Sponsored By

The 2024 BMW R 1250 R Provides More Smiles Per Hour

BMW’s twin-cylinder roadster is a reminder of motorcycling fun.

Dan Carney

July 31, 2023

6 Slides

BMW’s automotive fans are increasingly concerned about the company’s cars losing the engagement that makes them fun for enthusiast drivers, but despite the increasing technology also employed on the company’s motorcycles, there is no shortage of rider engagement with the latest BMW bikes, such as the R 1250 R.

The $15,690 2023 R 1250 R features BMW’s signature horizontally opposed flat-twin engine oriented longitudinally in the frame and driving the rear wheel through a shaft drive rather than the more common chain and sprockets. The engine is 1,254 cc and produces 136 horsepower at 7,750 rpm and 105 lb.-ft. of torque at 6,250 rpm.

At 527 lbs., the R 1250 R is hefty, though the engine’s configuration keeps the center of mass low so that the bike feels agile on the road. It feels less agile when pushing it back out of a parking space, however, as the mass is still there.

Complicating this is the typical problem with BMW twins: the protruding cylinders on each side ahead of the footpegs present an excellent opportunity for riders to bark their shins on the cylinder barrels while pushing the bike backward when seated in the saddle. You just have to learn to be careful while making the effort to give a hard push.

Maximum engine speed is 8,750 rpm, which is impressive for a big twin, but the engine makes so much power at lower revs that it rarely feels necessary to spin it that fast. Power is strong from low revs, thanks in part to BMW’s ShiftCam technology, which works like Honda’s well-known VTEC system on its car engines, switching between cam profiles depending on engine speed and throttle position.

At part throttle and lower speeds, the cams provide less lift and duration of valve opening to create higher intake charge velocity for improved fuel atomization and swirl within the combustion chamber. At higher revs, the engine switches to high lift and duration cam profiles that maximize the airflow volume into the cylinder for peak power.

Honda’s VTEC enjoyed popularity with its fans because of the dramatic rush of power that occurred when the engine switches to the high-speed cam profiles, but the BMW system operates invisibly. The engine is always optimized for the power demands but there is never any unexpected change in the way it delivers that power, which is surely preferable for a motorcycle.

Power delivery is also metered by other BMW technology, in this case, a traction control system. BMW’s Dynamic Traction Control system is standard on the R 1250 R, providing a safety net that prevents unintended wheelspin. I never knowingly invoked the system during my test rides on dry highways.

However, there was a diversion up a steep gravel driveway in pursuit of a rural winery’s wood-fired pizza and I was impressed by the bike’s traction in that tricky situation, so maybe the system did provide some subtle assistance. The pizza was worth the effort.

The R 1250 R also has standard anti-lock brakes and a dynamic brake control system that kills engine power when the rider is braking hard. Sometimes in a panic stop some riders inadvertently twist the throttle open while squeezing the lever for the front brakes, so BMW lets the computer override the throttle-by-wire request under these circumstances to improve the chance of stopping short of a collision.

This is what is referred to as a naked sport bike because it lacks the windshield and body panels of a full-on sport bike. That is also available in the form of the R 1250 RS, but the R 1250 R is the potentially more broadly appealing model thanks to its comfortable seating position and wide, flat handlebar that makes no race bike pretensions.

Despite the absence of full bodywork, the R 1250 R’s angular headlight and tail panel lend the bike a menacing look. That headlight is just one example of BMW’s application of technology to its two-wheelers. The R 1250 R’s headlight is an LED unit that provides a powerful white light on the road ahead. More interestingly, there is an optional dynamic system for the headlight that varies the lighting pattern in turns, depending on the bike’s lean angle so that it keeps putting light onto the pavement even as the light rotates when the bike tilts.

Manual control of the headlight isn’t as good. BMW likes to vary the configuration of the switches on its motorcycles from industry norms. For many years, the company employed separate buttons on the left and right handlebars to activate the turn signal for each respective direction rather than a single thumb lever on the right handgrip that the rider flicks in the direction of the intended turn.

But BMW eventually came around to join the rest of the industry with the typical turn signal switch. However, on the R 1250 R, the company has added switches to control functions on the dashboard display screen, and one of those is in the spot on the left handgrip where there is normally a rocker switch for high beams. The R 1250 R’s high beam switch is moved around nearly to the back side of the left grip, out of sight.

An owner will surely get used to reaching for it there, but it seems like new switches should be the ones that get put in unfamiliar places while the existing ones like for the high beams should stay where riders expect to find them.

BMW nails all the details that matter, with fantastic progressive throttle response, smooth shifting, and taut suspension that maintains good control even while carrying a passenger on the comfortable rear seat. The R 1250 R marks a dramatic upgrade in comfort and ease of casual cruising from my usual 600 cc sportbike, making it an appealing graduation path for riders who may feel they’ve outgrown their middleweight bike.

Most importantly, the R 1250 R passes the fun test, ensuring that riders return home wearing smiles behind their face shields.

Sign up for the Design News Daily newsletter.

You May Also Like