BMW BMW R1250 R (2019) Review

BMW R1250 R (2019) Review

BMW’s new roadster gets the ShiftCam treatment and a power-hike for 2019

“IT’S a bit like two engines in one isn’t it?” I shout into my closed visor on the launch of BMW’s new R1250 R. “What…?” came the response from the journo sat astride an identical R1250 R next to me. “Two engines… it’s like two engines… one below 5k rpm and one above…???” I repeat. “Oh yeah, it’s a twin cylinder, yeah” came the response from my temporary riding companion. Fuck it - ‘never mind’ I mutter as I pull back onto the B664 to Uppingham.

To look at this year’s R1250 R looks pretty much identical to the previous version. Apart from some neat looking badging on the front of the instrument binnacle and the small ShiftCam logo adorning the cam-covers, there really is very little clue as to the raft of updates that lie within.

So, the big news really is the addition of the new-for-2019 motor, lifted from the R1250 GS and R1250 RT models. The capacity hike is mainly a way to get around the ever-tightening EU regulations, maintaining BHP without exceeding Co2 production, but the ShiftCam is all about rideability. It works on the inlet only and can adjust valve lift and duration to maximise power and torque throughout the whole of the rev range.

The system kicks in almost seamlessly at 5k rpm, or a bit earlier if you hammer the throttle, with nothing more than occasional pop from the muted exhaust as a clue to the happenings inside the engine cases.

Price and Colours

There are three versions of the R1250 R; the base spec, the Sport (as ridden) and Exclusive. Sport has extra riding modes, Dynamic (sport basically) and Dynamic Pro which is user configurable, some lean angle monitors and comes in at £12,700. The Exclusive (above) is £13,015 and comes with some comfort and distance riding upgrades. The base model comes in at £11,215

There are four colours available:

  • Black Storm Metallic
  • Style HP (as ridden)
  • Style Exclusive
  • Option 719 Stardust Metallic (best suited to the 719 options pack)

Power and Torque

The Beemer has a healthy 136bhp on tap, with power peaking at 7,750rpm. The redline arrives at about 9k rpm and to be honest there isn’t much to see north of 8k. As mentioned at the beginning, the ShiftCam starts to boogie at 5k automatically, or earlier if you need to get a wriggle on – which let’s face it, is most of the time.

Hammering the throttle in the lower gears gives the impression of a ‘kick-down’ on an auto box when the ShiftCam engages. You crank the twist grip fully open and the rev’s rise slowly, but a second later, the boxer then has a good long look at itself, opens the intake valves and allows the python sized induction tubes to gobble up Northamptonshire’s finest air.

Peak torque is 143Nm (105 ft-lb) and arrives at 6,250 but there is plenty more grunt from the motor further down. It’s a doddle to pootle about on and never seems to mind what gear you’re in. The fly-by-wire throttle is a little on the light side but perfect in its delivery, never fluffing or coughing, it really is a perfect bike for scything through the city streets or carving along your favourite B-road.

Engine, Gearbox and Exhaust

The boxer-twin is a 1254cc, four-valve set up, with ShiftCam only affecting the intake valves on each side. The restrained character of the motor almost plays down the potential it has as it is a very quick little bike; it’s just sometimes it doesn’t feel it. Most litre-plus naked bikes will out accelerate anything this side of the £300,000 supercars and so will the new R1250 R. It’s just the engines temperament almost makes it feel a bit underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking BM’s engineers, getting 140bhp from a twin and making it feel this refined is a masterstroke in my opinion. I just wanted the engine to get up and smack me around the chops a bit. And it didn’t, it just does everything you ask very well and with no complaint.

The 6-speed box on the launch bikes was fitted with Shift Assist Pro which is BMW’s take on a quick-shifter. It’s a fantastically slick setup, that does a great job of smoothing out the up and downshifts, with some nice understated burbles and pops from the engine when slowing from speed. I never picked up any false neutrals on the launch and found the shift to be crisp and precise – although neutral is a pig to find at a standstill!

The bright chrome exhaust on the bike is a lovely looking affair, with a tiny catalytic converter nestled neatly under the swingarm pivot. The muted exhaust note is barely noticeable even at motorway speeds and would make this a perfect bike for slipping off to work at 6am without pissing off the neighbours.


