A Ride & Review of BMW’s Latest Water-Cooled Boxer Twin

  • The R 1250 R takes the already amazing water-cooled, variable valve GS boxer engine and puts it to very good use on the road, resulting in a bike that does a whole lot of things really well without being too vanilla or too committed
  • Not a bike for those who want to drop jaws at the local cafe, it’s a perfect “under the radar” choice that will give more flashy bikes a run for their money with 136 horses and it’s titanic 105 lb-ft of torque – twenty two more than the S 1000 RR
  • While it’s quick shifter isn’t up to the same slick levels as BMW’s top shelf bikes and the heater options are fiddly to adjust, the end result is a bike that under promises and over delivers on a very impressive range of riding needs and abilities

Australians have a common saying about “Tall Poppies.” For those not in the know, the essence of it is that if you stand out too far above the rest of us, you’ll get cut down – just like a poppy in a field or a row of nails in wood where one is noticeably higher than all the rest. That’s the one you’ll hit the hardest, yeah? In stark contrast to this, it seems Americans (and many other societies around the world) worship those who crave the limelight and are more than happy to tell you about their endless successes and vast wealth. But not Down Under. Here we’ll always downplay our own achievements and tell you that they were nothing special. Or we’ll thank others to deflect the attention away from ourselves so as to not risk looking like it’s gone to our head. It’s the Aussie way.

So picture me as my local BMW dealer wheeled a flat grey version of their latest R 1250 R roadster out of their garage and into the shop’s forecourt. After being spoiled rotten with previous bikes that included an S 1000 RR and an R 1250 RS (both covered in M Motorsport livery, mind you), I think it’s fair to say that when I laid eyes on the R 1250 R, I was a little underwhelmed. No, the primer grey paintwork didn’t help things; I get that it is (or should that be was) all the rage in the four-wheeled world. And it can look badass on the right vehicle in the right light. But right here, right now… not so much. And as is my usual approach to reviewing bikes, I tend to avoid doing too much research before I ride them so I can have – as much as possible – a clean slate approach to the whole experience.

his option is called ‘Ice Grey” by BMW. Those crazy Germans. Image via BMW Motorrad

To make matters worse, the bike I’m loaned has been fitted with rear luggage, a tail bag and one of BMW’s bespoke nav systems. Except exactly none of them are currently on the bike, so I’m left with the unshakeable feeling that the bike’s missing something. Like those blank buttons modern cars seem to have, I was starting to think that there was someone out there with a whole bunch of accessories having the time of their life while I’m sat here on a bike that looks like it’s been stripped clean by the local teenage hoodlums. Yeah yeah, I know. BMW is gifting me amazing bikes for extended loans and here I am bitching about it. Forgive me, but you get my drift.

But I’m a professional, am I not? Hand me a flaming electric Chinese scooter you purchased off of Alibaba for $99 and I’l still ride the pants off the damn thing and hand you back a bespoke, amusing, insightful review while also personally witnessing your insurance claim for the house fire it caused. I’m that dedicated. So with my professional heart on my sleeve, I swung a leg over this fading-to-grey new motorcycle and spun it into life. My only real hope was that the big capital letter R in its name was going to prove more than just marketing fluff and actually deliver me some thrills. C’mon BMW! You’ve got this, right? You’d never just paste some random letters on a bike in the vain hope that some naive motorcyclists will splash their cash on something that‘s more a branding exercise than it is a properly capable, fast motorcycle? Let’s find out, shall we?

Primer grey. Fad that will age badly or here to stay? You be the judge. Image via BMW Motorrad

Features of the 2023 BMW R 1250 R Roadster

It might sound overly critical towards a brand of bike I like a lot, but BMW does have a whole bunch of these mid-range, multi-purpose motorcycles, doesn’t it? With their XR, F 900s, R nineTs, and even the S 1000 R roadster, you are truly spoilt for choice if do-anything-ish bikes that can take luggage and are relatively comfortable on longer rides. And while it’s something that seems exceedingly common with all the manufacturers, I’ll readily admit that when I signed up to ride a “R 1250 R”, I had zero mental image of what the bike would look like other than the fact that it’d be a boxer twin, “kind of like the R 1250 RS but without the fairing.” But maybe that’s just me. In actuality, the bike – classed as a roadster by the Munich company – is an air-and-water-cooled jobbie that has one foot in sports touring (should your heart desire it), with another in a racing segment (hence the R in its name) and yet another in the do-it-all, Sunday rider segment that just wants a bike that goes fast, is comfortable and won’t embarrass the owner in the cafe car park.

