Getting acquainted with the big daddy of adventure tourers
It might come as a surprise but in my eight year career of riding almost all kinds of motorcycles, I have never ridden the BMW R 1250 GS. After all, it is considered the pinnacle of cross country tourers and the de facto choice of globetrotters. Having spent a day with the BMW F 850 GS and chasing Ouseph Chacko who was onboard an R 1250 GS, I was low-key in awe of the way he was manhandling the mammoth motorcycle on road and trails. Of course, Ouseph’s off-road talents are beyond reproach and seeing him effortlessly slide and jump the R 1250 GS was poetry in motion. The conversation that evening revolved around the R 1250 GS’ abilities with seasoned journalists collectively exclaiming how effortless the bike felt and how easy it is to ride off-road. FOMO kicked in hard and I had to review the new R 1250 to see if the praises held merit.
BMW promptly sent us an R 1250 GS in the Special 40 years Anniversary Edition livery. The special edition motorcycle wears black and yellow which BMW calls ‘Bumblebee’. It is an unusual yet striking colour combination and matched with the gold cross-spoke wheels, make the GS look quite eye-catching. The bike comes in Pro variant only which adds a chrome-plated exhaust, knuckle guards, luggage rack, adjustable levers and engine skid plate among others. While I won’t term it as a handsome looking motorcycle, the R 1250 GS exudes this industrial looking cool vibe and with that familiar silhouette is instantly recognised by commonfolk. In fact, you’d be surprised at how many passersby recognise the GS by its name.
Even more impressive is its vast array of electronic rider aids and it starts with the adaptive LED headlamps. The headlamp predicts the motorcycle taking a turn via sensors and adjusts upto 35 degrees to the sides and upto two degrees vertically depending on the tilt and turning angle. The headlamp array itself is quite bright while the asymmetrical X-styled LED strips add to the cool quotient. Even the front and rear turn indicators act as pilot lamps ensuring you are seen even after dusk. While it does not get an electrically adjustable windscreen, the manual rotating knob on the side of the screen makes it easily adjustable even on the go. Even the seat height is adjustable to two levels via a simple adjustment plate making it quite accessible. A highlight is the colour TFT screen which impresses with its resolution and intuitiveness. The handlebar ring makes it easy to scroll through the various menus like navigation, vehicle information, ride modes and more.
I am impressed with the TPMS system which, one night, promptly signalled low pressure in the rear tyre and even by how much. It is quite accurate and detects a change in tyre pressure immediately allowing me to simply take the GS to a roadside tyre shop and guided him to fill up the tyre to specification using only the TPMS as reference. I am not a fan of navigation though which involves a lengthy process of downloading an app on your smartphone, then downloading preset maps and finally pairing your phone. Why not use something like Apple CarPlay or phone screen mirroring?
It gets seven riding modes! These include Eco, Rain, Road, Dynamic, Dynamic Pro, Enduro and Enduro Pro. The Pro modes allow you to customise engine power, traction control and ABS intervention and more. You also get hill-hold assist which is quite useful while starting from a standstill on a sloped surface. It even gets electronic suspension adjustment but more on that later. While these electronic gizmos do help, it is simply the way that the R 1250 GS is built that makes it stand out and endearing to millions worldwide. Take the suspension for example. Called a Telelever suspension, it consists of conventional 37mm forks connected to the frame via a wishbone that has a shock absorber in the middle. This setup has quite a few benefits. Like reduced dive under braking so under hard braking you do not load up the front forks making it safer.
The other benefit is immensely light steering. I am pleasantly surprised by how easy the GS is to push around in the parking lot despite its 249kg weight. Besides the light steering feel, this phenomenon is aided by a bulk of the motorcycle weight which is the massive Boxer-twin engine being placed low. This translates to an impressively low centre of gravity that makes the R 1250 GS very easy to ride at low speeds. It is so well balanced that most of the time, in heavy traffic you can crawl along without your feet touching the ground. This also translates to impeccable manners when it comes to navigating slow speed trails. In fact, the R 1250 GS is one of the easiest adventure tourers to ride in the city and that’s including the middleweight adventure tourers as well! While you do not feel its weight in the city, you are always aware of its large dimensions thanks to the large fairing and engine cylinders sticking on either side.
Of course, this also translates to the GS’ handling being neutral. The electronically adjustable suspension is the proverbial cherry on top. Depending on the mode you select, it transforms the motorcycle from an oversized enduro to a comfortable tourer to an unconventional superbike. It feels surprisingly nimble in corners besides being planted and will surprise you with its pace in the twisties. The electronic suspension also works wonders in the ride quality department and soaks up almost everything it encounters so you really do not have to slow down for potholes or speedbreakers even. For an even plusher ride, simply switch to Road mode. What makes the R 1250 GS a continent crusher is its ability to keep up speeds irrespective of road conditions and keep the rider and pillion comfortable through it all.
The 1,254cc liquid-cooled Boxer twin powerplant is a gem. Once you get past the unique rocking motion of the longitudinally mounted motor, you are bound to revel in the refinement the well-balanced motor offers. Equipped with BMW’s ShiftCam variable valve technology, it pushes out a healthy 136PS and 143Nm at low revs making performance accessible even at close to idle revs. Also the linear power delivery in softer riding modes coupled with the light clutch and throttle action makes it extremely easy to ride in traffic.
This also translates to predictable off-road manners. The R 1250 GS is game for hooliganism and the rear wheel spins up easily every time you whack open the throttle thanks to the shaft drive layout. Also when you jump it, the motorcycle lands predictably and without fuss every single time. A great confidence booster this is. Riding the R 1250 GS offroad is a breeze thanks to the suspension’s ability to soak up anything you throw at it, the vast amounts of reserve power on tap, the large electronic safety net, the well-balanced chassis and the neutral riding position.
The BMW R 1250 GS Pro is priced at Rs 20.55 lakh ex-showroom. While the pricing is at a premium, you also get a lot of motorcycle for the money and that includes a lot of kit that’s optional on most of its competitors.
I get it why enthusiasts the world over rave about the BMW R 1250 GS. It is one of the easiest flagship adventure tourers I have ridden and even hooned around in. The BMW R 1250 GS feels special not just in its ability to be ridden daily or be taken to the far corners of the globe on a whim. For me, the R 1250 GS’ beauty lies simply in the way it is engineered from the ground up. Strip away the electronic rider aids and electronic suspension and I reckon the R 1250 GS will still have the competiton sweating when it comes to sheer cross-country touring. That’s what 40 years of legacy gets you.