Words Michael Hilton Photos Kevin Wing
When BMW first launched the iconic GS in 1980, it essentially created a new class of motorcycle and since set the benchmark to which all other large dual-sport bikes are compared. I recently went to Palm Springs, California, for the launch of the newest iteration: the 2019 BMW R1250 GSA.
The most significant upgrade to the 2019 BMW R1250 GSA is the 1,254cc boxer engine that employs BMW's new “ShiftCam” technology, which allows for variation of the valve timing and valve strokes. Using two cam lobes per valve — one for low-end and one for mid- to high-end — BMW is able to get more power (136 HP at 7,750 RPM), better fuel efficiency, and better overall performance for various riding situations while keeping the familiar characteristics of the boxer twin. BMW claims that customers have been asking for more power, and the engine certainly delivers it in a smooth, seamless fashion while also allowing for tremendous control at very slow speeds without constant shifting.
While previous GSAs had Brembo brakes, the new GSA has a Hayes unit with a BMW-branded label. The braking is superb and is enhanced by BMW’s new Dynamic Braking Control, which senses a possible “panic” situation and automatically rolls off the throttle ... a valuable safety feature for newer riders. The base GSA also features two ride modes: Road and Rain, which lessens engine response in wet conditions. The optional premium package includes additional ride modes to adjust engine performance based on riding conditions.
The GSA also boasts smart technology when it comes to suspension. The Dynamic ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) has a preload adjustment and auto-leveling on start-up. It then makes more adjustments once mounted and as you ride it compensates for braking, acceleration, and lean.
For a guy who spends his off-road riding on a first-generation Kawasaki KLR650, throwing a leg over the GSA’s monstrous frame was a leap into a new world. The size and weight of it was at first a bit intimidating, not to mention the realization of how much power was available at the flick of the throttle. The fuel tank holds 7.9 gallons — 2.6 more gallons than the GS — and when first mounting the bike it feels bulky and cumbersome. The GSA handled easily on the street for a bike its size, and it didn’t take long to get comfortable on it as our group left Palm Springs and headed out to the high desert.
Southern California received a lot of rain this past winter that caused a rare, spring “super bloom,” where the desert flowers are out in full force. It made for a spectacular riding experience as we left the pavement behind and dashed onto the back trails leading to Joshua Tree National Park. I was impressed with the GSA as it confidently churned through dry sand, rocks, and washout areas with power and superb stability. It was essential to keep the 600-pound behemoth moving steadily forward; stopping made it difficult to keep upright and get the GSA moving again.
After 12 miles of off-road grinding and got back on pavement, the GSA felt surprisingly smooth and nimble as we enjoyed the superb roads and scenery of Joshua Tree. We looped back to Palm Springs with 40 miles of highway riding that the GSA ate up without breaking a sweat, and I was happy the bike held strong and steady as powerful crosswinds blasted across the road.
With a starting MSRP of $19,945, the 2019 R1250 GSA is certainly not for everyone, but BMW continues to raise the bar for large dual-sport bikes with innovative engineering that pushes performance and usability to new levels.
Engine Type: Air/Liquid-cooled 4-stroke flat twin, DOHC, BMW ShiftcamDisplacement: 1254cc Bore x Stroke: 102.5 mm x 76 mmRated Output: 136 hp (100 kW) @ 7,750 Max Torque: 105 lb-ft (143 Nm) @ 6,250 Compression Ratio: 12.5:1 Engine Management: Electronic FI w/ ride-by-wire Emission Control: Emission standard EU-4 Max Speed: Over 125 mphFuel Consumption: 50 mpg Alternator: Three-phase 510 W generator Battery: 12 V / 11.8 Ah, maintenance-free Clutch: Multiplate wet clutch, hydraulically operated Gearbox: Constant-mesh 6-speed Drive: Shaft drive Frame: Two-section frame, front – and bolted on rear frame, load-bearing engine Front wheel location/suspension: BMW Telelever, Ø 37 mm, central spring strut Rear wheel location/suspension: Cast aluminum single-sided swing arm with BMW Paralever; WAD strut (travel-related damping), spring pre-load hydraulically adjustable Suspension travel front/rear: 8.3″/8.7″ (210mm/220mm) Wheelbase: 59.7″ (1,517 mm) Wheels: Cross spoke Rim, front: 3.00 x 19″ Rim, rear: 4.50 x 17″ Tires, front: 120/70 R 19 Tires, rear: 170/60 R 17 Brake, front: Dual floating disc brakes, 4-piston fixed calipers, diameter 305 mm Brake, rear: Single disc brake, diameter 276 mm, dual-piston floating caliper ABS BMW Integral ABS (part-integral, can be switched off) Length: 89.4″ (2,270 mm) Width (incl. mirrors): 38.6″ (980 mm) Height (excl. mirrors): 57.5″ (1,460 mm) Seat height: 35.0″/35.8″ Unladen weight, fully fueled: 591 lbs (268 kg) Permitted total weight: 1,069 lbs (485 kg) Payload (with std. equipment): 479 lbs (217 kg) Usable tank volume: 7.9 gal (30 L) Reserve: Approx. 1 gal (4 L)