2019 BMW R 1250 GS Review: Time Enough Machine

BMW’s all-conquering GS has a superb new engine, and it gives even more of a very precious resource to the rider

Photos: Leow Ju-Len

This is the new version of what is probably the most popular big-capacity bike in the world. 

It’s the latest iteration of a boxer-powered BMW adventure bike, aka GS (gelande/strasse, German for ‘offroad/road’), and it was unboxed, literally, at its debut in Singapore earlier this year, bringing with it an entirely new and larger engine. 

Besides jumping from 1,170cc to 1,254cc in capacity, hence the evolution of the name from R 1200 GS to R 1250 GS, the new engine also brings an additional weapon to the tech fight in the form of variable valve timing. 

The R 1250 GS at its literal unboxing earlier this year 

As explained in our debut story on CarBuyer.com.sg, BMW’s new Shiftcam tech controls valve timing and lift on the intake valves, thereby adding nothing but good stuff into the mix – more power, torque, flexibility and efficiency.

BMW Motorrad’s official figures are impressive: Despite a seven percent bump in capacity, the power and torque is upped by nine and 14 percent respectively, but matched with a four percent increase in efficiency. 

It also brings the GS to the leading edge of the modern era, since both Suzuki and Ducati have variable valve tech on their bikes too – check out our review of the new Ducati Diavel 1260, or Bologna’s own adventure bike the Multistrada 950, for good examples. 

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qzl3kuMtC3U[/embedyt]

We’ve gone over some of the reasons why the GS has become the foremost example of the adventure motorcycle species in our short video walkthrough above, but the Big GS is truly one of those bikes you really must ride in person to realise what makes it such an effective tool.

And while the simple, accessible effectiveness of the bike has made it into the undisputed segment leader, the newest GS has evolved into a motorcycle that doesn’t just make hard work easy, but it’s such a ‘facilitator’ for creating the riding mindset and even riding time, that you’ll want to ride it more and more.

For those who dislike huge machines, we’d recommend the Small GS (the F 850 GS), but not without giving the GS a try first, since its nature belies its appearance.

Newcomers will be intimidated by the GS’s size and heft. At 249kg wet, it’s certainly not small, and if you’re pushing it around slowly for the first time you might even wonder how people even get it out of the carpark, let alone people around the world.

But get the GS moving and it’s like a bodybuilder pulling off antigravity ballet – the controls are all feather light and without a hint of jerkiness, the low-slung weight of the boxer engine makes it feel as stable as a maxi-scooter.

If adventure bikes are like SUVs, then the GS handles like a Jaguar I-Pace or Mercedes-Benz EQC, matching an authoritative, tall seating position with impressive handling made possible by engineering the weight low. 

You’ll do even less gear-shifting this time around, as the variable valve timing makes the 1,254cc boxer-twin even more flexible. Honestly, third-gear could bring you just about anywhere. 

The capacity boost also gives an additional 11hp and 18Nm to bring the output to 136hp, into properly powerful territory – this is the most powerful boxer BMW’s ever made, it boasts. The GS never felt like it needed more power, but the new engine has enjoyable, harder edge in power delivery above 4,000rpm and stronger roll-on, so it’ll be even more adept at high-speed touring.

The chassis is similar to before (although the front brakes have been changed from Brembo units to those from US supplier Hayes) with a Telelever front and Paralever rear setup paired with adjustable, adaptive suspension (aka Dynamic ESA, DESA) taking the worst Singapore’s increasingly Third World road surfaces can dole out, and ask for more. 

There’s a slight hint of wallow with the suspension in the ‘Road’ setting, but that’s acceptable for the comfort is delivers, and you can always switch to the harder ‘Dynamic’ setting in Malaysia. 

Okay you probably get it, the GS even more its all-conquering self now thanks to the improved engine – but what’s this about time and minds? 

Motorcycle riding and touring isn’t easy, let’s face it. First you have to find the time and effort, and once you do get everything in place, it still takes plenty of effort to make the bike optimal, such as adjusting everything to your liking, nailing the tyre pressure, get the bike’s service in order, tune the suspension (if yours is adjustable) and preload. 

All that can take lots of time (especially the suspension bit) and elbow grease. If you like that sort of thing, kudos to you, but if you gave me a way to skip all that shit and just go ride, the choice is very clear. 

Amazingly the GS can do all that for you. How much are tyre pressures off, exactly? The 6.5-inch TFT colour screen tells you, along with everything else you need to know, from voltage to oil temp and maintenance requirements.

Got a passenger? The DESA system can automatically adjust itself to suit, or if your feet are tired you can set the ride height to its lowest level with the push of a button.  On the move, you can adjust the windscreen height easily, while the up-down quickshifter takes all the strain off your left leg. And we haven’t even delved into the on-board safety systems and adjustable ride modes. 

Granted, lots of other modern bikes have these convenience features too, but none pair all that with the essentially easy-rideable nature of the GS. All together, the GS becomes the sort of bike where you simply ride more and fuss less. 

We also aren’t saying the GS makes you into some adventure god immediately, you still need to pick up the skills for it (which BMW will also do), but the reason for its popularity is because it has the biggest Venn diagram overlap of any modern bike – touring, commuting, off-road, ease of riding, features.

Our bet: Put an average rider on a GS, and they’ll go further, faster, better than most other bikes, not to mention give them the time and mindset to enjoy it. That’s what has made it the most popular adventure bike in the world, and even stronger in this iteration.  

BMW R 1250 GS HP


1,254cc, 8V, horizontally-opposed twin


136hp at 7750rpm


143Nm at 6250rpm


6-speed manual with up/down quickshift 


3.6 seconds

Top Speed


Wet Weight


Seat Height 

850-870mm (800-900mm optional)


Performance Motors Limited 

Price (OTR)

S$56,800 machine only 



about the author

Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong