BMW Motorrad has been building boxer motors since day one. Over the years, they’ve evolved the platform into a liquid cooled 1,254 cc monster with variable engine timing, an output of 134 hp and 143 Nm, and massive sales figures.
Sitting at the top of BMW’s current boxer range are the flagship BMW R 1250 GS and GS Adventure, and the enigmatic R 1250 RT tourer. I sampled all three in and around the Garden Route and Karoo recently—then asked my friends on Instagram what they wanted to know about them.
Here’s a selection of those questions, answered.
The BMW R 1250 GS and R 1250 GS Adventure
BMW’s bestseller GS gets mild updates for 2021, mostly around its electronics package and its new adaptive LED headlight. It’s a monster of an adventure bike, complete with automated electronically-adjusted suspension, a chunky TFT display and luxuries like cruise control, and heated grips and seats.
You also get seven rider modes that adjust traction control and ABS interference—but you can only have five of those available at any one time (and you need to dive deep into the menus to select which those are).
But does the GS deserve all the love (and hate) it gets? Let’s figure it out together.
The GS and GS Adventure are the same thing with a different wrapper. Right? How do they feel against each other? Correct—the R 1250 GS Adventure [above] is basically a standard GS with a bunch of upgrades and new bodywork. You get a bigger tank (30 l vs 20 l), a taller seat (890/910 mm vs 850/870 mm), longer travel suspension (210/220 mm front and back, vs 190/200 mm), handlebar risers, crash bars, luggage racks, and a bunch of smaller upgrades.
They feel the same for the most part, but in looser off-road stuff the standard bike’s narrower profile and lower weight made a big difference, even though it has less suspension travel. On the road, it’s much of a muchness—though the GS Adventure’s taller seat, raised bars and longer range might seal the deal for some riders. [Asked by @thestrandedtravellers and also sort of by @loneriderza]
How is it off-road? Rad, for a big rig. I think a lot of people knock big adventure bikes for being limited off-road, forgetting that they don’t need to be as capable as small, plastic enduro bikes. That said, I’d be happy to take the R 1250 GS and GS Adventure pretty far off the beaten track.
Both bikes carry their heft well, and feel incredibly well balanced. Good rider geometry, both when sitting and standing, makes it easier to control the GS. The electronics are useful rather than intrusive too—in ‘Enduro Pro’ mode, the power delivery and ABS are spot-on for maximum control on dirt.
On this ride, I assumed that the BMW would excel on the well-groomed dirt roads, but struggle in anything gnarlier. So I hung back when we headed down the old Montagu Pass out of George; slippery from the recent rain, and narrow and stoney in places. Pretty soon the bike and I had found our stride, and I was bobbing along at far more spritely pace than I thought I would be—despite the barely adequate Bridgestone Battlax Adventure tyres.
At 249 kg (GS) and 268 kg (GS Adventure) wet, neither of these bikes is light—but they’re not unwieldy either.
That could also have to do with the boxer’s famed low centre of gravity, or the performance of the electronic suspension. I had a couple of moments where the front wheel dug into an exceptionally loose patch or a pothole and wanted to step out, but it recovered both times.
It helps if you have some experience riding adventure bikes off-road—but for most adventure riders that just want to explore unpaved roads, this’ll do. [Asked by @mrknipscheer]
I suppose this applies to all of the bigger adventure bikes, but how does it lug its weight around? Sluggish? At 249 kg (GS) and 268 kg (GS Adventure) wet, neither of these bikes is light, but they’re not unwieldy either—and they’re definitely not sluggish. Both hold their composure well through twisty tar roads, and on gravel farm roads.
Muscling the big GS through slightly looser and tighter off-road stuff takes some body English and can get tiring, but then again, that’s true for any big bike. The takeaway here is that it carries its weight remarkably well. [Asked by @Idoughtyy]
Did you wheelie? Since I can’t wheelie, no, I did not. #ashamed [Asked by @scottbraaplyphoto]
How much for the spec you rode? And is it worth it? I’m not sure exactly what spec the bikes we rode had, but the GS normally starts at R322,900, and the GS Adventure at R343,700. Whether that’s worth it is a great question… but I can’t answer it, because I’m not in the market for a bike in that price range right now.
Being a motorcycle writer affords me this luxury of living in this hypothetical world where I can ride top spec bikes without having to put money on the table. Whether any bike is worth it or not, is entirely up to the buyer, their budget and their needs.
