Don’t mess with a good thing. The stalwart BMW R 1100 GS (1085cc) launched way back in 1994, with only two prior displacement updates to 1150 (1130cc) in 1999 and 1200 (1170cc) in 2004. The latter received water cooling in 2013, to meet Euro emissions requirements. It’s been a full 6 years since the last major overhaul of the GS platform.
For 2019, BMW bumped displacement from 1,170cc to 1,254cc, and invited us along for a ride. Heading to Palm Springs, California, in early March is never a bad idea. Recent storms had converted the desert into a bloom of flowers and butterflies. Daytime temperatures hovered in the low 70s. Perfect for a nice off-road joyride. The first leg of our journey took us through a sand wash. We were assured that the rains had packed it down tight on the scouting run two days prior. However, a few warm, dry days had turned the wash into a rock-strewn pit of soft, sandy despair.
Our group of five was moving along at a good clip through the 6-inch-deep soft sand as we caught up to trailing riders from the group ahead. Without easy access to a long way around, we slowed down and sank in, as a 600-pound dirtbike is prone to do. We spent the next hour in teams of two or three righting each bike, multiple times. Slow progress was made, but eventually all riders exited, or were extracted.
After a bit of elevation, sands gave way to well-groomed fire trails, and the GS was much happier cruising above terra firma on its lugged tires. BMW’s Enduro Pro mode made soft-terrain traction management an afterthought, as it disables ABS at the rear wheel and automatically adjusts engine response. Traction control and ABS are also lean-angle sensitive. The electronic rear suspension was fantastic, adjusting damping automatically when in Road mode on pavement or Enduro mode off-road. The suspension performed well with a single passenger and luggage, but the nonelectronic fork struggled noticeably two-up with luggage (over 400 pounds of load) and must be configured manually.
Gear Shift Assist made clutchless changes easy, but wasn’t perfectly smooth. Hill Start control kept the bike planted automatically when on an incline. A useful feature on a large motorcycle. The main impetus for the new engine is upcoming Euro5 emissions requirements. That goal is achieved partially via a new “ShiftCam” variable engine timing system that can run under either partial or full load.
BMW claims the new engine makes 9 percent more power (136 hp), and is also tuned for 14 percent more torque (105 lb.-ft.).Nobody needs that much juice to sift sand, but when it came time to lay power to pavement, the extra oomph was welcomed. The ride-by-wire and multiple ride modes allow for dialing in the throttle response to suit nearly any riding conditions. Also new for 2019 are updated graphics and some welcomed standard features, including: hill start control, a color TFT with connectivity and LED lighting.
R 1250 GS Pricing starts at a base of $17,695, but with certain colors and Select ($950) or Premium ($3,050) package upgrade, it quickly reaches up to $21,495. The GSA starts at $19,945, or $23,945 with the $3,450 Premium package. There’s an optional $350 brushed aluminum tank and $500 Kalamata Metallic Matte or $550 HP Motorsport Style package, as well. Side cases are not included. We’ve already logged 2,000 miles on the new GSA and a full review is around the corner.