BMW R 1300 GS first ride review | Redefining the benchmark?

With the new BMW R 1300 GS, the company hopes to regain the title of the king of ADVs with an all new engine and chassis setup
BMW R 1300 GS, king of ADVs?
BMW R 1300 GS, king of ADVs?BMW Motorrad

It’s no secret that the BMW R 1250 GS was widely regarded as the king of the ADV segment, the benchmark so to speak. But over the years, the competition has begun to catch up and quite successfully. This meant BMW Motorrad needed to get radical and lift and place the goalpost much further down the road. Enter the BMW R 1300 GS, the latest generation Gelande Strasse and with all the changes made to the machine, BMW claims it will also be the best. Is that the case and is the goalpost now out of reach for the competition? We jetted down to majestic Ladakh to find out. 

BMW R 1300 GS, the  newest GS in town
BMW R 1300 GS, the newest GS in townBMW Motorrad

BMW R 1300 GS design 

ADVs are not particularly pretty motorcycles. Over the years we have grown accustomed to tall motorcycles with an oddly shaped fairing and a very industrial and purpose built design. The R 1250 GS was a bit of an oddball with its asymmetrical headlight design and large boxer engine that protrudes from either side. But we all grew to love it. With the R 1300 GS, BMW has taken a radical approach to the design, making things smaller and more symmetrical, like it did with the S 1000 RR. The R 1300 GS uses a new, centrally-placed projector headlight flanked by four strip LED DRLs. The windscreen design is new and now electronically operated. All the panels have been designed with aerodynamics in mind and to that end no internals are exposed. Around the suspension, the fairing, and all other places are sealed to improve the aerodynamic efficiency of the motorcycle. Heck, even the rear mud guard is sealed from the inside so wind doesn’t catch behind the wheel. The major visual change is that the left and right header units of the Boxer engine are placed nearly in line and look almost symmetrical now. The instrument cluster is a familiar unit and below that is a handlebar that positions you in a more committed riding stance (more on that later). The tank, now smaller in capacity by a litre, flows seamlessly into the rider seat. The rear end takes a more minimalist approach with the turn signals and brake light integrated into the same units and no central LED brake light unit. The exhaust is considerably smaller than before and the overall look and feel of this bike is one that seems to have a much smaller footprint than that of the R 1250 GS. The bike is after all close to 12kg lighter than the bike it replaces. So while the looks of the bikes are polarising and I have begun to grow fond of it, I feel BMW have done a great job of making the R 1300 GS look a lot like and yet nothing like the R 1250 GS all at the same time. 

R 1300 GS design now smaller and more symmetrical
R 1300 GS design now smaller and more symmetricalBMW Motorrad

BMW R 1300 GS engine and performance

The BMW R 1300 GS is powered by an all new 1300cc boxer-twin engine. This is not ‘just a bored-out 1250 engine’ is what BMW tried to make abundantly clear during the press briefing. The engine now makes use of a wider bore and a shorter stroke which has bumped the compression ration way up. In fact, BMW tells us that the GS is running a higher compression ratio than the new S 1000 RR. Wild, no? Let’s talk about the headline figures. 1300cc, 143bhp and 149Nm of torque. All these figures are more than that of the R 1300 GS and you also have to factor in that the bike makes all this extra oomph while also weighing 12kg less than before. This really does translate into a lot more power for your right wrist to play with. Now bear in mind that we were riding at close to 15-16,000 feet above sea level and there are bound to be significant losses of power. But despite that, the GS felt spritely and very eager to add digits to the speedometer. The acceleration felt brisk and backed by a big wave of torque. The higher compression does translate into an engine that is very eager to rev hard and very fast at that. The tacho surges to the red line and before you know it you’re reaching for the next gear. Speaking of gears, the gearbox has been revised in terms of ratios and in terms of where it has been placed. The first and second gear is shorter and the sixth gear is taller to make for more efficient cruising. The gearbox has now been placed below the engine to make for tighter packaging and that also contributes to improving the centre of gravity. Performance-wise, as aforementioned, the 1300 really impresses and I can’t wait to spend more time with the bike closer to sea level. 

