BMW 2019 BMW R1250 GS Adventure – First Ride

BMW R1250 GS Adventure launch

Hardcore version of BMW’s giant traillie gets more grunt from bigger engine and variable valves for 2019

More tech and more cubes for BMW's flagship adventure bike
Great engine, loads of high-tech options
Big old price tag


BMW’S GS Boxer smashes all the sales charts, famously took Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman all round the world, and is a byword for big adventure bikes. Like the Land Rover or Toyota’s Land Cruiser, it’s the vehicle which defines an entire class, and over the past thirty-odd years, it’s evolved from the quirky, slow, weird R80 G/S tractor-bike into an advanced, high-performance motorcycle.


And here we are, in Spain, to ride the very latest iteration – the 2019 R1250 GS Adventure. The Adventure is, of course, the hard-core version of the base R1250 GS, with longer suspension travel, a giant 30-litre fuel tank, and even more gnarly attitude. Together with the R1250 RT luxo-tourer (of which more anon), it’s our focus for the day – a decent ride on the roads round Almeria, with a small off-road stint on the GSA, then home in time for tea and tapas. There’s not a cloud in the sky, the mercury’s rising towards a balmy 22 degrees C, and the Tarmac is warming up nicely. Lucky Al.

Time to go then! I leap onto a GSA, having previously adjusted the seat to the lower of the two stock height settings (you can lower it further still from the factory). The big bus looks intimidating on its stand if you’re a bit on the stumpy side, so every little helps. Having said that, once on the move, it’s easy to handle, with wide bars, smooth low-down fuelling and a new Hill Start brake function to help when stopping on slopes. While under the seat, I also plug in the ‘master key’ electronic plug, which activates the ‘Pro’ Dynamic and Enduro riding modes, basically allowing more extreme rider aid settings.

We’re off now, and following lead rider Kevin Healey up into the hills behind the coast. Kev is a well-known figure to anyone who’s been on the UK trackday scene over the years, and owns trackday firm Focused Events, as well as running Almeria Circuit. He’s helped BMW organise this gig, and is our very accommodating host for the day.

The 1250 GSA is very accommodating as well. If you’ve ridden last year’s 1200, with the optional full colour LCD infomatics dash, then it will all feel pretty familiar actually. That Bluetooth-linked dash is standard for 2019, so all the GS models now come with it, which is a very welcome upgrade. Apart from that though, the view from the rider seat is very much as you were, detail tweaks to bodywork and new colours aside. 


Because the big story on this bike is the big engine. The trademark Boxer twin motor has been thoroughly overhauled, with a new, larger 1,254cc capacity (up from 1,170cc), and a unique ShiftCam variable valve system. We spoke about this setup when the bikes were launched last month, and it’s a fairly cunning system. Computer-controlled pins move in and out, engaging in slots in a sliding outer cam shaft, bringing two different cam profiles in and out of play. One set of cam profiles is designed for low-speed torque, and the other is aimed at peak power production, so the computer slides the appropriate cam into place above its valve at the right time. That means we get more torque low-down, from a lower-lift, shorter duration valve opening profile, then great peak power, from a high-lift, long-duration profile. Clever stuff.

You don’t notice the ShiftCam changing at all on the road. Unlike older systems, such as Honda’s VTEC, there’s no sudden change in sound or delivery, just a smooth, grunty wave of power. The GSA is a very big bus, weighing in at 268kg fully fuelled, but it was scampering about the backroads of Andalucia like a wacky supermoto. Flat-out, it was touching 140mph on the longer straights, but it’s the strong torque which really impresses. Dragging you out of slower bends, catapulting you away from the lights, and, improbably, wheelying away from stop signs and roundabouts.

Okay, wheelies maybe aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but they do actually tell you a fair bit about how well an engine and fuelling system works. A load of flat, smooth torque, with clean fuelling and slick delivery is the recipe for easy horn monos, and it’s fair to say that the GSA has this nailed.  Hoist her up off the throttle in first or second, peer round the edge of the giant tank, and you can hang the 19-inch front wheel up in the air for far longer than you’d think.