2022 BMW R 1250 RT: The Surprising All-Rounder
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2022 BMW R 1250 RT: The Surprising All-Rounder

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By RoadRiderMag - 12 September 2022

BY: PHIL JAMES | PHOTOGRAPHY: NIGEL PATERSON/SUPPLIED

The conga line of Teutonic twins wound its way along a tortured road through the landscape, travelling at a blissful, brisk pace.

I was in the middle, watching the ride captain dropping gears approaching the next hairpin, his 1301cc engine crackling as he did so. He expertly flicked it into the corner – and was gone.

Then it was my turn, the Bavarian big boy responding instantly to weight shift and counter steer, darting into the corner like a sports bike with love handles. As the apex passed, the bike in front re-appeared … as a rapidly shrinking dot! Power was wound on, the bike stood up as 143Nm of torque thrust the RT forward. The rider ahead stopped shrinking … and started growing.

Most R 1250 RTs will never be ridden this way, but it’s important to note they can. It’s a key point of difference between them, and just about every other full-dress touring bike. So, although they are supremely comfortable in all conditions, the RT is no land yacht, but really the biggest sports-tourer available today.

RT DESIGN FEATURES

The RT line started with the R 100 RT in 1978, so for over 40 years BMW has refined and reinvented the bike, and it shows. The basic formula of flat twin, shaft drive, protective fairing and large panniers remains because it has inherent advantages, like a low centre of gravity, long-distance comfort, luggage capacity, smoothness and ease of (and reduced) maintenance.

Unlike those agricultural early models, today’s bike is high tech and arguably the best of its type with many unique design features.

The great leap forward for the RT came with the introduction of the Shift Cam variable valve timed engine. Whereas previously the older boxer engine was merely fit for purpose many now consider the Shift Cam to be one of the best road engines available. It has an abundance of power in any gear, and unlike the earlier engines, the top end is pretty exciting!

One RT feature that slips under everybody’s radar is that, despite appearances, the RT is a very small motorcycle. It’s just hidden beneath a lot of plastic. That “smallness” is one of the reasons it’s so nimble.

The final BMW exclusive design feature is the Telelever front and Paralever rear suspension package. This provides a short wheelbase; predictable steering geometry, resistance to fork seal damage from stones, and a chain-like “feel” to the shaft drive — all features well suited to the RT’s all-round, long distance design brief.

The trip computer can provide heaps of information about your bike, in many languages!
The tall screen is aerodynamically designed and does a great job of protecting the rider from the elements.
 
 

WHAT’S NEW?

This is the first significant RT upgrade for several years, and it’s more about having all the contemporary features buyers look for rather than improving the base motorcycle (which was already very good).

Some of the upgrades are immediately apparent like the new fairing, lighting package and 10.5 inch instrument display. Others hide under the attractive new skin.

There’s a linked brake system controlled by BMW’s “ABS Pro” cornering software. It should take a lot of the guesswork out of braking in difficult circumstances. Merely squeeze the brakes (either or both) until the bike slows to the desired speed. The rate of retardation is only limited by grip, not rider skill.

The ABS Pro goes hand in hand with the Dynamic and Active Cruise Control features (yes, there are two cruise controls). The brake system now plays its part if speed needs to be reduced quickly while cruising. The Active Cruise Control system is quite a complex bit of engineering and it’s discussed in more detail in a breakout box.

The new RT also features phone-app-driven navigation and there’s a full suite of connectivity options for calls and music. Touring and navigation go together like coffee and cake, so we’ve had a good look at the pros and cons of the BMW’s nav system in another breakout.

The radio and speaker system remains and has been given a sonic upgrade.

THE RIDE

Ergonomically the RT is good, but not perfect (is anything?). It’s a sports-tourer riding position: BMW offers the six-pot tourers and R 18 range if you want to cruise. It’s easy for the rider to shift upper body weight forward if going on the attack.

