BMW R 1250 GS Adventure Review – Bigger and better
BMW R 1250 GS Adventure Review – Bigger and better
If the engineers at BMW know the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” they certainly don’t adhere to that rule. The truly incredible BMW R 1200 GS Adventure has achieved phenomenal sales and legions of fans across the world, keeping it as the ‘go to’ adventure bike from Perth to Pittsburgh. So when the existing bike is quite so good, could the all new BWM R 1250 GSA really improve on an already winning formula.
Did the best just get better?
BIGGER & BETTER
Ok so straightaway it’s pretty obvious that the 2019 incarnation has had a capacity hike, taking it from the 1200 to the 1250. In fact the rise in cc is actually more than the 50cc it would appear as the outgoing model was actually 1170 cc and the new bike is now 1254cc. That’s a pretty substantial 84cc or a 7% increase in engine size to that familiar boxer engine.
But BMW didn’t stop there, and the new motor has the all new Shift Cam technology, which allied to the capacity rise has increased the already powerful GS motor by nearly 10% to a bahn-storming 136 bhp, with almost 15% more torque, taking the figure to 143 Nm at 6250 rpm. It’s an impressive rise that will have the BMW aficionados heading to the dealerships once again, and is likely to win the Bavarian brand more converts to the cult of the GS.
Although BMW may be heralding the Shift Cam technology as the very latest innovation, a very similar system was used by Audi a few years back. But it’s not just variable valve timing, the system is actually a tad more complicated than that, varying both the duration of the valve opening and the amount the valves open as you ride.
Trickling around in the traffic, the valves are only 2mm and delivering smooth power and great economy from such a massive engine. But open up the throttle and the clever electronics seamlessly slide the cam shaft across to the bigger cams, opening the valves a full 11mm and liberating the full power of the boxer motor through the redesigned exhaust system.
But don’t think there’s a massive step when this happens as used to be the case with basic VVT systems back in the day. BMW’s system is completely unnoticeable, transitioning from gentle to giant without even the vaguest hint of the change going on under those cam covers – impressive stuff.
Here’s just how the system works thanks to the folks at BMWs graphics department …
With all the changes in the engine department, the engineers have wisely avoided making any massive changes to the BMW R 1250 GS Adventure’s chassis, with the new bike taken straight from last year’s 1200. The steel trellis frame is matched to a separate rear subframe running over the top of the twin cylinder motor. At the rear it’s the single-sided aluminium paralever system and the shaft drive operating a single centrally mounted shock.
At the front, BMW’s weird but strangely effective telelever system handles the front suspension, with the single shock mounted over the engine. It may not feel like anything you’ve ridden before, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing!
Although the stock bike has a slightly more manual handwheel system, upgrade to the TE version and you get the full electronic control of the suspension, allowing you to chose the settings and then make adjustments on the fly. On the big adventure bikes, this type of technology has become almost obligatory, and once you try it, you can see why. The Dynamic ESA – Electronic Suspension Adjustment – is easy to set up through the thumbwheel on the left hand bar, and once set delivers an incredibly plush ride, constantly adjusting to your speed and the road conditions.
All versions of the bike get two selectable riding modes, the gyroscopically controlled Automatic Stability Control to maintain traction at all times, and there’s also the rather handy ‘Hill start’ technology which will lock on the brakes if you are stopped at an angle of more than 5 degrees. Handy if you’ve got full panniers, a top box and a passenger with a fondness for pies …
If you want even more electronic options, you can always invest in the plug-in dongle that goes into a plug under the seat and will allow you to access the Pro Riding modes, so that’s Dynamic Traction Control, ABS Pro, Hill start Pro and the almost infinitely variable Pro Riding modes where you can tweak every aspect of the BMWs performance. There’s even an option for a ‘Call an engineer’ button that will instantly connect you to a BMW technician wherever you are in the world should you get into difficulties! It’s a big help for those epic adventures …
With such a physically large bike to control, then the brakes on the BMW R 1250 GS Adventure need to be spot on. For the 2019 upgrade, BMW have ditched the previous front Brembos for a set of radially mounted 4 piston calipers by the American company Hayes, and the new units perform their task well, aided by the ubiquitous BMW ABS system and plate-sized twin 305mm drilled discs.
At the rear it’s a single 278 mm drilled disc with a Brembo 2 pot caliper. Quite why they didn’t go all Hayes or all Brembo isn’t particularly clear, but as they both do the job well, perhaps it doesn’t matter. Both are controlled by the ABS system, switchable for when you are off-road.
At the front of the BMW R 1250 GS Adventure, there’s the familiar face that defines the model. The asymmetric headlights are now LED as standard, and the screen is adjustable using a turn wheel inside the cockpit. It’s a large screen that can wobble a bit at speed but nothing too distracting. Behind the screen are the clocks and although available as an option on the previous 1200, the 1250 gets a TFT – Thin Film Transistor – display as standard.
