Quick – what's the first thing you think of when someone says ADV bikes? More most, it's the BMW GS.
With the GS, BMW is in the enviable position of having a motorcycle that has come to define a whole class of motorcycle, positioning it as the benchmark to which all others are judged.
The reason is simple: it's a damn good motorcycle. ADV riders all over the world know it and love it. For this piece, we look a little deeper into the reasons the BMW GS is such a beloved motorcycle.
In a field littered with contenders, some of which are exceptionally capable, we've come up with seven reasons why many still consider the GS the go-to ADV bike.
Seemingly from the start, BMW had a hit on its hands with the original R 80 G/S. That is after critics got to try the bike for the first time. When it was first announced in 1980, critics blasted BMW for building a bike too big, too heavy, and too cumbersome for off-road/on-road use.
Of course, BMW knew better. Having tested early versions of the bike in competition to great success, the BMW Motorsport side knew they had a good off-road motorcycle.
After riding the new R 80 G/S, criticism turned to praise seemingly overnight, and thus began the legend of the GS.
A legend that continues to this day. Over the years, the GS has changed with the times, but from the start, BMW pioneered this machine to be the best in the ADV category–a category BMW itself created.
A Timeless Engine
Conventional wisdom would say a boxer engine has no place off-road, but clearly, conventional wisdom doesn't apply to the GS. In its latest form, the R1250GS is being modest by four cubic centimeters.
The famous air/oil-cooled flat twin-cylinder engine pumps out 136 horsepower and an impressive 105 ft/lbs of torque. What makes it even better is the broad spread of power, thanks to BMW's ShiftCam variable valve timing.
It's a real powerhouse of an engine, but even earlier iterations of the Boxer twin (1200, 1150, 1100, etc.) have all had one thing in common: being able to put smooth, tractable power to the ground, either on the road or the dirt.
Then there's the shimmy it does from side to side when you're parked and rev the engine. In short, BMW GS engines have character.
They Come In Different Flavors
Once BMW realized it had a hit on its hands with the big GS, it made sense to offer another, more approachable version of a GS for riders not ready to handle what's ostensibly a giant dirtbike.
Smaller models like the 650GS, 750GS, and 850GS offer riders a less intimidating entryway to the GS family, while still providing much of the same riding pleasure as the big boxer twin engines.
BMW has even gone a step further to attract new riders by releasing the G310GS, a true entry-level on/off-road motorcycle with a price point to match, BMW is making it as easy as possible to join the family.
Much of the attention placed on the R 1250 GS is centered around its off-road chops, and while it's rightly deserved, the GS also shines on the pavement as a long-distance tourer.
The comfortable seat is obviously needed if you're going to spend long days on the road, and the option to have over five gallons in your GS fuel tank makes the comfort seat all the more important.
Relaxed bar placement (that can be adjusted when you need to stand on the bars off-road), overall rider triangle, and decent wind protection also make it a high-mileage delight. The twin-cylinder engine, mainly with ShiftCam technology, chews up miles at a blistering rate, especially if you have a heavy hand.
It’s Loaded With Technology
The GS is a platform for BMW to showcase its latest technology, and if we skip ahead to the latest R 1250 GS, the amount of tech at the rider's fingertips is astounding (don't worry, if you prefer a simpler motorcycle, many of these tech pieces are optional).
For starters, there's the 6.5-inch TFT color display that shows a bright, vivid color when relaying the traditional information you expect from a display. With the ability to also connect to your phone to show navigation, take calls, and more, it's a real powerhouse.
Even if you aren't into fancy lights and screens, the Hill Start Control feature is one of those options you don't appreciate until you try it.
A simple electronic application and release of the rear brake on a hill do wonders for your confidence when trying to take off, especially if you've got the GS loaded and are carrying a passenger.
ESA, or Electronic Suspension Adjustment, and Enduro ESA are two more tech features that expand the versatility of the GS for both on-road and off-road environments.
A motorcycle the size of a GS has no business doing what it does in the dirt, but that's the very reason why this bike is so unique and class-defining. People take these bikes everywhere–no really, look it up–but that is the point.
To underscore how robust and rugged the GS has been from the beginning, the original R 80 G/S won the Paris-Dakar Rally – the toughest rally on the planet – four times, along with other high-profile off-road competitions.
Because It Can Do Anything
To sum up, the reasons why the BMW GS is the go-to adventure bike of so many people, it's because the GS is a motorcycle that can do it all.
Its ability in the dirt is remarkable for a machine of its size, and that's one of its greatest appeals, especially to those bold adventurers who like to explore every corner of the Earth.
Even though this piece is meant to highlight its dirt prowess, the GS is remarkably capable as an on-road tourer also. You see, the GS really can do anything.
If you've read this far then, we'll assume you're a fellow fan of the BMW GS, but we want to know what you think. Why are you a fan of the GS?