BMW’s entry level boxer roadster gets the highly rated, new-for-2019, ShiftCam engine and, as Insidebikes discovered, the largely overlooked model deserves consideration by riders looking for a practical naked.
In a world where premium naked motorcycles stretch from Yamaha’s ‘superbike-with-the-fairings-ripped-off’ MT-10, through to Triumph’s ‘laid-on-thick-with-the-heritage’ Bonneville series, the R1250R stands out by simply being itself. The R is simply a good motorbike without a fairing. It doesn’t make much by way of a statement and, for many, that’s no bad thing.
The unfaired R has been a staple of the BMW boxer range for over 25 years, living largely in the shadow of the iconic GS adventure bike and the highly competent RT tourer. BMW has filled those extremities in the naked bike class themselves, with the streetfighting S1000R and a classically styled R nineT range, but through it all there has remained a place for the basic R.
Not that the R1250R is basic these days. Although the R1250R is a new model for 2019, it really is the heavily revised engine that is the difference between the new bike and the outgoing R1200R.
Much has been written about the ShiftCam motor, which uses two different cam profiles to offer better low down performance and more top end power. The simple system, which uses a sliding actuator to switch between the ‘part load’ cams and ‘full load’ cams, also helps reduce emissions and fuel consumption, putting the German manufacturer in a good place ahead of the incoming Euro5 regulations.
The R1250R also benefits from the same tech has been introduced across BMW’s more premium models in recent years, meaning that it comes with (or can at least be specified with) pretty much anything you can get on a GS.
The view from the cockpit is dominated by the 6.5” TFT dashboard, which links to your smartphone and is a work of art in itself. This screen is mission control for the R1250R. Many traditional bikers may lament the loss of a pair of simple analogue dials on a bike which is otherwise a conservative roadster and, to a large extent, I agree.
The thing is though, the technology is out there, so why not include it and let the rider decide? The TFT screen works so well and is wonderfully easy to read, that it’s hard to argue with this progress. Although the options open to the rider can be bewildering, I found that once you found the set-up you preferred, there was no need to mess around with the numerous knobs and buttons at your fingertips on the go. Yes, it is a little complicated to begin with, but regular BMW riders claim that you’ll quickly get up to speed.
Those key controls are clearly marked and easy to operate. In addition to the starter button, the righthand switchgear has the all-important control for the heated grips and a simple button to switch between riding modes. We also had the SOS feature on our highly-specified test bike, which detects if the bike has fallen over and can be used as a panic button.
As standard, the R1250R has two standard riding modes, ‘Road’ and the softer ‘Rain’ options. The fully-loaded Sport model we tested had two additional settings, the snappier ‘Dynamic’ and ‘Dynamic Pro’ which allows the rider to further programme how much traction control they want to dial in.
The riding mode is clearly seen on the screen, which is dominated by a large tachometer and a very readable digital speedometer. Using the dial wheel on the left handlebar, it’s possible to scroll through the seemingly endless options. On our bike, we were also able to choose a screen display that was dominated by readouts showing maximum lean angle, braking forces and traction control intervention used on that ride. Gimmicky, yes. Pointless, for sure. Good fun? Absolutely!
Being at the helm of the R1250R is a very pleasant experience. The riding position is nice and upright, which leads to an easy going ride. There’s no pressure on the rider’s wrists or legs and, despite the lack of wind protection, I felt fresh as a daisy after a day in the saddle of the R1250R.
At 221kg (before adding all the options on our test bike), the R is no lightweight, however like all boxer twins, with their low slung cylinders, it carries its bulk well. The standard seat height of 820mm provides a good middle ground for most riders. Unlike many BMW’s there’s no possibility to adjust the seat height manually, however buy a new one and you can specify one of two alternative saddle options, with the low option being a staggering 60mm closer to the ground, while the ‘Sport’ saddle increases the seat height to 840mm. As a shorter rider, I found the standard set up plenty manageable, with only the stretch to the side stand a little awkward. Slow speed manoeuvring was a real pleasure, thanks to the smooth power delivery and tight turning circle. And just one word on the mirrors too… Outstanding.
On the road, that motor is a real cracker. The R1250s gain an extra 84cc over the outgoing 1200s (1254cc versus 1170cc) and its super smooth too. It is absolutely impossible to tell when the motor switches between to the two cam profiles, such is the cleverness of the BMW engineers. As much as anything else, the ShiftCam motor is all about the torque. With 143Nm at 6250rpm, it’s a gutsy engine that can adapt to the rider’s mood. On country roads, the BMW can be left third gear and ridden on its tsunami of torque. For more spirited riding, the engine just loves to be revved. With 136bhp at 7750rpm, it’s plenty fast alright – without wanting to rip your arms off like the latest generation of hyper nakeds.
One bike, three versions
Somewhat confusingly, BMW offer three different specifications of the R1250R – with the Sport and Exclusive versions joining the £11,215 base model.
At £11k, the R can seem like a lot of bike for the money, however ticking all the option boxes can easily turn the R1250R into a 15 grand motorbike.
The standard bike is already well specified, with the super trick TFT screen, two riding modes (Rain and Road), traction control, hill start assist and LED headlights. For £12,700, the Sport version adds two sportier riding modes (including the programmable Dynamic Pro setting), LED indicators, quickshifter and a bellypan. The more touring focussed Exclusive model comes in at £13,015 and adds keyless ignition, electronic suspension, cruise control, centre stand and pannier rails.
The bike we rode was the Sport version, fitted with the £485 Comfort Package and the £1550 Premium Package, which combined a number of options including the keyless ignition, centre stand, cruise control, pannier rails, semi-active dynamic suspension and sat-nav, a combination that would currently set you back close to £15,000.
Ripe for modification and customisation?
Although we doubt many customers will be taking their R1250s home and ripping the guts out of them, we’re sure that the R1250R will make a great base for custom specials as they enter the second hand market in the coming years
Foreseeing this, BMW has created a comprehensive catalogue of accessories to customise the R1250R through its ‘Option 719’ programme.
Option 719 allows a number of modifications to be specified right out of the factory, including a special bronze paintjob, modified seats, billet engine cases and custom wheels. Other mods include the HP Sport slip-on end can, lower handlebars and a small windscreen, while any individual elements from the various spec levels and packages can be specified on their own to the base model. Phew!
The R1250R is unlikely to be a massive seller, but that shouldn’t worry BMW unduly. Much of its competition will come from within. Riders looking for a more retro ride will probably find the R nineT more to their tastes, even though it arguably offers a little less bike for a little more money, while performance fiends will be catered for by the utterly bonkers S1000R, which provides 165bhp for £25 less than the R. And for those who love the traditional boxer twin motor, but want some added practicality, the RS and GS models are likely to be worth the extra investment.
But for those who want a straight up roadster that blends performance and style, the unfaired R1250R will be right up their Straße