BMW R 1250 GS 2018 test

BMW R 1250 GS in the top test

High-end all-rounder

In the new BMW R 1250 GS, variable valve control via switching cam ensures more torque, power and smooth running. Otherwise, the essentials stay with the good old. The central question in the top test: Does the Shift Cam nock the old boxer? happened so far: In 1980 BMW launched the R 80 G / S. Boxer engine, cardan shaft, enduro-compatible wheel / tire dimensions, long spring travel. So the real travel enduro was born. In the almost 40 years since then, the displacement has grown from 800 to 1,170 cubic centimeters, power and torque have increased bit by bit. Telelever came, partial water cooling, and more and more high-tech features that are subject to a surcharge, but often useful. However, the special basic concept – boxer, cardan, large front wheel, generous suspension travel – has always remained the same. This careful but consistent refinement of an idiosyncratic concept over the decades has, as the saying goes, given the GS an “enormous degree of technical maturity”. The customers appreciate that, as can be seen from the Alpine passes. Consequently, this cow is sacred.

BMW R 1250 GS in the top test

High-end all-rounder

New model? Or technical revision?

So it’s understandable that the people of Munich aren’t starting to throw everything upside down. On the other hand, you have to look very carefully this time: new model? Or technical revision? Only different colors, shorter manifolds and the cylinder cover indicate that the BMW R 1250 GS is the latest GS. The latter has it all, because it hides the central innovation. Word has got around: The new engines (R 1250 RT, RS and R to follow) have a shifting mechanism for the intake camshafts, called Shift Cam, which provides a tame and a sharp cam profile depending on the speed and load. This should give the engine more torque and smoothness below, and more power above. Furthermore, the cubic capacity grew by a not insignificant 84 cubic meters to 1,254 cm³. Otherwise everything stays as usual. So how does that work??

Jacek Bilski

In sixth gear, the R 1250 GS goes from 140 to 180 in 3.6 seconds.

On the one hand subtle, on the other hand powerful. Subtle, you leave old and new side by side. With the well-known boxer fanfare, the 1170 roars, also mechanically present, an audible rattle and ticker from the heads. The Shift-Cam engine, on the other hand, knows the signs of the times, biting back the lion’s roar at the start. Only at idle speed does the exhaust flap open, releasing a rich bass, significantly less tinny than before. More pleasant, more appropriate for this motorcycle. The switch to a toothed chain to drive the camshafts also calms down the mechanical background noise. When stationary, the BMW R 1250 GS breathes more calmly, with less "snap".

New and old engine in comparison

The famous BMW Kalonk when engaging first gear was already a little softened for the 2017 revision. Nevertheless, almost every other motorcycle manages to sort its 1s more elegantly, with less hard impact. Committed to tradition? The hydraulic clutch is known to work smoothly and wonderfully defined. So we’re rolling. It immediately becomes apparent that the new drive of the BMW R 1250 GS runs even more smoothly further down. The 1170 can just handle 60 km / h in sixth gear, but then reveals its displeasure with a clatter and hesitant throttle response. Not so the 1254, which you can actually take on the gas in the last gear without grumbling at 50. The trick with the tame cam works great. It’s hard to believe that a large two-cylinder can run with such low vibrations.

Jacek Bilski

The test specimen weighs 258 kilograms.

So to the exercise with which the promised progress can be checked one-to-one: draft measurement. Both side by side, sixth gear, 60 km / h – and full throttle. While the old engine has to struggle for a moment, the new one pulls away smoothly and noticeably. Around 10 Newton meters are also available up to 3,500 revolutions, with a subtle difference. As the engine speed increases, so does the lead in torque, power and motorcycle length. The shift cam motor takes 0.3 seconds from the previous year’s model from 60 to 100 (3.1 to 3.4), 0.6 seconds from 100 to 140 (3.2 to 3.8). Definitely, but not yet a world. Finally, between 140 and 180, when both are running at their torque zenith, the power increase shifts from the subtle to the mighty. A well-calibrated popometer and a stopwatch are no longer required to feel the difference. All you have to do is look at the speedometer display moving rapidly towards 200. The 1200 GS needs a quick 5.6 seconds for this sprint, the BMW R 1250 GS ticks it off in a sensational 3.6 seconds. Good gosh This brings the acceleration of the GS closer to the league of the 160 HP Rase Enduros, to which of course there is still a gap. In terms of pulling power, however, the drive, which is now almost 140 Newton meters (!) At its peak, sets the bar high. Very high.

