Being a sports bike purist, I’ve never understood the appeal of some of these large adventure bikes. They are big, heavy, comfortable and built for doing everything I’m uncomfortable with, i.e. adventuring on mud. That being said, the BMW R1200GS and R1250GS have made a big name for themselves, being super capable on-road distance bikes, topping sales figures for year’s and years. I had to find out why.
Pirelli recently invited me to South Wales, particularly the BMW supported off-road centre. The event tested Pirelli and Metzeler’s touring and offroad-ish road tyres back to back on the same model. Not only did it give me a chance to ride on rubber I’ve never tried, but also experience a GS for a day on roads and tyres alien to me. More on this day later!
BMW R1250GS seat height and small rider
Coming into the day, I was nervous, which is irregular for me. Riding new bikes usually doesn’t bother me with me being a small 5’7inches in height and 75kgs in weight the GS monsters over me. With an 890 seat height in standard form, my measly frame stood no chance unless some platform heels made an appearance. Luckily though, the BMW GS has some nifty tricks to make life easier for the vertically challenged, like myself.
BMW’s clever suspension allows adjustment through the menus, dropping the height from the tall 890mm to the still tall 850mm. Youtube sensation UsernameKate guided me through the process of lowering it through the dash menu. This is still high but more manageable. Coupled with a fancy seat mechanism that can gain a few more mm’s of lowness, even your smaller rider can get comfortable.
BMW R1250GS Boxer engine
Onto the actual bike, BMW updated the GS from the R1200GS to the new R1250GS engine in 2019. As well as bumping up the boxers displacement, the engine gained BMW’s ‘Shift Cam’ variable valve timing system, which originally came on the new shape S1000RR. This newly updated engine gives all the benefits of a leary cam profile for higher RPM’s but also allows for economy and emissions benefits lower down the RPM gauge. The new engine creates 136hp, more than enough for good fun on the road, but not as much as some bikes possibly considered rivals.
It’s no superbike, and you don’t get superbike performance from the engine, but the boxer is packed with grunt down low, and for a twin-cylinder engine, it does quite enjoy being revved. While most will just lump the GS into sixth gear and use the buckets of torque available, I did quite enjoy using more revs and giving shift cam a good workout above its 5000rpm activation point. You don’t notice shift cam activate. If I didn’t know it was there, I’d never have known. There is no physical jolt or change like when some superbikes get on song, which just aims to throw you off the back. Instead, it’s super smooth and gets about its business without any fuss.
I personally did find the gearbox to be slightly clunky compared to what I’m used to; there were times where gearchanges weren’t smooth, would completely miss and on some of the bikes, neutral was hard to find. With these being bikes used hard off-road with the Offroad Skills school, it could be that their hard life was affecting it, they were all low miles bikes, so I’m reluctant to put it down to that.
While the GS chassis has remained pretty similar over the last model, I think it was the chassis itself that caused me the most surprise. You’d expect such a big heavy bike to be awful to manoeuvre, but the low down weight from the boxer engine, comfy riding position, with plenty of space made slow speed a doddle. When cruising at fast road speeds, it also handles immensely, way better than I was expecting. The combination of an upright seating position, wide flat bars and a solid chassis gave great steering input and feedback, and on the whole, felt completely planted and confidence-inspiring. There were no issues even on back roads covered in sheep crap, broken tarmac, torrential rain, and standing water.
Telelever suspension is weird!
The suspension works extremely well. Coming from a normal telescopic fork to BMW’s telelever system used on the GS was WEIRD. Mainly for the only reason, there is no brake dive whatsoever, even at full front brake with ABS kicking in, perfectly level. WEIRD, but great.
The ABS is lean-sensitive, and coupled with the lack of brake dive, gives superior confidence when throwing out the anchors when heading into a corner. Even with a knobblier tyre on the front, it is still so undramatic and well normal. The latest edition has seen BMW switch from Brembo brakes to their own BMW branded counterparts (actually manufactured by Hayes), which isn’t really noticeable unless your up close looking. The performance is what is expected. You stop where you want to with no big dramas! There was a moment on some wet grass running down the centre of the road with a skiddy front tyre. A combination of rider (lack of) skill and electronic wizardry quickly solved the issue.
R1250GS wind protection
Despite the GS being kind of naked, if that makes sense, or it’s wearing a bikini top, the massive adjustable screen and the wide cylinder heads that stick out do a great job of blocking the wind to protect the rider. Riding on a hot wet day, this was both good and bad. The wind protection and adjustable screen kept me relatively dry, and the screen could be positioned to keep wet stuff away from the body and visor. All of this protection did cause certain areas to get hot, but the GS was comfy enough to stand up for a few seconds to allow some air to circulate and cool off.
BMW’s TFT dash is a work of art!
A full-colour TFT dash with the option to connect one’s phone via Bluetooth, LED headlights and hill start control which is really useful, come as standard on the R1250GS. As with most BMW’s though, everything comes as an optional extra, with hill-start control pro and riding mode pro packs available, including dynamic brake control. The lean-sensitive six-axis IMU gives lean-angle sensitive ABS and the advanced hill start options. The LED headlight also features an optional swivelling, which moves the headlight when cornering, allowing better visibility. The aim is to keep the light level and steady while cornering. Whilst the ignition is switched on, it does have a fancy test sequence.
Rider modes are changeable through the handlebar switchgear, with Eco, Dynamic and Enduro (there are Pro modes as an option), which changes the engine’s characteristics. For me, the bikes stayed in Dyanamic all day; I don’t particularly see the need for the Eco mode.
BMW R1250GS review
From a personal perspective, though, the bike was great, almost too great. The BMW R1250GS did everything amazingly well, so much so that it became quite boring. Where a superbike or hyper naked gives you the excitement of trying to hold on, the GS doesn’t give you that thrill. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed riding the bike, and I’d pick a GS any day of the week to go on a long tour, to do a long-distance day ride, or for any job which requires practicality, over a sports bike, it just didn’t give me the same buzz that a sports bike does. They always said that if you get off your bike and look back at your bike while walking away, you’ve bought the right bike, I didn’t get that with the R1250GS. My wrists and back, however, did thank me.
What does a BMW R1250GS cost?
In a perfect world, where money and garage space was no issue, there would definitely be a GS in there. It’s a nigh-on perfect second bike. As a tool, it’s a swiss army knife; it will do everything you want it to do, with minimal fuss. I just don’t think I could permanently get rid of a superbike yet. My other objection comes down to cost. Sure a £13,845 base price isn’t too bad, but that is for a base price. You’ll want to tick most options on the options list, and that really does see that cheap base price rapidly increase. The R1250GS price will end up more towards the 20k mark with all of the desirable options ticked.
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