Looking at the marketing blurb, BMW suggests that the bike is an “expressive roadster with a boxer’s punch.” Ahem. In reality, what we have here is a German boxer twin that can trace its lineage all the way back to BMW’s very first bikes in the 1920s. Yes, its engine’s been modernised with some mod cons and the rear is no longer rigid, but make no mistakes – this is the kind of bike that got BMW where it is today.


While it may be considered sacrilegious in some circles, the boxer powerplant we have here is not an air-cooled piece of engineering, or even an air-an-oiled-cooled item. Thanks to progress and a large dollop of European Emissions rules, the engine pushing the R 1250 R down the road is water-cooled. More specifically, it’s water-cooled and it’s been fitted with variable valve timing, too. Not a new occurrence by any means, this is a path the BMW engineers started down a decade ago. The question is, are the results a positive thing for the rider or is it yet another example of the fun police forcing all the best things in life into extinction for reasons unknown? Thankfully, we still have those impressive horizontally opposed cylinder heads punching away from each other and a nice, low centre of gravity.

Should you like more flash, the “Racing Blue Metallic” option is always available. Image via BMW Motorrad


On this particular model – if indeed I have figured out which specific option set this bike is fitted with – you aren’t left wanting for much. With a few of the brochure boxes ticked, it’s packing multiple riding modes, a TFT display, Bluetooth, hill start, keyless ignition, heated everything, tyre pressure sensors, cruise control, active suspension, a quick shifter, chrome headers, an engine spoiler and last but not least it has all that missing baggage. The upshot to all these additions is that you’ll get the ability to tailor the suspension and performance to suit the conditions and your specific level of naughtiness at any specific time or place. You’ll also get to smash through the gears without bothering the clutch (more on that later) and in a piece of tech I’ve now decided I can’t live without anymore, you’ll get keyless ignition so no more leaving your keys in your bike in a public car park. Sadly, you can still lose them, though. Maybe one day…

And should you want to stand out even less than the Ice Grey, there is always “Triple Black”. Image via BMW Motorrad

Other Features

BMW is also keen to have you know that the bike sports new LED headlights and the aforementioned TFT display, too. But to be honest, that feels a lot like cars in the 90s proudly stating that they had fuel injection or overhead valves; you’d be more surprised to find out that the bike didn’t have these features than did. There’s also twin front Brembo callipers and the option – should it take your fancy – to have spoked wheels instead of the cast alloy items you see here. Personally, spoked wheels on a bike sporting looks this modern seems a little off to me, but whatever floats your boot, I guess. And naturally, any modern BMW boxer you buy since ever will be fitted with their signature shaft drive replete with their mysterious bendy bit in the middle. I’ve been told it’s to make the bikes more comfortable for riders wearing lederhosen, but don’t quote me on that…

Mountains… of torque. Image via BMW Motorrad


The engine is  a 1254 cc two-cylinder, air/liquid-cooled, four-stroke boxer engine with two overhead spur-gear driven camshafts, one counterbalance shaft and variable intake camshaft control. Compression is 12.5:1. All this means a pretty impressive 136 hp @ 7,750 rpm and a maximum torque figure of 105 ft-lbs @ 6,250 rpm. Compare this to the 2023 S 1000 RR’s measly 83 ft-lbs and you should definitely be impressed. Top speed is 125 “plus” mph (manufacturers seem to get quite shy when discussing this figure. I wonder why?) The tank is an 18 ltr (4.7 gal) unit with a reserve of 4 ltrs. Fully fueled and fluided, the bike weighs in at substantial but not elephantine 239 kgs (527 lbs) and the seat height is 820 mm (32 in) before you fit the various taller and shorter seat options available. My bike was fettered with Metzeler RoadTec 01 rubber, with a 120/70 ZR17 on the front and a 180/55 ZR17 at the rear. They worked a treat.

