When BMW traded in its 1200 RT for the 1250 RT in 2019, the main change was the renewed engine. ShiftCam technology, more horses and Newton meters, remember? But no design update at all, and the dashboard with the two analogue counters and the small digital display also remained unchanged (while that combo had already been replaced by a full-color TFT display on other models). I thought it was a missed opportunity. Now we are two years further down the road. Enough time for BMW to overhaul its touring bike for model year 2021.
The first thing you notice is of course the new muzzle of the R 1250 RT. The two round headlights have given way to a more angular design, with the fairing around the LEDs now painted in body color. It gives the RT a more refined look. Too bad that the rear end remained untouched. Another missed opportunity. Or a reason for an update in two years?
The fairing has been made more aerodynamic, which doesn’t detract from the still overwhelming width of this beast. 985mm to be exact. Certainly in front view, the RT looks like a mastodon. You would almost be afraid to jump on it, because “Can I handle such a big bike?!”
However, I already experienced the opposite during previous RT encounters. Maneuvering at walking pace or pushing the bike out of the garage … it required some effort. But once the speed picked up a bit, the weight and size were no longer an issue. The same goes for the new RT, even though it didn’t lose a kilo and the scale still points to 279 kg.
However, the RT doesn’t want to be a dirt bike, not a muscled racer, not a cool naked … No, this bike wants to give you the most comfortable touring experience. And it’s very good at that since many years. Check out the comfy, upright seating position, the spacious seat and above all: the windshield. Electrically adjustable and so big that it can keep you completely out of the wind and you barely notice any rain (which I again experienced for myself during this test week). Yes, I’m a fan of that windshield.
Add to that a heap of technology that increases the comfort level even further. For example, new for this model year is the adaptive (and excellently functioning) cruise control, which automatically takes into account the speed of the vehicle in front. An option, but the “normal” cruise control is standard. Also standard: lean-angle sensitive ABS and traction control, Hill Start Control, an audio system, four (unfortunately not adjustable) favorites buttons and three riding modes.
All that pampering doesn’t do the image of the RT any good. Because let’s face it, young guys (and young-at-heart guys) don’t want to be seen on this big boy. All too often it’s still associated with unfashionable things like retirement, midlife crises and gray hair.
However, a trip on the RT shouldn’t necessarily feel like a wheelchair ride. Leisurely touring is of course no problem, but this large bike can also surprise sporty riders. Just open the gas and the boxer will instantly put butterflies in your stomach. 136 hp and 143 Nm is of course nothing to smirk at. The (optional) quickshifter makes the acceleration even more flashy, and I’d swear that quickshifter is improved again. It’s still not perfect, and especially when shifting down you have to choose the right moment, but compared to two years ago it all seems to go a bit more smoothly.
Not only during traffic light sprints, but also in sporty cornering, the RT does surprisingly well. Choose the Dynamic mode for both riding mode and the optional, electrically controlled suspension, and you’ll blast this behemoth through the bends hard, tight and stable. It also steers remarkably light, or at least in wide turns. In fast chicanes you have to work a little more to get that large mass moving.
By the way, the dual Dynamic setting was my choice for the entire week of testing, in all conditions. I’ve tried the other settings, but in Dynamic the RT reacts nice and fast and it still offers enough comfort, so why put the suspension on Road? I thought Road transformed the RT into a heaving ship. And I hadn’t packed puke bags.
The RT allows for some sporty riding ànd it offers tons of comfort, so is this the ideal commuter? As long as you have a free road, you can hardly wish for a better bike to be on, but when I was briefly stuck in the Brussels morning rush hour, its size and weight spoiled the fun. Wriggling smoothly through the chaos is less evident on the RT, although part of the problem was undoubtedly also between my ears. Because when I had to turn around in a narrow street during a ride to Zeeland in Holland, I was amazed how effortlessly it takes short turns. Like if I had a much smaller bike between my legs.
In the intro I talked about the outdated dashboard of tis predecessor. The new RT packs a punch with a 10.25” TFT color display (the largest in the BMW range). BMW had already proven with the smaller displays that they know how to handle this well, and it is no different on the jumbo version. You can opt for a split screen mode, where you can see, for example, speed and rpm on the left, and navigation data on the right. Or you can show navigation info on both parts.
Speaking of navigation: while the cockpit of the previous RT could be equipped with a BMW Navigator GPS, the space for a GPS has disappeared on the new RT. It lowers the cockpit slightly and thus gives you a wider view of the road. What about your GPS? Well, you can leave it at home. Just download the BMW Motorrad Connected app and you can just upload your navigation on the giga display. Works well and easily, although I have one request for the BMW team: the surrounding roads on the map have too little contrast. At difficult intersections you sometimes can’t estimate whether you should turn left or sharp left. Slightly more visible surrounding roads would solve that problem.
