2019 BMW R 1250 GS Test – plus Premium Package and Style HP
The Mastodon of Adventure. The Swiss Army Knife of Motorcycles. The BMW GS boxers go by many affectionate monikers, and for good reason—they simply do it all.Carving up twisty canyon roads? Check. Exploring gravel-strewn backcountry fire roads? Check. Two-up tours through picturesque wine country? Check. Commuting through a strangled mess of urban traffic? Check.
Since the debut of the R 80 G/S in 1980, the Gelände/Straße (Off-road/Road in English) BMW gave birth to a whole new type of two-wheeled journey that we now call adventure (ADV) motorcycling. The stunning success of the BMW GS has catalyzed and created an entire motorcycling segment that now offers adventure motorcycles in a wide array of sizes, displacements, and price points, each designed to offer a unique take on the motorcycle adventure experience.We reviewed the 2019 BMW R 1250 GS Adventure in the spring, and returned to headquarters with the standard 2019 BMW R 1250 GS for long-term testing, although the term ‘standard’ is not very apropos.Adorned with BMW’s Premium Package and Style HP kit, this new steed is an absolute stunner with gold off-road-ready spoked wheels, a blacked-out engine, and the gorgeous BMW Motorsports three-color paint scheme. Without the large capacity fuel tank and longer travel suspension of the Adventure model, the standard GS has a claimed curb weight of 548 pounds, more than 40 pounds lighter and a little sprier than its longer distance, more dirtworthy sibling.For 2019, the BMW engineers amped up the power in the big GS by punching out the previous 1170cc boxer twin-engine to 1254cc by increasing the bore by 1.5mm and lengthening the stroke by 3mm.This increased claimed peak horsepower by seven percent to 136 horsepower at 7750 rpm. It’s not that the 1200 was underpowered by any seat-of-the-pants dyno, but consider it more of a means to keep pace in the horsepower space-race with the likes of Triumph, Ducati, and KTM.The new boxer-twin engine gets a secret weapon that its competitors don’t have. BMW’s new ShiftCam technology utilizes an electronically actuated intake cam that automatically switches between two distinct intake cam profiles based on rpm and engine load. This spreads the power and, more specifically, the torque delivery across an incredibly broad swath of the rev range.Claimed torque output is increased by 14 percent to 105 ft/lbs at 6250 rpm, which is best-in-class. Most impressive is that there are a whopping 80 ft/lbs of torque available at 2000 rpm—right off idle! My old hex-head BMW R 1200 GS Adventure barely peaked at 80 ft/lbs! Moreover, the asynchronous opening of the intake valves creates a swirl effect, increasing the efficiency of aspiration, which leads to better fuel economy and lower emissions—a true win-win.There’s nothing like two-up technical touring to differentiate between the road and trail-worthy features of a motorcycle and the nice-to-have trademarked logos that seem to crowd any glossy dealership brochure or website. Fortunately for me, my wife Malin is always a willing coconspirator for such two-up adventures, and she is fully aware that there’s much more at stake here than just a weekend getaway. We are mentally and spiritually obligated to flog the test bike, pushing it and ourselves to the utmost limit, all in the name of the proverbial Greater Good and our beloved sport of motorcycling. Now the immediate challenge becomes locking down a willing babysitter for a couple of days.With logistics out of the way, the focus turns to bike preparation. BMW had expected us to get seriously off-road on the R 1250 GS and slipped on a pair of Continental Twinduro TKC 80 tires. However, we prefer the R 1250 GS Adventure for the dirt, so we spooned on a set of Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart III touring tires for our test. TKC 80’s are fantastic tires for the dirt, and absolutely necessary for mud and sand, but there’s no way to put all that power to the ground and enjoy the pavement performance of the new engine touring with knobby tires.The Roadsmart III’s have proven to have fantastic edge grip, are super stable at speed, and work great if the weather gets a bit inclement.Before the babysitting arrangement could possibly fall through, we threw our toiletries and a couple of changes of clothes into a waterproof duffle bag strapped to the rear luggage plate of the new GS and head for the nearest twisty hills, with the cozy town of Paso Robles, Calif. as our final destination.I already had a couple of months of commuting experience on the R 1250 GS under my belt. In that time, I had honed in on my favorite settings. The Dynamic Pro ride mode provides direct and instant throttle response, which is perfect for transforming a dreary commute into a one-motorcycle hooligan festival. However, Dynamic Pro is not really suitable for a 500-mile, two-day tour through Central California’s wine country. Road mode offers all the power but wraps it in a smoother, more passenger-friendly package.My smartphone already had an intimate relationship with BMW R 1250 GS and its 6.5-inch, full-color TFT-display, thanks to BMW’s Connect app. The display itself is uber-impressive, and is large enough to be called a dashboard. Along with the keyless start, the R 1250 GS rivals many of the luxury cars currently on the market. My old 2007 BMW R 1200 GS Adventure is beginning to resemble a ride-along lawnmower amid the 2019 R 1250 GS with the Style HP kit.Along with the optional BMW Motorrad Garmin GPS, everything is interoperable—audible navigation instructions, helmet communications, music, podcasts, passenger chat, and incoming calls. Although this type of connectivity is a godsend for busy midweek commuting, for a weekend adventure, I consider most of it to be a mutable distraction. I prefer to listen to the sweet thump of the boxer-twin engine along with Malin’s countryside narration.Beyond the beautiful aesthetics of the Style HP enhanced GS, the first lasting impression occurred by