While both the footpegs and handlebars are non-adjustable, the seat has a couple of different mounting heights and can be ordered in various thicknesses. Being something of a sports-tourer, taller riders may find the seat-to-footpeg distance a bit cramped while those of us who are vertically challenged may find the reach to the ‘bars a little far (but at least there is an aftermarket option to relieve this).

The fairing is one of the best available for touring, with the rider isolated from excessive wind and cold. The heated grips and seat make miserable days just a bit more bearable.

On the other side of the coin, engine heat is well managed on summer days and with the screen on its lowest setting, the rider’s helmet vents will work. In Australian conditions, a cockpit air venting arrangement would improve things further.

Forward sight lines are improved with the new fairing, and the huge dash display is almost unaffected by bright sunlight.

As mentioned earlier the engine is a cracker, always having good thrust on tap and with exceptional refinement for a twin. The helical cut gears eliminate gear whine, the light clutch will be appreciated by all and the slick gearbox could have come from the orient.

The ‘bars have no rubber isolation from the chassis and mostly the smooth engine makes it superfluous. However, at the maximum reasonable Australian touring speed, riders can feel the ‘bars buzz. One is more aware of it, rather than annoyed by it, so it’s not a deal breaker … but it’s also more than you’d like.

All in all, rolling through the countryside, “communing with nature”, is a joy on the RT. With excellent fuel economy (4.1l/100km in my case) and a 500km plus range, one only stops when refreshment or relief are required.

Occasionally, rolling through the countryside is a more rapid affair and as mentioned in the opening, the RT is surprisingly good.

The chassis is short, carries its weight low, the steering geometry’s reasonably sharp, and the suspension is of excellent quality. It is both flickable in tight situations and rock solid at autobahn speeds.

The suspension offers two ride options — Road and Dynamic. Road feels unchanged from earlier models with its focus on soaking up bumps at the expense of wheel control. It will wallow if pushed over rough ground. Dynamic mode feels as though it’s been tightened up a smidge, giving the RT a distinctly sporting feel the previous model didn’t quite have.

Given the 226kg load lugging ability of this bike, choosing a rear spring rate is a bit challenging. BMW has opted for a spring capable of carrying a pillion, luggage, and a baby grand piano. So, lighter loads produce a bit of a harsh ride, especially if the 11kg panniers are removed. That said, a typical 90kg rider or lighter riders carrying gear won’t notice the issue.

The bike’s weight distribution feels like it’s designed to have those panniers permanently attached. If they are removed, the RT feels noticeably lighter, but front heavy.

In the bad old days that could mean the rear end trying to overtake the front in a bad situation, but the RT’s traction control won’t let that happen, so it’s more of a feel issue than a practical problem — and one an owner would get used to over time if they often ride their RT without panniers.

The brakes are exceptional, not so much for their stopping power and feel (although both are good), but for their ability to wash speed off in an unfussed, controlled way (even on dirt). The linked brakes are so good one could ride this bike and never use the foot pedal. Alternatively, it can be ridden in a conventional way, and one may never realise it has linked brakes.

One final point. The horn has been upgraded, and what a manly horn it is. I enjoyed it so much, I couldn’t stop playing with it. Targeted car drivers ducked and weaved like they were about to be run down by a truck …

NAVIGATION

A bike like the RT needs good navigation. Previously, an optional BMW-specific Garmin GPS unit was used (and still is on other models). Now, the RT’s navigation is driven through BMW’s “Motorrad Connect” phone app. This brings some positives and negatives (many of which are common to phone app driven navigation).

Effective operation requires an appreciation of how the system works. The phone app does all the calculating, whilst the graphic seen on the bike’s dash shows information sent from the phone. Both a simple “turn by turn” and detailed “map” views are offered. Turn by turn comes up as soon as the phone connects to the bike, map view requires mirroring of the phone screen.

So, on the positive side, there’s no additional cost when buying the bike, and it offers the largest map screen on the market.

Being able to plan or import routes is vital for touring and the app can do both things. I simply imported GPX files from my iCloud Drive (created in Garmin’s Basecamp).

