2019 BMW R 1250 GS / GSA: One of the Best Gets Even Better

Text: Ken Freund • Photography: Kevin Wing

The versatile R-series boxer GS models are important to BMW, as the bikes are the top-selling models, with sales of both the GS and GSA (GS Adventure) comprising 27% of all BMW motorcycles sold in the U.S. In this competitive adventure-touring segment, it’s vital to constantly improve and update the machines. A considerable number of changes were made for 2019.

Given a casual glance, the 2019 BMW R 1250 GS and GSA look much like the previous year’s models, but rest assured there are many changes! Among the updates, the elongated front beak appears larger and the air intake and fuel tank panels are newly designed. The asymmetric headlamps now are LED as standard. But the major changes for 2019 are underneath; the biggest upgrades have to do with the cylinder heads, and this is an easy way to spot the new models.

BMW chose Palm Springs, CA, for the press launch, a region known for warm, sunny weather year-round. However, as luck would have it, the area had just been raked by intense storms, and part of the preplanned test riding loop had been washed out and was impassible. As a result, the route was changed at the last minute.

Powertrain and Performance

Last year’s 1170cc displacement of the boxer twin engine has been upped to 1254cc for 2019, with increases in both bore and stroke to 102.5mm and 76mm, respectively. (The outgoing model was 101mm x 73mm.)

Foremost among the changes is the new cylinder head design, which employs BMW’s new ShiftCam technology. This system provides variable valve timing and valve lift on the intake side. Use of the part-load or full-load cams is initiated by a shift gate on the camshaft, working in conjunction with a computer-controlled electromechanical actuator. It all works seamlessly without a noticeable step at the changeover. In addition, the intake camshafts are designed for asynchronous opening of the two intake valves. This creates a swirl of the incoming air-fuel mixture, allowing more-effective combustion, which increases efficiency and reduces harmful emissions.

Another change is the BMS-O digital engine control. Its main features are fully sequential fuel injection, along with compact size and low weight. Fuel delivery is achieved by an electronic fuel injection over a throttle body with a 52mm opening. New dual-jet injectors are capable of providing an even higher volume along with improved emissions. Engine mapping and exhaust routing from the cylinder heads are also changed.

Power ratings rise from the 2018’s 125 peak horsepower to 134 horses, a gain of about 9%. Peak torque increases nearly 14%, from the 2018’s 92 lb-ft to 105 lb-ft at 6,250 for 2019. Engine power is directed to a six-speed transmission and shaft final drive, unchanged from last year.

Thanks to BMW’s ShiftCam variable camshaft control system, there’s noticeably more torque throughout the entire rev band, but especially at lower rpm. This is particularly welcome when picking your way through rocks on a trail, or starting on a hill. Redline is at 9,000 rpm, and at 70 mph in sixth gear, the engine is humming along at 4,000 rpm. Although the new engine delivers more power and torque, the improvements in efficiency are said to still provide a small gain in fuel economy.

Chassis and Handling

The sturdy tubular steel frame is unchanged for 2019, as are the Telelever front end and Paralever rear suspension. The R 1250 GS Adventure model has a much larger fuel tank, standard crashbars, and taller suspension, compared with the GS. For 2019 the R 1250 GSA gets a longer wheelbase at 59.7 inches, a less steep steering head angle of 26.3 degrees, and 4.1 inches of trail. The regular GS chassis remains essentially unchanged.

The next generation of BMW’s optional Dynamic ESA automatically adjusts damping to all riding situations and conditions, and compensates for load changes by adjusting rear-spring preload. Ride quality on all GS models is comfortable and well controlled. Steering is light and precise, with excellent stability. Braking is strong and easy to control, and the ABS works flawlessly.

Standard Automatic Stability Control helps optimize available traction for improved safety. Two ride modes (available as standard) allow the motorcycle to adapt to rider preferences and conditions. Hill Start Control is also a standard feature, eliminating the need to hold the brakes when stopped on an incline. Ride Modes Pro (which features additional riding modes), Dynamic Traction Control, ABS Pro, Hill Start Control Pro, and Dynamic Brake Assistant are available optionally.

The R 1250 GSA also has “Enduro” and “Enduro Pro” modes for expert riders. DTC allows more-efficient and safe acceleration, especially when cornering. ABS Pro offers greater safety when braking, even when in a turn. New Dynamic Brake Control is designed for added safety when braking, by preventing unintentional throttle activation.

Features and Ergonomics

The riding position is upright and comfortable. Seat height is 33.5 to 34.3 inches for the GS and 35 to 35.8 inches for the GSA. There’s a lowered-suspension version of the GS available, which has a 31.5-inch seat height.

Starting with the 2019 model, GS models get the 6.5-inch full-color TFT display as standard. The display and control system can connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth to increase its versatility.

Before purchase, prospective buyers should take the time to familiarize themselves with the many options available. There are many choices, so it can get confusing. The factory and aftermarket also offer a plethora of accessories for the GS and GSA models

Final Thoughts

BMW’s latest GS models work well and have an amazing array of electronics and options. The bikes are well designed and manufactured with quality materials. Pricing, though, may give buyers sticker shock. The base R 1250 GS has an MSRP of $ 17,695, but all are imported with the Select Package, which raises it to ,645. Optional colors and Premium package add even more. The R 1250 GSA has a base MSRP of $ 19,945, and only one option package is offered, for $ 3,450. Add $ 495 for the dealer delivery charge.