2021 BMW R1250R
This is our first motorcycle review of 2021, and we have a special guest, something that you don’t see every day. It is definitely a unique option worth considering if you like naked bikes. Unlike 1990s and 2000s, people are not buying racing bikes and it is not hard to see the reason, they have super aggressive seating position, shorter gear ratios and even unrefined engine characteristics that makes it a pain to drive day-to-day basis.
Today, people choose naked bikes almost more than anything, as they can be sporty, nimble, comfortable and easy to live with. This is one of the reasons why so many brands, including BMW, offers several types of naked bikes. Currently BMW has 5 different naked motorcycles in their model lineup, and each one is for different type of riders. 2021 BMW R1250R sits in the middle, focusing more towards touring and road comfort.
What’s new with the R1250R?
BMW introduced the R1250R in 2019, but the original naked R1250 dates all the way back to 1990s, named R1100R back in time. It later became R1150R, then R1200R and current generation is called R1250R. As expected, it got better and faster in every generation, but it traditionally comes with boxer engine matched with shaft drive. Compared to the R1200R, R1250R is not only faster, but also comes with a lot of tech and safety features.
Though the new R1250R is better in almost every way, they look pretty similar with the older generation and it is more like a mid-cycle update to make the bike more up-to-date. Unlike middle-weight naked motorcycles, it doesn’t have to get completely redesigned every 3 to 4 years due to intense competition, this bike is more in niche segment and traditional design elements make it even more special.
Let’s talk about the technical stuff. If you are into the motorcycles and especially BMWs, you already know this platform. It’s a flat 2 cylinder (a.k.a. boxer) 1254cc engine that produces 136 horsepower and whopping 105.4 lb-ft (143 nm) of torque that is also used in other BMW models such as R1250GS. This engine dates back to several years ago, so it is already tried and trued platform that BMW has been updating it.
As mentioned, it has come a long way, considering R1200 series had only air cooling and dry clutch less than a decade ago. Today, BMW’s boxer engine sets the threshold in terms of technology. With the R1250, BMW decided to change few things to make the engine more efficient and fun. They increased bore and stroke from 101 x 73 to 102.5 x 76 for more torque throughout the rev range. It also comes with ShiftCam technology. Basically it is a variable valve timing system like we used to see in modern cars. It may not sound new for car enthusiasts, but it is still not that common in motorcycling world.
Basically, like Honda’s VTEC system, it has additional cam lobe on the intake camshaft, and the actuator switches cam profile based on the engine rpm and load. Unlike Honda’s system, it does not use rocker arms and pins to change camshaft profile, instead it moves the whole camshaft with an actuator and solenoid. After all the changes, it produces 11 more horsepower and 13 lb-ft of torque compared to the old R1200R. It also helps getting better gas mileage, our average was around 5.8L/100 km, which is quite impressive for this size of a bike.
Of course, like the other modern BMW models, R1250R comes with the latest features available. One of the first things that you see as soon as you get on the bike is 6.5 inch TFT Display. It is more like an infotainment system and the screen resolution is excellent. There is no touchscreen, but you get iconic BMW wheel on the handlebar that you can zoom in or out when you use the navigation. Though you need to get familiar with menu and overall layout, once you get used to it, it is pretty easy to navigate through the menus.
Looks & Exterior Features
2021 BMW R1250R still keeps traditional design language and the bike looks pretty similar with the original R1100R. It is definitely a great balance of retro design and modern body lines all around the bike. It is definitely a head turner with the iconic engine sticking out from both sides. Horizontally opposed boxer engine was making a lot more sense back in the day when there was no radiator and solely relied on air cooling, but today that’s what makes it iconic and it still has some fins around the engine block for additional cooling.
Unlike the R1250GS, R1250R does come with regular forks and it is probably the most significant technical difference than its bigger brother, and the biggest reason for weight savings. As soon as you see the front end, you realize it comes with LED daytime running lights, but somehow it does not have LED headlights and I think it is one of the biggest flaws of the R1250R, it should be standard especially for this price range.
2021 BMW R1250R comes with single rear swingarm and there is no chain drive, makes it super convenient for longer rides as you don’t have to lube it every few hundred kilometers. While checking the swingarm, it is impossible not to see that huge chrome muffler, and I totally get that it’s there because of Euro 5 emissions. You can always upgrade it with an aftermarket one, and it would sound so much better. You can actually get the bike with an aftermarket Akrapovic exhaust from BMW directly and I would highly recommend it.
Let’s start with the riding position, as expected from touring oriented naked bike, it is pretty relax riding position. You sit upright, and footpegs are not placed too high so you can ride longer distances more comfortably. With the 820mm seat height, it is significantly lower than R1250GS. So if you are a shorter rider, this may be a better option for you.