If doing simple navigation, such as entering a destination and using “fastest route” guidance, the system worked well and acted in a predictable way (taking “A” roads, as one would in a car)

If the “record route” option is used, dynamic parameters are recorded (except max speed, which is an “opt in” feature and not usually recorded). Interestingly, when reviewing my day’s exploits at beer o’clock, I noticed the ABS had fired several times and max lean was 43 degrees. This data suggests white knuckle moments — which is at odds with my recollections. Possibly it demonstrates how seamless rider aids can be.

Another fun fact is that pictures taken along the way can be shown on the recorded route (by location).

When using navigation, phone battery life is dramatically shortened. To manage this (and in another first), BMW has provided an induction charging compartment with its own cooling fan. It features rubber vibration isolation, so phone life shouldn’t be compromised.

On the negative side, starting navigation is complex and usually if the ignition is turned off, the whole process of reconnection must be walked through again (annoying when refuelling the bike).

To work, the phone’s screen must be unlocked, and connected to the bike’s WiFi. If the phone screen locks, reconnection to WiFi for mirroring is again required, and it’s not automatic.

To make the point, this is the procedure. The rider must get out the phone, open the BMW Motorrad app’s map page, turn on the bike’s ignition, then accept the bike’s WiFi request, usually select “map view” in the app, then put the phone away — without locking it. If it locks, one must start again. Even if it doesn’t lock, touching the phone screen in any way usually requires another attempt. This takes the best part of a minute (when it goes well). Meanwhile, your mates, waiting to depart … are getting agitated!

The pre-entered route functionality isn’t quite as good as the Garmin Navigator unit used previously, but it’s probably good enough for most people. Auto route recalculation when deviating from a pre-entered GPX route is a bit clunky, with potential to direct the rider down an impassable detour (a common issue with satnav, but less common on a dedicated GPS). Recalculating after a missed way point must be done manually, one point at a time.

Map detail in remote areas is low. Roads other than the one currently travelled aren’t always shown and the bike’s position can be slow to update. Several times I’d gone past turn points before the app advised it was time to turn.

Many of these issues may be mitigated if owners have the latest, fastest phone (I have a Bronze Age iPhone 10). Process familiarity would likely reduce the frustration of it all. However, if complex routing is required on a trip, a dedicated GPS may be required too. Unfortunately, mounting one may be difficult.

CRUISE CONTROL

The RT has two types of cruise control. The simpler of the two is Dynamic Cruise Control (DCC). It is still quite sophisticated, as it will activate the brakes going downhill to avoid exceeding the speed set-point.

The other cruise control is BMW’s Active Cruise Control (ACC) capable of maintaining a set distance when following a vehicle. It’s an important upgrade to earlier models. However, terms and conditions apply.

In the owner’s manual, there are no less than nine warnings regarding ways it may operate other than expected. We strongly suggest owners read and digest this information. It’s likely these issues are common to ACC technology (as offered by other manufacturers as well) and not unique to BMW.

By and large ACC works well, and makes life on a motorway, or in a line of slow-moving traffic, much easier. Fatigue and stress are reduced.

When cruising at speed on a winding road, things get more interesting. Midway through corners at a high lean angle, it may pick up objects on the side of the road, see them as a threat, and unexpectedly reduce speed mid-corner (sometimes dramatically, by applying the brakes). The bike can stand up and go off-line. The effect is possibly exaggerated by the Stability Control activating.

The good news is it’s not as frightening as it sounds and is unlikely to occur on a slippery road, as pace wouldn’t be high enough, and most riders won’t use cruise control in high lean angle situations anyway.

BMW’s decision to keep the option of conventional cruise control is a good one and they’ve made switching between DCC and ACC easy. There is a dedicated button on the left switch block. We think in situations other than motorways, or congested single lane traffic, using the conventional cruise control option is best. Its behaviour is more predictable when conditions change quickly.

WHAT WE’D DO IF WE OWNED IT

The RT isn’t from the bargain bin, either in price or standard equipment; so, there’s not much required to complete it. There is a lot of bling available from BMW (option 719 items) and if that appeals, why not? But as far as functional improvements go, there are only a few upgrades to consider.