engaging the push-button starter to experience the substantially robust sound and feel of the new powerplant. Long gone are the days of the sewing-machine sound from the horizontally opposed BMW boxer engines.Carving our way through sinewy canyon roads, I fully appreciate the dynamic nature of the Electronic Suspension Adjustment system. Beyond automatically and continuously adjusting valving in response to road conditions, it compensates for the weight of the luggage, passenger, and fuel load, along with adjusting the rear shock preload to keep a constant sag. Older models required twisting a hand crank on the side of the road. BMW replaced it with a fairly obtuse 1-2-3 selectable setting. The latest incarnation of dynamic adjustment provides for consistent handling characteristics for two-up touring and facilitates fully laden fun in the twisties.Malin is very good at reminding me that now we are parents to two young children and that we need to be responsible adults, and that includes being courteous and responsible motorcycle riders as well. Of course, I tell her that I feel that same way and that it’s our responsibility to ride the beans out of this new GS! Queue the segue to my favorite aspect of the 2019 BMW R 1250 GS—the torque!I often hear riders banter back and forth about peak horsepower numbers, but the infinitely more relevant aspect of power delivery is the amount of torque available at any given rpm. Torque is what allows us to accelerate from highway cruising speeds to ludicrous speed with a mere twist of the right hand, and the BMW R 1250 GS has gobs of it.Slicing through traffic and overtaking cars is typically a back and forth exercise—accelerating and decelerating, downshifting and upshifting the gearbox, all of which can take its toll on your passenger during an all-day trip in the saddle. Fortunately, the massively torquey GS is like a stealth fighter, deftly and smoothly overtaking anything in its path without whipsawing the neck of my beautiful accomplice and initiating a conversation about patience.The power spread is so intoxicatingly wide that shifting the six-speed gearbox is nearly optional. Negotiating twisty hairpin turns, I can use third gear with striking effect anywhere from 18 mph up to 80 mph. This allows me to go through miles and miles of backroad chicanes without touching the gearshifter.Another benefit of all this beautiful torque is that it’s incredibly easy to use. You don’t have to search for a narrow band of peak horsepower and then use the clutch and transmission to stay in the sweet spot. A broad span of power delivery levels the playing field for riders of all skill levels.Other than a smooth boost of linear pull, the auto-engagement of the ShiftCam system is virtually imperceptible. In his test of the 2019 BMW R 1250 GS Adventure, UM Editor Don Williams found a unique scenario where the ShiftCam actuation was noticeable, but I never tried to replicate it.The Premium Package is essential, and you’d probably be hard-pressed to find a GS in dealer inventory without it. In addition to the Dynamic Pro and Enduro Pro riding modes, it includes the Gear Shift Assist Pro among a host of other electronic accouterments. This allows for seamless up and downshifting without the use of the clutch or throttle. It is fantastic for solo riding situations on and off the highway piste. Although for two-up touring, I found that shifting the old-fashioned way was a little more comfortable for my passenger, and facilitated her sightseeing rather than bracing herself for my throttling antics.The Hill Start Control is a pleasant surprise, as it automatically engaged the front brake when we stopped at an intersection on a steep mountain road. When the coast was clear, I applied the throttle and smoothly pulled away, with the front brake automatically releasing itself. This feature is very convenient when riding two-up and coming to a stop on uneven pavement, allowing me to focus on the traffic and the task at hand rather than steadying the bike.Our test bike was fitted with the Passenger Seat Low option as part of the Style HP Package, and that allowed me and my 30-inch inseam to touch the ground with both feet—great for off-road or lane splitting when the going gets tight. Typically, I don’t use the low-seat option on previous versions of the big GS because I felt that it was too low relative to the footpegs, and cramped my knees. Happily, that isn’t the case with the 2019 model and the Passenger Low Seat option.Malin and I continued to ride the path less trodden to the point where we ended up on a nearly 20-mile stretch of a dirt road with embedded rocks in the central coastal mountains. No problem for the GS, even with the Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart III tires! We thoroughly enjoyed the backcountry journey, as I engaged the Rain mode to moderate the power and smooth out the suspension. Back on the pavement, I returned the R 1250 GS to Road mode and never missed a beat. How’s that for versatility!The 2019 BMW R 1250 GS proved to be an unbelievably effective tool for our two-up escape, tackling everything we threw at it with utter ease, and spoiling us with comfort, technology, and smooth and immediate acceleration. The broad torquey power delivery of the new R 1250 GS powerplant is a game-changer, making a ride on any previous GS models feel like a nostalgic trip down memory lane.With the two-up test behind us, I’m now using the striking Style HP enhanced GS to turn heads and battle urban traffic in the most conscientious and responsible way I know—in Dynamic Pro mode! The Mastodon of Adventure is incessantly getting better, and the Swiss Army Knife analogy has never rung truer.Every day I ride the new 2019 BMW R 1250 GS I arrive up the driveway with a huge smile on my face, and I’m careful to park it next to our old 2007 flagship GS Adventure, if for nothing else to revel in the sheer progress a decade and change have had.Photography by Don WilliamsRiding Style:
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