Navigating via your mobile means that the battery of your phone is going to die quickly. That is why the right storage compartment can optionally be equipped with a USB connection and wireless charging.
And then there are the mirrors. I didn’t like them during previous tests and unfortunately, they remained unchanged. You just have to get used to the position, but they still don’t give you a good view. The blind spot is simply too large. Do something about it, Damen und Herren!
Despite its uncool appearance, the BMW R 1250 RT has just about everything to please the frequent rider. It was already comfortable and with the new display and adaptive cruise control (the two most important novelties for me) it’s now completely up to date. Doing miles on the RT takes no effort at all. On the other hand, it’s not averse to sporty riding. A combination that is not easy to match, which explains the persistently strong sales figures of this German gentleman.
This touring king isn’t cheap in standard attire, and it’s very hard to pass up on the options list. How about Dynamic ESA, adaptive cruise control, charging options in the storage compartment, seat heating, adaptive cornering lights or tire pressure control? As a result, your bill will become (very, very) large. But you also get a lot in return.
Moreover, there are few alternatives if you want a true and tested touring motorcycle, because the old-school touring bikes have disappeared at Triumph (the Trophy), Yamaha (the FJR) and Suzuki (the GSX1250FA Touring). Is this a dying breed?
Photography: Kenny van Houttave
+ Sky high comfort-level
+ Much more agile than you would think
+ Up to date on technology
+ Excellent display with smartphone navigation included
– Those mirrors, really!
– Giving the rear an update was too much to ask for?
– Next time, please make the radio compatible with my Spotify playlist
Design: Two-cylinder, air-/fluid-cooled, four-stroke boxer engine with two overhead spur-gear driven camshafts, one balancer shaft and BMW ShiftCam variable intake camshaft control.
Bore x stroke: 4” x 3”
Capacity: 1,254 cc
Nominal capacity: 136 HP at 7,750 rpm
Max. torque: 105 lbs-ft. (143 Nm) at 6,250 rpm
Compression ratio: 12.5: 1
Fuel preparation: Electronic port fuel injection, digital engine control: BMS-O with throttle by wire
Emission control: Closed-loop three-way catalytic converter, compliant with EU-5 emission standard
Alternator: Three-phase generator with 508-watt nominal capacity
Battery: 12 V / 11.8 Ah, maintenance-free
Clutch: Wet clutch with an anti-hopping function, hydraulic activation
Gears: Six-speed helical synchromesh gearbox
Secondary drive: Drive shaft
Suspension / brakes
Frame: Two-part frame concept consisting of a main frame and a rear frame bolted to it, with a co-supporting engine
Front suspension / spring elements: BMW Motorrad Telelever, central spring strut, standard diameter 37 mm
Rear-wheel guide / spring elements: Cast aluminum single-sided swing arm with BMW Motorrad Paralever, WAD spring strut, spring preload continuously and hydraulically adjustable via adjuster knob, adjustable rebound-stage damping via adjuster knob
Spring travel, front / rear: 4.7″ / 5.4″
Steering head angle: 64.1°
Wheels: Cast aluminum
Rim dimensions, front: 3.50 x 17″
Rim dimensions, rear: 5.50 x 17”
Tire, front: 120/70 ZR 17
Tire, rear: 180/55 ZR 17
Brake, front: Twin disc brake, floating discs, diameter 12.6″, four-piston radial brake calipers
Brake, rear: Single disc brake, diameter 10.9″, double-piston floating caliper
ABS: BMW Motorrad full integral ABS Pro (full integral braking, lean optimized)
Dimensions / weights
Seat height, unladen: 31.7″ / 32.5″ (SE high seat: 32.7″ / 33.5″, low seat: 29.9″ / 30.7″)
Rider step length, unladen: 71.3″ / 72.8″ (SE high seat: 73.8″/ 75.4″, SE low seat: 68.5:” / 70.1″)
Usable tank capacity: 6.6 gal.
of which is reserve: approx. 1 gal.
Length (using number plate carrier): 87.5″
Height (above windscreen): Min. 57.5″, max. 61.8″ (Style Sport: min. 53.5″, max. 58.3″)
Width (including mirrors): 38.8″
Breadth (including cases): 39.0″
Vehicle curb weight, fully fueled/road-ready: 615 lbs.
Max. permitted weight: 1,113 lbs.
Max. load (with standard equipment): 482.2 lbs.