Review: BMW R 1250 RT

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with the two analogue counters and the small digital display also remained unchanged (while that combo had already been replaced by a full-color TFT display on other models).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 Continue reading

Review: BMW S 1000 XR

With the arrival of the 2020 BMW S 1000 XR, we say goodbye to the first generation XR. That bike received very nice reviews and Jean even named it his favorite test bike in 2015. But when I got to ride it last year, I wasn’t really convinced. OK, the engine was awesome and the suspension very good, but the bike felt aged due to its outdated dash, it vibrated a lot and a stubborn quickshifter spoiled all the fun. Curious to see if they fixed this for the 2020-version. I was very eagerly looking forward to this test.

BMW puts the S 1000 XR in their Adventure family. Strange, because the ’S’ in its name clearly points out the sporty DNA. The extensive standard equipment shows that touring is definitely within the possibilities. So in which category does this powerhouse really belong? Adventure, Sport or Touring?

Equipment

First let’s start with the dull part of this review: all the bells and whistles you can find on this top of the line machine. Dynamic ESA, lightweight cast wheels, adjustable windscreen, small storage compartment, LED-lighting, TFT-display, Connectivity, integrated pannier attachment points, Pro riding modes, ABS Pro, hill start control, traction control, engine brake settings: it all comes as standard.

Our test bike was further equipped with some of the well-known – and actually indispensable – BMW option packages that make that this S 1000 XR basically has anything you could want on a motorcycle. Quickshifter, automatic height setting, cruise-control, keyless ride, heated grips, center stand, GPS-holder, USB-port … The list continues for a while and – another BMW habit – adds up to the price until you’re well over budget.

Sport?

The solid pricetag luckily offers a lot of motorcycle in return. The XR is rightfully Continue reading

Travel test: BMW F 900 XR

When BMW announced the brand-new F 900 XR at the end of last year – at the same time as the updated S 1000 XR – several questions immediately popped up for me. Will the 900 be an adrenaline bomb like the 1000? Or will it be a kind of entry-level variant? Or a watered-down version?

The previous S 1000 XR was my favourite test motorcycle of the year in 2015. I loved that combination of performance and comfort. I have not tried the new 1000 yet and it is still at the top of my test wish list, but I did get the opportunity to try out the 900 in the meantime.

The original plan was to take it on a road trip to the Alps, but corona forced us to change our plans. We stayed home and toured around Belgium for a week, with little outings to the Eifel and northern France. Not always, but often with luggage on the back. We clocked some 2,500 km; that should suffice for an informed opinion.

Visually, the BMW F 900 XR has a lot in common with its big brother. The close family ties are clearly recognisable, so much so that the untrained eye might even mistake them for two identical bikes. The biggest give-away is possibly the rear end, which is cut off kind of clumsily right behind the seat. On the 1000 XR, the rear end has a more solid look, which is more pleasing to the eye. My test motorcycle, however, was equipped with a luggage rack, which turned out to be Continue reading

Review: BMW S 1000 RR

When I arrive home after picking up a test bike, and my 10-year-old son enthusiastically shouts “Wow dad, that’s one of those World Superbikes!”, then I know I brought home a special bike. Or you know my son and I watch too many races.

Let’s wind back a couple of hours. At the Belgian BMW headquarters, the all-new
S 1000 RR is waiting for me. It’s a stunner, in its Motorsport color scheme, which is only available with the optional M pack. It comes with very cool and superlight M carbon wheels and has a lighter M battery. An embroidered M graces the seat, just to show this is the sportiest RR one can buy. The letter M is mythical amongst car lovers, and from now on it’s also the way BMW brands their sportiest Motorräder.

It’s impossible to describe all the electronic aids on the new RR, there are simply too many. The most important are the riding modes: Rain, Road, Dynamic and Race. Choose either one, and all the other electronics are automatically optimally set.

