The new 2021 GS – My thoughts

As some of you know I traded my 2014 BMW R 1200 GS in for a 2021 BMW R 1250 GS without doing any research.  I needed a bike to get back home on time and the dealer I was stranded at had a beautiful RALLYE edition just setting there, so I just bought it and rode home.

Now it has been a few months and it has over 2,500 miles, and 11 States on it, and I felt I could truly tell you my thoughts about the new GS.

My 2021 R1250 GS configuration

My thoughts about “Could BMW make a great bike any better? Is all this new stuff just fluff?”  The answer is that BMW did make a great bike better, and all the stuff I thought would be fluff is tremendous and crazy useful.

WTF is the RALLYE edition because the BMW website does a crap job of telling you.

  • Cross spoke wheels (not level II gold those are add-on)
  • Enduro Footrest
  • Frame Guard
  • Stainless steel radiator cowl
  • Radiator grille guard
  • Front wheel cover extension (PEAK thing)
  • Short luggage rack on rear (don’t get excited its just for vario topcase)
  • And of course, the paint (white frame, blacked out engine and controls with blue and red slashes of paint)
RALLYE foot pegs and frame protectors

let’s talk about all the stuff that came with the bike and I thought was all “Hype” or “Silly” or “Fluff” but have been just blown away by how cool and useful it all is and am so glad I have all these options.

The TFT flat screen

I have a love / hate relationship with the screen but right now its 95% love and 5% frustration.

What I love about the TFT.

#1 the TFT brokers the phone and the helmet:

I had the Sena for a long time, and while it was not waterproof it did have a feature to speed dial up to 3 numbers.   I now use the waterproof Cardo PackTalk Bold which with the 45mm JBL speaker upgrade is a far superior setup.  The Cardo does not have a speed dial function, however with the TFT screen on the BMW I don’t need the speed dial on my headset! The BMW TFT acts a broker to my Bluetooth devices and has all my contacts and is unbelievably useful.

  • I can see what song is playing and I can jump around with the songs and pull up playlists and podcasts
  • I can see who is calling and decide if I want to answer
  • I can hit my call list and make outgoing calls so much easier

#2 Engine RPM is Dynamic

Cold Engine RPM

When the engine is first started and cold the RMP in the TFT has the redline at 5,500 RPM but as the engine warms up the RPM redline climbs until the bike reaches operating temperature and 9,000 RPM.

Warm Engine RPM

This is a fantastic idea! Before I would wait until the engine got to ~130 degrees and then take it easy for the first couple of miles.  The TFT dynamic RPM is a more sophisticated approach.

The RPM gauge itself with the TFT screen is very impressive and worth a mention.  The gauge is very easy to read, and the current RPM level is magnified to aid in use. 

#3 A lot more information

There is a lot of info you can see on this screen such as the status of the passenger heated seats, and the information is now color coded. From Engine temp and tire pressure to who is calling and what song is playing, the wealth of information is welcome. It would be very hard for me to go back to the old LCD screen.

#4 A lot more configurability

The new modes are in some cases configurable such as the amount of engine breaking you want to allow in Dynamic Pro.  The TFT allows you to jump around and configure the bike very quickly.

What I don’t like (about the TFT)

#1 The BMW app for navigation

It lags, it causes everything else to lag.

I fixed it by sticking to my old trusty BMW Navigator V and removing the APP.

#2 Engine temp, tire pressure, fuel gauge used to be easier to see

  I still get all that info but I it’s a bit harder to navigate to it.

    BMW says you don’t need all that information all the time because if anything gets out
of spec they will throw a warning up.. but I was very accustomed to the old way (blame
my OCD).

#3 Heated Grips (heated seats)

It was extremely easy to turn on heated grips and now you must dive into menus.

The new menus also show you heated seat control which I get why they did this, but its
still more complex then just hitting the heated grips button twice.

  Also, I don’t really understand heated seats… please give me vented / cooling seats.

#4 one quip about the interface is the checkbox followed with on/off. 
This might be a German thing where it tells me off or on in the most confusing manner
as possible.

Gearshift Assistant Pro

This is one of the things I thought “well this is silly and I will never use it” mainly because I rarely used my clutch on upshifts anyway.  However, I must admit I was wrong, and I use this feature a ton. It may actually extend my clutch life exponentially. It’s a tremendous feature as it allows you to just “blip” through gear changes at full throttle and allows downshift as well. An example of this is when the space opens to pass the car in front of you – just click down and go.  It might be silly, and you might not actually need it – but I love it. P.S. BMW claims “approx. 70 to 80 percent of the gear shift operations can take place without clutch control” and I honestly believe them.

Hill Start Control

OK this is something a lot of new cars are coming out with as well, you push on the brakes really hard, and it applies the brakes for you until you decide to engage the clutch, throttle and gears to move forward and then it auto releases (think of it as reverse antilock break system).

I also thought this would be silly – I live in Kansas how many hill assists will I need? I must admit I end up using this feature at stop lights.  I use it mainly to rest or stretch my legs; just push hard on the brake and voilà your legs and hand are free to stretch (you only need to balance not balance and hold bike in place). 

