First ride: BMW R1250RT
BMW’S R1200RT HAS long been the two-wheeled embodiment of Aesop’s fable The Tortoise and the
Hare. Never the fastest, flashiest or most-powerful tourer, yet the RT’S easygoing enthusiasm, dogged determination and plucky persistence made it a devastatingly effective way of devouring distance. From 2005’s air-cooled original to its final techno-tastic evolution, the RT’S softly spoken Boxer has always been outgunned by Honda’s ST1300, Yamaha’s FJR1300S and Kawasaki’s 1400GTR — not to mention BMW’S own K-series fours and sixes. And yet, more often than not, the RT outsold the lot.
So while you don’t need buckets of grunt to make a great tourer, it doesn’t necessarily hurt either. The right kind of power makes every ride feel more relaxed: overtakes are cleaner, quicker and less frenzied; loads are lugged more lazily; cruising speeds can be held more serenely. So the ideal successor to the R1200RT would be virtually identical, but with a bit more poke and nothing else sacrificed. The same tortoise, just wearing a brand-new pair of running shoes.
And hey presto, here we have the 2019 R1250RT, which appears to have been rooting around in the same box of go-faster goodies as BMW’S flagship GS (see last month’s issue). That means a bigger-bore, longer-stroke motor, with displacement boosted from 1170cc (as since 2005) to 1254cc. Power is up from 123bhp to 134bhp but, more enticingly, peak torque jumps 14% to a whopping 106lb·ft. On paper, that’s more torque than an FJR or GTR.
Sure enough, crack the new RT’S throttle open wide and the difference is instantly, obviously noticeable. From tickover to redline, ask to see what the motor’s got and it gladly shows you the difference. As it well should: torque is greater at all revs; gearing is unchanged; and the 1250’s extra few kilos do virtually nothing to counter the extra thrust. There are no chins to be rubbed or deliberations to be dwelled on: the 1250 motor is just plain better.
The Boxer hasn’t lost any of its manners either — in fact, it’s better behaved than ever before. Fuelling is beyond criticism, throttle eagerness can be customised through rider modes (Rain and Road on the basic RT; Dynamic on higher-spec models), and the mild vibes from the even 360° firing intervals are never intrusive.
RIDE takes BMW’S new R1250RT for an exclusive UK first ride to see if it lives up to the legacy of the nation’s favourite tourer. No pressure, then…
The new Shiftcam system deserves some credit for all this. BMW’S new variable valve-timing system allows the intake camshafts to switch between two markedly different profiles. There are pointy cams, giving full power and performance when you ask for it, as well as milder part-load lobes that improve efficiency when you’re trundling about below 5000rpm. I say “trundling” — in sixth gear, that’s enough to hold 90mph.
Try as hard as you like, but you simply can’t detect the system shifting between these two different states. There’s no click or clunk, no change in engine character or exhaust note, no stutter or hesitation as it automatically shifts. My brain hurts when I start to imagine how long it must have taken to develop something so clever into something so refined.
Perhaps the amount of time it took explains why relatively little else on the bike is new. The R1250RT carries over the R1200RT’S tubular-steel chassis, Telelever/ Paralever pairing, most of its running gear and virtually all of its styling save for a few details. Ready to see if you can spot them?
There are the front brake calipers. The 1200 used Brembo parts but the 1250 uses Bmw-branded items made by American firm Hayes, better known for mountainbike brakes. The new R1250GS has them too — there’s no performance improvement, so it’s almost certainly a cost thing.
Moving back down the bike, there’s now a new ‘engine spoiler’ that sits in front of the 1250’s less-curvaceous exhaust downpipes. It doesn’t do anything, other than fill in the dead space that the 1200’s pipes took up.
And to the rear of the RT (depending on which model you go for), you’ll find the latest version of BMW’S Dynamic ESA suspension. As before, it’s a semi-active setup, only now with two modes - Road (pretty soft and bouncy) and Dynamic (generally incredible, occasionally a smidge firm) — rather than the previous trio (Hard, Normal, Soft). The bigger change is that preload can now be set automatically, so you no longer have to tell the bike whether you’re riding solo, with a pillion, with or without luggage and so on. The bike just knows, and the rear shock is adjusted to keep the bike level without you doing a
“Agile handling that lets it shine on twisty roads”
thing. Whether down to this change or not, the RT’S payload — the amount BMW rates it to carry — is up from 219kg to 226kg.
Otherwise, everything else is familiar watercooled RT. There’s the same huge electronically adjustable windscreen, the same twin-dial dash, the same 25-litre tank, the same relaxed riding position and the same wide, plush, heightadjustable saddle. The same compact wheelbase and deceptive agile handling that let it shine on twisty roads, the RT retaining its implausible ability to corner with the intent and poise of a chunky streetbike, rather than the vague, clumsy fumbling of a fully-laden container ship.
All of which is welcome news, if not a gamechanging leap forwards. The R1250RT loses out in no area to the 1200, while adding more power, a more technology and more carrying capacity. The R1200RT had an unmatched ability to shrink distances; the 1250 makes them smaller still.
One million ‘thank-yous’ to the lovely people at Balderston Motorcycles in Peterborough for lending us their demo bike. To book your own test ride and try an R1250RT for yourself, phone them on 01733 565470 or visit www.balderston.net
PANNIERS Fear not – the RT still comes with colourmatched panniers as standard; they’ve just not been fitted to our test bike. PhewA familiar logo but the ‘5’ means a world of improvementsThe same 1254cc Shiftcam engine as the 1250GS
Dash same as R1200RT. No Gs-style TFT, sadly
Bye Brembo, hello Hayes. Stopping power unchanged
Neater downpipes and a new engine spoiler
Familiar switchgear also carried over from the 1200