When someone says “adventure riding”, most riders including us, almost immediately picture the BMW GS in our heads. Who can blame us? The GS, or Gelände/Straße (off-road/road) badge is practically synonymous to adventure bikes.
After all, it was also BMW who made adventure riding popular when they started producing the R 80 GS back in 1980. Over the years, the BMW GS has proven itself to be a worthy motorcycle, winning various Paris-Dakar races, as well as used extensively by cross-continent motorcycle riders.
Perhaps, the most famous of these cross-continent riders are Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman, who in 2004, rode R 1150 GS motorcycles from London to New York. Then in 2007, they rode the newer R 1200 GS Adventure bikes (air and oil-cooled) from John o' Groats, Scotland to Cape Agulhas in South Africa. Their exploits were immortalized in their Long Way documentary series.
Today, its current descendant, the R1250 hardly needs any introduction.
Thanks to our friends from BMW Motorrad Philippines, we got to experience the new R 1250 GS HP and ride it to the beautiful Ilocos Sur and back. Over this review, we'll go over the qualities that make it such an excellent choice, whatever and wherever your ride.
The new R 1250 GS
Over the years, BMW has steadily improved the GS. They've increased the engine size, made it liquid cooled, and steadily added a variety of electronic rider aids to make it even easier to ride.
Design and ergonomics
The BMW GS line of motorcycles are probably one of the most relaxing motorcycles to ride. This is thanks to several design touches that make it great on a variety of road conditions.
The R 1250 GS HP has plenty of wind protection especially while on the highway. The windshield height can also be adjusted to the rider's preference (The low seat option has a smaller windshield than the standard).
The handlebars also give it a nice upright, but relaxed riding position. It is complemented by the low, yet comfortable seat that just hugs the rider's butt. Any motorcycle rider would appreciate a soft and comfortable seat, especially during long-distance riding.
Being a dirt bike rider myself, I'm a fan of motorcycles that integrate function and beauty. The R 1250 GS does that. It has all the elements of a hard core off-road motorcycle, yet touches of civility like a windshield, tire-hugging fenders, full LED lighting, and tasteful decals make it stand out even in the city. It's like driving a big SUV on two wheels.
This is the first major makeover since the introduction of the “LC” (liquid-cooled) GS back in 2013. besides the larger bore of 1,254cc from the previous 1,170cc (R1200). Power and torque output has also increased, now with 138 Ps/ 143 Nm, versus the previous 125 Ps/ 125 Nm.
And then there's the BMW ShiftCam technology, which is basically a variable valve timing (VVT) system developed by BMW.
It works by adjusting the valve lift depending on the throttle opening.
When the throttle is partially open, a shiftgate will adjust the camshafts to provide optimal combustion as well as smooth power delivery in the low to mid-range that is perfect for off-roading. In the open highways, when the throttle is fully open, the shiftgate will then adjust the camshafts to provide full valve lift and maximum power.
When it comes to motorcycles, a lot of motorcycle riders argue that once you ride a BMW GS, you'll never yearn for any other. Who can blame them? These are the same guys who were riding motorcycles before most of us were even born. They've owned a pretty good number of different motorcycles from different brands until they settled on the GS. Part of that amazement is because the GS is usually fitted with top-notch electronics, making it easier to manage than other adventure bikes, or other motorcycles in general.
When I first hopped on to a R 1250 GS HP, I was greeted by the 6.5-inch full TFT screen (with Bluetooth connectivity) right after pressing the keyless ignition. The screen will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about the bike, down to the tire pressure info after a few clicks.
Besides the usual ABS, DTC (dynamic traction control) and ESA (electronic suspension), the new R 1250 GS HP also comes standard with ride modes: Rain, Road, Dynamic, and Enduro. The R 1250 GS HP that we tested also comes standard with a Hill Start Assist (HSA) system. What HSA does is it will hold the bike's brake when on an incline so that the rider can concentrate on the clutch and throttle balance to go up steep hills.
As the photo above suggests, the GS also comes with Dynamic ESA. This electronic suspension adjustment system works in tandem with the ride modes to deliver the appropriate damping for the situation. By default, Dynamic ESA is set to soft for Rain and Enduro mode, and more rigid for Road and Dynamic mode. This radically changes the bike's handling on-demand, from soft and floaty on bumpy national roads, to stiff and planted on tight curves. These settings can also be customized by the rider himself, between Soft, Normal and Hard for a more custom suspension setup. In addition, these settings also vary the bike's ride height.
As for convenience, the GS is also equipped with gearshift assist that allows the rider to shift gears without pulling the clutch while running. There's also cruise control for more relaxed rides on highways.
How does it ride?
Perhaps, the first thing that I've noticed with the new 1250 GS is that it picks up power faster in the low revs compared to the previous model, thanks to the ShiftCam. At one point during my short stint with the R 1250 GS HP, I went to explore the backroads of Ilocos Sur that eventually led me to the sleepy towns of Lidlidda, Quirino and Cervantes.
Unlike the previous model which we tested here, the new R1250 GS can return power even under the 2000 rpm mark. This was handy on a pretty considerable hairpin incline that I went through – on third gear. Yes, on third gear. If it was the previous model, I would have a.) stalled or b.) had to downshift to second or even first gear to make the climb.
Although the new 1250 GS is 20 kilograms heavier than the previous model, for some reason it still feels lighter. This was evident when I found myself in a tight spot somewhere in the town of Lidlidda. The road was rough, but I found myself having an easier time managing its considerable weight. Maybe, the German engineers did a pretty good job of balancing the weight of the new GS? I can't tell for sure but it really feels lighter.
When I took the R 1250 GS HP off-roading to try the bike's Enduro mode, I immediately felt the suspension just eating away all the bumps and rocks along the way. It really felt close to the lighter dirt bikes I'm more accustomed to. The 1250 GS HP was just so well-balanced that my confidence grew even more while I was riding it on the unpaved roads of Ilocos Sur. I couldn't get enough and wanted to look for even more dirt tracks to ride down.
Since it also has a combined braking system, I didn't have to worry about the foot brake when stand-up riding on off-road. It may be an uneasy feeling keeping your right foot off the brake. Just trust the bike and let it do its magic.
They say that there is no such thing as a perfect motorcycle. But for me, the new BMW R 1250 GS HP is the closest thing to it. It can manage the regular roads, rough roads and everything in between easily. It's all just a matter of tinkering with the settings and trusting the bike.
The R 1250 GS is also available in variants like Exclusive for PhP1,520,000, and Adventure, complete with a bigger 30-liter tank and crash guards for PhP1,675,000.
EDITOR'S NOTE: We test rode the R1250 before the Luzon-wide Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).