aving a nice big GPS - or ‘infotainment’’ - screen built seamlessly into your car’s dashboard has been commonplace for years. But for motorcycles? Not so much, until recently.
Honda’s legendary ‘Africa Twin’ let riders link their iPhones with the standard-issue TFT screen via lightning cable when it was relaunched in 2019, so that owners could enjoy their smartphones on the move, including navigation apps.
Now BMW has brought its uber-tourer, the handsome R 1250 RT, right up to date by making its ‘dashboard’ closer than ever in style to those also offered on the firm’s four-wheeled offerings.
Instead of needing a clunky GPS-mounting bracket (traditionally placed on the handlebars or inside the screen) and clipping in a separate, chunky, detachable sat-nav unit, the bike’s brilliant new 10.25” TFT colour screen boasts its very own integrated map navigation for route planning.
Safe and secure
In addition, the swish (if cumbersomely-named) new “Comfort telephony with extended smartphone connection” option means that a smartphone can be ‘Bluetoothed’ to the unit too. Better still, instead of stashing your phone in a pocket or tank bag (as with Honda’s Africa Twin) BMW has created a secure phone storage compartment that’s protected from water and even ventilated by an electric fan to prevent overheating.
It means BMW riders can now - car-like - enjoy the benefits of their smartphone’s functions on the move, while its battery is kept topped up inductively or via a USB connection. With the ‘Audio System 2.0’, the new R 1250 RT offers a more sparkling sound experience too.
Ingeniously, connecting your phone doesn’t mean you’ll burn your way through your data allowance either; although the phone connects via Bluetooth, the data used is transmitted via a wi-fi router built into the bike, which your phone also connects with.
All under control
Communication gizmos aren’t the only technical advance on the latest version of the punchy new 136bhp R1250RT. It now comes with Dynamic Traction Control or ‘DTC’ (keeping the bike firmly under control in situations where extra grip is called for) and a new “Eco” riding mode as standard (for optimum fuel efficiency).
Another addition to the Adventure version of the latest R 1250 RT is ‘engine drag torque control’ (confusingly labelled ‘MSR’), which avoids unstable riding conditions during coasting or changing sharply down through the gears.
Other high-tech add-ons include ‘Full Integral ABS Pro’ as standard. With this anti-lock braking system both the hand and foot brake levers are used to apply the front and rear brakes simultaneously - aimed at making the bike more secure during braking, even on bends, within reason.
Other new ‘toys’ on the RT include a powerful LED headlight that swivels when the bike is leaned over, to ensure the actual bend is illuminated (rather than the hedge or wall), and improved cruise control, again moving the bike’s equipment level closer in line with that of BMW’s cars.
Dynamic Cruise Control (DCC) means that the selected speed is still maintained when riding downhill. Even if the engine doesn’t hold the bike at the ‘right’ speed, the braking can automatically prevent speeding - and of course speeding tickets.
In a further car-like move, the RT now has a brilliant Active Cruise Control (ACC) system which, thanks to sophisticated radar sensor technology, keeps the bike a fixed distance from the vehicle in front, handy for long motorway rides.
Comfort and luxury
So how does all the new tech perform in practice? On back roads, A-roads and motorways near BMW’s Farnborough HQ, the new navigation system proved faultless and easy to follow, with clear turn-by-turn instructions relayed from my iPhone X to the motorcycle’s generous, easy-to-read screen.
On the M3, the Active Cruise Control made riding easier, maintaining a safe, pre-selected distance from vehicles in front; great for taking the strain out of long, boring m-way stretches. Other qualities which shone through on this highly refined, extremely comfortable, enjoyable and long-legged machine on a distinctly chilly day included its heated seat and highly effective heated hand grips. That recently redesigned 1250cc ‘Boxer’ engine, now with shift-cam technology, is a complete gem, producing greater power right across the speed range. This bike really does have some ‘go’, despite its size and weight and it sounds good too.
The electrically-operated screen made it possible to (mostly) reduce wind buffeting, while the handling was inspiring and predictable. The clutch is nice and light, the gears super-slick, while the brakes offer tons of stopping power and feel. The fitted panniers are a slick feature, too; perfect for those long summer tours bikers dream of. At 279kgs, fully-fuelled, the RT is not a light bike and you notice this at walking pace but on the move it feels fluid and nimble - and it’s still good for filtering past cars.
Ride comfort is superb too so it all adds up to a bike that’s perfect for riders who want to lord it on the commute into London or munch miles and cross continents in as much comfort and luxury - and with as much technical assistance - as possible.