I hadn’t ridden more than 20 miles when I got the nagging feeling that I needed a BMW R 1250 RS in my garage permanently. It’s that good. Spoiler alert: For many, this bike might just be the answer to rider’s perennial question, “If you could only have one motorcycle, what would it be?” It is for me. No kidding. In fact, I’m shopping around right now.
I spent a good deal of time on the R 1200 RS a few years ago. I really liked it, and it is a great all-around machine. Yet, I did not have the same reaction as I do for the 1250. Mostly, I’m impressed by this motor and its performance. However, there is so much more to love and appreciate on this motorcycle. And while the 1254cc boxer engine is new, it retains the sound and thrum that is so inviting to those who appreciate it. When riding at 80 mph with the counterbalanced engine turning around 4500 rpm, the motor produces a note and slight vibration that feeds the soul.
BMW’s ShiftCam technology was introduced on the 1250 motor and is offered on the RT, GS, and RS models. This unique design has two distinct valve timings and strokes to provide more power through the rev range, decrease fuel consumption, help meet strict emission standards, and enhance the smooth and refined power delivery.
Not only that, BMW tells me the new asynchronous valve opening on each cylinder’s intake side is designed for optimized fuel swirl for more effective combustion. I’m no engineer, but this sounds clever. The camshaft drive is a toothed chain, replacing a roller chain. Oil supply and piston base cooling are optimized, and there’s a newly designed exhaust along with a host of other refinements.
Anecdotal reports of surging or uneven power delivery during the cam transition are not backed up by the performance of this test bike. Power delivery is smooth and mighty anywhere in the rev range.
There are so many improvements made to this model and, whether riding in the city, commuting on the freeway, bending through the fastest sweepers, or dicing in the canyons, the R 1250 RS never failed to deliver whatever I asked of it.
This relatively quiet bike provides effortless riding. Breathtaking acceleration and cornering are available with only a thought. Grab a handful of throttle at 75 mph in 5th or 6th gear, and you will send this missile ahead, like most open-class sportbikes, and be deep into triple-digits in a couple of heartbeats. With the torque and thrust this 1250 generates, it may be quicker than a superbike when you don’t have time to downshift.
When the time comes to navigate the twisties, the R 1250 RS obeys your will right down to the peg feelers without any drama. As with the 1250 GS, and all modern BMW boxer-powered bikes, the low center of gravity allows for remarkable handling characteristics—much better than its size and weight might hint. The RS is lower than a GS and about 50 pounds lighter, adding even more to the performance equation.
I know the popularity of the GS model is overwhelming, and it’s a cool bike. For a guy like me who thinks riding off-road is a gravel parking lot, the RS is the hot ticket.
The new R 1250 RS adds about 13 horsepower and 13 ft-lbs of torque to the 1200 it replaced, now peaking at 136 horsepower at 7750 rpm and 105 ft-lbs of torque at 6250 rpm. This results in a lively yet polished combination that does many things well. Riders can feast off the torque to simply hurtle this bike ahead in any gear with little need for quickshift-assisted downshifts.
For readers who have never sampled a 1250 boxer and think their inline-4 powered bikes are the epitome of performance and overall satisfaction, I say, ride the flat-twin before you form any opinions.
The riding position is perfect for me at six feet tall. I don’t find the pegs too high, yet there is plenty of ground clearance in tight curves. The reach to the grips is fine for me, though the handlebar is not adjustable. BMW offers optional alternatives to the stock 32.3-inch seat height. There is a 31.1-inch Low, 29.92-inch Extra Low, and taller 33-inch Sport perch. As always, changing the seat alters your relationship to the grips and footpegs, not simply the ground.
The windscreen has a high and low position that is manually changed with a firm pull or push. It can be moved while riding, though deciding to do that underway is your decision—it’s safer to pull over. The high position focuses the airflow right into my helmet and is extremely noisy. I even tried several helmet brands with the same result. The low position sets the airflow in the center of my chest, and I ended up only using that position due to the noise. If you’re a bit shorter or taller than I am, this may not be true for you. I’ll try some aftermarket screens in the future.
The second is that the quickshifter is clunky when changing up from first to second to third. It smooths out after that. I tried it at all engine speeds and got the same result. End of my gripe list. Clutchless downshifts are smooth and have improved from earlier BMW quickshifter versions.
Operation of the six-speed transmission using the wet clutch is butter smooth. BMW has fitted the multi-plate wet clutch is a slipper design. Given an engine with large-displacement cylinders mass and torque, this is a good thing. Anyone who has botched a downshift on a big twin knows the butt-clenching feeling as the rear tire breaks away with a loud screech.
Additionally, engine braking to the rear wheel is reduced as necessary to retain traction when coming off the throttle, thanks to Dynamic Brake Assistant DBC—an electronic motor-based enhancement to a slipper clutch. All I know is that it works without giving it any thought or action.