With the bikes sit-up-and-beg styling, I expected the front end to be much livelier but the standard fitment steering damper is extremely good at taming any speed-wobbles. It does make it a bit of a beast to manually handle or paddle through traffic but it’s a trade off I’m willing to except for a more secure front end at speed.

Once on the move the ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) comes into its own on faster corners, giving the bike excellent mid corner, entry and corner exit stability. For a naked roadster such as this, the B-road blast is like a Managing Director’s keynote speech – I’m happy to report that Herr R1250 R did not fluff the lines.

Playing with the ESA settings is easy enough once you get a grasp of the menus, or you could switch through the Road, Rain, Dynamic settings and the engine, throttle map and suspension will work together to deliver the platform you need. And they work very well, apart from a tad more preload in the rear shock; for this 5’7” 12st rider, I really wanted for nothing in that respect.


Chunky Brembo calipers and 320mm discs up front do a great job of hauling the R1250 R up from speed, with plenty of bite and feel even on the slippery and cold Northampton Tarmac. With ABS cutting in on only a few occasions, I guess I could deem the system to be fairly unobtrusive. And for those with more hero-like DNA than mine, the system can be disabled totally.


As with most modern BMWs, the R1250 R is about as tech-laden as any top-flight superbike. Joining the two riding modes (three on the Sport version), the bike includes electronic, semi-active suspension, Bluetooth hook-up and turn-by-turn navigation via the TFT dash. The sport also gets a funky dash setting that shows you the lean angle and other hero stats – great for winding up your mates in the pub.

There is also the addition of a very effective Hill Start Control (HSC) which isn’t normally a system I get on with, but the R1250 R’s HSC in manual mode is superb. One hard pull of the lever at a standstill will engage the system and only when you release the clutch will the brakes disengage – some systems turn off after a set period. Not what you need on a steep hill!

The addition of the Dynamic and Dynamic Pro riding modes to the sport model bring a welcome boost in mid-range and top end poke without turning the bike into a fire-breathing monster, and it’s not that the machine feels sluggish without it. It’s more that the whole riding experience is so understated and refined that even riding the R1250 R at pace is as well mannered as a mid-century tea party.

R1250 R

R1250 R Sport

R1250 R Exclusive

Black Storm Metallic, Stardust Metallic Spezial

Light White / Racing Blue Metallic / Racing Red (Style HP)

Pollux Metallic Matt

Riding Modes Rain and Road

Riding Modes Pro

Riding Modes Rain and Road

Automatic Stability Control

Automatic Stability Control (ASC)

Automatic Stability Control

TFT Screen with Connectivity

TFT Screen with Connectivity

TFT Screen with Connectivity

Hill Start Control (HSC)

Hill Start Control (HSC)

Hill Start Control

Headlight Pro

Headlight Pro

Headlight Pro

Price: £11,215

Daytime Riding Light

Dynamic Suspension Adjustment

Gear Shift Assist Pro

Keyless Ride

Sports Windshield

Preparation for GPS

LED Indicators 

Cruise Control

Engine Spoiler

Centre Stand

Price: £12,700

Pannier Fastenings (L&R)

Price: £13,015

BMW R1250 R (2019) verdict

I’ve been keeping tabs on some of the social posts relating to the new BMW for a while now and have see the bike kop of a lot of flack from certain people. They all seem to centre around bhp and top speed and claim that this bike would eat it for breakfast or that bike will be quicker on track. And it’s all bollocks if you ask me. BMW don’t need another fire breathing, apex-eating super naked in their line-up – they already have one, it’s called the S1000 R. To me, this bike is a bridge motorcycle, taking slightly newer or less confident riders off bikes like the F800 R and putting them on a package that’s easy to manage and exploit. It’s also well built, looks cool and has all the tech and gizmos to keep the more advanced rider interested should the bike float their boat.

And that’s why I think this bike’s a winner. It’s so easy to ride, so refined and comes with everyday usability; it’s hard to see how a rider coming through the ranks or a more experienced pilot could fail to fall for its many charms.

BMW GS Challenge - Part one: Bike preparation |