Initial Impressions of the 2023 BMW R 1250 R Roadster

I won’t beat around the bush here. With the R 1250 R trying its best to do a whole bunch of stuff all at the same time, it’d be easy for me to miss its signals (so to speak) and the subtleties. First and foremost on this list would be the bike’s looks. With dashes of sportsbike, naked and the ever-present boxer engine hanging out the sides, there’s quite literally something for everyone. But don’t get me wrong – it’s not like this is some kind of mish mash of parts like a drunken parts-bin special. Not at all. It comes together in something that works quite well. With that said, from the moment I laid eyes on it, the bike’s giant, chrome end can looked a bit odd to me. Be it the can’s large size or the fact that it’s finished in a bright chrome exactly like none of the other parts on the bike, it reminded me of an aftermarket part that had been fitted by an overly eager owner after a few beers and a session on eBay. If this were my bike, the optional Akrapovic end can would be on the bike before it left the showroom floor.

BMW’s press images always look too computer-rendered to me. Image via BMW Motorrad

Cross Breeding

Once the bike’s looks had left their impression in my mind, I began to see them as a kind of interesting midpoint between BMW’s “heritage” bikes and the aggressive, angular lines of their brutal S 1000 RRs. Yes, the boxer engine probably set’s the picture at one end of the spectrum and the robot-y headlight matched with the more aggressive, sportbike-esque lines of the front half sets the other. But it all works, and to be totally honest you could count the bike’s retro design cues apart from that giant boxer donk on one hand of a soldier that’s been very careless during their grenade training. Also, the fact that the engine in all colourways available in 2023 is rather muted and hidden means you’d almost have to introduce it to anyone who hadn’t scanned the bike’s specs list before seeing it in the flesh. Poor engine.

Same display as pretty much every other BMW in 2023… but that’s a good thing. Image via Machines That Dream

Now standing back and considering the bike in terms of its more expensive R 1250 RS siblings, it really is a lot more different than I was expecting. From the seat backwards it’s pretty much apples and apples, but forward of this midpoint and everything seems quite a bit different. Yes, the RS variant is much more faired than the R you see here, but to my eyes there’s pretty much nothing bar the front guard that seems to be shared. That’s a lot of variation from the addition of a single letter in its name, yeah? And while there’s little doubt that both bikes are on the larger side of the scales, the R seems to be the smaller bike of the two thanks to the lack of the aforementioned plastic windbreaker up front. In a funny quirk I discovered once I rode the bike at some decent speeds, the protection from the wind is much better than you might expect given the fact that all BMW has attached to the bike to stop you from being blown off the back is their always welcome TFT display and that rather droopy, angry-looking headlight.

Way To Cool

That fact that the bike’s water-cooled means one big thing for the Munich engineers; where to put that damn radiator. Sure, air-cooled bikes are much louder, more rattly and they quite literally fart in the face of the world’s ever-tightening emissions standards. But the one giant plus with air-cooled engines – and to a certain extent oil-cooled ones – is the fact that you don’t have to bolt a giant radiator to the front of the bike. Not only does this add weight to the bike, but it also needs a place to go without looking like someone has accidentally screwed a barn door to it. Now the item attached to the R 1250 R is by no means on the small side. But I’d suggest that BMW has done quite a good job concealing its width behind some cleverly placed body plastics. The fact that the boxer engine’s width means that the radiator has a kind of partner in its width crimes and the end result is a bike that has a pretty decent visual impact overall.

Primer grey paint looks more blue-ish here thanks to dusk light.

Looking at the bike in more detail had me studying its belly pan (or engine spoiler, as BMW calls it) in more detail. I think it’s a little more than a spoiler, as hopefully some of my shots here show. Cradling the exhaust manifolds and then travelling back, it in fact does not meet in the middle like you might expect a spoiler to. And in stark contrast to my R nineT, the intake on these new generation boxers is above the cylinder, not behind. Likewise, the exhaust exits the head from the underside, and not at the front like on mine. The upshot here is that the cool old “pipes in the wind” design that I feel made the old boxers even more charming is gone. In terms of the “spoiler”, it’s basically got two bloody great slots in it to allow for the exhaust pipes passing through. And, in an annoying cosmetic twist, now that the exhaust pipes are much lower and further back than on the air-cooled models, they are sprayed with road filth whenever the heavens open. The upshot for all this on my bike was pipes that used to be beautifully shiny and chrome now looking like they’ve been baked in mud.

