Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure
First Ride • 2019 BMW R 1250 GS
Words: Brian Rathjen
It just keeps getting better…
Here’s the thing. We are patient here at Backroads.
So, when BMW came out with the new R 1250 GS, we waited… and waited and waited…It was, as expected, a popular machine.
Finally… we got our hands on the new BMW R 1250 GS. Oh, baby!
Almost a decade ago, I bought a GS – the third one.
Although not perfect, a superb machine when all is running well.
This new R 1250 GS, an HP model in blue/white and red looked so much like my own machine - but a bit younger, hotter and athletic. Okay… much younger, hotter and athletic. Those gold wheels are a winner!
I pressed the starter button and things happened.
Oh, oh….I felt I would need to go and confess to my 2012 Rally Edition…
“I swear baby, I couldn’t help it. She looked just like you did. It was just a few rides, nothing permanent, I swear. You're my gal.”
I could imagine my GS snarkily asking, “Well, how was she?”
"Okay,” I would respond, “just okay," shrugging my shoulders and rolling my eyes as if it was no big deal.
But, in my mind, I was thinking… she was magnificent! And that is the truth.
With stricter EU standards on the way and the ever-increasing competition from other manufacturers, BMW made their move first.
The new R 1250 GS, as with the RT, R & RS models, bring 84cc more displacement, air/liquid-cooling, and their new ShiftCam (dual lobes) technology to the game.
When riding, the ShiftCam engine slides the boxer engine’s intake cams sideways at midrange rpm, running the side-by-side partial or full-load cam lobes as needed or shifting it to full load mode at 5,000 rpm no matter what, or at lower engine speeds based on load.
This happens in milliseconds and is almost impossible to detect – unlike my Honda Interceptor with a VTECH engine that was startlingly abrupt and the reason it was sold.
Along with a claimed 136 horsepower, BMW’s new toothed silent cam chains, injection system and throaty sounding exhaust, the new R-Series is by far the most potent to ever come from Germany.
All this forward power is held in control by some of the best brakes I had squeezed in a long time. The brakes are large 305-millimeter twin discs upfront with dual, four-piston calipers, and in the rear back you'll find a single, 276-millimeter disc controlled by a single, dual-piston caliper. Of course, anti-lock braking system is standard, as is traction control.
Curb weight has increased by 11 pounds over the R 1200 GS to 549 pounds, including a full 5.2-gallon fuel capacity that will go to almost 200 miles.
With motorcycle technology making leaps and bounds as well, BMW’s new R 1250 GS has a TFT display, handlebar controlled which also operates a number of suspension, power-modes and motorcycle information. A BMW Navigator GPS (Really a Garmin) handles your routing and your music. Like most machines these days the R 1250 GS had a keyless ignition – something we have grown to love.
In addition to the power-modes – Rain, Road and Dynamic – I truly enjoyed the suspension settings that go with them.
Rain and road have their place, but adding the electronic power chip to the bike (found under the saddle) allowed for even more fun and adjustability. Dynamic Pro was amazing and Enduro Pro made easy work of miles of deep gravel and hard packed dirt roads.
All these modes are made possible by the ride-by-wire throttle control. Dynamic Brake Control is simply amazing. During sudden hard braking the DBC closes the throttle regardless of twist grip position. This will save lives.
Our HP version came with BMW Vario-Cases that expand with an easy to use adjustment bar inside – greatly increasing the capacity and, unfortunately, their width as well. When fully opened they make for a wide load, but are still well made and worth the price!
BMW does make optional lights available and, from my short nighttime rides, I would think they are a must. The stock lights, by themselves, were not up to snuff – at least my snuff.
I spent a few weeks doing short day rides with the R 1250 GS but then packed it up for our Backroads Fall Fiesta Rally – which started with two days of track time with Reg Pridmore’s CLASS at Virginia International Raceway. The bike came with Michelin Anakee III tires, which had a couple thousand miles of wear on them but performed smartly on both the tight south course and the bigger north course.
In Dynamic Pro-mode the machine was a blast to ride – making puissant speed down the long straight and the suspension happily eating up the 15 or so turns and elevation changes. To say the new GS performed well on the track is an understatement.
Back in the real world, with full gear and traveling along the backroads of Virginia, the machine was a joy, easy to live with, and very sharp if things got stupid. ie: a blind man making a left turn in front of a large, quick and highly-visible German motorcycle.
Awesome brakes and great handling came into play.
The bike's saddle was, surprisingly, very nice – I only had PIA issues very late in the day, after some major miles.
All these electronic had the Luddite in me protesting, but…
I now am a believer in the TFT screen, the electronic doo-dads, and ease of controlling said doo-dads.
I used all the modes when and where appropriate and the aforementioned Enduro Pro-mode – well, if you are putting a little gravel in your travel – you want this.
Power-wise the new GS is a beast - well, compared to my 2012 R 1200 GS that is. It is easy to fall for this increased, yet still useable, power. It still has that low-end R grunt, but up on top, it is heads and shoulders past anything BMW has offered before in an R-series machine.
The GS has always been a Swiss-Army knife of motorcycles, but the R 1250 GS, even with the near $30,000 price tag, has raised the bar once again.
Now, excuse me… I have to go to a counseling session with my 2012 GS.