Are you curious about what the “RT” stands for in the name of the 2023 BMW R 1250 RT? Well, the “R” is for “Reise,” translating from German as “journey, trip, or voyage,” while the “T” means “Touring.”
For the past 20 years, the RT has routinely been one of my personal favorite motorcycles. The steady improvements and refinements have only enhanced my view of the machine as a comfortable and very capable sport-touring mount.
It’s a great daily rider, as well as an excellent choice for short or long hauls—whether alone or with luggage and a passenger.
But don’t let the RT’s stylish lines and sophisticated presence fool you. The bike is the epitome of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. BMW’s sensible application of evolving technology to this stalwart machine continues to ensure its place as discerning motorcyclists’ favorite.
The Smoothly Shifting Shaft
Bolstered now by ShiftCam Variable Engine Timing (adopted in 2019), the R 1250 RT’s Boxer engine utilizes a two-position camshaft with two different intake valve rise lobes—one for partial load and one for full load.
The partial load lobe operates from idle to 4,500 rpm, the lower fuel/air flow rendering smoother running and better fuel economy. It also allows for a lower idling speed, which reduces vibration.
At 4,500 rpm, the cam shifts in its cradle to engage the full load lobe, providing maximum valve lift for full-volume fuel/air flow. This shift is almost imperceptible to the rider, yet infuses the engine with a pleasant response and a somewhat aggressive, yet fully controllable nature.
The three available ride modes (Eco, Rain, and Road) are quickly accessible on the fly. The Boxer engine acquires a nice snarl when opened up for a welcome aural note.
The clutch is a wet multi-plate unit augmented by an anti-hop slipper function, which dramatically smooths out downshifts by matching the engine speed to rear wheel rotation. This results in succinct, controllable downshifts, which provide an added level of stability and safety.
Hydraulically-operated, the clutch has a light feel (the levers are exceptionally well-shaped, by the way) and engages off the line in tight syncopation with the engine. The pull away is smooth and confident without any playing with revs.
The Brakes Will Surprise You
BMW’s signature Telelever and Paralever suspension systems ensure a smooth and compliant ride at both ends. The Telelever at the front gives the RT exceptional stability under heavy braking while simultaneously eliminating dive. The Telelever’s unique characteristics give the RT precise and highly intuitive turn-in, responding well to rider inputs and delivering positive feedback that helps marry the bike to the road.
The Paralever system at the rear works in conjunction with the aluminum single-sided swingarm/shaft drive, smoothing out the road for a planted feel.
BMW was an early and ardent adapter of ABS in motorcycling. The company has continued to upgrade its linked system, augmenting it with dynamic traction control, automatic stability control and cornering-ABS. All are welcome, and—dare I say—essential rider aids, especially in the wet.
The brakes work exceptionally well, considering they have to handle the RT’s 615-pound heft. That’s a lot of mass to bring down from speed, which the system performs with uncanny aplomb.
Under particularly heavy application (whether that be aggressive riding or accident avoidance), there is noticeable oscillation between the front and rear calipers as the system regulates traction. This can result in a spongy feel in the front and rear levers, with the resistance altering to accommodate the alternating pressure. It’s disconcerting the first few times you experience it, but you’ll adapt to it quickly.
Attractive 17-inch cast aluminum wheels in either black or silver round out the rolling package.
Not the Gentleman He Seems
The RT’s mass is carried extremely low. Together with the machine’s low profile (standard seat height is 31.7 inches), the flat-footed aspect makes it highly maneuverable, especially at low speeds.
The responsive nature of the motorcycle hides its weight and the RT feels like a smaller displacement bike. The well-distributed weight bias provides an agile, second-nature feel during cornering, making the RT a swift canyon runner.
This bike has a wonderfully forgiving demeanor. Once settled in a corner, it stays glued to the road with uncanny stability.
For the long haul, the RT has a comfortable seating position, with a plush seat capable of all-day travel. The somewhat narrow handlebar provides surprisingly good leverage and fits the natural ergonomic flow of seat/bar/peg placement, resulting in minimal fatigue.
The power is simply delightful. Although the RT exhibits gentlemanly deportment, don’t think for one moment that there isn’t a more dastardly temperament lingering beneath the attractive, urbane, and refined good looks.
Roll on the throttle and let that Boxer breathe. You’ll experience the depths of adrenaline normally reserved for sport bikes.
The RT’s saddlebags are beautifully streamlined into the bodywork and have one of, if not the best latching system for removing and reinstalling them. Simply flip the main release lever and the bags slide off effortlessly, while going back on the bike with equal ease.
As a nice touch, there are four programmable buttons on the left side of the cockpit to which you can assign your favorite functions. There’s a convenient locking switch (as tested) on the right handlebar cube that locks the bags and two fairing glove compartments (one with USB).
Speaking of the fairing, the RT has a fairly large one with additional deflector blades that help break up and subdue turbulence without any strange cockpit vortices. However, the large surface area of the fairing and windscreen catches the air, and at speed—especially in a crosswind situation—can result in a mild wobble effect.
The other negative I have to report on the RT are the relatively small mirrors. Built into the fairing, they’re positioned low and require proper finessing to ensure maximum visibility. Take the time to adjust them properly and they should work fine.
In addition to the convenient locking system of the saddlebags, there’s a fork lock and an alarm (as tested), which can be set manually or on auto. The alarm activates a few moments after the engine is turned off.
If the computer in the 10.25-inch color TFT instrument cluster (with phone connectivity and integrated map navigation) is to be believed, the RT was averaging at about 47 mpg. I achieved the number while taking winding back roads where I was getting into the throttle quite a bit.
Nurse the RT, keeping the shift cam in the partial load, and your mileage will be more in the 55 mpg range. With that kind of mileage and a 6.6-gallon capacity, you would be safe wandering some 300 miles before you need to find a station.
The Hill Start Pro tech is a very welcome standard addition, especially when fully loaded down and carrying a passenger. It allows you to release the brake to concentrate on throttle and clutch for starting on a hill from dead stop.
What Doesn’t It Do?
The 2023 BMW R 1250 RT does it all and does it well. It accommodates a wide variety of riding preferences, from casual and laid back cruising to distance touring or more spirited sport riding.
It provided surprising performance in both the engine and handling departments, all the while providing comfort for the rider and the passenger.
The bike carries a base MSRP of $19,695, although to fully enjoy the machine’s offerings, the optional Premium Package will add another $6,180, taking the price to the more realistic $25,875. In the established BMW tradition, there are a number of additional options available (such as an adaptive headlight, electronic suspension adjustment, keyless ride, etc.) to fully tailor the RT to your personal wants and needs.
+ superb handling with a highly versatile powerplant
– noticeable oscillation between front and back calipers under heavy braking results in disconcerting rear brake pedal movement
Distributor: BMW Motorrad
MSRP: $19,695 (base)
Engine: air/liquid-cooled, 4-stroke flat twon, double overhead camshaft, BMW ShiftCam
Power: 136hp @7,750rpm; 105lb-ft @6,250rpm
Transmission: 6-speed, wet multi-plate, anti-hop, shaft final drive
Weight (Wet): 615lbs
Seat Height: 31.7in
Fuel Capacity: 6.6gal
Fuel Consumption: 55mpg (as tested)
Fuel Grade: premium
Color: Alpine White 3, Racing Blue Metallic 2, Meteoric II Dust Metallic, Black Storm Metallic 2