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ADV Bikes2019 BMW R1250GS & R1250GS Adventure – First Ride

2019 BMW R1250GS & R1250GS Adventure – First Ride

 BMW’s adventure flagship is a technology showcase on two wheels.

Published on 03.18.2019

BMW R1250GS Adventure Motorcycle

BMW Motorrad’s vision is ambitious but simple: “Becoming the most desirable motorcycle brand in the world.” In the battle for the United States, their most powerful weapon is the flat-twin motor that debuted in the first ever BMW motorcycle, the 1923 R32. In 2018, over 50% of BMW’s US sales were powered by the boxer engine, and 27% of sales came from just two models – the R1250GS and the R1250GSA (R1250GS Adventure).

The R1250GS has developed a cult-like following over the years, and BMW is as proud of GS owners as the owners are of their bikes. Mark Peine, BMW’s Marketing Communications Manager, noted that, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council Consumer Experience Study, GS owners are “experienced riders” who have 34 years of riding experience and cover 3 times as many miles as the average adventure bike owner in a year (5,000 vs 1,700). GSA owners can pat themselves on the back a little bit harder with 35 years of riding experience as they cover 5,200 miles/year.

BMW R1250GS HP Adventure Motorcycle
The new model sports a more powerful 1,254cc engine with ShiftCam Technology.

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There are few models more important to a manufacturer than the big boxer GS is to BMW, so when BMW makes a change to the stalwart of their lineup, it’s worth paying attention. Both the R1250GS and R1250GSA were updated for 2019, so let’s start with the new features that they share.

What’s New on Both the R1250GS and R1250GSA

The obvious difference is in the name – the formerly 1,170cc boxer twin motor has been bored and stroked out to 1,254cc. In addition, the spark plug covers now advertise a trick feature called ShiftCam.

BMW R1250GS HP Adventure Motorcycle
Despite the new cam tech, BMW claims there will be no difference in labor costs for routine checks.
BMW R1250GS HP Adventure Motorcycle
The new engine offers improved performance over the entire rev band and enhanced power flexibility with less gear changes.

ShiftCam is a variable engine timing system that offers up two lobe profiles on the intake cam based on engine load. The partial load cam is designed to reduce fuel consumption and smooth out operation with one lobe at 2mm and the other at 4mm. Per Shawn Thomas, a BMW Brand Ambassador, “the asymmetrical opening creates a swirling effect that leads to more uniform combustion.” It reduces the idle speed by 100 rpm and BMW claims that it decreases fuel consumption by over 6%, from 47 to 50 miles per gallon. Crucially, the new technology ensures that the boxer twin meets the emissions guidelines that will come in 2020 with the implementation of Euro-5.

As the video below shows, when you open up the throttle butterfly valve, the cam shifts to full load lobes. Note that this switch also happens if the crankshaft is spinning faster than 5,000 rpm.

Smaller updates to the motor include a toothed chain to replace the roller chain for the camshaft drive, a revision to the oil supply system, twin-jet injection valves, and a new exhaust. Thanks to ShiftCam and the displacement bump, the new engine now produces 136 horsepower (9% increase) and 105 ft-lb of torque (14% increase). But the fancy electronics rule more than just internal combustion.

BMW R1250GS HP Adventure Motorcycle
New options on the R1250GS and R1250GSA (click to expand).

The cockpit is now dominated by a 6.5” full-color TFT dash which utilizes the unimaginatively named “Connectivity” feature to exchange information with the free BMW Motorrad Connected phone app as well as a Bluetooth helmet headset. The system allows a rider to listen to music, make phone calls, get basic navigation instructions, and control the on-board computer. A full LED headlight is now standard as well.

BMW R1250GS Adventure Motorcycle
When the motor is cold, the redline position shifts to show you what the limit of safe rpms are as the engine warms up.