It’s a massive 6.5 inch unit and as clear as the screen on your laptop, with almost as much information. The central speed display has the tacho arching over the top, and when the motor is cold, the red line is far lower than when the bike is warmed up. There’s a clear gear indicator, with other peripheral information dotted around the massive display. It’s a really well designed and user friendly screen that puts other bikes to shame!
With quite so many options to chose, from riding modes to ABS, sat nav link up to bluetooth connectivity and entertainment, the BMW R 1250 GS Adventure would need more buttons and switches than a jumbo jet, but thanks to the handy thumbwheel on the left hand bars, toggling through your options is pretty easy once you get the hang of the system.
You can adjust every aspect of the bike’s controls, your phone, your music and the unit can also be linked to a Sat Nav system that can be mounted on the bar above.
Of course if you buy the electronic upgrades there are more options to chose, but the controls don’t change, and most of the adjustments can be made without having to stop – just don’t spend too much time watching the TV size screen rather than the road!
As the BMW R 1250 Adventure is the more off road based option compared to the R 1250 GS, then the bike has all the expected off-road protection. There’s the massive engine and crash bars, protecting the side of the bike and the motor, substantial wraparound hand guards and a fairly limited aluminium sump guard. It’s enough to protect the bike from damage in low to mid speed offs, but throw over 250 kg of German technology down the trail at high speed and there’s little that will prevent a very big repair bill.
If you are smitten with the BMW R 1250 GS Adventure, then you need to decide which option you like the most, from the more basic grey and red, the cool charcoal black, or our favourite the Rallye option in white red and blue. Nice.
So how does all this tech add up when you ride the bike? Is the extra capacity and grunt really worth the upgrade?
The answer is a massive yes as the new ShiftCam motor is simply superb. At low speeds the fuelling is spot on and allows for everything from slow manoeuvres in traffic to sweeping through the suburbs. As the speeds and the revs increase, the transition to the high-lift cams is unnoticeable but opens a whole world of wonderful and intoxicating power. For a big and relatively heavy bike, you won’t believe how the BMW R 1250 GS Adventure will rocket towards the horizon if you really open the taps. The suspension, especially if you chose the ESA upgrade delivers reliable and precise handling, and the brakes haul up the bike in a suitably short distance if required, but have a delicate control when adjusting your entry speed into the bends.
The GSA runs a 19 / 17 combination of wheel sizes which helps the road holding too compared to those adventure bikes running more off-road combinations. The bike is both enjoyable and addictive to ride from dawn to dusk, a distinct possibility thanks to the 30 lite fuel tank …
When you see the physical size of the BMW R 1250 GSA ‘in the flesh’, the very idea of taking such an imposingly large machine off -road seems absolutely ludicrous. Yet once you get over that thought and just ride it, you realise just how well balanced and easy to ride the GSA really is. The wide bars give great control, the transition from seated to standing is easy and helped by the relationship of bar, foot peg and seat position, and it is uncannily agile. OK so you are not going to take on a trial section straight away and you have to respect the fact that you are on a 268 kg machine, but it’s still an incredibly enjoyable bike to ride. The new motor doesn’t get too many chances to really open up on the dirt as unleashing 136 bhp on dirt isn’t terrible sensible, but when you do, the grin almost pops out of your crash helmet.
Grip and control off the road is subject to your tyre choice and conditions of course, and the 19 inch front isn’t quite the advantage it might have been on the road, but keep these things in mind and the bike is a blast to get dirty!
THE BMW R 1250 GS Adventure has a unique and distinct look that has passed through the range since the first bike back in the day. We love the big brutal look of the GS, and the GSA is that and more
BMW’s legendary reliability should see these bikes still around in decades, let alone years. German engineering and sensible design are bulletproof, even if we have concerns whether all those electrics will age well
Given the generous dimensions of the BMW R 1250 GSA, it’s no surprise that’s a very comfortable bike, with a great seat, wide bars and an easy riding position that will allow you to ride all day for days on end
The BMW is a lot of bike and for that you have to pay a lot. The Rallye TE model in the photos will set you back £18,100 which is a substantial investment – but you can’t take it with you!
RIDE EXPEDITIONS RATING – BMW R 1250GS ADVENTURE
So at the start of this blog we asked the 1250 would be an improvement on the outgoing 1200. The answer could not be any clearer – the new Shift Cam motor and the electronic options take an already great bike and take it to the next level. It’s smoother, faster and easier to ride both on and off road – you can’t ask for much more really!
WANT TO TRY THE BMW ON A SERIOUS ADVENTURE?
Ride Expeditions run incredible motorcycle tours in amazing locations across the world. Choose our Cape Crusader tour and ride the mighty BMW across the stunning landscapes of the Western Cape of South Africa, on everything from the sweeping roads of the Garden Route to incredible trails of the Cederberg Wilderness, staying in everything from game reserves to resort hotels. This is an incredible holiday from start to finish.
Click Here for the tour details