The most dramatic change to the 2019 BMW RT is not in its aesthetics, but hidden beneath its valve covers. The stalwart boxer twin powerplant has been emboldened with a technologically advanced variable cam, which has significantly altered the engine’s characteristics. The new cam and the performance that comes with the boost in displacement move the RT further into a sporting realm, which, when married to its long-distance comfort, is an invitation for those who haven’t considered a sport-touring machine to take a serious look.
The new RT (and GS) 1250 represent BMW Motorrad’s first application of the ShiftCam Variable Engine Timing System in production. The new boxer’s overhead cam configuration uses a modified two-position camshaft for the intake valves that has two different rise lobes (one for partial load and one for full load) which controls the amount the intake valves are opened depending upon rpm. From idle to 4,000 rpm the cam rides in the partial load placement, limiting the intake valve stroke, resulting in lower fuel-air flow, which translates to smoother running and more efficient fuel economy. At 4,000 rpm an actuator shifts the camshaft laterally in its cradle, which brings the full load cam lobes into play, allowing for maximum valve lift for full volume flow. Additionally the intake valves are slightly staggered to create a turbulent swirl effect to produce a more efficient and thorough burn for combustion.
The paperwork says the ShiftCam does its magic at 4,000 rpm, however, the torque chart shows a slight lag at around 5,000 rpm, which suggests the shift is actually activated around that point. That said, the shift is virtually indecipherable. The only thing the rider feels is the pleasant, smooth rush of power that unfolds in predictable, consistent delivery all the way to redline. Most people buying the RT will not be riding the bike to its peak performance all the time, but it’s nice knowing it’s there when you want it.
The new system allows a 100-rpm-lower idle speed, reducing vibration. Additionally, the camshaft drive—previously a roller chain—has been replaced by a toothed chain. A knock sensor allows for variations in fuel quality and octane, which is good news for those taking the RT far afield where their normal preferences of fuel may not exist.
The displacement bump, from 1,170cc to 1,254cc, represents a 9 percent increase in horsepower, brimming with 136 hp at 7,750 rpm. That power is spread over a much broader arc with a less dramatic falloff after hitting its peak. For the torque numbers, where the real heart of performance lies, the 2019 RT gets a significant 14 percent boost over the previous year, delivering a lusty 105 pound-feet, which arrives at 6,250 rpm. Two ride modes standard (Rain and Road) help control that power in adverse conditions.
So what’s the visceral, real-world result of these internal changes? Plenty. The new RT has been transformed into a quick-revving machine, with characteristics closer to the response and feel of an in-line four-cylinder than our cherished, throaty boxer. Even the sound has been altered, resonating now with a slightly higher-pitched exhaust note. The horsepower and torque increase along with the broader powerband translates to a more forgiving motorcycle, capable of being lugged along for mellow touring, and then easily and instantly wicked up for some spirited riding.
The RT has a solid, planted footprint with a precise and responsive turn-in. Stability under hard braking is a strong suit, with the linked ABS doing its job without any noticeable oscillation between front and rear wheels. Dual 320mm discs with four-piston fixed calipers on the front are married to a single 276mm disc with dual-piston floating caliper on the rear. Standard equipment includes ASC (Automatic Stability Control) and ABS Pro (with Cornering ABS). Rainfall during the ride provided adequate test of the system, which at varying lean angles works exceptionally well sans any spongy lever feel. It all adds up to practicality and safety while instilling confidence.
Wet weight of 609 pounds (with allowable payload of 483 pounds) is deceptive given the RT’s low center of gravity and evenly distributed bias. Signature Telelever front end (with central spring strut) and cast aluminum single-sided swingarm/shaft drive Paralever system soak up the bumps and smooths out the ride. Available this year for the RT is optional Next Generation D-ESA (Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment), which automatically adjusts front and rear preload.
With an estimated 50 mpg (compared to 47 mpg for the previous model) and a fuel capacity of 6.6. gallons, the RT will deliver a range in the neighborhood of 300 miles (depending on how much restraint can be exercised with this tempting motor).
Aesthetically, the RT sports new cylinder covers and manifold routing, with the header pipes making a somewhat vertical curve to the exhaust pipes. New cast aluminum 17-inch wheels have a sporty design while the bodywork receives a lower spoiler. Seat heights range from high at 32.7 inches, to standard at 31.7 inches, and low at 29.9 inches to accommodate a range of inseams. The headlight is a highly visible LED unit. Auxiliary LED running lights (pictured) are optional.
The RT is equipped with BMW’s Hill Start Pro, which is easily activated with some extra pressure on the front brake lever when stopped. The system applies brakes and holds the machine until the clutch is engaged. It’s a welcome device when stopped on a severe incline or an uneven surface, and especially helpful when fully loaded down and carrying a passenger.
Hydraulically operated clutch mated with the six-speed gearbox render succinct shifts, with the optional Speed Shift Assist allowing clutchless up- and downshifts—a feature easy to get spoiled by.
A host of optional equipment and an equal number of accessories gives RT owners the ability to craft their own unique ride, from Dynamic Braking Control to the 719 kit, which introduces pinstriping and an attractively stitched seat. All told, the 2019 BMW R1250RT maintains its position as a top-tier sport-touring machine that delivers serious performance with long-haul comfort.
Base MSRP is $18,645. The RT is available in Alpine White, Mars Red Metallic/Dark Slate Metallic Matte, and Carbon Black Metallic.