Previously, the standard Ride Modes suite included two modes (Rain/Road). For 2019, both bikes also get Hill Start Control (HSC) and Automatic Stability Control (ASC). To activate HSC, just firmly apply either the front or rear brake while at a stop. An indicator will appear on the dash and the bike will keep the rear brake engaged until you start to ride away.

BMW R1250GS Adventure Motorcycle
R1250GS/GSA Ride Modes explained (click to expand).

Both bikes now get the option of Ride Modes Pro, which takes nearly everything a step further and throws a few wrenches into the nomenclature. Ride modes double from 2 to 4 with the addition of Dynamic and Enduro (a separate plug turns those into Dynamic Pro and Enduro Pro, which allow further customization). Automatic Stability Control turns into Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), which incorporates lean angles into the calculations of what’s safe and what’s not. ABS becomes ABS Pro due to the same lean angle data. HSC becomes HSC Pro, which will automatically engage the feature when you’re stopped at an incline or decline of more than 5 degrees. You can completely disable this feature or put it in a manual setting where it behaves like the standard HSC. Lastly, you’ll get access to Dynamic Brake Control (DBC). This is implemented to counteract the occasional behavior of riders in which they accidentally open the throttle while panic braking. DBC automatically reduces engine output when it detects emergency braking and utilizes the partially-integrated brake system to apply additional force to the rear if necessary.

New for the R1250GS

BMW R1250GS HP Adventure Motorcycle

The base GS is available in two colors – Black Storm Metallic from the previous generation, as well as a new color called Cosmic Blue Metallic that costs an extra $150. There are also two new style packages: the Exclusive Style Package ($500) has a grey frame, gold brake calipers, and blacked-out components such as the seat, handlebars, and powertrain. It also gets a black and yellow paint scheme that feels like a small tribute to the Bumblebee livery of the R100GS.

The more enticing option for adventure riders is the HP Style Package ($750), which has more of a dirt focus. The center stand is removed, the windshield is shorter, there’s a bench seat instead of the separate rider/passenger units, and the cast rims are replaced with cross-spoked wheels that would make Goldfinger proud. In addition, the frame and hand guards are white, the handlebars and powertrain are black, and the calipers match the gold wheels. The bodywork is painted in a white/red/blue scheme that BMW calls HP Motorsport. The Sport Suspension is also available as an upgrade (+$350) to the HP Style Package, which increases suspension travel, ground clearance and spring rates. No matter the package, you can specify off-road tires at no additional cost.

BMW R1250GS HP Adventure Motorcycle
The dirt-focused HP Package has a shorter windscreen, one-piece seat, gold cross-spoke rims, and removes the center stand.

BMW R1250GS HP Adventure Motorcycle

BMW R1250GS HP Adventure Motorcycle

The R1250GS starts at $17,695, though you’ll have to special order the base model as most bikes delivered to the US will come with the $950 Select Package that includes saddle bag mounts, hand guards, tire pressure monitors, heated grips, chrome exhaust, and preparation for a GPS system. With that said, you’ll probably want to splurge for the $3,050 Premium Package. It includes everything in the Select Package as well as Keyless Ride, Dynamic Traction Control, Gear Shift Assist Pro, Ride Modes Pro, Dynamic Brake Control, Cruise Control, ABS Pro, and Dynamic ESA with automatic damper settings and ride height adjustment.

New for the R1250GSA

BMW R1250GSA Adventure Motorcycle
The quickest way to identify a GSA is the presence of the upper crash bar nestled against the 7.9 gallon fuel tank, which is also a new design for 2019.

BMW R1250GS HP Adventure Motorcycle

The base R1250GSA is only available in Ice Grey, but there are lots of new pieces for 2019. The intake snorkel cover, radiator cover, and crash bars (both for the engine and tank) are all new, as is the black GS molded cover on the storage compartment on the top of the tank. There are also steering geometry and wheelbase differences compared to the previous year, which I’ll go over in more detail below.

Like the GS, the GSA has Style Package options of Exclusive and HP. The former ($500) is adorned in Kalamata Metallic Matte paint with a grey frame, black/grey seat, and gold brake calipers. The latter ($550) comes with the exact same goodies as with the GS.