Performance in the fast and slow race

In reality, what is more important than the bare numbers is the extra sovereignty that the new engine of the BMW R 1250 GS gains. Not overwhelming, but a lot. Increase the elasticity, the usable speed range even wider, the run significantly smoother, especially in the lower range. Unchanged, namely almost perfect the spontaneity, the precision of the throttle response. A jewel from Motor, not only but especially for a travel enduro. Above all, there really isn’t the slightest trace of the cam thrust. No sudden increase in performance like with Honda’s VTEC, no rubber band effect like with the early DVT Ducatis. Nothing. Only now and then do you think that you will hear a faint "click" after taking the accelerator off while coasting. A difficultly respectable achievement. Incidentally, evidence that the end of the flagpole for the internal combustion engine is far from being reached.

Jacek Bilski

The navigation system is subject to a surcharge.

About driving behavior. Fast and slow route and circular path. The GS has always been characterized by its pronounced handiness for a heavy travel enduro (currently 258 kilograms with main stand and spoked wheels). This strength comes from the concept: low center of gravity thanks to the boxer, longitudinal crankshaft, both of which are beneficial for handling. Nothing changes about that. The BMW R 1250 GS steers nimbly and very precisely, skilfully conceals its five hundredweight, then remains extremely neutral through all lean angles. And stable anyway, the ESA skilfully works off bumps in an inclined position. It’s that well-known driving experience: rooted, flexible, sorted and predictable. The GS obediently does what the driver thinks about. Forgive mistakes. The lean angle is also immense. Just like the 2018 model. It is also typical of GS how much the front wheel control is decoupled from the road surface via trailing arms. Feedback was never her strong point, and that’s where it stays. You have to develop a relationship with Telelever over time. The front holds up, but they don’t have any information about how much longer.

A very safe motorcycle overall

The interplay of driving modes and the electronic chassis, which is subject to a surcharge, is complex, but the bottom line is very successful. A comprehensive list of all combinations is beyond the scope, the matter is not new anyway. Therefore, it should be noted: BMW summarizes in the modes (Rain and Road series, Dynamic and Enduro cost extra) engine response, ABS and traction control and damping characteristics. This keeps usability clear, and further adjustments are planned in the "Dynamic Pro" and "Enduro Pro" modes, which can be activated using a coding plug. The basic chassis compromise is then also right for everyone, except very light people. They will not find the BMW R 1250 GS overly comfortable in solo operation. Fleet drivers for two with luggage should consider the higher, stiffer sports suspension. The automatic preload adjustment on the shock absorber is perhaps a touch too simplistic. It basically works flawlessly. But if you want a little more tension or less, your hands are tied. The alternatives "Min" and "Max" are too extreme to be useful in practice. The solution with manual preselection of the load status as it was used before 2017 was not that bad. And the very old one, the handwheel, also left a choice.

Jacek Bilski

Prices for the new BMW R 1250 GS start at 16,150 euros.

Brake measurement. Sometimes the greatest strength of the Telelever-GS, because on the brakes it stays up at the front. An average deceleration of 9.6 m / s² results in a braking distance of 40.2 meters from 100 km / h. Excellent. Connoisseurs will already have recognized that the four-piston fixed calipers on the front wheel are no longer from Brembo. But that’s not a disadvantage. The pressure point of the decelerator remains clear, the vehement braking power speaks for itself anyway. On top of that, the new pliers seem to alleviate the problem of free travel in the brake lever, which increases with increasing pad wear. The tuning of the ABS deserves the greatest praise as it makes a significant contribution to braking performance. It works with fine control intervals. Just as the braking pattern illustrates, the IMU-fed electronics manage to keep the rear of the vehicle accurately on the ground over the entire braking distance under all load conditions. Cornering ABS costs extra. In summary, the BMW R 1250 GS brakes as if on rails. Exactly like its predecessor. In the same way as the ABS, the dynamic traction control also works depending on the lean angle, and is also very sensitive and reliable. A very safe motorcycle overall.

