Street tyres, a 250 kg behemoth of an adventure motorcycle with 134 bhp on tap, and loose dirt! Not the ideal combination, and more so, if you don’t have expert-level dirt-riding skills. And as I gas the new BMW R 1250 GS, the rear steps out alarmingly, before momentum, and a quick check on the throttle, brings it back in line. I’m still upright, and relief flows freely and easily as the sweat running down my face. With the minor misadventure averted, I head on down the trail to seek the next adventure the terrain will offer. And then it begins to dawn on me; such shenanigans seem almost effortless on this hulk of an adventure bike.
But it’s not only physics or in this case, calm nerves which permit me to take such liberties with the 2019 BMW R 1250 GS. It’s partly due to how perfectly balanced the GS feels like, with its mass centred low, as well as the sophisticated electronic wizardry designed to rein in danger, even when things starts getting out of hand. And then I began to get comfortable with the bike, developing a sense of trust and confidence like I have been riding it for more than just a couple of days.
The 2019 BMW R 1250 GS is the latest iteration of the flagship GS model from BMW Motorrad, a model which has been the most successful adventure motorcycle in the world for several decades now. But this is the first time I’m meeting the big boxer twin, and there was a hint of scepticism about the hype surrounding the big GS before I swung a leg over it. Is it the best adventure bike money can buy? And is it as versatile as a perfect adventure bike should be? But first, let’s look at the updates on the BMW R 1250 GS and how they make an already capable ADV that much better.
Engine, Features and Technology
For 2019, the big GS has gotten significantly updated, with a bigger 1,254 cc boxer-twin engine, up from the 1,170 cc displacement of the outgoing BMW R 1200 GS. And with the added displacement, it gets more power and more torque, putting out 134 bhp at 7,750 rpm and 143 Nm of peak torque at 6,250 rpm. But more importantly, it now gets what BMW calls ShiftCam technology. It’s essentially BMW’s version of variable valve technology but with a different design of twin cam lobes on the intake cam with varying valve lift and duration at low revs and higher engine rpms.
In plain-speak, what it does is that it allows the rider to access the extra grunt across the rev range; at part-closed throttle, when you’d be crawling over dirt or rocky terrain, and even with the throttle pinned out wide, when you need to cover hundreds of kilometres or when you need to do a high-speed overtaking manoeuvre. Either ways, the ShiftCam seems to work seamlessly; there’s power on hand as and when you need it. And it’s more apparent over terrain where there are no roads, and you need to clear sand, rocks, and humps of dirt; the engine just chugs along nonchalantly, without the faintest hint of it beginning to stall.
Now, BMW has a range of add-on packages and styles which many owners will opt for, with an added cost. Our test bike comes with the Pro package, and Style HP equipment. So, apart from the blue white and red colour scheme, there is also the optional Riding Mode Pro system, offering Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), ABS Pro, Hill Start Control Pro, Dynamic Brake Assist, standard quickshifter as well as Dynamic and Enduro riding modes in addition to the standard Road and Rain modes. The Dynamic Pro and Enduro Pro modes offer even more customisation across all parameters like throttle map, traction control, ABS settings and electronic suspension settings. And to add as a bonus, there’s keyless ignition, cruise control, gear shift assist and dynamic electronic suspension adjustment with automatic damper settings and height adjustment.
It’s a pretty long list of different settings across different parameters, and can be toggled through the full-colour TFT screen, although getting through all the menus will take some time and experience to get used to. In fact, it will probably take me a month or more to explore, experience, and explain what each of those settings feel like. So, for the sake of simplicity, we’ll stick to how it rides, shall we? Truth be told, there are far too many permutations and combinations, and I stuck to Road mode initially, and then switched to Dynamic Pro for a slightly sportier experience on tarmac. And in the dirt, I stuck to Enduro Pro mode, offering more wheel slip, and with ABS disengaged on the rear wheel. The 850 mm seat height isn’t very intimidating, at least for my near 5’10” height, and the 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheel doesn’t make it very tall to make it feel inaccessible, at least to me.
On-Road Ride and Handling
On tarmac, the BMW R 1250 GS is a pleasant surprise. The engine starts with a nice bark, and acceleration is quick, even for a burly big adventure bike. The 1,254 cc boxer-twin engine has more than enough punch to keep experienced riders entertained, who may seek some performance from their adventure bikes. And despite the big-bore engine, even in bumper-to-bumper traffic, there is very little engine heat to make the rider feel uncomfortable. The steering is direct, and the electronic suspension seems to make all road imperfections disappear magically. And if you explore the engine’s capabilities though the slick six-speed gearbox, it will reach close to 200 kmph before you get anywhere near the redline.