BMW R1250GSA Adventure Motorcycle
The GSA’s geometry has been revised for 2019 with modifications to the steering head angle, the caster angle and wheelbase for improved stability.

BMW R1250GS HP Adventure Motorcycle

BMW R1250GS HP Adventure Motorcycle

The R1250GSA starts at $19,945, and the Premium Package costs an additional $3,450. It includes the same features as the Premium Package for the R1250GS with the addition of LED auxiliary lights.

Getting Some Seat Time

BMW R1250GS Adventure Motorcycle

BMW invited journalists from all over the United States and Canada to evaluate the new R1250GS/GSA in Palm Springs, California. Our ride day consisted of 180 miles through the Coachella Valley and Joshua Tree National Park. Almost 25 miles of the route were off pavement, and they included everything from easy fire roads to sandy washes with loose rocks. To help with the dirt portions, our bikes were outfitted with Continental TKC80 tires.

On the Road

I started off the day on a R1250GS with the HP Style package, and even from the deeper idle sound I could tell that the motor would feel different. The 1250 is more powerful than the previous engine throughout the entire rev range – BMW supplied us with a dyno chart that showed an increase from 2,000 rpm to 9,000 rpm, though the difference is only noticeable above 5,000 rpm when the motor switches to the full load cam lobe profile.

BMW R1250GS HP Adventure Motorcycle
For reference, I’m 6’2”, 190 pounds, and I love long walks on the beach.

What’s impressive is how seamless the switch between cam profiles is. The shift takes just 2-5 milliseconds depending on the rotational speed of the cam. Compare that to how long it takes you to blink: approximately 300 ms!

Once we got out of the city, our ride leader wasted no time in letting us explore the high-speed street manners of our bikes. Despite the knobby tires, the R1250GS was as impressive and planted on pavement as ever. The acceleration can’t compare with the Ducati Multistrada 1260 or the KTM 1290 Super Adventure, but it’s more than you’d ever need. Crucially, the EFI computer and throttle-by-wire work perfectly together, even just off-idle when the motor is cold.

BMW R1250GS HP Adventure Motorcycle
The asymmetrical headlight may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it’s very effective.

In fact, all the electronic options work very well. Our test bikes were equipped with Ride Modes Pro and the Premium Package. I spent as much time as possible in Dynamic Pro, which offers the snappiest throttle response and customizable interference from the Dynamic Traction Control. More capable riders than myself can get small drifts going on the street, but I was content to stay within the limits of traction provided by the TKC80s. Still, in Dynamic Pro, power wheelies are effortless in first and second gear.

Reining in that power are dual 305mm disc brakes up front and a single 276mm disc brake in the rear. The 4-piston front calipers are now made by Hayes, while the 2-piston rear caliper is built by Brembo. You can tell which one BMW’s prouder of – the Brembo branding is obvious while the Hayes logo is banished to the inside of the calipers so that most people see BMW instead. The brakes are excellent no matter the logo, and with the electronic assists they require very little skill to operate effectively.

BMW R1250GS HP Adventure Motorcycle
The new model’s front calipers are now made by Hayes.

What I appreciate about the technology in the R1250GS is that it’s always working yet never feels intrusive. The Dynamic ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) automatically adjusts preload as well as damping, and it even has an auto-leveling function on startup. Plus, when you take off for the first time and get your feet on the pegs, the suspension will make another adjustment to compensate now that all your body weight is on the machine. The suspension also reads brake, throttle, and lean angle inputs from the IMU, so if you accelerate hard the rear spring will stiffen up to minimize squat. It’s all very impressive from a technological standpoint, though sometimes I wonder who’s in control of the GS – myself or a software engineer in Germany. One electrical gripe is with the Keyless Ride system, as I don’t like that the bike must be completely turned off before you can open the fuel filler cap.

BMW R1250GS HP Adventure Motorcycle
The Sachs sticker has disappeared from the shock reservoir body as the front and rear suspension are now supplied by ZF.

