Quick test: BMW R 1250 GS Adventure

BMW’s biggest GS and its even bigger brother, the GSA, always do extremely well in the sales charts. Which surprises me every time. Not in the least because of the steep price, but also because of the dimensions of both bikes. The R 1250 GS Adventure in particular seems colossal. It’s high, wide and has a wet weight of 268 kg: that’s a lot of motorcycle for someone with an average physique.

When BMW unexpectedly asked if I wanted to test a 1250 GSA, I didn’t hesitate for a second and replied, “Of course!” It was only afterwards that I realized that I was about to ride that mastodon of a GSA. Exciting!

The GS Adventure which BMW provided was one in beautiful Style HP set-up. In addition to golden cross-spoked wheels and a rally seat, it has the BMW Motorsport colors which in my opinion is the nicest version there is.

Before hopping on the seat, the explanation of all setting possibilities took a while: BMW had equipped the bike with just about every possible optional pack. The Comfort pack consists of a chrome exhaust, heated grips and tire pressure control. In the Touring pack you’ll find Dynamic ESA suspension, keyless ride, navigation preparation, cruise control, fog lights and the luggage rack. The Dynamic pack includes a quickshifter (up and down), Pro riding modes, DRL and white direction indicators.

Changing the settings is easy thanks to a few buttons on the handlebars and the well-known rotary wheel. The beautiful (and standard) 6.5” full-color TFT display tells you which settings you’ve selected. There was also an SOS button on this GSA, which lets you notify the emergency service immediately, even if you’re not involved in an accident yourself.

I rode the GSA to the presentation of the Yamaha Ténéré 700. The contrast couldn’t be bigger. The Yamaha is a sleek back-to-basics bike, with the mandatory ABS being its only “electronic gadget”. It rides that way too: pure and simple.

However, riding the big Beemer is very simple too. Like no other it confirms the cliché that once that mass starts rolling, the weight vanishes like snow beneath the sun. Quick load changes are amazingly easy, and the Telelever and Paralever suspension offer instant confidence: I entered corners much faster than I would normally do with a new motorcycle.

When we took the R 1200 GS off-road last year, I noticed how effortless it was to ride slowly with it. The same goes for the new GSA. Due to the low-positioned, bulging cylinder heads, the center of gravity is low. A clear advantage during slow maneuvers.

The biggest difference with its predecessor is the new boxer engine. It now has a 1254 cc capacity and ShiftCam technology. Simply put, this means that the camshaft has two cams per driven valve: a partial load cam and a full load cam, each with a different and optimally designed cam geometry. The valve lift and timing are optimized for low consumption and smooth engine rotation in partial load, while the full load cams ensure higher performance. This leads to a capacity of 136 hp and especially to a torque of 143 Nm: 11 hp and 18 Nm more than the 1200 GS.

That difference doesn’t go unnoticed. Speeding up on the 1250 GSA can be called spectacular. Open the throttle in any gear and it accelerates furiously. To illustrate: when Jean rode the Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports (that other big adventure bike) and I rode the GSA, we did a short highway sprint from fourth gear. The Africa Twin was quickly reduced to a tiny spot in my mirrors.

Not only speeding up is spectacular, the GSA’s behavior at high speeds is astonishing too. It remains extremely stable and gives tons of confidence. The brakes are excellent, and there’s hardly any nosedive. Behind the scenes, electronics are hard at work and keep an eye on things. Feels reassuring.

A lot of the electronics work automatically. Depending on the circumstances you can change a few basic settings yourself. Select which riding mode you want, and that’s about it. The Dynamic ESA adjusts the spring preload automatically, depending on the bike’s load.

The Rain and Road riding modes are standard. The optional Pro riding modes include the Dynamic and Enduro modes. These can be changed to Dynamic Pro and Enduro Pro with a coding plug and then set to your liking. They do make a difference. For example, in the Dynamic mode, the GSA’s throttle clearly becomes more direct and its sound gets even rawer. I didn’t try the Enduro mode because I only rode on-road.

