Motorcycle infotainment “BMW connectivity package” tested on the R 1250 GS

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Two years ago, we took the BMW R 1250 GS as an example to see what it had to offer in terms of infotainment and connectivity. This time we grabbed a BMW again with the R 1250 RT. Why? Because BMW is pushing the issue on the motorcycle more consistently than almost any other manufacturer – and because a lot more has changed in the system than just the powerful display, which has grown to 10.25 inches, via which real map navigation is now possible.

Nothing has changed in the basic operating logic. As before, the entire system is controlled via two controls: A rotary wheel on the left handle, which can also be pressed left and right, and a rocker switch, which is used to navigate up and down through the menu hierarchies. The logical structure follows a tree structure. You move vertically through the levels using the rocker switch, and you navigate horizontally within a system level by pressing left/right on the rotary wheel. Turning the wheel scrolls through menu entries, pressing to the right confirms, pressing to the left jumps back, pressing the rocker switch up takes you up a system level.

This may take some getting used to at the beginning, but after a short time the logical structure becomes so second nature that I was even able to give operating instructions to my girlfriend on the RT “blindly”, riding behind on another motorcycle. Ultimately, this was necessary because, despite the logical structure, many functions are unnecessarily hidden deep in the system: The grip or seat heating, for example, cannot be activated with a switch on the handlebars, but is hidden in the third system level within the settings in the “Heating” submenu.

A total of six clicks (main menu -> settings -> heating -> heated grips -> select level -> confirm) is required to set a different level of heated grips, plus another three clicks on the rocker switch to move back up the tree structure in to climb to the top where there is a speedometer view with speed, rev counter and trip meter.

The level below is the main menu with access to the various main systems: navigation, vehicle status, media playback, radio, settings. You can use the rocker switch to go one level deeper into the respective system, by pressing it up you can jump back one level and ultimately end up on the speedometer view again after pressing it several times. Of course, the most important information is always present. The speed, outside temperature, time and view of the assistance systems are always there, regardless of where I am in the menu.

BMW’s implementation of the “mySPIN” infotainment platform from supplier Bosch is particularly interesting.
(Image: Sebastian Bauer)

As in the past, the BMW system can be used as a communication center. Helmets with a built-in Bluetooth headset can be paired with the system. The system can be used to accept or initiate calls on a smartphone connected via Bluetooth. The head unit serves as a kind of BT proxy and forwards the audio stream to the connected helmet, just like when playing music. In addition, two helmets can be coupled and the system can be used as an intercom replacement. In contrast to previous experiences on the F 750 GS, I did not notice any loss of quality in the audio connection.

The big innovation of the system is the grown display, which has a very high resolution and provides excellent contrast in any weather. 1920×720 pixels offer a decent display quality and the system supplied by BMW makes clever use of the generous area: A split-screen mode enables the screen area to be divided into two with the primary view in the left two thirds and an additional view in the right third. Radio, media information, on-board computer, arrow navigation or map navigation can be displayed here. An eye-catcher is certainly the full-screen map navigation on a motorcycle. As in the past, BMW uses the BMW Motorrad Connected App for this purpose.

So far, this has delivered data via Bluetooth to the display for a fairly well-functioning arrow navigation, while the smartphone does the navigation arithmetic. The data rate via Bluetooth is of course not sufficient for a map view. The new RT has therefore integrated a WLAN module and uses the Google Cast protocol to stream the map view rendered by the cell phone to the head unit. To do this, the app needs permissions to be able to overlay other apps and start them automatically.

In practice, everything works very reliably: as soon as the motorcycle and smartphone have established a connection, the BMW Motorrad Connected app opens and switches to streaming mode. Since the display must be active for screen sharing, the app mutates into a kind of screensaver and only shows a faint cast icon on a black screen, which constantly changes its position to prevent burn-in of OLED displays. The smartphone is stored in a cleverly designed storage compartment with a Qi charging cradle and USB port while driving.

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