2021 BMW R 1250 RT Test Ride

I’ve done my fair share of long-distance riding over the years and there’s a threshold for every rider where things start to get uncomfortable. Whether it’s strained wrists, a stiff back or a numb backside, most bikes will take their toll on you over the course of a long day in the saddle. That hasn’t been my experience with BMW touring motorcycles. Criss-crossing this large nation of ours, the riders I came in contact with who were logging the most miles in comfort were riding Beemers.

The latest in a long line of RT models dating back to the 1970s, the R 1250 RT carries on the tradition of a touring motorcycle that provides ample performance matched with a supple ride and generous wind protection.

The R 1250 RT gets a more aerodynamic bodywork.


Outfitted in flashy Racing Blue Metallic paint, the R 1250 RT features a massive, bulbous front fairing that incorporates the windshield, mirrors, headlights, and turn signals that got a facelift for 2021, making it more angled and aerodynamic. Combining a wide array of lines, creases, materials and shapes, there’s a lot going on. Remove the cavernous, lockable and waterproof hard cases and the bike looks like it will flip forward on its nose. A $1,300 Billet Pack adds silver accents to elements such as the cylinder heads, oil filter plug, and engine cover.

Tech specs

At 279 kg (615 lb) it’s got some heft when you first hop on, but feels less cumbersome once you get moving. Handling feels much more agile than you’d expect from something this size, which is one of the benefits of the Boxer motor – keeping weight down low. The 1254 cc air and liquid-cooled flat twin incorporates the new ShiftCam technology included in the rest of the 1250 range and is good for 136 hp. It is most certainly not wanting for torque in any part of the powerband. It pulls hard from a standstill and has plenty of gusto when merging onto the highway or passing at any speed. The ride-by-wire throttle is both smooth and precise.

The horizontally opposed 1254 cc air and liquid-cooled flat twin is good for 136 hp.

The massive 10-25-inch digital TFT display lays out information cleanly and intuitively. A speedometer, tachometer, gear and riding mode indicator, thermometer and clock are all shown, with the ability to scroll through menus or set up a split screen when using navigation. A secure compartment located on the right side of the fairing offers the ability to charge your smartphone wirelessly or via USB, allowing to it pair with the BMW smartphone app.

How does it ride?

The riding position is comfortable enough but feels very much like you’re riding above the bike rather than being an integral part of the experience. My knees were propped up and my arms were outstretched. The combination of the giant cylinder heads at your shins, the seating position and the shape of the seat itself, don’t exactly lend themselves to anything resembling a sporting riding position when the road bends. The suspension soaks up the bumps and the power windscreen raises in order to divert wind over your face and chest letting you carry on comfortably until it’s time to top up the large 25 L fuel tank. The adaptive headlight is bright and virtually bends around corners to give you better visibility at night. Full LED lighting comes as standard equipment.

The giant 10.25-inch colour TFT screen displays a wealth of information.

Variable ride modes and adjustable suspension offer the rider options based on the road conditions or their preference. Both also help with riding two-up which is a piece of cake on the RT.

The wide seat is soft and spongey.

The $2,300 Dynamic Package adds electronic suspension, a quick shifter, adjustable riding modes, hill start, and active cruise control, as well as dynamic brake and engine brake control. Dynamic Cruise Control (DCC) is standard equipment, but Active Cruise Control (ACC) uses radar to monitor the vehicle in front and adjust speed accordingly. Quick shifters can be great when they work well, but the system in the R 1250 series needs some fine tuning – mostly when changing from first to second gear.

The $1,875 Comfort Package adds a few things you’ll likely want such as a power socket, wireless smartphone charging, an alarm system, heated seats, and keyless ride, as well as the mammoth chrome plated exhaust. I’m not sure how that made its way into the Comfort Package, but I’d prefer not to pay for it since I’d rather remove it in favour of something smaller and lighter.

Riding modes, suspension settings and infotainment are easily adjusted via controls on the left hand grip.

Fully linked braking is standard, which distributes the force needed to haul the bike down from speed across both wheels, which helps prevent the front forks from diving or the back end getting loose when downshifting and braking hard into a corner. Four piston calipers and twin floating 320 mm discs handle the job up front while a two-piston caliper and single 276 mm disc manage braking duty out back.