For the Australian summer, a lower screen will help direct more air onto the rider when it’s over 30 degrees. BMW do one (from the sport model) and there are aftermarket options. It takes 10 minutes to swap screens.

If the handlebar vibration mentioned earlier becomes a problem, consider “grip puppy” grip covers. They’re from Andy Strapz, they’re cheap and they help by placing a

few millimetres of rubber between the rider’s hands and the grips. The fat grip feeling that riders initially notice dissipates with familiarity.

Protection for the cylinder heads is almost a must and there are many options. The genuine BMW accessory items are reasonably priced.

The front of the engine will suffer stone damage from tyre throw off and a protective plate (bolted to the engine) will reduce this, as will a “fenda extenda”.

Radiator protection may not be required as they are protected to some degree by the fairing.

CONCLUSION

The BMW R 1250 RT is popular with law enforcement worldwide for a reason. Police need an “all day comfortable”, manoeuvrable bike, capable of chasing bad guys when required. The RT does all these things well.

Outside the blue brigade, most see the RT as a full dress touring bike (which it is); but … there’s much more. It’s also a proper sports tourer, effortlessly capable of swallowing miles, on all roads, and in all weathers. It may be a bit over-dressed for tropical north Australia, but otherwise suits our conditions a lot better than most.

Impressively, riders of all skill levels can enjoy its comfort and access its express train performance. The downsides are few and subjective, like the flat drone of the exhaust, the un-adjustability of the riding position and the steep entry price.

Although it’s an expensive luxury motorcycle, it offers value. The depreciation rate is at the low end of the spectrum, reflecting its allround ability, durability and enduring appeal as the perfect long distance “get away” machine.

The RT design philosophy has always worked, so it’s great to see BMW continuing its development and offering it as an alternative to the adventure bike juggernaut

SPECIFICATIONS: 2022 BMW R 1250 RT

ENGINE

Type: Air/liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-valve, flat twin, variable cam timing

Capacity: 1254cc

Bore x stroke: 102.5 x 76mm

Compression ratio: 12.5:1

Fuel system: Fuel injection

Ignition: Digital

Power: 100KW (136Hp) at 7750rpm

Torque: 143Nm at 6250rpm

TRANSMISSION

Type: 6 speed, helical gears

Final drive: Shaft

Clutch: Hydraulic actuation, wet multiplate with anti-hop function

CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR

Chassis: Steel tube with removable sub frame Swingarm: Single-sided aluminium containing drive shaft

Front suspension: BMW Motorrad Telelever with central damper unit, 37mm diameter fork, electronic damping control, 120mm travel Rear suspension: BMW Motorrad Paralever with single shock, electronic damping and preload control, 136mm travel

Front brakes: Radial-mount 4-piston calipers, floating dual discs, 320mm, cornering ABS Rear brake: 2-piston caliper, 276mm single disc, cornering ABS

Tyres: Front: 120/70ZR17, Rear: 180/55ZR17

ELECTRONIC RIDER AIDS

Brake control: Cornering ABS

Control mode options: Yes, 4 modes (Eco, Rain, Road, Dynamic)

Electronic suspension control: Dynamic ESA with 2 modes

Stability control: Yes

Traction control: Yes

Quick shifter: Bi-directional and off

Cruise control: 2 modes, conventional and adaptive

Hill hold system: Yes

DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES

Rake: Not given

Trail: 116 mm

Overall length: 2222mm

Overall width: 985mm

Overall height: Min 1460mm, max 1570mm Claimed dry weight: Not given

Claimed wet weight: 279kg

Ground clearance: 125mm

Seat height: 805/825 mm

Wheelbase: 1485 mm

Fuel capacity: 25L

ETCETERA

Price: From $38,521 (ride away)

Colours: Depending on model: Alpine White, Racing Blue Metallic, Black Storm Metallic, Mineral White Metallic.

Test bike supplied by: BMW Australia Warranty: 3 years, unlimited kilometres