The different riding modes work as expected, with Road mode being the universal go-to mode for everyday use. During our test ride, a brief spell of showers offered me the opportunity to try out the Rain mode on wet tarmac and it also worked to satisfaction. No slipping, no losing traction and the ABS works well. Slot it in Dynamic Pro, and the crisper throttle response, with the tauter suspension setting along with configurable traction control and dynamic brake control makes for a sportier riding experience, and it was my default choice for the most part.
Dynamic Brake Control also closes the throttle automatically under hard and panic braking, so that offers an added safety net. Road mode offered the plushest of suspension settings and easy throttle response while managing heavy traffic within the city. And the best part is that all the different modes can be toggled via the single ‘mode’ button on the right handlebar on the go, with the throttle closed and clutch pulled in.
The BMW R 1250 GS is a fast highway bike, with smooth acceleration and it will dip into a corner with the poise of a much lighter and street-oriented bike. The performance isn’t edgy and aggressive, but it’s there, all 134 bhp of it, just in case you need it, at the twist of the throttle. The electronic suspension automatically adjusts with the different riding modes, and preload is automatically determined by the on-board computer, but the rider can also choose to adjust it, either by choosing “Max” or “Min”. The bottom line is that the electronic suspension works really well under all conditions and it’s ideal for riders who will be riding in different conditions and will loathe to do some suspension tweaking themselves.
In the dirt, the first thing that hits you is how easily manageable the BMW R 1250 GS is. The 249 kg kerb weight seems to magically disappear soon as you start moving. While other rival adventure bikes may feel like a handful to manage with their top- and front-heavy characteristics, the GS feels planted and easy to manoeuvre, which gives you an immediate sense of relief and ease while crawling over loose and rocky terrain. Our test bike though didn’t have off-road ready knobbies to explore its true prowess off-road, but even with the standard Bridgestone street tyres, there’s no mistaking the fact that the GS is extremely capable when the road ends.
Yes, the street-biased tyres do lose traction very easily in the dirt with the slightest twist of the throttle, but the BMW’s electronics ensure you’re sure-footed and safe, as long as you know the limits of how much you should twist your right hand. Of course, you will need to have a cool head and rely on some off-road riding experience as well. So, no, this is not a bike for beginners to go off-road riding; panic and nervousness don’t go hand in hand, but you can certainly plough on through anything and almost everything, like a trail-rated Jeep.
Keep it slow and steady and the big GS will show you how dirt-capable it really is. Problem is, if and when you run out of skill and talent, and maybe take a tumble. It is a full-sized adventure bike after all, and picking it up on a desolate trail on your own could become a case of easier said than done. But for riders with some off-road experience, even if it’s not expert-level skill, the BMW R 1250 GS can be a revelation and source of child-like joy and entertainment.
A big, bulky adventure bike may not appeal to everyone. But then, it may be just the bike with all-round versatility that many riders seek, even those who have had considerable experience with sportier machines. The GS has a reputation as being one of the most versatile motorcycles which can be used for both two-up touring with luggage as well as for the gnarliest of adventures. And it’s not difficult to understand why it has been so popular and has been one of the bestselling adventure bikes worldwide. The standard version is priced at ₹ 16.85 lakh (ex-showroom), but we will definitely recommend the Pro version, with the extra electronics and features, which is priced at ₹ 20.05 lakh (ex-showroom).
The 2019 BMW R 1250 GS is impressive in every way. It’s not just a big adventure bike with dual-sport capability to take on gravel and dirt trails easily with a rider with the right skills. It’s also a great touring bike, can easily be used for the inter-city commute and will gladly handle any number of corners you throw at it on a twisty mountain road. And if a big adventure bike is what you’re looking for, the new BMW R 1250 GS has it all to make it one of the very best out there, if not the best. And that’s more than reason enough to give it a close look. And while you’re at it, go take a test ride; being impressed is guaranteed. Yes, it’s that brilliant a motorcycle!
(Photography: Azam Siddiqui)
|Engine Displacement||1,254 cc|
|Engine Type||Flat-twin engine, DOHC, variable engine timing system BMW ShiftCam|
|Bore x Stroke||102.5 mm x 76 mm|
|Maximum Power||134 bhp at 7,750 rpm|
|Peak Torque||143 Nm at 6,250 rpm|
|Maximum Speed||Over 200 kmph|
|Kerb Weight||249 kg|
|Front Suspension||BMW Motorrad Telelever, 190 mm travel|
|Rear Suspension||BMW Motorrad Paralever, 200 mm travel (Optional Dynamic ESA)|
|Rear Tyre Size||170/60 R 17|
|Front Tyre Size||120/70 R 19|
|Front Wheel Size||19 inch|
|Rear Wheel Size||17 inch|