Setting the front wheel down at 102 mph over some giant asphalt "rollers" on a two-lane highway outside of Palm Springs, in the low desert of Southern California, was not the first thing I had envisioned when BMW took us on the press ride for the new 2019 R 1250 GS and 2019 R 1250 GS Adventure. And yet it seemed perfectly natural for this outsized ADV machine.

Yes, the GS has always been up for a little fun, but this year the extra pep from boosted displacement and BMW’s ShiftCam system (two sets of intake-cam lobes operate depending on engine load and rpm) have broadened and increased overall power output and improved efficiency. To be sure we know the bike is new and has this feature, valve covers are restyled and feature “ShiftCam” lettered on them.

BMW R 1250 GS
Displacement of the BMW R 1250 GS increases to 1,254cc.Kevin Wing

Yes, the engine is the biggest news here. The 102.5mm x 76.0mm flat twin had its bore and stroke increased to achieve its new 1,254cc, up from the old 1170’s 101.0 x 73.0mm that dates back to the 2004 R1200GS. The new engine really sizzles on top and pulls hard to the 9,000-rpm redline. Which is great when you are running fast on the highway or what to loft some impromptu third-gear wheelies. But really ShiftCam earns its keep at low revs, particularly in technical, rocky terrain, where the engine seems almost unstallable. The low-speed lobes open each intake valve at two different maximum lift values (3mm and 4mm), and have staggered opening timing, making for improved intake velocity and enhancing fuel-air swirl for a homogeneous charge that burns rapidly and consistently to achieve what engineers like to call “reduced cycle-to-cycle variation.”

So as good as the 6.5-inch TFT dash display is with its excellent colors, contrast, design, large text, and readability, it is the rider’s option whether he or she wants to look at the tachometer. Lug the engine down a gear too high for conditions and it will generally just pull you right out with no complaint. The biggest benefit I felt came at very low rpm, crawling along in first gear through rocks or sand where the controllability and precision of throttle response made the bike easier ride.

2019 BMW R 1250 GS Adventure engine
ShiftCam operation is undetectable other than the engine behaves well throughout the rev range.Kevin Wing

Can you feel ShiftCam operating? I tried using varied rpm and loads to detect its operation and I might have heard a tone change, but I would simply say more is more with ShiftCam and you won't know it's there except that this engine behaves exceptionally well through the rev range. You can read Technical Editor Kevin Cameron's piece on ShiftCam, which includes the BMW video, [here]( 1250 GS-adventure-bike).

We were able to obtain some of the “full load” intake cam specs and compare them to those of the R1200GS to see what is different. Lift is increased by 0.8mm and it appears duration is longer on the 1250 cam by about 7 degrees. BMW has failed to provide actual full cam specs, but we will continue to pursue these because we are particularly interested in the low-speed lobes and whether the intake cams are timed to eliminate valve overlap with the exhaust.

The bottom line here is that in BMW's need to comply with tighter 2020 Euro 5 emissions standards, we have gotten a more flexible and more powerful engine. Back at Cycle World HQ, we put a 2019 BMW R 1250 GS Adventure on our Dynojet dyno and recorded 117 hp at 7,600 rpm and 92 pound-feet at 6,250. Even better, there is about 75 pound-feet at 2,000 rpm, and the eminently controllable plateau of output that follows is a beautiful tool off-road. You can check out the comparison dyno chart, which shows our 2018 GS made 101 hp/73 pound-feet and our 2015 made 113/83. There is simply more of everything everywhere versus previous versions. (Oh, and if you are wondering about the 2018 model's lower output, so are we. The 2018 GS recorded these numbers last year, which we questioned, so we sent the bike back to BMW to be checked. It was given a clean bill of health and returned to us, so we dynoed it again with similar results. BMW currently has this dyno information but has offered no explanation or response.)

The new 1250 is just a big, lovable lump of flat twin, and so far beyond the first air-heads I rode as a youngster as to be nearly unrecognizable. Except for the sound, which has that same reassuring drone we’ve come to enjoy riding over almost any terrain, but with a new edge.

After a succession of easy high-speed wheelies and fast cruising, we turned left off the highway and rode past a cement plant as we hit the dirt for the first time.

R 1250 GS Adventure HP
Our test unit was the R 1250 GS Adventure HP model.Kevin Wing

It was lovely to stand up and feel the bike move around on the Continental TKC 80 knobbies, and I was glad to be on the R 1250 GS Adventure HP, preferring its taller seat, wider/grippier footpegs, and higher handlebars versus the standard GS.

Eating rocks, sand, and dirt while standing on the footpegs of a big adventure bike is one of life’s great riding experiences. To this motorcycle’s credit and a bit to its detriment, there is nothing quite like its very GS-ness. The flat twin is a dumb idea on a motorcycle meant to venture across rocky narrows. And the original 1980 R80G/S is positively dainty compared to this 1250—it’s just so large. And heavy: The 2019 GS Adventure weighs 625 pounds on our scale with a full, 7.9-gallon fuel tank and no saddlebags.

2019 BMW R 1250 GS Adventure in field
With a full, 7.9-gallon tank the 2019 BMW R 1250 GS Adventure weighs in at a stout 625 pounds.Kevin Wing

And yet, there is dynamic magic going on here, and a feeling of fundamental composure and unstoppability. Within the first few hundred feet of dirt, I hit a square-edged ledge so tall I thought for sure I would hear the clank of metal and perhaps even deform some parts, but the Adventure’s 8.3-inch front and 8.7-inch rear suspension travel just sucked it up and carried on. After that, I relaxed and just aimed for anything slightly lower than that first square-edged obstacle. We ripped along two-track road, surfed sand with wheels never in line, and just enjoyed the smooth, easy, abundant power and stability of the R 1250 GS.