I also have some minor reservations with the new TFT screen, though the news is mostly positive. As a display device, it’s fantastic. It’s so vibrant that you can easily read it in any lighting conditions, and it’s easy to control the jog dial with your left hand. The most important pieces of information (tachometer, speedometer, gear indicator) are easily visible, and you can customize the information bar at the top so that it only shows you certain tidbits that you’re interested in. But certain tasks take way too many steps. The silliest issue is resetting the trip meter. On most bikes, it’s a simple press and hold of a button. On the new GS, you have to press down on the menu button to bring up the main menu, then press it again once you’ve selected “My Vehicle”. Click right twice on the jog dial to select Trip Computer, scroll down to Reset Individual Values, and then…it just keeps going. Just typing all of that is tedious, let alone going through the process.

BMW R1250GS Adventure Motorcycle

To take advantage of the extra “Connectivity” features, you’ll have to pair some devices via Bluetooth. If you download the free BMW Motorrad Connected mobile app and use it to search for directions, you’ll get access to turn-by-turn navigation prompts on the TFT screen. The app can also record your ride history and even connect to your photo library so you can see where you took a given photo during your trip. It’s all very clever, though BMW’s directions sometimes differ slightly from the route suggested by Google Maps. If you connect a headset, you can also get audio prompts for the navigation, though you’ll have to get used to odd pronunciation – the robotic female voice pronounces “Ave” like it rhymes with cave.

Connecting a headset also gives your R1250GS the ability to manage phone calls and music. The phone functionality works flawlessly (and it’s nice to get caller ID so you can decide if a call is worth taking or not while you’re on the road), but it’s a shame that you can’t pause or change songs unless you’re specifically in the media menu. Volume adjustment for music or phone calls happens with the jog dial. There’s a lot going on with the Connectivity package, so it’ll take some time before the features are all second nature to you. The learning curve is worth it – it’s an impressive bundle of technology and I look forward to most aspects trickling down through the rest of the BMW lineup.

BMW R1250GS HP Adventure Motorcycle
The GS (left) is not only smaller than the GSA but also sports less suspension travel.

I made sure to split my seat time with the R1250GS Adventure, though I must admit that I wasn’t looking forward to it. I normally prefer riding smaller, lighter bikes, and the GSA looked like it was going to be a handful. Don’t judge a book by its cover! I instantly felt more at home on the Adventure. The tank is a little too wide at the knees, but that’s to be expected when it offers 7.9 gallons of fuel capacity versus the 5.3 gallons of the standard GS. Otherwise, I found it to be remarkably comfortable from an ergonomic standpoint. The word I heard uttered most often by my colleagues to describe the GSA was “tank”, but within a few miles I found that I preferred the tank over the relatively svelte R1250GS.

Riding the GSA was, dare I say, relaxing. I couldn’t figure out why until my friend Spurgeon Dunbar at RevZilla later pointed out something that BMW didn’t mention during the technical presentation – the GSA’s geometry has been revised for 2019. The steering head angle is up from 24.5 degrees to 26.3, the caster angle is up from 3.7” to 4.1”, and wheelbase has been extended from 58.9” to 59.7”. That’s three different ways of telling you that this bike is more stable, and it’s very apparent when you’re behind the bars.

BMW R1250GS Adventure Motorcycle

In the Dirt

Every adventure bike nowadays is a great street bike. The wheat gets separated from the chaff in the dirt. Off pavement, the R1250GS and GSA are both much better than they have any right to be thanks to the low center of gravity and the electronics packages.

The highlight is the Enduro Pro ride mode, which makes the optional Ride Modes Pro package worth it if you plan on spending quality time off-road. Enduro Pro is specifically optimized to work with knobby tires like the TKC80. It maintains ABS on the front wheel while allowing the rider to lock up the rear, and it also permits the rider to slide the rear wheel out to a degree that BMW suggests is for “experienced riders only.” By default, the throttle response is softened to the Rain configuration, though you can customize it to use the throttle mapping from Road or Dynamic if you’re feeling frisky. The suspension also switches to Enduro mode, which is stiffer and automatically set for dealing with rough surfaces. Can you make your way through a trail without all these tech features? Of course. But they sure make the experience much more comfortable and a bit easier, which usually translates to more fun for the average rider.

