2019 BMW R 1200 GSA: First Ride & Initial Review
It was a fairly mild day, grey and damp with a few spots of rain. The time had come to have an initial ride on the new 2019 R 1250 GSA so, whilst my bike was being serviced, I was loaned their brand new demonstrator resplendent in its Red/White/Blue ‘HP’ colour scheme with the gold rims.
Looking around the bike, first impressions are that it is a lot more ‘bling’ than my Triple Black. More colour accentuates the slight changes in design, particularly around the beak and air intakes. Handguards are white, which makes a real difference to the overall look, plus it also had the usual ‘Bahnstormer’ stickers in various places, as they tend to do with all demo bikes.
I’m not bothered about “how quickly it will get dirty” in this paint scheme, as I’m pretty sure that anyone that has around £20k, should have sufficient funds left for regular professional valets and ACF 50 treatments. Indeed given recent issues around corrosion and poor paint finishes, I’d say these essentials now need to be factored in to the overall annual running costs.
Once 'aboard' the bike, it felt very familiar and the riding position feels exactly the same as the previous model. All switchgear appears to be the same, apart from the new ‘SOS’ button which my 2017 bike does not have. The only difference being the buttons are now black rather than grey (black was introduced on the last R1200 GS and GSA models) although they are not back-lit which surprises me given the cost of the bike (Triumph apparently offer backlit switchgear apparently?!). The large TFT display flashes into life when I turn on the keyless ignition and immediately displays a message telling me I have just fitted my Sat Nav into the mount…thanks TFT, but I am already aware of that!
On starting the engine, the idle is relatively quiet and settles immediately. The clutch and gear change into 1stare positive and smoother than previous bikes I have ridden; I pull out into traffic. As I have already said the bike feels very familiar having owned a GSA for some time now, spending the first few miles getting used to the bike and testing the Bridgestone tyres that fitted as standard to all new GS - no more Anakee 3s. One thing I notice early, is how distracting the TFT display is (particularly in low light). Even when making a concerted effort not to, you catch yourself glancing at it more than you probably should…
Small roads and dual carriageways all pass without incident. Initial thoughts on the engine are that it seems to have slightly more power at medium to higher revs. For example when overtaking on a dual carriageway, rather than needing to change down from 6thto 5th, you can leave it in the higher gear, crack open the throttle, accelerating with a sense of ease not found with the previous generation. I am guessing this is the often-referenced ‘Shift Cam’ in action and whilst you can definitely feel something happening, it is very smooth and refined. It almost feels like driving a car that has overdrive fitted. It gives you that additional punch when you need it. One other thing that is refined and smoother, is the ‘Gear Shift Assist’ (or whatever BMW are calling it now?); from 2ndgear, it is much smoother through the gearbox than my 2017 GSA. Unfortunately like the engine, this is a revised system fitted to new bikes, so not something that can be applied retrospectively by means of a software upgrade.
I covered around 80 (road) miles on the bike, during the course of the afternoon, really enjoying the experience. The new engine is great; the technology seems to work really well; the gearbox feels more refined than any GS I have ridden previously. I also prefer the HP colour scheme, as the grey/red looks a bit insipid, the metallic green/brown not my ‘cup of tea’.
But would I buy one? In a word……No.
There is just not enough difference, as compared with my bike to make it worthwhile. Plus, whilst there are many aftermarket parts that will fit the new bike, several (including the exhaust headers) won’t. Therefore the cost of changing to a new bike just doesn’t stack up; initial deposits, factoring in parts that need to be refitted and new purchases that need to be made.
If the change was like moving from my old 2006 GSA, to the 2017 LC, then fair enough as they were totally different. But for the time being I will continue to enjoy my Triple Black; a 12k service and ACF 50 valet to keep it looking good over the winter!!