GS has a similar feel at low speed, it is less bulky and intimidating, particularly when wiggling through traffic.
BMW has designed the electronic Dynamic Suspension Adjustment (DSA) to give a smooth ride, and it certainly delivers. In Road mode, the ride is outstandingly comfortable, but is also always miraculously controlled. There’s more suspension movement, and you can feel the EVO Paralever and EVO Telelever suspension working their magic, constantly reacting to the poorly paved Spanish roads. On the motorway, it’s like riding a magic carpet.
Switch from Road mode to Dynamic Pro and the DSA suspension swaps some of that squishy, cosseting movement for a delightfully sporty ride. What you can get away with on the new GS defies belief: That new lightness, the new chassis and the manner in which the semi-active suspension reacts to everything you can throw at it all conspire to create a platform that feels up for anything.
Of course, the GS line has always handled well, and the R 1250 in particular can dispense a poorly surfaced B-road more efficiently than many a sportbike. The new one, though, is on the next page altogether with more comfort (an immaculate touring set up, in fact) in Road mode, and a sharp, stable and sporty ride in the optional Dynamic mode.
Braking is by new four-piston radially mounted BMW-branded calipers up front and linked via Full Integral ABS Pro as standard, with rear pedal also activating the front brake and vice versa. The amount of brake applied to the front from the rear depends on the active riding mode and other live data harvested by the system.
For example, when using the back brake, ABS Pro will apply less front brake when the bike is banked over at high speed, but will apply more brake if the bike is upright. It also won't link the brakes at low speeds, which allows you to use just the back brake.
BMW says that the “ergonomic triangle of the new GS has been optimized for a sporty, relaxed riding position”, and that's pretty much how it feels. The all-new view from the cockpit is well thought out, with a familiar full-color dash that now carries more information and additional switchgear. And I should add that the finish of both our test bikes was beautiful.
An all-new electric windscreen (yes, finally!) can be actuated by creating a shortcut from the main menu, meaning you can simply move the screen up or down via a switch on the left bar. However, if you have the shortcut set to, say, traction control then you must go into the menu to change the height of the screen. There isn't a separate button just for the screen.
With the screen, there’s a big difference between fully lowered and fully upright. At motorway speeds, the wind noise reduces dramatically as the screen rises. From low to upright the wind protection is greatly increased, too. There’s still some air cooling the rider, it’s not a complete bubble like a BMW RT, but I found the wind protection to be noticeably better than it is on the older GS.
Meanwhile, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), now with radar, is set in the same way as before, but it adjusts the bike's speed depending on the distance between you and other traffic. Combined with the Lane Changing Warning (SWW) system, it helps to make touring near effortless.
As mentioned previously, the petrol tank is smaller by one liter, and the new 1300 isn’t quite as frugal as the old bike. I carried out two tests, riding briskly on a selection of roads: test one covered 143 km (89 miles) and averaged 5 liters per 100 km or 56.5 imperial mpg (that's 47 USA mpg) with 268 km or 167 miles remaining.
Test two covered 191 km (119 miles) and averaged 4.9 liters per 100km, or 58 imperial mpg (48 USA MPG) with 212 km (or 132 miles) remaining. My real-world testing found a tank range that should be good for 220 miles or more.
The list of accessories and options available for the R 1300 is almost endless. One of the hardest decisions is going to be choosing a configuration that makes you happy.
BMW has simplified the process by creating special packages, and there are different models to choose from as well. There’s the standard ‘Pure GS’, the Trophy, the Triple Black, and the very attractive Option 719. On top of that, you can change seats, pegs, bars, wheels, luggage, and the list goes on. Each bike can be created for the rider like a made-to-measure set of leathers, and I imagine it will be hard to find two bikes that are exactly alike.
Off Road Performance
Off-road, we only got to tickle the GS, but the lightness and ease-of-use was still evident.. In the optional Enduro Pro mode, ABS is still active on the front, but disabled on the rear. The Enduro Pro DTC allows a small slide, but soon takes over when you get a little carried away. You can also choose to remove the DTC, should you wish to have some sideways fun.
We tested a specific off-road biased Trophy, and with a non-adjustable screen, no radar and a harder (enduro) seat and off-road biased Metzeler Karoo 4 rubber, it felt very different. I missed the adjustable screen and the lane-change warning system, which I’d grown accustomed to.
But the new GS continues where the old bike left off, if not even easier to ride off road, especially for novice riders, because It’s lighter and less intimidating. And yet equally, more experienced riders will love the extra kick in power and lightness. By choosing the correct accessories, you can create an off-road biased 13GS that can take on almost anything.
Gallery: 2024 BMW R 1300 GS First Ride Review
It could reasonably be argued that BMW didn’t need to produce a new GS. After all, it is still the best-selling adventure bike – a genuine motorcycling icon by which all other adventure bikes are judged. The current R 1250 GS may lack a little cutting-edge gadgetry, but if BMW had simply added a radar, few would have complained.
Instead, BMW has created a completely new model that shares almost nothing with the older bike, and in the process, reminded the world what it can do.
The R 1300 GS is lighter, more compact, more adjustable, more accessible, more responsive, more comfortable and, on road at least, faster. To improve an already excellent bike is difficult indeed, but BMW has done it, and not by a fraction but by a significant step. It’s one that will send current GS owners scrambling to the BMW showroom, and have owners of other brands questioning if they should, too.