BMW R1250GS Adventure Motorcycle

The quickshifter is also a pleasant surprise off-road because it’s nice to have the option to shift while keeping your hands on the grips in difficult terrain. The 1-2 shift is a little rough, but everything else is smooth enough (especially the rev-matched downshifts) that I’d even consider using it while riding with a passenger.

While the GS and GSA have more power, they’ve also gained some weight as well. The GS is 11 pounds heavier than last year, and the GSA has packed on an additional 18 pounds. While I’d rather see less weight than more power, I must concede that I couldn’t notice the additional heft on the GS. Realistically, a change in preload will have a bigger effect on your riding confidence than a ~2% weight gain, especially when bikes like these often get loaded up like pack mules.

A few important specifications remain the same: suspension travel for the GS is 7.5” up front and 7.9” in the rear, while the GSA has 8.3” up front and 8.7” in the rear. Seat heights are 33.5” (you can get a two-inch lower suspension) on the GS or 35” on the GSA. Also unchanged are the cross-spoked tubeless wheels, but I still have to commend BMW for the design. I managed to ride over a rusty nail that punctured the TKC80, and after some quick work with a plug kit I was back on the trail in mere minutes. What is new is the tire pressure stem design, which I appreciated when I was ready to inflate the tires back up again.

BMW R1250GS Adventure Motorcycle
All valve stems should be this easy to access.

BMW claims that fuel consumption improved by 6 percent up to 50 miles per gallon, but even when I was on the smaller GS and on pavement I was getting 35 mpg. I was riding aggressively but I don’t think anyone’s getting BMW’s claimed number on this bike unless they always ride like they have 5 miles of range left when the nearest gas station is 6 miles away.

Final Thoughts

When Shawn Thomas introduced the new motor to us, he made a point to highlight that engineering is all about trade-offs. When you modify a motor to increase horsepower and torque, it typically comes at the expense of emissions, fuel economy, and sometimes even tractability. With ShiftCam, BMW wants you to have your cake and eat it, too.

The R1200GS already made enough power, but in the world of premium adventure bikes there’s always going to be a push for more oomph, more technology, more…everything. If you already own a 2013+ liquid-cooled R1200GS and riding is just about a motor and two wheels to you, I don’t think there’s enough here to require an upgrade. But if you have a previous generation GS or you want to be surrounded by electronics that make you a better rider, the R1250GS or R1250GSA are worth the significant cash outlay.

BMW R1250GS Adventure Motorcycle

The price is the hardest pill to swallow, but it’s reasonable when compared to the Ducati Multistrada Enduro or Triumph Tiger 1200 XCA. If I worked for BMW, the bike that would scare me the most is the KTM 1290 Super Adventure. It weighs less, makes more power, and starts at $18,499. Still, if it was my money, I’d find myself on the BMW, specifically the GSA. I’ve ridden each generation of the GS since the 1100, and BMW keeps finding ways to impress me. Ever since the 1150, I’ve felt that it would be the bike I’d get if I could only have one motorcycle in my garage. Thanks to ShiftCam, it’s even more versatile now. Iron Butt Association conqueror, track day companion, 2-up tourer, canyon carver, or two-wheeled pickup truck – the BMW GS can do just about anything you’d ever ask of it.