The Telelever fork and Paralever rear suspension offer a balanced feel front to rear, and a steering damper also helps isolate road/trail shock from the bars. The Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment allowed the wheels to glide over bumps with a lot of compliance when I was just cruising, but tightened up as speeds and steering/throttle/brake inputs got more aggressive. But it wasn’t just all this hocus-pocus; there were real mechanical changes to the chassis: The 2019 Adventure gets 26.3 degrees and 4.1 inches of trail versus the previous version’s 24.5/3.6.

Paralever rear suspension
BMW’s Paralever rear suspension is balanced well to the Telelever fork.Kevin Wing

Still, we wouldn’t be here without excellent rider aids, and the whole package on the GS makes hustling this large ADV motorcycle easier and more secure than ever. Enduro Pro gives you lean-sensitive front-wheel ABS that works great in dirt while allowing you to slide the rear using the brake. Lean-sensitive wheelspin control with EnduroPro lets you pull of these beautiful, long power slides and really allows you to turn the bike on the throttle, but always keeps things under control. We found some long, winding sections of sandy road in Joshua Tree National Park and the flow of the motorcycle—the power, the ability to place the chassis where you want, step out the rear, brake with security—was just magnificent.

ABS at the front
Enduro Pro gives lean-sensitive ABS at the front while allowing the rear to lock and slide in proper off-road fashion.Kevin Wing

It seems like a confusing mess when you read about it, but it all makes riding the bike farther and faster a lot easier, which is all we’ve ever really wanted. Especially with a 117-hp, 625-pound adventure bike in rocks and sand.

Wouldn’t it be grand if all we ever did was point the R 1250 GS HP (an Adventure spec with some mostly cosmetic changes) to points far away with nothing but dirt between here and there? Sure, but most of us will do the bulk of our miles on asphalt, and here the GS shines also. It is smooth, fast, and leans deeply with a lot of cornering clearance. Winding back roads to highway cruising, the GS remains a great sport-touring motorcycle.

I also rode a standard GS with much more street-oriented riding position, lower seat, and smaller footpegs, and smaller, 5.3-gallon fuel tank. It was just fine, and in some ways more suited to street riding with these characteristics. But all I wanted was to be back on the HP. I am 6-foot-2. The taller bars, higher seat, and large, grippy footpegs felt like home. But I also put a taller-than-stock seat and "Carmichael High" Renthal bars on my personal WR250R dual-sport bike. I like some room on my motorcycles. If I am going GS, I, like most US customers, would go all the way to the Adventure model.

standard R 1250 GS
The standard R 1250 GS has a lower seat, smaller footpegs, and a smaller, 5.3-gallon fuel tank.Kevin Wing

It is worth mentioning that Gear Shift Assist Pro is now such a regular feature that it didn’t even make the official BMW product presentation. Clutchless up- and downshifts are executed by a very good system that is surprisingly nice when riding two-up because it smooths gear changes so much it increases passenger comfort. It was also useful in off-road conditions because you could rapidly shift up or down without worrying about the light-pull clutch. As ever, the 1-2 or 2-1 shift is the chunkiest, thanks to it having the widest ratio gap, but it still worked pretty well.

Performance from the GS is pretty remarkable, especially given its size and weight. Compared to KTM’s bigger adventure offerings, it is more plush and has a greater feeling of luxury. Performance isn’t as edgy, and most KTMs give you more of a feeling of riding a big off-road racebike or rally bike than does the BMW. In a way, the very GS-ness of the GS is its greatest strength, and also its weakness, if you can call it that. But there are few motorcycles that will go so far so comfortably in such wide conditions, and they’ve been ridden to the ends of the earth since the first R80G/S.

2019 BMW R 1250 GS Adventure Specifications

MSRP: $23,395
ENGINE: 1,254cc, air/liquid-cooled, DOHC flat twin, w/ BMW ShiftCam
BORE X STROKE: 102.5mm x 76mm
HORSEPOWER: 116.4 hp @ 7,540 rpm (Cycle World Dyno)
TORQUE: 92.2 lb.-ft. @ 6,240 rpm (Cycle World Dyno)
CLUTCH: Multi-plate wet clutch, hydraulic operation
FRAME: Two section w/ load-bearing engine
FRONT SUSPENSION: 37mm BMW Telelever, central spring strut; 8.3-in. (210mm) travel
REAR SUSPENSION: BMW Paralever, WAD strut; 8.7-in. (200mm) travel
FRONT BRAKE: 4-piston fixed caliper, dual 305mm discs w/ BMW Motarrad Integral ABS
REAR BRAKE: 2-piston floating caliper, 276mm disc w/ BMW Motarrad Integral ABS
WHEELS, FRONT/REAR: Cross spoke, 3.00 x 19 in. / 4.50 x 17 in.
TIRES, FRONT/REAR: 120/70R-19 / 170/60R-17
RAKE/TRAIL: 26.3°/4.1 in. (104mm)
WHEELBASE: 59.7 in. (1,517mm)
SEAT HEIGHT: 35 in. (889mm)
FUEL CAPACITY: 7.9 gal. (30L)
WEIGHT: 625 lb. (192.7kg)
Gearbox for 2019 BMW R 1250 GS Adventure First Ride
2019 BMW R 1250 GS AdventureKevin Wing


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