Still, I do like the visual impact the additional pieces of metal give the R 1250 R, and I dare say I’d tick the options box on the dealer’s clipboard should I ever decide to add one to my garage. As to why they are an etched aluminium colour and not the black ones as shown on the official BMW website (see the above images) is a mystery to me, but I’m not sure that particular part of the bike needs any more blackness. Besides, what’s the point of shelling out hundreds of extra shillings for an accessory that fades into the background?

It’s buttons on buttons on buttons, but once the muscle memory kicks in, it’s fine.

Riding The 2023 BMW R 1250 R Roadster

Riding in the City

After riding my last review bike – the 2023 S 1000 RR – it’d be easy for me to paint the R 1250 R as tame, conservative or even a little boring. But the fact of the matter is that for riding in the city, this bike has it in spades over the inline four RR. That bike’s electronic wizardry is there not only to make it fast, but also to be-bastardise the thing when it’s not nudging the speed of sound on track. Take them away and the thing would quite honestly dispatch you quicker than an executioner who’s been forced to work unpaid overtime. The main impression I got was that the R 1250 R wanted to be here, as opposed to the S 1000 RR needing a lot of software help to make a very square peg fit into a decidedly round hole. And because it wanted to be here, so did I. With a bunch of tractable, usable torque liberally spread all over the place, it’s forever willing to carry you forward and cares not a jot for what gear you may be in.

Of course, there’s electronic hocus pocus happening here as well, but it’s tweaking and enhancing rather than restraining a frothing, screaming lunatic. Using the bike to do some more mundane city riding after I’d finished my main Sunday test trip, the thing just ate up the casual Saturday lunchtime traffic like I eat chips when there’s beer about. And it did it without as much as a sideways glance, such is the bike’s useability and adaptability. In fact, it was almost too good. So unflustered was it by Sydney’s less-than-German potholes and higgledy-piggledy street planning, I was consciously having to stop myself from chopping SUVS off and being a general badarse to all and sundry. Take a deep breath, Andrew.

Insert joke here about the bike handling “like it’s on rails”… Image via Machines That Dream

Of course, this is no accident. The bike’s riding position and lovely seat-to-bar-height ratio, along with the low-slung engine and conservative rear tyre means that it’s neither falling into corners at low speeds (and thereby scaring the poop out of you) nor is it requiring a written proposal in triplicate from your hands to be encouraged to lean in. Like baby bear’s porridge, the balance is just right. I know from plenty of experience that whenever I ride my R nineT after spending a week or two on most of the press bikes I get loaned, I’m always a little surprised at just how much encouragement it needs to roll into corners. Sure, once you’ve ridden it for a while in isolation, it becomes second nature, but there are a few corners close to my house that have caught me out somewhat in the past after I’ve suddenly realised that my old R nineT needs more encouragement than I expected. This is not true for the R 1250 R.

Bike’s looks tap into the fashionable “robot face” trend, but not overly so. Image via Machines That Dream

And don’t be mistaken by what I’m saying here. The R 1250 R isn’t the perfect city bike. Not at 230-odd kilos and 1254 cc. You’ll need to be talking to the local Honda dealership about one of their fine 500cc UJMs if that’s the role you’re intending to fill here. Instead, it reveals a bike that’s been conceived as a complex, multifaceted tool rather than the S 1000 RR’s “GO AS FAST AS POSSIBLE” design brief or the R 1250 GS’s “BEST OFF ROAD BIKE” requirement. Like boxers of yore, it’ll also reward pushing on through corners, extended touring and won’t be found wanting if you ask it to cover some proper freeway miles at speed. It’s not the best at these tasks, but it’s far from being the worst at them, too.

After successive BMW loaners over the past few months, I fear I’m becoming a little too familiar with the brand’s controls for my own good. But I’m pretty confident when I say that while they might be more than a little unique if you come at them cold from (say) a Japanese or American bike, they are uniformly great and I know for a fact that you’d be very hard pressed to find anyone – journalist or otherwise – that has any issues with them that carry any weight. Indeed, I was having to take a breath and consciously force myself to look at them with unjaded eyes and a fresh set of hands. Still, they are seamless and a pleasure to use. Yes, you may accidentally blip the jog wheel on the left hand bars as your thumb reaches for the indicator switch, but that’s not a design fault so much as it’s you getting used to the movement.

Hard to get a sense of the bike’s rear what with all the empty luggage racks. 

