Archives – BMW’s 40th Anniversary GS 1250 still rocks

PAR Text and photos by Zabel Bourbeau Posted on



*This article was published in Vol. 51 No. 6 of Cycle Canada digital magazine.

There are bikes you just fall in love with! For me, BMW’s R 1250 GS is one of them. So I was really happy at the idea of stepping on the king of adventure bikes once again, for a weekend. This time, I’ll be riding the “40th Anniversary Edition” model. My plan: spend the weekend of June 5 and 6 riding in the lush green Eastern Township region.

But before we go, let me introduce you to “Bubble Bee.” Why did I pick that affectionate nickname? Because of the colours that recall a bee (or a bumblebee), of course, but there’s also another good reason.

2021 BMW R1250 GS

As you probably know, the GS just turned 40 years old. The iconic model opened new roads and created a strong trend when it was launched in 1980, as the R 80 G/S. When I met with Editor Jean Paré to pick up the bike on Friday, he told me an anecdote I did not know about. In 1988, the R 100 GS was launched wrapped in black and yellow paint, and was quickly nicknamed bumblebee. Since I also wanted to give a cool nickname to this special edition R 1250 GS, I came up with “Bubble Bee,” a nod to the legendary 1988 edition.

So comes Saturday morning and I’m taking off. Weather seems to be on my side despite a few storm cells here and there in the forecast.

After two hours of highway riding (to reach the Eastern Townships as quickly as possible), I reach the Ulverton Woolen Mills through Road 143 and the picturesque Mooney Road. What a great landscape! There is even a covered bridge and goats kindly greeting me with their bleats.

2021 BMW R1250 GS

I then head back to the 143 and continue south alongside the Saint-François River and reach Richmond and the Village-relais of Danville (Village-relais are pleasant and safe small municipalities offering quality services, accredited by the Government of Québec). From there, I take Road 255 and then 216 to St-Adrien (after a stop at La Maison Grise Cheese Factory). In St-Adrien, I turn right on the 257, and the road turns to gravel. I put Bubble Bee in Enduro mode to fully enjoy the experience. In this region, even three-digit numbered roads can be gravel roads. But surprisingly, these are often nicer than the surrounding paved roads, and they are easy to ride for all kinds of motorcycles in dry weather. Some are made of looser gravel, though, and you have to be extra careful. I then go through Mont-Ham Regional Park and in St-Joseph-de-Ham-Sud the road is asphalted again. I enjoy riding curves in this fine forest environment. In Weedon, I see quite a few motorcyclists stopped for a lunch break! There are various restaurants and it seems to be a regular meeting point for these riders. Still, I decide to follow my way south on Road 257. From Gould, the road turns to gravel again. I stop at the Scotstown Delicatessen to pick a few slices of homemade salami. And then I head to Piopolis through Val-Racine. The panoramic view on the Appalachian Mountains and the fine landscape all around make for an exceptional ride. You have to see it to believe it. It’s absolutely magnificent.

2021 BMW R1250 GS

I then see the superb Mégantic Lake for the first time. And since I’m a little ahead on my schedule, I ride the road around the lake and stop at the town of Lac-Mégantic to meditate on the site of the 2013 tragedy when a train exploded and destroyed most of the downtown area, killing 47 people. It’s moving to see the city getting back to life and to ride along the railway that left its tragic mark on history and on our collective consciousness. I was especially touched by the musical metallic tubes constantly moving under the wind; a commemorative panel board explains the facts that led to that horrendous night.

I then head back to Piopolis where I have a room reserved in the charming Auberge au Soleil Levant. There is a restaurant and pub with service on the terrace overlooking the lake. We are still in Red pandemic zone here, but we are allowed to eat on the terrace, so I can enjoy this great quiet moment. Really a fine place! There is a big parking area right beside it, so I can keep an eye on Bubble Bee. I go for a one-hour walk in the village. I visit the General Store (where I buy an Oscar Dhu red beer from Brasserie 11 comtés in Cookshire – excellent!) and the Les Belles du Lac shop, a real Ali Baba cavern where you find great and unusual things.

The next day, I’m back on Bubble Bee riding west on the Summits Road with fantastic views of the surrounding mountain ranges. There is a rest area in Notre-Dame-des-Bois where you can stop to enjoy the spectacular natural scenery. But the seat of the R 1250 GS is pretty high and the unpaved parking is wet because of yesterday’s rain, so I can’t stop. The bike is too high and I do not find a way to lower the side stand safely. Sadly, I have to keep riding.

I continue on Road 212 and, a little after Cookshire-Eaton, I follow 108 and then take chemin Hodgeman, chemin Jordan Hill and finally chemin Herring to the right. I reach the Ferme et Fromagerie les Broussailles where I watch the farm animals, take pictures, and then call my friend Pascal who lives in the Eastern Townships. I tell him where I am now and, surprise!, he is on his bike in Martinville with Manon, just three or four minutes from where I am! I’m so happy! I join them and we ride together for the rest of the day. He is showing us the way on his KTM, followed by me on the BMW and Manon on her Riker.

On Road 308, we go through the small towns of Compton, Hatley and Ayers Cliff, ride along Lake Massawippi for a little while and then stop at a charming Soap Shop in Eastman, Savonneries des Diligences. Back on the saddle, we take the 245 south to connect with Montée de Baker Pond in Bolton-Centre. We ride on this small dirt road zigzagging in green forest surroundings until we suddenly see a small lake on the left side. The weather is hot and I would very much like to jump into the water, but that will have to wait for another time. We continue to Knowlton and then take chemin du Mont-Echo and chemin Stagecoach to Brome. This is also a nice, fun to ride, dirt road.

Our final goal is the Microbrasserie Auberge Sutton Brouërie. My friend Pat is a co-owner and he greets us with his newest beer, called Hors-Route (Off-Road)! It has been specifically elaborated and brewed by and for motorcycle enthusiasts, so there could be no better way to savour it and quench our thirst in good company!

What’s great about the R 1250 GS is its versatility. When I am on a road bike and have to take some dirt or gravel road, I always wonder: Am I going to be riding on this stuff for 1 km, or for 30? Whereas with Bubble Bee, dirt roads are just fun and inviting. In Enduro mode, there is no reason to worry, the machine responds perfectly according to road conditions.

I am still very much impressed by the ergonomics of the R 1250 GS. It brings a surprising amount of protection against the rain (I am not talking about downpours, but in average rainfalls, I stay dry). I am also impressed by the speeds you can reach with this bike without even noticing. This is quite a machine! But you have to be careful because this GS puts out an impressive amount of power and it’s easy to end up well over the speed limits. To extend the riding season, it is equipped with heated grips and heated seats for the pilot and passenger. The new GS is equipped with a USB output in the dashboard and a 12 V outlet on the left side of the seat. Hi-tech equipment enhances safety: brakes with Integral ABS Pro (dynamic control of braking power and ABS action depending on the lean angle), adaptative cornering light (light moving left or right at night depending on lean angle to better illuminate the road in curves), and Dynamic Traction Control. Seat height is adjustable. The new Eco mode helps you use as little gasoline as possible when the fuel level gets lower and gas stations further away. The new optional cruising lights have multifunctional flashers that can be left on for more visibility.

All in all, I rode the R 1250 GS for 800 km on great asphalt and dirt roads. Bubble Bee proved to be a supremely pleasant machine; it’s easy to understand why it’s the king of its category. Oh, and for those who may find the colour scheme a bit too distinctive, it is also available in more conventional liveries. This machine is perfect for our roads. It’s comfortable, agile, versatile, powerful, and absolutely fun to ride.


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