2019 BMW R1250GS/R1250GSA Specs

Engine Type:Air/Liquid-cooled 4-stroke flat twin, DOHC, BMW Shiftcam
Displacement:1254cc
Bore x Stroke:102.5 mm x 76 mm
Rated Output:136 hp (100 kW) @ 7,750
Max Torque:105 lb-ft (143 Nm) @ 6,250
Compression Ratio:12.5:1
Engine Management:Electronic FI w/ ride-by-wire
Emission Control:Emission standard EU-4
Max Speed:Over 125 mph
Fuel Consumption:50 mpg
Alternator:Three-phase 510 W generator
Battery:12 V / 11.8 Ah, maintenance-free
Clutch:Multiplate wet clutch, hydraulically operated
Gearbox:Constant-mesh 6-speed
Drive:Shaft drive
Frame:Two section frame, front – and bolted on rear frame, load bearing engine
Front wheel location/suspension:BMW Telelever, Ø 37 mm, central spring strut
Rear wheel location/suspension:Cast aluminum single-sided swing arm with BMW Paralever; WAD strut (travel-related damping), spring pre-load hydraulically adjustable
Suspension travel front/rear:GS 7.5″/7.9″ (190mm/200mm); GSA 8.3″/8.7″ (210mm/220mm)
Wheelbase:GS 60″ (1,525 mm); GSA 59.7″ (1,517 mm)
Wheels:GS Cast aluminum; GSA Cross spoke
Rim, front:3.00 x 19″
Rim, rear:4.50 x 17″
Tires, front:120/70 R 19
Tires, rear:170/60 R 17
Brake, front:Dual floating disc brakes, 4-piston fixed calipers, diameter 305 mm
Brake, rear:Single disc brake, diameter 276 mm, dual-piston floating caliper
ABSBMW Integral ABS (part-integral, can be switched off)
LengthGS 86.9″ (2,207 mm); GSA 89.4″ (2,270 mm)
Width (incl. mirrors):GS 37.5″ (953 mm); GSA 38.6″ (980 mm)
Height (excl. mirrors):GS 56.3″ (1,430 mm); GSA 57.5″ (1,460 mm)
Seat height:GS 33.5″/34.3″; GSA 35.0″/35.8″
Unladen weight, fully fueled:GS 549 lbs (249 kg); GSA 591 lbs (268 kg)
Permitted total weight:GS 1,025 lbs (465 kg); GSA 1,069 lbs (485 kg)
Payload (with std. equipment):GS 476 lbs (216 kg); GSA 479 lbs (217 kg)
Usable tank volume:GS 5.3 gal (20 L); GSA 7.9 gal (30 L)
Reserve:Approx. 1 gal (4 L)

Photos by Kevin Wing and BMW

Author: Abhi Eswarappa

Abhi Eswarappa runs Bike-urious, a website dedicated to finding interesting motorcycles to put in your garage. He currently pens the Smart Money column in Motorcyclist magazine and has freelanced for several online publications. Abhi got serious about motorcycles when he learned the joys of long-distance travel on a 1988 BMW K75C, a bike that once took him from Canada to Mexico in less than 24 hours. His favorite motorcycle trip of all time was Los Angeles to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and back on a BMW R1150GS.

Author: Abhi Eswarappa
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4 thoughts on “2019 BMW R1250GS & R1250GS Adventure – First Ride

  1. That’s all well and fine, but these things have gotten too big and heavy for many riders with limited skills, body size and strength. In my ideal world BMW would be developing an 800cc boxer again, maybe 80HP, and the bike would be like a 4/5 scale copy of the big boxers, lower seat height, under 500lbs with some engine guards and full fuel. Maintain all of the quality of the big boxers for a middleweight travel-capable bike, and scrap the cheap outsourced parallel twins.

    • That’s fair, and it’s not just the GS that has become too large for some riders.

      I’m curious if the new Moto Guzzi V85 TT piques your interest as it’s probably the closest motorcycle to your described ideal, no?

      • Ended up buying a DL650 last year after trying various BMW offerings. A great bike for my usage, long distance paved and dirt roads. Good weather protection. Fun in the city as well. The V85 TT has gained some interest in the V-Strom forum, i’d love to check it out once it becomes available in the US. An iconic manufacturer for sure, would be nice to see them get a slice of the market.