Daily riding is extremely comfortable and easy with the R1250R, in fact it was easier than what I was expecting. As it comes with hydraulic clutch, I was thinking it would be heavy for daily riding, but I was wrong. The clutch is very soft especially for an hydraulic one, and engaging point is surprisingly predictable. Like the clutch, throttle response is also extremely smooth and it comes with multiple ride modes. In comfort mode, it feels more mellow especially at lower RPMs, makes it very easy to ride when you are commuting. There are also Dynamic, Dynamic Pro and Rain modes that adjusts throttle response and suspension tuning.
As expected from almost $20.000 CAD bike, it comes with top notch dual Brembo M50 4-piston calipers and 320mm discs in the front, which is also used in several other 1000cc racing bikes. They give you a lot of confidence during hard braking and you don’t really need rear brakes for extra stopping power. However, BMW didn’t spare any costs with the braking and also put Brembo brakes in the rear, which is a great addition for performance oriented riding style. I think rear brakes is a little bit touchy especially at low speeds.
Engine character makes the riding experience totally unique as it has its own type of vibration and noise. You would not get the smoothest riding experience, there is a vibration at certain RPMs, but not in a buzzy way that you typically get in parallel twin engines. It sounds very industrial with no drama and it does not rev too much compared to other type of engines, but the additional torque with typical boxer engine sound makes you understand why BMW still has horizontally opposed/boxer engines in their model lineup.
Although it looks different than other parallel twin or L twin engines, due to the cylinder heads sticking out from both sides, it means if your state allows lane splitting you need to be more careful, as it has thicker profile. They may also be vulnerable if you drop the bike, additional protection would be a good investment. Also, heat management is good, you don’t get too much heat to the upper body, you may feel additional heat around your foot & legs due to the engine layout.
Speaking of torque, you can find it anywhere, anytime. You don’t need to worry about downshifting if you want to take over or accelerate. ShiftCam technology works very well and you can feel the switch between 4000 and 5000 rpm depending on the RPM and load. It can rev up to 9000 rpm, but it just does not want to go over 8000 as the torque curve goes down a little bit at higher RPMs.
Having a shaft to transfer the power to the rear wheel is a great option for any type of touring bike, as it makes your life a lot easier but as a result, it is usually heavier and causes clunky shifting. BMW refined the transmission and shaft very well over the last few years, and now it is almost as smooth as a chain. Quick shifter works flawlessly and it is a great addition that makes the riding experience significantly better.
Handling is surprisingly good for touring oriented motorcycle. Boxer engine helps lowering the center of gravity and the bike feels very nimble at lower speeds. Dynamic ESA semi-active suspension allows you to change front and rear suspension settings, as well as rear preload settings based on your riding style. Mid corner stability gives a lot of confidence, but you feel additional weight (240 kg) back to back high speed tight turns, that’s when you realize that you are not riding an S1000R.
What makes it unique?
In the motorcycling world, we used to see more sharp, more aggressive, faster, lighter and more edgier models especially in naked category. However, BMW took different approach with the R1250R. Although it is very capable of fast and aggressive riding, it can be extremely calm, relax and comfortable if you take it easy.
Granted, it would never be as good as R1250GS if you put a lot of miles on a highway due to lack of wind protection, but compared to other naked motorcycles, it prioritizes riding comfort while it can still handle other tasks pretty well. For the price range, it makes it one of the most livable and ultimate daily rider of any naked motorcycle. You can always add aftermarket windshield very easily and it will be good for long highway rides as well.
Before seeing the R1250R in person, I was skeptical about the touring concept for naked bike, but it proved how capable it is with almost no compromises. It has a big gas tank, a center stand, cruise control, heated grips, keyless ride like high-end touring bikes. In the mean time, it can be a good corner carver like other naked bikes with a little bit of weight penalty but much better center of gravity thanks to the horizontally opposed boxer engine.
Pricing and the Verdict
2021 BMW R1250R is a great “one-bike” to do it all, or it can be great addition to your stable if you already have multiple bikes. Either way, you need to pay the premium to have everything all together. Base MSRP starts at $17.400 and our tester has the price tag of $22,055 as it comes with extra options. First of all, this color option is extra, called Mineral Grey Metallic that costs $635. Our tester also had the extra luggage rack ($210) for top case.
There are three different packages available with the 2021 BMW R1250R. Comfort package offers chrome exhaust for more classic look, and tire pressure control that costs $435. Touring package offers semi active suspension, keyless ride, GPS mount, Cruise Control, Centre Stand and Luggage brackets and this package costs $2275. Last one is Dynamic package which adds quickshifter, and different riding modes and that costs $1100 extra. In my opinion, Touring package is a must, and Dynamic package is nice to have.
For more details – please visit www.bmw-motorrad.ca