Prices start at 16,150 euros

With that the top test procedure would be mastered to the complete satisfaction. The base price of the large BMW R 1250 GS is now 16,150 euros instead of 15,300, but connectivity TFT and the good LED light are standard equipment, which puts the extra price into perspective. Is it worth the change? Well, everyone has to deal with that. Anyone who frequently drives their 1170 at full throttle, be it with a lot of payload or because they live in a hilly area, who enjoys the latest engine technology, should try the Shift-Cam-GS. There is no acute need for action for all others. You notice that we would have left some things on the table. Exactly that, namely old and new on country roads, off-road, on travel and in everyday life, will be found in the comparison test between the GS 1200 R and the GS 1250 R which will soon be published on

MOTORCYCLE conclusion

Shift Cam brings significant progress, further underlines the strengths of the boxer: torque and smoothness reach a new level, the increased performance turns on. An outstanding engine. Otherwise everything simply stays as it was before. Probably the best all-rounder has just got a little more polished, a little better.

Technical overview: variable valve control

The engineers have a decisive influence on the character of an engine via the cam profile and timing. There is a conflict of objectives: Either pulling power below or power above. Moderate control times fill the combustion chamber well with fresh gas at low speeds. That brings torque, but these engines are really running out of air upstairs. Conversely, "sharp" valve timing with a lot of valve lift and overlap (inlet and outlet open at the same time) bring good filling at higher speeds – at the expense of torque and smoothness.


The new shift cam technology is also used in other new BMW models.

This conflict can be solved by variable timing, which has long been used in different ways in car engines. The manufacturers use very different methods. The rotary adjusters on the intake cam from Kawasaki (1400 GTR, hydraulic) Suzuki (GSX-R 1000, mechanically by centrifugal force) are continuously variable. Ducati also uses hydraulic units for the DVT, even installing them on the inlet and outlet camshafts. Honda’s VTEC deactivates one inlet and one exhaust valve per cylinder below a fixed speed by means of a locking bolt, thus switching between two- and four-valve operation. BMW is different again: the Shift-Cam-Boxer shifts the intake cam in a map-controlled manner, switching between moderate and sharp profile. All systems mean more effort.

Comment from test editor Johannes Muller

That will give letters. This BMW also came with full equipment, only the milled parts package is missing. And it will come back like this. And then, there is no need for a prophet to win comparisons. "Shift!", "Works sheet!", "Bought!". I don’t want to defend this practice. It also annoys me not to know how a GS drives without ESA. But: have you looked around out there? Almost everyone made the big cross!


Johannes Muller with his personal opinion on the GS.

A GS without the Comfort, Touring and Dynamic package? An impossibility. The fact that the 20 mille was cracked does not seem to play a role in Rolex. From this point of view, it is almost correct to configure the test bikes like this … And now I’ll reveal another secret. Between us: I’m not a friend of the GS. I don’t like “travel enduros”, Telelever, cardan or boxer. But what can the poor thing for my personal preferences? So all that remains is for me to approach the matter as objectively as possible, and that forces me to acknowledge it. From all measurable points of view, there is an incredibly capable high-end all-rounder that has been developed in all aspects. Certainly one of the best motorcycles, if not that. I don’t have to love them anyway.

Technical specifications

BMW R 1250 GS


2, boxer engine


100.0 kW / 136.0 PS at 7,750 rpm


1254 cc

Seat height

850 mm

Seat height from / to

850 mm / 870 mm

Base price

€ 16,150

Show all technical data

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