The big GS gets all the love and 27% of BMW’s sales, but when the BMW people asked which one I’d like to ride home after the Palm Springs roll-out party for the new 1250 boxers two months ago, we picked the RT. It only makes up about 10% of BMW’s numbers, but the RT never expects you to ride it through a sand wash.
Immediately upon hopping from GS onto it, you’re struck by the smooth-runningness of the R1250RT. Ah, I thought, the handlebars or the engine or something must be rubber mounted? BMW’s Brand Ambassador Shawn Thomas says that’s not the case at all: He says it’s all down to the tires. The RT’s Metzeler Roadtec Z8s deliver a way smoother ride on pavement than the Conti TKC80s all our GSs were wearing. Also the RT is geared slightly taller than the GS, has a more substantial exhaust system, a thicker seat and, at 609 pounds wet, even 18 more ell-bees road-hugging weight than the mighty GS Adventure. Whatever. Going from GS to RT is like hopping out of a pickup into a luxury car.
The official MO scales have the new RT at 637 pounds with empty bags mounted. It’s all relative, of course. The big sport-touring Beemer is much lighter than its K1600B (768 lbs) and the Honda Gold Wing (806 lbs), but she’s not getting any lighter. As a matter of fact, the RT has put on exactly 20 pounds since the R1200 RT blew the competition out of the water five years ago in our 2014 S/T comparison and won three consecutive Sport-Tourer of the Year awards. We and I loved that bike, a pavement-swallowing machine so highly evolved it’s got to be increasingly difficult to find room for improvement.
That doesn’t stop BMW from trying. Accompanying that 20-lb weight gain is a big injection of power, thanks to 84 more cc of engine displacement and BMW’s all-new Shift Cam variable valve timing to broaden the powerband and increase fuel efficiency (click the GS link above to learn all about it). Now, according to the Dynojet, our 1254 cc boxer twin is making 121.2 horsepower at 7700 rpm to the previous bike’s 110 at 8300 rpm, and 94 lb-ft of torque at 6500 to the old bike’s 80 at 5400 rpm. Those are big bumps.
Unlike the new R1250 GS, not a helluva lot has changed on the RT other than the engine transplant.
There are some new things not visible to the naked eye: Now we’ve got automatic Hill Start Control to keep us from rolling backwards, new cylinder head covers to cover the new cylinders, and a few cosmetic and aerodynamic updates. New option packages are also available, including Ride Modes Pro, Dynamic Braking Control (which makes sure you’ve got the throttle closed during panic braking), and next-gen Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment – now with a handy self-levelling feature.
What’s missing when you jump onto the RT is the new 6.5-inch TFT display BMW outfitted the new GS with. One of our few criticisms of the RT has usually been its tough-to-decipher instruments and tiny (optional) GPS. Going back to it after being exposed to the GS’s big colorful screen is like coming home to find somebody swapped out your big flatscreen TV for an old 13-inch black-and-white. Not only is the TFT much easier to read in all conditions (including automatically dimming itself at night), it makes navigation and keeping track of all the bike’s other functions much easier. With BMW’s free Connectivity app, you Bluetooth the bike right up to your phone to get turn-by-turn directions on the screen, see incoming calls and texts, etc. On the RT, you get a stereo!
You also get a bunch of new “Spezial 719” parts to customize the RT with, 719 being BMW’s longstanding code for sweet custom and performance items.
The RT is a far less swashbuckling motorcycle than the GS, but for some of us urban dwellers it’s also a far more practical one. The seat is broader and more supportive than the one on the GS, the electric-adjust windshield and big fairing produce a calm cockpit, and BMW’s been perfecting the bike’s ergonomics for 40 years now. If Judy Garland telegraphed “meet me in St. Louis” from beyond the grave, the RT is probably the motorcycle I’d reach for first. Speaking of which, we averaged 44 mpg on the old R1200; BMW claims 6% greater fuel economy along with the big bump in power for the 1250, and the 47 mpg we’ve been getting on the new bike backs that up. Fill that 6.6-gallon tank with hi-test (compression is still 12.5:1), and you’d only have to fill up four times to meet Judy. Set the cruise control at whatever speed feels good, the RT drones easily along with that soothing radial-aircraft engine sound it’s famous for, though the new one gains revs way faster when you twist the throttle.
If you shifted the electronic ESA into Dynamic mode and took the backroads, you’d also be amazed at how well the RT continues to turn, brake, and handle – not to mention accelerate with surprising ferocity. The new bump in torque more than negates the weight gain.
If your dream is to ditch the four-wheeler entirely, you could make a good case for the BMW. Each of those remote-locking sidebags can handle a big helmet or quite a few groceries, and there’s room on the big back seat for a large companion or the optional trunk. I’ve needed to get myself and a big gear bag 40 miles up the road to LAX for two international flights since the RT’s been in my garage. Normally that means LA traffic, leaving the old Ranger in the cheap remote lot, catching the shuttle of shame to the terminal through more traffic… but with the RT at my disposal, it was a literal cinch to throw the big Ogio bag on behind, blast up the carpool lane, and park for free right in the main terminal that charges cars $40 a day. So civilized…
Well, the RT needs to be as useful as a car seeing as how it costs as much as a nice one. A base RT lists for $18,645, and by the time you get to our Mars Red Metallic test unit mit Sport und Select Packages, you’re looking at $25,445. Well, BMW has always been a premium brand, and now that the Euro 5 investment’s been put into that excellent new Shift Cam boxer twin, it looks like it’ll continue to be into the future. Until such time as it gets the new TFT display, though, I wouldn’t feel the least bit ashamed of myself driving a hard bargain on a leftover RT. Either way, this thing remains the sweetest sport-touring motorcycle on the planet for those not interested in a 160-hp supercharged Kawasaki. (We named the H2 SX SE our S/T of the Year for 2018 just to mix it up a little; it’s probably not quite as practical as the BMW).
|2019 BMW R1250 RT Specifications|
|MSRP||$18,645 base, $25,445 as tested|
|Engine Type||1254 cc air-/liquid-cooled 180-degree boxer twin cylinder, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, Shift Cam variable valve timing|
|Bore and Stroke||102.5mm x 76mm|
|Horsepower||121.2 hp at 7700 rpm (Dynojet 250, rear wheel)|
|Torque||94.3 lb-ft. at 6500 rpm (Dynojet 250, rear wheel)|
|Front Suspension||BMW Telelever, ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment|
|Rear Suspension||BMW Paralever, ESA (spring preload and rebound damping adjustable via handwheel on non-ESA model)|
|Front Brake||Dual 320mm discs, 4-piston calipers, ABS|
|Rear Brake||276mm disc, 2-piston caliper, ABS|
|Front Tire||120/70-ZR 17|
|Rear Tire||180/55-ZR 17|
|Rake/Trail||25.9 deg/ 4.1 inches|
|Seat Height||31.7 or 32.5 inches|
|Wet Weight||637 pounds (MO scales, with empty sidebags)|
|Fuel Capacity||6.6 gallons|
|Fuel Economy||47 mpg (MO observed)|
|Colors||Black, white, red, blue, dark grey|
|Warranty||36 months, transferable, unlimited-mileage limited warranty|