Power delivery throughout the chassis and driveline is smooth with impeccable operation, but for the quickshifter in low gears. The shaft drive has no play, nor does it exhibit any “shaft jacking” while on- or off-throttle. It’s just silky smooth.
The linked Brembo braking system is magnificent. Excellent initial bite and smooth, progressive action pulls this 536-pound—curb weight with the 4.8-gallon tank full—sport-tourer to a stop a lot sooner than one might expect. The dual floating 320mm front discs (four-piston fixed calipers) and 276mm rear disc (two-piston floating caliper) with ABS are a potent package.
Hill Start Control is standard, as are the newly re-designed LED headlamp, ASC stability control, and Rain/Road modes. As tested, this RS included the Select Package, which is everything you might desire other than the stylish BMW 719 Billet Packs that include things such as front engine cover, cylinder head covers, and other bling.
Briefly, the Select Package combines everything in the Comfort, Touring, and Dynamic Packages. There’s a complete list of the Select Package contents below the spec sheet. Also on this test bike is the Style Package, which consists of a tank cover and engine spoiler. The only things missing from making this a complete sport-tourer are the bags and a GPS unit, which are both on this test version.
All the electronics can be granularly configurable. I tried all the modes and found I usually left it on Dynamic Pro and let the computer do all the thinking. The Dynamic ESA electronic suspension BMW is everything I want. It includes automatic load compensation, which probably helps a lot after a big lunch. It was plush yet fully responsive, with terrific feedback in all modes, on all surfaces, and a vast improvement over ESA on not much older models.
There is just so much technology built into this machine. Let’s move on to the pretty 6.5-inch color TFT screen that integrates with the Multi-Controller adjacent to the left grip and the Menu button thereon. Together you can one-handedly operate your GPS, phone, music, and a multitude of ways to display whatever data you like to see. Race, road, and touring specific screens are there for you. Deepest lean angle, check. Show 16 items on the BMW Navigator VI screen or scroll through other data, check. The screen is bright with vibrant colors against a black background. It is easily readable in any lighting conditions and offers pretty much everything you might desire to see and track.
Further satisfying the tech-minded is the BMW Motorrad Connected App for Android and iOS, which integrates the rider with the bike, as well as the Rever community.
So, who are the core buyers for this bike? Perhaps riders like me who still appreciate speed and handling, but want a more refined overall experience versus the frenetic nature of pure sportbikes. I find I get the same kick from this RS as I do when riding the supernaked hooligan bike that’s now in my garage.
Perhaps it will take youthful riders a few years to mature into the RS experience when time assuages the need for raw and replaces it with the need for sophisticated speed.
Photography by Don Williams
2020 BMW R 1250 RS Specs
- Type: Horizontally opposed twin
- Displacement: 1254cc
- Bore x stroke: 102.5 x 76mm
- Maximum power: 136 horsepower @ 7750 rpm
- Maximum torque: 105 ft/lbs @ 6250 rpm
- Top speed: Over 125 mph
- Compression ratio: 12.5:1
- Valvetrain: DOHC w/ dual-profile cams; 4vpc
- Cooling: Liquid and air
- Transmission: Constant-mesh 6-speed w/ helical gear teeth
- Clutch: Hydraulically actuated wet multidisc w/ slipper function
- Final drive: Shaft
- Frame: Continuous tubular steel bridge-type
- Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable 45mm inverted fork; 5.5 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: BMW Evo Paralever and WAD strut w/ spring-preload adjustable shock; 5.5 inches
- Wheels: Cast aluminum
- Front wheel: 17 x 3.50
- Rear wheel: 17 x 5.50
- Front tire: 120/70 x 17
- Rear tire: 180/55 x 17
- Front brakes: Dual floating 320mm discs w/ 4-piston fixed calipers
- Rear brake: 276mm disc w/ dual-piston floating caliper
- ABS: BMW Motorrad Integral ABS
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 60.2 inches
- Rake: 27.7 degrees
- Trail: 4.4 inches
- Seat height: 32.3 inches
- Fuel capacity: 4.8 gallons
- Curb weight: 536 pounds
- Black Storm Metallic
- Imperial Blue Metallic Style Exclusive (+$425)
- Austin Yellow Metallic (+$525)
2020 BMW R 1250 RS Price: $15,695 MSRP
Packages and Options Tested
Select Package (+$3,150)
- Riding Modes Pro (includes traction control, Dynamic Brake Assistant DBC, ABS Pro, and Hill Start Control Pro)
- Dynamic ESA
- Cruise control
- Saddlebag mounts
- Luggage grid
- Chrome exhaust
- Heated grips
- Tire pressure monitor
- Keyless ride
- GPS preparation (GPS unit: +$799)
Style Package Sport (+$500)
- Tank Cover
- Engine Spoiler
BMW Side Cases (+$1098)
Color: Austin Yellow Metallic Matt (+$525)
2020 BMW R 1250 RS Price as Tested: $21,242
2020 BMW R 1250 RS Review Photo Gallery