Heath heads to the Australian 2019 BMW R 1250 GS and R 1250 GS Adventure launch, testing the new machines over some of Australia's finest roads and off-road tracks. Review: Heath Griffin, Images by Dean Walters, BMW
I was recently lucky enough to be invited to attend BMW’s launch of the new R 1250 GS and R 1250 GS Adventure models on an epic ride along the beautiful South Coast of NSW, and across the Snowy Mountain Ranges to Albury on the NSW and Victorian border.
In two full days of riding we covered over 800km of scenic roads incorporating every type of riding you can imagine, from tight twisting single trail to open sweeping fire trails, rocky hill climbs and descents, exhilarating winding sections of bitumen and even some rock strewn creek crossings.
The latter in which yours truly provided immense entertainment to the other watching Journos and BMW staff by submerging both R 1250 GS and rider into the cool clean waters of a Snowy Mountain stream….
My embarrassing turtle imitation did however highlight one of the outstanding strengths of BMW’s boxer configuration engine, which is its extremely low centre of gravity. Combined with the low, wide architecture of the motor, fitted with crash bars, this allowed me to pick up a motorcycle weighing in at 249kg on a slippery, rocky creek bed unaided, and after effortlessly restarting the engine, to complete the rest of the crossing. Not wonderful for my ego, but a great illustration of how suited BMW’s big bore adventure bike is for this type of challenging terrain.
In terms of specification and riding experience the most significant difference between the R 1250 GS and the R 1250 GS Adventure is the increased fuel capacity of the Adventure model via it’s 30L tank, with accompanying larger cockpit area and higher total weight. I was able to spend many hours and kilometres riding both variations in all conditions during the launch and I have to say it surprised me how well the Adventure model carries that extra high up weight.
In fact if you had blindfolded me and put me on either bike I’d honestly be hard pressed to tell you which one I was riding. I put this down to the boxer configuration having such a naturally low centre of gravity that it copes much better with the addition of a larger fuel tank and also panniers. For me this is a massive advantage for a machine designed to travel long distances loaded up with camping gear, food, and a few beers to enjoy in your choice of remote peace and quiet at the end of a long days riding.
Despite the R 1250 GS being a bigger heavier bike than the F 850 GS, the larger bike is actually easier to manage for smaller riders due to it’s low C of G, meaning that it feels lighter to lift off the stand and less top heavy to manoeuvre at low speeds.
At 190cm tall I prefer all models with the highest possible seat option, which gives me more leg room for long distance comfort, and makes it easier to transition from seated to standing positions off road, however for shorter riders the optional BMW low suspension kit and low seat options will provide an easier to manage, more confidence inspiring package.
BMW’s latest 1254cc Boxer engine provides a significant step up in all aspects of performance from it’s 1170cc predecessor and now boasts 100kW at 6500rpm and a stump-pulling 143Nm of torque at 6250rpm, making it the most powerful BMW production boxer engine ever made.
Central to this increase in output is BMW’s ShiftCam technology, which utilises a shifting gate on the camshaft controlled by an electronic actuator in order to seamlessly transition between it’s two different cam profiles. At low rpm the partial-load cam is selected, which allows better combustion in this engine speed range for improved bottom end torque, throttle response and emissions. Once rpm increases the engine automatically shifts to the full-load cam which provides higher valve lift for maximum top-end power.
So what does this mean for the rider? A greatly improved engine in all areas of performance with no compromises. Where the old boxer engine had to sacrifice both bottom and torque and top-end power due to being restricted to a single cam profile, which had to allow for all engine speeds, now you have the best of both worlds due to optimised cam profiles being available for all engine speeds and operating conditions.
It’s also completely un-intrusive, as I spent a lot of time trying to pick the point where the engine was shifting from one cam profile to the other, and could never manage to find even the slightest hint of it. All I could tell was that the engine now has amazing bottom end grunt, even from a fully closed throttle at idle, which gives way to a rorty and exciting top end rush if you are game to hold the throttle open that long.
The new 1254cc boxer engine gives a noticeable induction growl from the airbox, and aggressive snarl from the exhaust under hard acceleration, which is entertaining without ever becoming intrusive. The exhaust note is further enhanced with the BMW optional HP slip on Muffler fitted, which would be high on my list of optional extras for it’s enhanced note and racier look over the standard item.
The same outstanding multi-level ASC (Automatic Stability Control) is included as standard across the entire GS range, helping to keep you safe and maintain forward drive while still allowing plenty of sideways drift and rear wheel steering capability, while DTC (Dynamic Traction Control) is part of the Riding Modes Pro package.