I will say this: both the GS and GS Adventure are a lot of bike for the money.
BMW have developed the boxer motor to a point where it’s basically flawless, then packaged it up with a killer chassis and a plethora of electronic features. It really is a powerhouse, and worth looking at for anyone who is in the market for a R300,000-plus adventure bike. [Asked by @brendoncar]
Do you have a discount code and dealership preference for when I purchase my GS this year? Sadly, I do not. But wherever you end up, tell ’em Wes sent you! [Asked by @abisai_malebye]
The BMW R 1250 RT
The mega-touring BMW R 1250 RT has undergone a major overhaul for 2021. It’s had a design refresh, but it’s also loaded with features like a giant 10.25” TFT screen, and an active cruise control system that slows you down if you approach another vehicle with cruise control engaged.
You also get all the rider modes you could ever need, a screen that goes up and down, tons of built-in storage, heated grips and seats, and a set of ‘favourites’ buttons on the side of the fairing that can be configured to do certain things.
Here are my thoughts on all of that.
If you are never going to venture off road, would you consider the R 1250 RT over the R 1250 GS? As a touring bike, yes. The GS is hella capable on asphalt, and has more legroom for taller riders. But it also has a lot of adventure-specific features, like a bigger front wheel, long travel suspension and ‘Enduro’ riding modes—and you don’t need those on tarmac.
Despite the RT’s lower ride height and smaller front wheel, there’s not much between the two bikes in terms of how hard they can corner.
But the RT’s loaded with features that make it a better long hauler. It’s supremely comfortable with excellent weather protection, which means it can go further without tiring you out. The massive TFT display and map integration features are big plusses, and the usefulness of the cubbyholes and panniers can’t be overstated.
As a day-to-day road bike though, the GS might just beat it. Both the GS and GS Adventure are lighter than the RT, and the standard GS feels narrower, too. Combine that with a tall seating position that suits my 1.82 m frame, and it’s a tight battle. [Asked by @briancheyneimagery]
As a #scootfluencer, do you feel any sort of guilt riding bigger capacity bikes? Nope, I #rideallofthemotorcycles. If you can’t have just as much fun on both little bikes and big rigs, you’re doing it wrong. [Asked by @bmwmotorradsa]
The RT’s new design looks mega sci-fi, but I’m into it.
Is it comfy? It looks comfy. Yessir… it’s lank comfy. There’s plenty of space on the seat for my fat ass and the padding truly is all-day comfortable. The screen is super too, and it’s electronically adjustable. I still picked up a little turbulence at its highest setting, but I’m a tall guy—and it wasn’t a deal breaker.
The screen also has little wings on the sides, and ma-hoosive car-style mirrors. Together with the fairing, they create a nifty weather proof bubble (we rode through some sporadic rain, and only bits of me got wet).
Both the RT and GS come with heated grips and seats, each adjustable through five levels. The system’s a bit fiddly though—you need to hit a button to enter ‘heated stuff’ mode on the dash, then scroll between ‘grips’ and ‘seat’ to set your levels. [Asked by @terriblywebb3d, along with this next one…]
Does the transformer eject you when it goes into upright standing position? It’s called ‘attack position’ and no, it sort of wraps around you like an armoured suit. For real though, the RT’s new design looks mega sci-fi, but I’m into it. It looks just that little more aggressive than its predecessor, and that’s a good thing.
What was your favourite feature on the bike? Anything you would change in the stock setup? It’s hard to pick a favourite, but the adjustable screen, heated things and additional cubbyholes are all creature comforts that I’m a sucker for. And the adaptive cruise control, although it sounds like a gimmick, actually works extremely well.
There’s not much I’ll change in the stock setup, but there are a few things that I feel don’t work as well as I’d like them to. The right side cubbyhole has a USB port which is nice, but the cubby is too deep to charge a reasonably-sized smartphone without putting a torturous kink in the cable.
The TFT display is massive, clear and packed with info, and can run a full GPS-style map onboard. But the full map feature only works by tethering it to your phone, and your phone needs to stay unlocked with the app open for it to work. I’m sure I’d be able to figure it out in time, but it’s a fussy system out the box. [Asked by @teresamcgregor]
Are the traffic cops getting these now? They are. Good luck outrunning them—this thing has a respectable top speed, and gets there quick. [Asked by @max.ingeneral]