But there is a proviso here. On all BMWs I’ve ridden in the past, there’s one single, solitary switch on the right side of the bars that lets you both turn on and off the heating and adjust the temperature. It’s achieved by a simple process of cycling through temperature settings and then an off state. For instance, if it’s off and you want heating, the first click will turn it on to the lowest heating setting. Repeated clicks will increase the amount of warmth and a final click will return it to the off state. But not on the R 1250 R.

Thanks to the fact that my bike had both heated grips and two (count ‘em) heated seats, clicking the very same button on the ‘bars brings up a display on the TFT that then requires you to navigate a series of on-screen menus to achieve what you want. I lost count of how many clicks were involved, but rest assured that it was a lot. I should point out here that sensibly, the rear seat has manual controls that passengers can access themselves without bothering the rider. Nice. But for the rider, I thought the process to get your hands and butt cheeks warm was way too complex. Why not just add a second button on the bars right next to the grip heater for the seat settings?

But that’s not a biggie. Especially here in Australia. I’d be lucky if I have to turn on the heated grips for more than June and July for most winters. Hell, it was 27 degrees here yesterday and it’s not even August. So the closing thought after riding the R 1250 R in the city was that it was killing it. You won’t get great fuel economy when filling up and it’s not the easiest bike to manoeuvre into a tight spot, but boy oh boy, it’s a real hoot for the remaining 99% of the time.

Riding in the Curves

Missing my usual Sunday ride slot thanks to my Mother’s birthday, I was forced to reschedule the whole thing to a midweek day. Ahh, the tough life of a moto journalist. But seriously, you’d be surprised just how different your local “Sunday biker road” is when it’s not flooded with other riders and/or police with radar guns. My expectations were that they would be replaced with local traffic, but thanks to Sydney’s Royal National Park and its (fairly) remote location, I was instead blessed with nothing more than a few dawdling Hyundai Excels and the odd Lyre bird running across the road. Time to see if the R 1250 RS can do as well in the curves as it did in the suburbs.

It’s here that the engine’s specs hit home. With a very respectable 136 hp and that very impressive 105 ft-lbs or torques, the bike is just so capable and unstressed at pretty much everything you ask of it, you feel like a bit of a dick for thinking that it would have been any other way. Then the thing doubles down on that smouldering ability by smashing a series of fairly challenging corners like they weren’t even there. Sure the S 1000 RR was better here, but there was something very unsatisfying about it’s merciless cornering abilities. Something that rubs your nose in it, yelling at you, “Is that all you got, punk?” In stark contrast, the R 1250 R is there for you, not showing off but working with you to make you feel like a well-practised team achieving a great ride. Also, should the corner have anything less than perfectly manicured bitumen, the S 1000 RR will telegraph it to your brain, like a spike in the back of your neck from the Matrix movie franchise. The R 1250 R just politely reminds you it’s there and gets on with handling it.

Twin black “snorkels” seem to feed directly into the fuel injection throttle bodies. Image via Machines That Dream

Having been a little disappointed with the quickshifter on the R 1250 RS, I was right in assuming that the very same unit and software would be bolted onto/uploaded into the S-less bike. And I was right. While it is possible to achieve some pretty nice up and down shifts in a certain set of circumstances, for the most part it’s a jolty, rough experience that had me wincing as my left foot went for the gear lever. As my second time in as many months using it, I was looking for ways to make it more seamless. Of course, trying to please it by looking for techniques to make it happier is a pretty damning condemnation of the set-up in and of itself, but still I tried. I found that if you ignored the arrows on the dash indicating when it was OK to change up or down and instead just ensured that upshifts were done on healthy applications of the throttle rather than (say) casual openings that you might use around town, better changes happen.

As for downshifts, I was still as befuddled with how to achieve them as ever. Some would happen so smoothly, I’d verbally praise the bike on managing to do so well. Then the very next downshift would be so rough and abrupt, I’d swear like a soldier under an artillery attack. I could find no rhyme or reason here; god knows what would happen if one of these occurred during a decent lean angle around a corner. I find it hard to believe BMW hasn’t tested this and ensured that it’s OK but some of the changes I experienced were rough enough for me to wonder if the bike’s balance wouldn’t have been upset should it have happened with some proper knee-down going on. I’d think that living it with a while might mean a technique to achieve smoother changes would become apparent to you, but after the absolute glory I experienced with the S 1000 RR’s quickshifter, I began to wonder what those engineers were doing during the R 1250 R’s development process.

