BMW R 1250 GS
The R 1250 GS is the latest two-wheeled, continent-crusher goanywhere BMW GS lineage. in the vaunted But, does the youngest scion live up to its famous ancestors?
Can the youngest scion live up to its famous ancestors?
S uch has been the Gs boxer’s domination of Global sales charts for almost two decades that there’s plenty of incentive to look for flaws in its latest incarnation. surely, the bmW’s position on that pedestal must be hiding a drawback, ignored by all those owners who are simply following the herd? We all know the big Gs is capable, but a bike so ubiquitous must feel slightly ordinary and lack excitement… evidently not. as i wind back the throttle to fire the r 1250 Gs out of another turn on a favourite cross-country test route, i can’t detect anything lacking at all. on the contrary, the Gs punches forward with a hefty chunk of mid-range grunt that becomes smooth, attention-grabbing acceleration as the bike repeatedly flicks towards its 8,500-rpm red-line and increases the speed figure on the colourful tft screen.
there’s an appealing boxer bark from its akrapovic silencer, too… which then becomes an intoxicating crackle and pop as i brake hard and change down for another turn, ably assisted by the quick-shifter enabled gearbox. and then a nudge of the wide handlebar is tipping it into the bend and it’s railing through, semi-active suspension soaking up bumps just as efficiently as the fairing, screen, and hand-guards keep me protected back on the straight.
lacking in excitement? You must be joking. all right, so the r 1200 Gs doesn’t make 200 hp or pull wheelies for fun. but it produces more power than many sports bikes of recent-ish memory and doubles most countries’ speed limits. all the while handling and stopping superbly and, especially with accessory akro fitted, radiating character and aural presence in the process. not to mention a level of comfort that generally meant i didn’t want a journey to end.
if the Gs does have a flaw, dullness is certainly not it. in fact, you could argue that in the less than 20-year journey from the capable but flabby r 1150 Gs of 2003 to the current, 50-hp more muscular r 1250 Gs, the factor that has been increased most is sheer excitement. never mind practicalities or whether you’d risk it off road, the tall boxer is now a seriously potent and pulse-quickening street bike. not surprising, given that its peak power is up by 11 hp to 136 hp and maximum torque by a similarly hefty amount.
low-rev improvements are more difficult to quantify but bmW say the bigger motor is both smoother and more fuel-efficient. You’ve doubtless read reams about shiftcam, so know that it works by sliding the entire intake cam along its axis of rotation, to lift each intake valve with a small cam below 5,000 rpm and a bigger one above that figure. (the shift is timed to happen when the lobes are under least pressure.)
bmW’s system also gives each cylinder’s intake cam a different partial-load profile for
its two valves, so one valve opens slightly before the other, adding turbulence for improved combustion. the system is certainly seamless; i was never aware of the shift happening. the bigger engine probably is slightly smoother and quieter than the 1200 unit, although i can’t say i noticed the difference, partly due to the growling accessory pipe.
the extra power and torque are welcome, too, although despite having just stepped off an r 1200 Gs (also fitted with akro silencer), i didn’t detect the dramatic change reported by some testers. in fact, i’d argue that there hasn’t been a dramatic leap since the original 1200 in 2004; just a series of well-judged steps that have reached a very high point. Yes, there was a touch more urge right through the range, low-rev overtaking response was slightly sharper, and the r 1250 posted big figures on that
pleasingly large and clear instrument panel slightly earlier… but only slightly.
this performance was most welcome but, perhaps, the big boxer’s greatest attribute, thankfully retained here, is that it always seemed so happy in its own skin. the r 1200 Gs felt just as good as its predecessors at a relaxed pace, whether that was loping along at the legal limit on a main road or trickling through town with those lowslung cylinders helping make it improbably manageable.
bmW have frequently tweaked Gs chassis performance over the years. but not in the case of the r 1250 Gs, whose steel-tube frame, suspension, wheels, and brakes are inherited from its predecessor. the test bike was loaded with almost all of the commonly chosen options, including additional ride modes, keyless ride, hill start control (which now works automatically on gradients of over five per cent), and tyre pressure monitoring.
These days brakes are by hayes, rather than the better-known brembo as before, but i didn’t detect any deterioration. i didn’t need the cornering abs that is incorporated but was happy to have it available just in case. the test bike’s michelin anakee adventures were a sound choice for road use (as are the alternative metzelers); as ever, serious off-roading would require knobblier rubber.
this bike’s semi-active suspension featured the automatic rear shock preload adjustment, introduced in 2017. ride quality was excellent and suspension at both ends did a good job of making the Gs — which, at 249 kg with a full tank, is far from a lightweight (and five kilos up on the
previous r 1200) — feel so manoeuvrable yet stable. adding bmW’s Vario panniers and top-box adds 20 kg even when they’re empty, but the luggage was so useful that i tended to leave it in place much of the time anyway.
that’s the other great appeal of the big Gs, of course: it’s just so practical. the hand-guards and powerful heated grips contribute to comfort, as does the easily adjustable seat, which, at 850/870 mm, is tall but less so than some might imagine (and there’s a 50-mm lower option). fuel efficiency of 7.0 litres/100 km or better and the 20-litre tank give a range of 260 km-plus, which makes the adventure’s 50 per cent larger tank unnecessary for most riders.
some testers seem to struggle with the click-wheel, but i find that and the other controls fine. my only complaint about the interface is that although the basic navigation available on the dash via bmW’s app (basically just arrows when approaching junctions) is better than nothing, it’s nowhere near sufficient. surely, it’s about time bmW integrated apple carPlay, as some manufacturers recently have, which could make the test bike’s Garmin navigator redundant rather than invaluable.
other drawbacks? some riders claim the telelever front end’s handling is remote, but i’ve never found it a problem. others say the gearbox isn’t the smoothest, but it was no issue for me (and infinitely smoother than those of earlier Gss). being very tall, i found the screen just high enough, but only with the seat on its lower position, so my legs were more cramped than they might have been… but it only became a concern after several hours.
some riders criticise the styling, too, and it’s hardly fresh, but, personally, i still like those distinctive beaky, angular lines, despite having seen them so frequently since the first r 1200 Gs back in 2004. here we are, 16 years later, and the Gs has somehow evolved to have the best of all worlds: thrilling speed, remarkable poise, endearing character, exceptional comfort and convenience, and an image that exudes go-anywhere spirit.
it’s a formidable set of attributes and explains why the r 1250 Gs, like its recent forebears, is so popular that its only drawback apart from ubiquity is arguably its high price when fully loaded — and even that is mitigated by rock-solid resale values. as critics and rival manufacturers alike have discovered, even laying a glove on the all-conquering Gs boxer is one hell of a challenge.