1300cc, 143bhp and 149Nm of torque
1300cc, 143bhp and 149Nm of torqueBMW Motorrad

BMW R 1300 GS chassis, ride and handling

The chassis setup of the new R 1300 GS has been majorly overhauled to make for a lighter, more agile and precise handling machine. The main frame and monocoque subframe made with sheet metal make for the new skeleton for the GS. If this is where the magic begins the new suspension setup is the pièce de résistance. Called the Telelever and Paralever Evo, this suspension takes on the masterpiece that is BMW’s proprietary suspension technology and adds kit that makes it much better for a much wider range of applications. The major problem I had with the R 1250 GS was the vagueness of the front end due to the telever front suspension setup. While it prevented the front from diving under hard braking and brought plenty of other benefits, it sort of disconnected the rider from the front end by providing little to no feedback. Making cornering hard and riding off-road more of an act of faith than an act of feel. With the Evo version of the Telelever, BMW has added something called a ‘flex plate’ and that along with a rigid ball joint connection of the handlebar to the forks makes for a very communicative front end. It still doesn’t feel as direct as a traditional fork setup but it feels a lot better than the previous generation. You’re a lot more aware of what your front wheel is up to whether cornering hard or riding off road. The best part is that this doesn’t come at the cost of what made the bespoke suspension setup great in the first place. 

The bike being lighter means that it feels a lot more agile and that with the reassuring front ends makes for a bike that is a lot of fun in the corners. The riding position too has been altered with the new-found handling prowess in mind. You reach out to a slightly lower (in comparison to the R 1250 GS) handlebar which allows you to naturally put a little more weight on the front. This means that you are in a more aggressive, attack riding stance when you decide to stand up and ride off-road. The 850mm seat height continues but it feels just as manageable as the previous bike. We didn’t get to spend too much time with the bike and the short ride we had was primarily on highways with small portions of twisties, some bad roads and a really short off road loop, so my opinions aren’t set in stone. But, the R 1300 GS seems like a proper step up from the previous bike in all the right directions. 

Lighter, more agile and precise handling machine
Lighter, more agile and precise handling machineBMW Motorrad

BMW R 1300 GS features and equipment

As you would expect, the BMW R 1300 GS comes packed with tech and features, most of which really do enrich the riding experience. Continuing with the suspension, the bike comes with Dynamic Suspension Adjustment which in the case of the 1300 not only adjusts damping rate but also the spring rates to offer a more balanced ride. Apart from that you have seven different riding modes, all customisable to some degree; traction control, ABS — both with different modes and intervention levels. A windscreen that is now electronically adjustable, heated grips as standard and a lot more that I really won’t be able to remember unless I sit and read out the brochure to you. One interesting change in the switchgear on the 1300 is the addition of a new button called the ‘sandwich button’. This button is essentially a hotkey that allows you to quickly access any one parameter of the motorcycle and adjust it on the fly using the rocker switches without having to dive deep into any menus. This button can be used for the traction control, the windscreen, heated grips or even the suspension damping settings. Very handy. 

BMW R 1300 GS comes packed with tech and features
BMW R 1300 GS comes packed with tech and featuresBMW Motorrad

BMW R 1300 GS verdict

This is a really short review and I feel like I've only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible with the new R 1300 GS. My brief tryst with the lithe ADV proved that it is in all ways a big step up from the bike it replaces. It has all the accoutrements that make it a flagship ADV and then some. What I really love about it is that it adds a whole new dimension of ability to the bike without taking anything away from what made the GS extremely special. BMW Motorrad hasn't told us what the prices are just yet, but it would be fair to assume a premium over the outgoing bike. ₹1 lakh - ₹1.5 lakh is what I assume the jump would be and that would be acceptable given just how much more bike you are getting. As far as setting the new benchmark is concerned, it certainly does have all the makings for that, but only a comparison test with its now accomplished rivals would give us a clear answer. 

R 1300 GS is more than just an ADV
R 1300 GS is more than just an ADVBMW Motorrad

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