The RbW throttle is smooth and snatch free even from fully closed at idle speeds and in high gears, and the new engine is fitted with a knock sensor system, which allows use of fuels below 95 RON, which is a massive benefit on a machine designed to be taken to remote areas where the quality of fuel supply may be compromised.
Speaking of the DTC, there is a lot of rider aid technology on this bike, which certainly helps in keeping a heavy, powerful bike under control in challenging situations. Pre-set rider modes include Rain and Road as standard, with Dynamic Pro, and Enduro Pro modes available as optional equipment. I mostly cycled between the Dynamic Pro and Enduro Pro settings throughout our ride, as these give the lowest levels of intervention, and still allow a significant amount of rider control over the available traction.
The biggest difference I noticed between these two modes is the lack of ABS on the rear brake when the Enduro Pro mode is engaged, and the higher level of DTC intervention in the Dynamic Pro setting. I found it best for my riding style to stick with Dynamic Pro when on tarmac, or on high speed slippery trails, as having the ABS active on the rear brake allowed more control over the rear on fast corner entries, and the greater DTC assistance gave better drive when accelerating through and out of medium to high speed turns.
When the going got tighter I preferred the Enduro Pro mode with ABS inactive on the rear brake to allow locking of the rear to help get the bike turned into slower corners, while the lower level of DTC intervention seemed to allow better drive out of first and second gear corners, especially across bumpy or corrugated surfaces.
Another electronic feature on the R 1250 GS is BMW’s Gear Shift Assistant Pro, which is available as an option with the Dynamic Package and Lights Package. This system was fitted to our test bikes and allows clutch-less shifting both up and down gears. This worked pretty much flawlessly in all situations and I especially noticed how well the system operated on partial throttle settings.
The 1250 Boxer seemed much less sensitive to modulated throttle situations than similar systems on many other bikes, which made it an even bigger asset. Being able to shift up gears while holding a steady throttle, not having to interrupt drive by using the clutch or backing off, greatly aids corner exit drive and smoothness, whilst the clutchless downshift prevents arm pump and fatigue, and is a fantastic option to have if you get into a corner a little late and need to shift down a couple of gears in a hurry.
The engine is so flexible on this bike that it almost makes the gearing irrelevant. You can probably ride the same section of track in three or four different gears just depending on how you like the engine to be behaving, so in all honestly you could close your eyes and stick any gear ratios in there you like and probably not notice any significant difference to the riding experience….
In these situations the standard Anti Hopping clutch significantly reduces engine braking back torque, which prevents the rear wheel from locking on corner entry unless the rider choses to do so using the rear brake with ABS disengaged.
ABS assisted four-piston radial mount calipers gripping dual floating rotors at the front and a twin piston caliper and single rotor at the rear provide ample stopping power and feel both on and off road. This set-up definitely provides all the braking performance you could ever require and I was never once wishing for more power from the brakes, however, out and out stopping capability on the dirt as always is limited by the available grip, and with a machine of this size and weight it’s critical to judge your corner entry speed and ensure you get slowed down early, especially on low grip surfaces.
The handling department is one area where the difference in focus between the R 1250 GS and it’s middleweight cousin the F 850 GS becomes really apparent. With a two-section frame concept consisting of main frame with bolt-on rear frame, load-bearing engine, BMW Motorrad Telelever central spring strut front-end, and 19in front wheel, the R 1250 GS provides a much more stable and neutral handling package on the bitumen and open fire trails.
Suspension at both ends provides excellent feel and feedback on the dirt, however the standard settings are more suited to long distance comfort than out and out performance through the bush, and on a big heavy bike such as this it does tend to blow through the stroke when hitting sharp faced obstacles or deep potholes at pace.
The R 1250 GS does sacrifice out and out enduro style off-road ability in comparison to it’s smaller capacity stablemate when the going gets tougher. Don’t get me wrong, you can still take this full sized adventure bike almost anywhere an F 850 GS will go, however, when the going gets tight, steep or particularly rough the bigger bike requires a lot more concentration and you do need to slow things down and make sure you don’t get out of your depth.
On road the R 1250 GS provides an outstanding handling package. Even with knobby tyres fitted an amazing level of performance is available in slow to medium speed corners, however I’m never confident to push too hard on offroad rubber once speeds get towards the three digit range.