Heated everything option gives you separate controls for grips, front and back seats, but setting temps is annoying. Image via Machines That Dream

Like a Suit

Deciding that the good ol’ clutch lever would be my best bet for gear changes, I settled into the beautifully flowing series of rainforest corners that lay before me and I just rode. In a way I stopped riding the bike like I was reviewing it and I rode it like I owned it.  I focused less on studying it and more on enjoying it. Now things gelled together. The comfy riding position. The effortless power delivery. The semi-active suspension. The complete lack of care as to what gear it was in. To say we were “at one” is a cliche, but it was true. What I guess I’m saying is that for the road and the conditions, the bike was really at home without me either wanting more or the bike being bored by how little I was asking it to do. And the exhaust note from the stock can was way better than I expected, too. Shame it looks so awkward.

What’s surprising about that is the fact that while the brake callipers proudly wear their Brembo branding, as far as I can remember both front and rear shocks were unbranded. I’ll assume they are Showa units, but they were a really nice match here. Maybe I just lucked out with a suspension set-up that coincidentally matched my current weight, but if I’d paid the dealership to do one for me and this is what I got, I’d consider that money very well spent. Then the penny dropped. Here was a bike that I had initially dismissed as somewhat of a plain Jane-ish try hard and like scales falling from my eyes, I was smitten with it. All too soon, the ride’s midway point arrived in front of us and it was time for a coffee and a proper mulling over. What The hell was going on here?

Liquid dinosaurs go in here – but not for much longer… Image via Machines That Dream

Being midweek, the car park was pretty much empty at the cafe with the exception of a group of (probably) retired bikers clearly off on a long ride and a single rider on a very impressive M 1000 R. For those not in the know, it’s the “naked version” of the S 1000 RR. We got to chatting and naturally the question arose. “What are you riding,” he questioned. “A new R 1250 R,” I smiled, still glowing from the great ride. One pregnant pause later, and he took up where he left off – talking about the M 1000 R. Trying not to feel slighted, I replied in kind and concluded the conversation about 10 minutes later with us not having spoken a word about my bike, which was sitting just a few metres away.

Call it a metaphor for the bike in general, but this really left an impression on me. Here was a bike that – on roads like these with riders like us – would have been every bit as fast as the M 1000 R. Add this to the fact that it’s so much better than the M at a whole bunch of other things that are much more useful on public roads and for everyday riding, and the whole thing felt more than a little like the bike was being overlooked. “Screw your M bike!” I yelled at him. His jaw dropped and an angry look came over his face. “It’s a pretentious wank! You’ll never be able to ride it at the limit! You’d be so much better off with an R 1250 R! You silly, silly man!” Luckily for me and my never-broken nose, I only said it in my head. Time for another session with my therapist, I think.

Jaunty tank design also means a slim cross-section between your legs. Image via Machines That Dream

What Could Be Better on the 2023 BMW R 1250 R Roadster

Clearly I wasn’t happy with the quickshifter. A bike like this deserves better. Whether it’s nearing the end of its life cycle and it’ll be replaced with a better/more refined unit in 2024 or not, it’s an annoying fly in an otherwise very impressive ointment. As mentioned, you may get “used” to it in the long run and figure out how to make it do what you want and when you want it, but as someone who spent quite a few hours in the saddle, it had me stumped. Maybe I should have read the manual. Or maybe I should have asked at the dealership. But like Steve Jobs, part of me just wants these things to work. Maybe it’s a cost thing? Or maybe it isn’t. But it did leave me with the feeling that BMW could have done better.

The only other notes on my list that bear discussing here are the awkward end can and the heater controls. Yes, the can sounded great but to my eyes it was too big and too shiny to suit any of the colourways available in the 2023 R 1250 R range. If you do think you might grab yourself a R 1250 R, I’d politely suggest that the Akrapovic option is a no-brainer. Its black tip and less shiny finish seem to be much better suited to the bike’s overall looks. And even if you didn’t, the base can sound great and hey – you can’t see it while you’re riding the thing so there’s that. As for the heater controls, yes they are fiddly. I do tend to get a little obsessive about useability issues such as these, but In the long term I’ve no doubt that you’d manage just fine once you’d got your head around it.