The Verdict

The 2021 BMW R 1250 RT (much like the R 1250 RS), makes a lot more sense to me than the R 1250 R, that regular contributor and frequent step stool user Jeff Wilson and myself recently reviewed. It’s loaded with tech and its smooth, stable chassis will let you ride long distances in comfort. If you’re sensing a “but” you’d be correct.

The large lockable side cases are waterproof and easily removable.

Load up the RT and you’ll quickly close in on BMW K1600 and Honda Goldwing territory, both of which are better looking, have more ideal riding positions, and are generally more enjoyable to ride in every scenario I can think of. Starting at a very reasonable $23,650, my test unit was loaded up with an adaptive headlight ($810), an audio system with Bluetooth ($1,525), Tire pressure monitor ($320) Comfort and Dynamic Packages ($1,875 and $2,300 respectively), and $1,300 worth of silver billet accents. Add $820 for the Racing Blue Metallic paint and the as-tested price crept up to $32,600.

For an extra $900, you could get yourself into a very well equipped K1600GTL with a buttery smooth but very potent 160 hp six-cylinder engine that’ll pull wheelies but also provide impeccable fuel economy when ridden gently. It also offers three riding modes, and electronic suspension adjustment with automatic load leveling that will let you ride in comfort all day long over any kind of road conditions. Approach some twisties and you you can dial in suspension and throttle settings that will have you smiling from ear to ear. It also features the same 10.25-inch TFT display with navigation and Bluetooth connectivity, plus offers a top case with passenger backrest, and 113L worth of storage. If I was looking to invest in a long distance touring BMW, that’s unquestionably where my money is going.


  1. I’m riding an R1200RT, but it’s from 2007.
    I’m just not going to spend the price of a (relatively cheap, to be sure) new car for a motorcycle.
    My ’07 doesn’t quite have the power of the new one (still the old oil cooled engine), but it does have the important stuff – heated grips and seat, electrically adjustable suspension and windshield. power outlet. Even came with a BMW-branded Garmin GPS. And it’s a little lighter, too.

    Still, aren’t you comparing a loaded RT to the base price of the GTL?

    • Mine’s an ’05 with everything but ESA. Just took me to Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail from Ottawa (and back) in comfort. Rather than $30K on a bike, I far prefer having a some variety. Rather than likely paying $25k+ to upgrade to a new RT, I plunked a little over $10k down for a fun runabout (Svartpilen 701) for commuting and Sunday morning runs.

      When age becomes an issue with the old Boxer, I’ll also likely get a gently used ’13 or later. The bonus, will be that I will have sampled all four generations of Boxer, having previously owned an airhead (’78 R 100/7), an oilhead (’00 GS 1150) and a pentahead (my ’05 RT).

      • I picked up a KLX250 last year. Mistake. I realize now that something like the Svart 701, or maybe a Duke 690 (if they still made it) is what I want – almost as light as the KLX, but with enough power to be fun. How do you like yours?

        I ended up not getting to do the tour I had planned this year (also to NS) due to some dental health issues (I never knew just how much a tooth could ache), but still got a shorter one in to northern Ontario. Didn’t really go too far last year.

        The RT served me well on the two tours I did get to do in ’19. Best touring mount I’ve owned by far. Does everything I need. As long as I don’t ride a newer one I won’t know what I’m missing 🙂

        • I’m really loving the Svartpilen. You’re right, it really does feel a bit like a dirt bike between your legs, but rides and grips the road more like a sport bike. The motor is simply fantastic. Really torquey and surprisingly smooth for a single.

          My son has a Svart 401, which is a ridiculous steal. Not as munch punch as the 701, but even smoother and with a plusher (yet still fully adjustable) suspension. How they do that for under $6k (with tubeless spoked wheels and a quick-shifter) is a mystery to me. Even lighter, too, at 350 lbs fully gassed.

          No illusions about these bikes, though. They are KTMs, after all. Only one issue between the two bikes so far, which was remedied through a recall (clutch slave cylinder replacement). Still, I’d be a little nervous about relying on one as my only bike.

  2. “Starting at a very reasonable $23,650, my test unit was loaded up with an adaptive headlight ($810), an audio system with Bluetooth ($1,525), Tire pressure monitor ($320) Comfort and Dynamic Packages ($1,875 and $2,300 respectively), and $1,300 worth of silver billet accents. Add $820 for the Racing Blue Metallic paint and the as-tested price crept up to $32,600.”

    BMW = Burn My Wallet

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