Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 19th August 2019

Don’t follow the GS flock, the ‘ShiftCam’ RS is all the BMW boxer you’ll ever need, says Phil West.

In a world where the idea of a BMW boxer twin has become almost inseparable from that of the ubiquitous, monumental GS adventurebike, it’s refreshing to come across an alternative that’s just as versatile for most, more engaging and less intimidating to ride, yet which stands out more conspicuously in any bike park, too – the BMW R1250RS.

The sports-tourer version of the boxer twin (RS stands for ‘Reise Sport’, or ’travel sports’) was reintroduced in 2015 to generally glowing reviews yet has somewhat inexplicably remained something of the ‘forgotten boxer’. And that’s a shame, not just because of the iconic status of the original 1976 R100RS, but because the modern version’s all-round ability is a rarity in today’s motorcycling landscape.

The R1200RS ticked plenty of boxes for plenty of riders. Low-ish bars combined with a half fairing give an all-day long riding position reminiscent of that definitive sports-tourer, the Honda VFR. Handling is sufficiently light and nimble (and far less cumbersome than the big GS) to give genuine sporting satisfaction, while the then 125bhp, 1200cc boxer was both sufficiently flexible and potent to again fit the sport-tourer brief.  Rounding it off is that typical shaft-drive durability, comprehensive BMW options list and enough class to give the premium feel a bike like this demands.

And yet it wasn’t quite enough for the new RS to stand out, either, which is one of the reasons why this new-for-2019 R1250GS is so much of a step-up.

Although on face-value, the new R1250RS is simply the old RS but with BMW’s standard 2019 upgrade of the 1250cc ‘ShiftCam’ engine (as also transplanted into its sister GS, R and RT models). Welcome though that is, there’s actually much more to the new RS, too, so much so that BMW themselves consider it a full, ‘second generation’ version.

There’s also the hugely impressive, 6.5-in, full colour TFT dash that now also features on the GS and S1000RR. To both accommodate that and give the RS an updated ‘face’, the top fairing is all new, too. This fairing is not only better-looking, it includes a two-way height adjustable screen which suits the sport-tourer brief perfectly and has new, brighter, LED lights. The 820mm standard seat height (which can be lowered to just 760mm with the optional low seat option) means that the RS is more manageable than the GS too.

While, in addition, there’s a new exhaust, new colours, uprated electronics and three new options packages to suit pretty much every type of rider: a base model (in black or silver, starting at £12,100) which still gets the TFT screen, two riding modes, ASC traction control and ‘hill-start; the Sport (in yellow metallic, starting at £13,465) with all the above plus engine spoiler, chrome exhaust, quick shifter, ABS Pro and so on, and this Exclusive version (in dark blue, from £13,960) with most of that plus ESA electronic suspension adjustment, centre stand, cruise control, keyless ignition and more. And, of course, being BMWs, further extras such as heated grips, luggage and so on are merely a swipe of your credit card away…

The boost from the engine, however, shouldn’t be overlooked. The new ShiftCam engine, as already sampled in the updated GS, has proved itself to be a marvel. With power up from 125bhp to 136bhp and torque boosted further still thanks not only to the extra capacity, but more importantly BMW’s new auto-switching cam system, all-round performance is notably improved, something heightened further on this new RS by more optimized rider modes.

But the all-round RS experience is equally improved by the other updates, too: the new TFT screen is classy, info-packed and helps lifts the RS to another level; the new fairing both looks good and its two-way screen is easy to use and effective and all-round the new RS is both an easy and comfortable way to cover big mileage. Or, if you’re in the mood and the road allows, it’s a bike which transforms into an engaging sportster by flicking into ‘Dynamic’ for both suspension and engine, popping down the screen and getting ready to boogie.

And you certainly can’t say that about the GS.


ENGINE TYPE Boxer twin, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, ‘ShiftCam’ air/liquid cooled
BORE X STROKE 102.5 x 76mm
MAXIMUM POWER 136 hp (100 kW) @ 7750 rpm
MAXIMUM TORQUE 143Nm @ 6250rpm
FRONT SUSPENSION 45mm upside down fork
SEAT HEIGHT 820mm (760 & 840mm options)
FUEL TANK 18 litres