Large chrome exhaust seems a bit out-of-place on a low-key, black and grey roadster. Also note dirt. Image via Machines That Dream

Final Thoughts on the 2023 BMW R 1250 R Roadster

It’s clear to me now that underestimating the R 1250 R when I first saw it was a mistake. But had I done my homework and tweaked as to what was in store, I fear that I wouldn’t have enjoyed the experience to the extent that I did. In many cases, building up your expectations in these situations with grandiose hopes and hype (or lack thereof) generated from other reviews or marketing materials can have a really damaging impact on your experience. For once, my laziness pays off! But seriously, with me hopping of the S 1000 RR and straight onto the R 1250 R, it would have been so easy to miss this diamond in the rough and maybe I would have stuck with my first impressions of it being more of a generic, safe bike for riders who don’t really know what they want rather than realising it was the do-it-all hero it actually turned out to be.

Modern boxers have intake on the top and exhaust on the bottom – not back and front. Image via Machines That Dream

Then an interesting thought struck me as I rode the bike back to the dealership at the end of my loan. There’s a big difference between the bike you want and the bike you need. When you let your ego choose your ride, you’ll more often than not end up with something that’s to a greater or lesser extent about impressing other people or looking a certain way. Like a flashy fashion brand, you want it to say something about you to other people rather than approaching the decision using cold, hard facts and specific needs.

I imagined myself taking some kind of “What BMW motorcycle best suits you?” test where I answered a bunch of questions as honestly as possible. Questions about how I ride, when I ride, my skill level and what I really use my bike for. And hey presto, the final result says “R 1250 R”. At first I’d be surprised and think that a mistake had been made. Why not the R 12 nineT or an S 1000 R? But if I put my ego aside and just rode the bike, I dare say I’d be very much convinced of its rightness in the long run. It’s just that kind of bike.

Subtle looks, but from some angles… Image via Machines That Dream

Another insight gained at the dealer happened when I made a “stump pulling” joke in regards to the bike’s torque figures. The response from the employee was quick and unequivocal. “BMW put a lot of time and effort into that engine. It’s the GS power plant… so in a way, the R 1250 R is just borrowing a great engine and doing its own thing with it.” Makes sense, huh? The GS is a huge seller for BMW and clearly a very important bike in the lineup. And it’s a super common practice to “trickle down” engines from top shelf bikes to those below so that manufacturers can maximise the R&D bucks spent. I doubt I would have been so lukewarm on the R 1250 R when I first laid eyes on it had I connected these dots and seen it as more of a GS-powered roadster than “just another boxer from Munich”.

So let’s circle back to the whole tall poppy thing I opened with. Australia’s Tall Poppy Syndrome doesn’t mean we have less high achievers. It just means that they do what they do with the fanfare and those weird, obsessive fans ala Elon Musk. Who in their right mind would want that? The term that’s bandied around down here is “quiet achievers”. And while the R 1250 R hasn’t done what it does all on its lonesome, the end result is what I’d call a quiet achievement.

Speaking personally, as I get older and become a more experienced rider, I’m less worried about what other people think and I’m more focused on what makes me happy. And not just a superficial happiness; it’s more about what makes me really happy. Needless to say, but riding a fast, loud, show-y bike that impresses other riders is not my idea of happiness. But the 2023 R 1250 R most definitely is.

2023 BMW R 1250 R Roadster at a Glance

General InfoPrice:  $14,995 USD / $17,725 CADKey Features:Electronic Riding controls: DTC/ABS/HSC/DBCRiding modesTFT with Motorrad ConnectivityOptional seat heaters/luggage/seat heightsMain SpecsEngine: 1,254 cc two-cylinder, air/liquid-cooled, four-strokePower: 136 horsepowerTorque: 105 lb-ftWeight: 527 lbs (240 kgs)Seat Height: 29.9 inches w/ low seat (759 mm)CompetitorsYamaha MT-10KTM 890 Duke R


  • Fantastic all-rounder that’s also slick, understated and faster than you think
  • Power, charismatic boxer engine with enough torque to pull tree stumps
  • Does Sunday rides, touring and going fast with any real compromises
  • Properly comfortable


  • As with the R 1250 RS, the quickshifter lacks finesse and is prone to jolting the bike
  • Standard chrome exhaust sounds great but looks big and mismatched
  • Heating controls need to be switches, not settings buried in a menu
  • Considering it’s performance, the looks may be too understated for some

Source: webbikeworld.com