Riding keyless is very convenient and the cruise control works well. If the bike accelerates to the set speed, you can shift up with the quickshifter without interrupting the cruise control. That’s nice if you want to ride lazy. The quickshifter itself is one in typical BMW tradition: not the gentlest one. It’s very good but in low revs, the high engine torque unfortunately makes the bike too brutal. I quickly found a good compromise between quickshifting and manual shifting, depending on the rpm, the speed and the throttle opening.

What else can I tell you about the GS Adventure? That it has a 30-liter tank, so its range easily exceeds 500 km. That I felt like the leader of the pack when cruising on the highway with almost no buffeting. That all those exotic options are a big part of the GSA’s fun, especially if you like the latest technological gadgets like I do.

But also that those options raise the price a lot. And that you can barely feel those 268 kilos when you ride, but when you have to push your GSA out of your garage for example, things are less obvious.

Conclusion

I fully understand those stunning sales figures. The BMW R 1250 GS Adventure rides great. It’s incredibly forgiving and good at everything. Moreover, it makes you feel a better rider than you really are. That’s unique. Although I would personally opt for the regular GS. The extra big tank of the GSA and some other smaller differences aren’t necessary for me, and the GS weighs 20 kg less with a full tank than the GSA. But the GSA offers more comfort during long journeys. A matter of priorities I guess?

Pros

+ Good at everything
+ Impressive performance
+ Gives the rider a lot of confidence

Cons

– Expensive
– Heavy

Tech specs

Engine

Type: 1.254 ccm air/liquid-cooled four stroke flat twin engine, double overhead camshaft, one balance shaft and variable engine timing system BMW ShiftCam
Bore / stroke: 102.5 mm x 76 mm
Rated output: 100 kW (136 PS) at 7,750 U/min
Max. torque: 143 Nm at 6,250 U/min
Compression ratio: 12.5 : 1
Mixture control: Electronic intake pipe injection
Emission control: Closed-loop 3-way catalytic converter, emission standard EU-4

Electrical system

Alternator: Three-phase alternator (510 watts nominal power)
Battery: 12 V / 11.8 Ah, maintenance-free

Power transmission

Clutch: Oil lubricated clutch, hydraulically operated
Gearbox: Constant mesh 6-speed gearbox with helical gear teeth
Drive: Shaft drive

Chassis / brakes

Frame: Two-section frame, front- and bolted on rear frame, load-bearing engine
Front wheel location / suspension: BMW Motorrad Telelever; stanchion diameter 37 mm, central spring strut
Rear wheel location / suspension: Cast aluminium single-sided swing arm with BMW Motorrad Paralever; WAD strut (travel-related damping), spring pre-load hydraulically adjustable (continuously variable) at handwheel, rebound damping adjustable at handwheel
Suspension travel, front / rear: 210 mm / 220 mm
Wheelbase: 1,504 mm
Castor: 95.4 mm
Steering head angle: 65.1°
Wheels: Cross spoke wheels
Rim, front: 3.00 x 19″
Rim, rear: 4,50 x 17″
Tyre, front: 120/70 R 19
Tyre, rear: 170/60 R 17
Brake, front: Dual disc brake, floating brake discs, diameter 305 mm, 4-piston radial calipers
Brake, rear: Single disc brake, diameter 276 mm, double-piston floating caliper
ABS: BMW Motorrad Integral ABS (part-integral), disengageable

Dimensions / weights

Seat height: 890 / 910 mm
Inner leg curve: 1,950 / 1,990 mm
Usable tank volume: 30 l
Reserve: ca. 4 l
Length (over mud guard): 2,270 mm
Height (over windshield): 1,460 mm
Wide (over mirror): 980 mm
Unladen weight, road ready, fully fuelled: 268 kg
Permitted total weight: 485 kg
Payload (with standard equipment): 217 kg

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