With the optional Ride Mode Pro, specifically added for track racing, come the extra modes Race Pro 1, Race Pro 2 and Race Pro 3. In these modes every single parameter can be set manually. This can be done by scrolling through the intuitive menu on the 6,5 inch TFT display using the well-known BMW multi-controller. I still think this dash is the Continue reading

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 Continue reading

Report: Magic 12 Belgium Rally 2019

I guess the Iron Butt Association (or IBA) doesn’t need a big introduction? Their most talked-about long-distance rally is the Iron Butt Rally in the States (11 days long!) but also elsewhere rallies are being organized regularly since you can find IBA’s in South Africa, India, Brazil and Australia and Germany. And it’s the latter who organized the Magic 12 Belgium Rally on a Saturday this September.

The format of a Magic 12 Rally: collect as many points as possible in a maximum of 12 hours by visiting predefined locations. The Germans wanted to do something exotic and decided to do a rally in Belgium. Even as an IBA rookie I thought: home match! On top of that BMW lent me a 1250 RT (my opinion about it at the bottom of this article), so 12 hours of riding shouldn’t be a big issue.

The preparation

Five days before the start, each participant received a file with all locations (77 in total) and the rallybook. In addition to some explanation about the rally, the rallybook contained more information about the locations.

It was impossible to visit all 77 locations in 12 hours, so you had to plan a route. A route that got you a high score preferably.

Every location had a certain amount of points (from 190 to 3,450 points) and a photo assignment. Because of course you had to prove that you had actually been on the claimed locations.

Usually the photo assignment was something like: take a picture of this building or that view, but there were also some special assignments. For example, to claim the 3,450 points location, you had to walk to a statue and take a photo. A 3.4 km walk to be precise!

Also an obligatory element in every picture: the rally flag (which you could print at home) with your starting number (which you only got the evening before the start).

In addition to the points per location, you could score extra points by collecting combos. A number of locations where grouped thematically, for example Statues, Beer and Borders. The more locations of a combo you visited, the higher your extra score.

Feeling a bit stressed when you hear you should plot a route with all that info? Grab a stress ball, ‘cause there’s more! Three days before departure we received the “minimum requirements” in our mailbox: six groups of 24 locations in total. Per group you had to visit at least one location of your choice. Again there was a theme: Flanders, Wallonia, Brussels, Dutch-speaking, French-speaking and German-speaking. Skipping one group would result in 5,000 penalty points. If you missed two, you were disqualified, or DNF (did not finish) in IBA jargon.

With all that info, I could start setting up a route. The Street Art combo drew my attention: this combo had the most locations but also the highest score. If I did all ten locations, I’d receive a bonus of 12,000 points.

So I loaded the locations into MyRouteApp: visiting all ten street art locations in 12 hours wouldn’t be Continue reading

Improving my off-road skills with BMW and Grondpadman

Adventure bikes are everywhere, however only a few go off-road. The manufacturers for their part, would of course like to see more adventure bike riders exploring the off-road capabilities of their motorcycle (“unbelievable what my bike can do!”). So more and more manufacturers are starting collaborations with local off-road instructors.

Since this year BMW has two off-road training partners in Belgium: Grondpadman and Backtrail. When BMW invited me to an introductory day to discover their off-road training facilities and the off-road qualities of their motorbikes, I immediately said yes.

Because riding off-road with a big GS isn’t something I’m allowed to do every day. I decided to go to the event at Grondpadman, since I already knew Backtrail (and approved their course, after having followed an advanced training in the Ardennes last year). I’m the guy wearing the green jacket and white helmet by the way.

The Grondpadman team consists of Piet Lievens (who’s authorised to put a BMW Certified Offroad Instructor badge on his jacket for quite some years now), instructor Bart and sidekick Annelise. On their training grounds, Enduropark Mandes in Ingelmunster (Belgium), they offer a basic and an advanced off-road training and training for women only. You can participate with your own GS, but you can also rent one (from the 310 to the 1250). You’re not allowed to ride Continue reading