The new features of dynamic ESA

This probably the most underrated feature.  I am taking a trip and the bike is loaded down then the next day I hardly have anything on the bike, then the next day its loaded down again.  Previously you would have to guess at the setting is this a “2 hills” icon or is this a “2 helmets” or “1 helmet and luggage” icon.  That’s if you remember to set it at all. With the new Dynamic ESA it attempts to figure that out for you and auto level as much as possible allowing you to be more of a rider and less of a suspension technician.

Cross Spoke Wheels II, Gold

These wheels get a mention not just because the gold looks sexy as hell but because BMW finally put the valve stem at a 90-degree angle so you can change tire pressure without fighting the spokes.  It’s a small improvement but I have been wanting this for years (especially since 90 degree air valves have been on the cast wheels for a long time).

Headlight pro

It winks when you as you start it… other then that I have not been able to tell a significant difference.

Heated Seats (front and rear)

I love heated grips and I don’t understand heated seats – if you could get me air cooled ventilated ones I would much prefer those.

Ride Modes updated

There is no longer a chip that needs to be inserted, they just enable it at the first 600 mile service.  Since there are more ride modes you get to pick your favorites for the trip and toggle through them instead of the entire list.  Because of the TFT you can actually go in and tweak some of the ride modes such as the PRO ones.  Very nice – adjust to your type of riding and tune it in. It’s a small change, its an under assuming change but it makes riding more specific to your stile and therefore better.

“SPORT” suspension

What I can tell is that if gives it GSA type clearance without having to get the GSA. The Sport suspension does make it 0.8” taller and with my height of 6’1” I like the leg room and the clearance.  Not sure if it does anything else – but you can think of it as a “lift kit” or at least that’s how I think of it.  BMW also says that is has modified geometry (but I think that’s just from the .8” height and can find not more detail about any geometry changes.

Keyless Ride

I understand why they did this, but I still hate it (again blame my OCD).  I never worried before where my key might be during rides because it was always in the ignition.  Do I need to worry about it now?  Probably not as the bike will inform you if the key is out of range (like you drove away from it during the last gas stop).  “Where do you keep the key while driving?” did become a bit of a question for me.  The answer was the bright yellow lanyard I got from Rawhyde matched to an Apple AirTag.  The answer for storage is I keep it in my tank bag and since its costly to replace check on it all the time.

USB power plug

Finally!!!!!! This is very nice as I no longer need an adapter to go from Powerlet to USB.  It would have been great if they would have just made it Apple Car Play at the same time but at least it’s a step in the right direction. The USB outlet is right under the right side of the TFT and existing phone cables are perfect for routing into tank bag.  I used this USB port a massive amount in the first 2,500 mile and there is still a Powerlet outlet that you will never use down by the seat. In over 50,000 miles of riding GS’s I probably used the Powerlet outlet + adapter + cord maybe 2 times. The new USB direct charging connection I use at least monthly.

A mix of old and new.

What did I bring over from the old bike and what did I add?

The remains

The 2014 GS has a windshield, and panniers slathered in stickers and 50,000 miles of abuse. So the panniers, windshield, toolbox and BMW Navigator V got moved to the new bike before it left the dealer.  The bike is now a strange dichotomy of Old and New / Perfect and Scuffed / Clean and Dirty.  Another dirty secret is that I still had my old passenger pegs in the basement and with the passenger heated seat on the 2021, I thought they might fit. The redneck mod involving a bandsaw and belt sander got it to fit, but the color is not a perfect match (long term solution will be a replacement).

My poorly modified 2014 rear passenger pegs

The new additions

Because of the heated seats I left my much beloved ALT Rider luggage rack behind.


I remember talking to the Alt Rider guys back in 2014 when we suddenly, and un announced just showed up at their business and started asking questions. The AltRider team didn’t quite know what to do with us and just stopped working and we all started talking then they got a bike pushed it over and started showing us how they mounted their crash bars.  I was always impressed with them that day and wanted to make AltRider my fist stop as I looked at outfitting this bike.  When I noticed that AltRider now made crash bars in paint matched finishes, I didn’t look any further and ordered a set in white. Shut Up and Take My Money AltRider!

AltRider engine guards (AKA OMG)

I only ordered the lower bars as I found over the years the upper bars are good as mount points for lights, cameras and other gadgets but are also add weight and none of the manufacturers have any upper bars that make the bike look better.

I also added the AltRider Side Stand Enlarger Foot as every bike needs one and might as well stick with AltRider.

AltRider Side Stand Enlarger


I had the SW Motech Tank bag mount (EVO) moved from the 2014 to the 2021. Technically I kept the huge “GS Tank Bag” which is up to 22 liters in storage.  But, for such a slick new looking bike the massive bag was a little out of place.  I still have the “GS tank Bag” but also picked up the “Daypack“ which is 5 liters and uses the same EVO mount.  Turns out 5 liters is all you need and less is more.  

Transition of Garmin InReach location.

Without upper crash bars I didn’t have a good place to mount the Garmin InReach Mini.  I would not add the weight to the handlebars and I do not like the InReach being within 12” of the Garmin Navigator V GPS.  The answer was to poke 2 holes in my brand-new tank bag and mount it directly to the new lid of the SW-Motech EVO Daypack.

Garmin InReach Mini mounted to Tank Bag

Summing Up

I miss the old 2014 GS and I have pictures of it from all over the US.  However, I do appreciate all the new features of the new 2021 GS and think it’s a fantastic bike and now I just need to take it all over the planet as I transition from an Adventure rider to an Overlander.