APPEARANCES can be deceiving and while the BMW R1250RT may be a big, big bike by all definitions, it is the lightweight touring model in BMW Motorrad’s range. That is, if you can call 279kg “lightweight”.
Be that as it may, BMW has the K1300 series to classify as its heavyweight tourer, so I guess the R1250RT may be lightweight after all.
It is, by clever engineering, easier to set on its centre stand than many middleweight bikes. If that can be a definition of lightweight, then I concur with BMW’s definition.
The RT is festooned with a plethora of electronic aids, whether safety or comfort-related. This used to be a matter of concern for many would-be owners but reports of failures have been few and far between.
The sheer amount of electrics and electronics on this bike rivals its saloon cars. But we will get to that shortly.
The first question mainly asked of the new flat twins is the shift cam engine. If you have been living in a cave lately, you may not know that the boxer twins have been steadily updated since the demise of the airheads (ask an old BMW rider).
The air/liquid-cooled new generation has now been endowed with shift cam, a version of VTEC (on Hondas) if that makes it easier to visualise.
The new shift cam works by physically moving the intake cam from one am profile to another, thus providing the engine with the ability to use two separate cam profiles depending on engine load. It starts moving to the more aggressive cam profile at over 5000rpm and this feels totally seamless except for a slight change in exhaust note.
In addition, the engine capacity has also been increased to 1,254cc and the lump now makes 136hp at 7,750rpm and 143Nm of torque at 6,250rpm. It feels and runs smoother and has much less torque reaction at idle (ask the old BMW rider). It also feels superbly torquey and seems “un-burstable”.
Top speed is academic but I can confirm it goes as fast as the previous incarnation, at least. It definitely gets there quicker. The electronics are comprehensive, to say the least.
For the rider’s comfort, there is keyless ignition, stereo system, heated grips, heated seats, powered windshield, quickshifter, hill start control, cruise control and central locking.
The newest and my favourite feature is the hill start control while the quickshifter is my least favourite.
For safety, there is electronic suspension, traction control, anti-lock braking system, tyre pressure monitor and different riding modes.
It is notable that the RT comes with self-levelling suspension (in Auto Mode; it may be manually adjusted as well).
The hill start control, or HSC Pro, is simply a tool that puts on the brakes on when you stop on an incline. It senses (through the inertial measurement unit, or IMU) if the incline is five degrees or more and locks the brakes on automatically. You can also initiate HSC Pro by pumping the brake lever a few times if the incline is less than five degrees. Very useful for those extra long red lights.
The quickshifter or ShiftAssist Pro works well in the higher gears (third gear and above) but tends to jerk the bike in the first three gears. I resorted to the clutch in these gears, which was no big deal since it was light and easy to manipulate anyway.
The RT handles slightly differently from previous incarnations. It used to have a really light handlebar feel even at high speeds and especially nimble at low speed manoeuvres.
The new RT feels heavier and makes a more “definite” connection to the front wheel. It maintains the “heavy” feels at all speeds but overall the steering weight is still lighter than many other touring bikes out there.
The ubiquitous BMW Telever unit with a 37mm central spring strut is mounted up front. At the rear is a BMW single-sided swing arm featuring a WAD strut.
Next-Generation Dynamic ESA (DESA) controls the damping in the ride modes (Road, Dynamic or Rain) and the preload is either Auto, which self levels or Manual (either minimum or maximum).
I prefer to leave the setting in Dynamic as the Road mode is mostly for highway cruising and not much good for corners.
Accessing these modes is via a button on the right handlebar switch and can be done on the fly (throttle closed) but not when cruise control mode is active.
The left handlebar switch is more involved with the cruise control switch, options switch and stereo rotary toggle as well as the traditional signals, horn and high beam.
Both the Dynamic Traction Control and Dynamic Brake Control (DBC) are IMU-controlled. Both are lean angle sensitive but most interestingly, the DBC actually will close the throttle automatically in a panic situation (even if the rider doesn’t close the throttle).
Everything is still displayed on a traditional analogue speedometer and tachometer and a smaller separate electronic digital display panel between the analogue instruments.
A point to ponder is why the new GS is equipped with a colour TFT display and not the RT. Maybe RT owners are severe traditionalists.
The seat is adjustable 3 ways and if you need to ask about fuel capacity or consumption, suffice it to say that the 29-litre tank goes very far at 21.2 km/l.
The RT comes in Mars Red Metallic, Carbon Black Metallic or Alpine White. It retails at RM134,500 and is a whole lot of bike for the money.