2019 BMW R 1250 GS Long-Term Review

Our favorite and least favorite aspects of the BMW R 1250 GS.

This summer I put a few thousand miles on the 2019 BMW R 1250 GS, most of them accumulated on a trip from my home in Upstate New York to South Carolina via Skyline Drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and any road that led to a worthwhile barbecue joint. The BMW Performance Center in Greer, South Carolina, was my ultimate destination. There, I took part in BMW's Two-Day Enduro School, trading in my GS for a crashbar-equipped GSA, to experience the wasserboxer's off-road yin in addition to its street-touring yang.

R 1250 GS
The 2019 BMW R 1250 GS.Patrick Cox

After commuting, touring, and off-roading on it, I recorded a mental list of my favorite and least favorite aspects of the GS—mental list-making being one of my favorite tools to distract myself from the pain and regret of gorging myself on barbecued brisket and collard greens.

Here’s what I came up with:

Cheers:

ShiftCam motor

The BMW GS outside the BMW Performance Center
The GS outside the BMW Performance Center.Patrick Cox

The R 1200 GS is so good that I often hear riders say, "I can't imagine the 1250 is any better." It is. Although the 1250 powerplant only makes a claimed 9 more horsepower and 14 more pound-feet of torque than the 1200 unit, the way it produces that power transforms the GS into the boxer we always wanted it to be. As variable valve-timing systems go, ShiftCam is rather ingenious, altering valve timing and lift for best-of-both-worlds low-down torque and a strong top-end. Sorry, 1200 GS owners.

Underway, I could never feel the system working, only the benefits of it working. On the street I appreciated the additional chutzpah in the upper reaches of the rev range, and off road the low-down torque is superb. I could ride around with my throttle hand in the air and dragging the rear brake, and it chugged along quite happily with nary a shutter when I twisted the grip. ShiftCam: why I can’t be a Luddite when it comes to motorcycles.

Suspension

Performance Center GSA
I traded my GS press bike for one of the Performance Center’s GSAs. I suspect the BMW press department knew I’d be crashing off road.Patrick Cox

BMW’s tried-and-true paralever and Telelever suspension system is renowned for its plushness. And ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) gives it flexibility to suit. While the system doesn’t offer the breadth of tunability found on competing bikes, I find the changes more transformative. Ever ridden a bike and toggled between, say, “Sport” and “Tour,” and thought, “Geez, I’d have to be as sensitive as Jorge Lorenzo to feel the difference?” On the GS, the changes are palpable, even to those of us not blessed with J.Lo’s refined sense of setup.

Vario side cases

BMW GS parked in the grass
The more time I spend with the GS, the more I appreciate it’s beauty in addition to its functionality.Patrick Cox

There’s nothing new about BMW’s Vario side cases, but every time I use them, I appreciate their great design. They aren’t as rugged as the aluminum panniers Touratech builds for the BMW accessory catalog, but for street riding they have some benefits. First, I like what makes them “Vario”—they expand by 9 liters on each side for when touring demands added capacity. And when they’re unexpanded, their slim profile is ideal for lane-splitting or cruising around town. Second, they’re very nicely integrated into the bike, unlike the aluminum panniers which require additional bracketry. And it takes about three seconds to take them off. Great design.

Comfy seat

Cruising on the BMW GS in a parking lot
Cruising around the Performance Center parking lot.Patrick Cox

When I started riding my loaner GS, I mistakenly assumed it had the optional comfort seat installed, so comfy is the standard unit. I can't think of a more distance-worthy stock saddle this side of the Gold Wing. When I rode the GS and Gold Wing side by side, I was critical of the GS seat, but I'll attribute my hasty conclusion (is that a euphemism for "libel"?) to being cosseted by the Gold Wing's perch. To set the record straight: If you throw on a pair of seamless undies and spend all day in it, your bottom will be pretty content.

Off-road capability

GSA crash
The GSA is impressive off road. I’m less impressive.Patrick Cox

Taking your brand-new $21K-ish motorcycle off road may sound crazy, but the GS is built to do it. And it does it well. A GS without crashbars and traces of mud on the cylinder heads is like barbecue pork without the telltale pink smoke ring—missing something. Thanks to the GS’s low center of gravity and usable torque, it can be swung through tight trails with amazing ease—though a little instruction on this front is very helpful. Off-road ability is what makes the GS the GS. Otherwise it would be an RT.

Are you one of the naysayers who thinks a 600-pound-ish motorcycle can never be good off road? It’ll never be a Honda CRF450F, you know. The GS has been around for 39 years because it defies expectations. Ride one and see.

Jeers:

Quickshifter

Riding a motorcycle in the sand
GSA in the sand.Patrick Cox

The GS’s gearbox is very precise without feeling the least bit dainty—sort of like the GS in its entirety. I didn’t miss a single shift in all my miles. Unfortunately, the quickshifter is a little clunky in comparison. I only used it shifting up/down between 4-5-6 gears. The wider ratios of the lower gears means it’s smoother to shift the old-fashioned way. Still, after avoiding the quickshifter in the lower gears became ingrained in my muscle memory, not using it didn’t bother me.

HP Package is only a style package

HP Style
HP Style Package.Patrick Cox

Remember the HP2 Enduro, BMW’s lean and mean GS derivative from 2005? It was awesome. And the HP4 Race of carbon fiber frame and swingarm? The HP moniker is too fraught with meaning to slap it on a motorcycle willy-nilly.

My GS loaner had HP emblazoned on it for all to see, so it was only a matter of time before an astute Beemer rider asked what special features made my bike a coveted HP model. I rather embarrassingly explained that it was just the red, white, and blue paint scheme and gold spoked wheels. Admittedly, it does look pretty. But it sort of waters down the HP designation.

Slightly confusing switchgear/user interface

The left-hand combo of scroll wheel, two-way menu button, and two-way ESA button is not as immediately intuitive as I’d like it to be. While I grew to appreciate the ability to switch suspension settings without going into menus, I found it annoying that I had to go deep into the menu to reset my tripmeter. Plus—for me anyway—there’s a disconnect between brain and thumb when navigating through some of the menus. I have to take a second to think about what button I have to push in what direction for it to do what I want.

Only two heated grips settings

Self-explanatory. It’d be nice to have options between, “OMG, my hands are on fire,” and “I’m still cold.”

GSA
The author happy to be riding the GSA. Even though it’s 95 degrees outside.Patrick Cox

Gear Box

Gearbox
Alpinestars Tech-Air Touring gear.Patrick Cox
2019 BMW R 1250 GS Adventure in Ice Grey paint scheme
2019 BMW R 1250 GS Adventure in Ice Grey paint scheme.Patrick Cox
Smokin'
After too many crashes in the sand, the GSA gets a little smoky.Patrick Cox
optional sport suspension
My GS test unit was equipped with optional sport suspension, the same equipment that comes standard on the GSA.Patrick Cox

2019 BMW R 1250 GS

PRICE $22,615
ENGINE 1,254cc, liquid-cooled boxer twin
BORE x STROKE 102.5 x 76.0mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 12.5:1
FUEL DELIVERY Electronic fuel injection w/ ride-by-wire throttle system
CLUTCH Hydraulic multiplate wet clutch
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/shaft
FRAME Two-section steel tube
FRONT SUSPENSION 37mm BMW Telelever; 8.3-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION BMW paralever; 8.7-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Hayes 4-piston calipers, 305mm twin discs w/ linked ABS
REAR BRAKE Brembo 2-piston caliper, 276mm disc w/ linked ABS
WHEELS, FRONT/REAR Cross-spoke wheels; 19 x 3.0-in. / 17 x 4.5-in.
TIRES, FRONT/REAR 120/70R-19 / 170/60R-17
RAKE/TRAIL 26.3°/4.1 in.
WHEELBASE 59.7 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 33.5 in./34.3 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 5.3 gal.
CLAIMED CURB WEIGHT 549 lb.
AVAILABLE Now
CONTACT bmwmotorcycles.com