Suspension is compliant and well supported at both ends, and soaks up rough tarmac mid corner with excellent composure. I never ran out of clearance or scraped a peg during some pretty spirited riding over the Alpine Way, however with more road focused tyres the standard damping and preload settings may prove a little on the soft side for out and out high speed cornering and braking. Add some sports touring rubber and I’m extremely confident you could embarrass plenty of full blown sportsbikes through the twisty stuff on these machines.
In my opinion the look of the R 1250 GS, and especially in Adventure guise with the massive 30L fuel tank, really epitomises the style of a big bore adventure machine. With Metzler’s off-road knobby style tyres fitted it looks tough, stylish and purposeful. The new pitchfork LED headlight is unique and modern and the whole package looks every bit the rugged outback adventurer that it is.
My favourite colour option is the Style HP, which echoes BMW’s tri-colour race liveries, and the Style Exclusive and Kalamata Metallic Matte have an almost camouflage look to them that I feel really suits the style of the bike.
As with most BMW’s, the componentry is premium quality and operate perfectly, plus provide complete control both in seated and standing positions. It has pretty much touring bike levels of comfort (minus the heated seat and speaker system), meaning that these bikes give nothing away in their ability to travel massive distances both on and off road with minimal fatigue.
Available as an option is BMW’s 6.5-inch full colour TFT dash. This allows full integration, monitoring and operation, not only of the bike’s systems, but also your Bluetooth compatible smartphone or device. The thumbwheel mounted on the left handlebar adjacent to the handgrip allows complete control over all electronic systems with gloves on, and is easy to operate on the move without distracting from actually riding the bike.
Highlights of the connectivity capabilities include; electronic adjustment of the bikes suspension settings (if fitted as an option) and rider modes, trip computer, fuel level and range, tyre pressure monitoring, as well as the usual speed, rpm, and pace oriented corner by corner arrow navigation via the free BMW Motorrad Connected App. When paired to a Bluetooth equipped helmet or earbuds this allows easy communication and entertainment options, all easily controlled while riding.
With the new R 1250 GS and R 1250 GS Adventure BMW have provided substantial improvements to the riding experience, most noticeably in all round engine performance, rider aids and interactive technology. Both bikes provide a fantastic platform for comfortable and capable long distance adventure riding, however, if it was my money I’d stump up the extra and go for the Adventure model.
The R 1250 GS Adventure carries the extra weight so effortlessly that there really is no noticeable downside to having that substantial additional fuel range, which for me is a massive plus when trying to get as far off the beaten track as possible.
2019 BMW R 1250 GS Specifications
Price: From $27,980 RRP Ride Away (as tested N/A)
Colour: Ice Grey, Style HP, Kalamata Metallic Matte
Warranty: Three-year, unlimited kilometre
Claimed power: 100kW/136hp@7750rpm
Claimed torque: 143Nm@6250rpm
Kerb weight: 268kg
Fuel capacity: 30L
Engine: Air/liquid-cooled two-cylinder four-stroke boxer, 1254cc, 12.5:1 compression ratio, 102.5 x 76mm bore x stroke, four-valves per cylinder, two overhead spur gear driven camshafts, counterbalance shaft, variable intake camshaft control system BMW ShiftCam
Gearbox: Constant mesh 6-speed gearbox with helical gearing system
Clutch: Wet clutch with anti-hopping function, hydraulically activated
Chassis: Two-section frame concept consisting of main frame with bolt-on rear frame, load-bearing engine, cast aluminium single-sided swing arm
Steering head angle: 65.1º Castor: 95.4mm
Suspension: BMW Motorrad Telelever front, central spring strut 37mm, 210mm travel, BMW Motorrad Paralever rear, WAD spring strut, 220mm travel, continuously adjustable spring preload by means of hand wheel, rebound-stage damping adjustable by hand wheel.
Brakes: Twin front disc brake, floating brake discs 305mm, four-piston radial brake calipers, single rear disc brake 276mm, two-piston floating caliper, BMW Motorrad Integral ABS as standard, disengageable
Wheels & Tyres: Die-cast aluminium wheels, 3.00 x 19in front, 4.50 x 17in rear, 120/70 R19, 170/60 R17
Seat height: 890/910mm
Overall length: 2270mm
Overall width: 980mm
Overall height: 1460mm
Instruments: Full-colour TFT dash.
2019 BMW R 1250 GS & Adventure GS Gallery
The Verdict | Launch: 2019 BMW R 1250 GS & GS Adventure Review