BY JOE MICHAUD
For more than 15 years, I’ve owned a series of different BMW flat-twins and I admit a strong affection for their particular, almost curious, Germanic technology.
My current 2004 R1150RT will never impress anyone as a performance bike, but it’s an extremely capable machine. My RT is a well-proven and fully faired model that can haul two people anywhere on the globe. I was anxious to see what improvements a dozen years might bring.
My passenger and I picked up a BMW R1200R in South Dakota and would have it as our own for three days during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Once we escaped the high-density chokepoints that 400,000 bikers can cause, the two-lane pavement was glorious and the scenery stunning. The local attractions are of all Bucket List quality; the bike was simply the cherry on the sundae.
ABS is standard on most new bikes but BMW has upped the game. Automatic Stability Control is standard as well with two riding modes — “Rain” and “Road” — selectable on the fly. Our tester was the full-house Premium option, which includes Riding Mode Pro and Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment.
Riding Mode Pro includes two additional layers of riding modes: “Dynamic” and “User.” Dynamic mode adds dynamic traction control complete with a lean angle sensor and further reduces the intrusion of ABS and ASC. This allows more tire spin and less ABS intervention, but requires a more skilled rider to exploit that freedom. “User” mode allows the rider to mix and match the intervention thresholds of both traction control and engine mapping to suit individual needs.
Using a leveling sensor, electronic suspension adjustment reads the suspension movements and adjusts the damper valves, depending on whether the rider selects the “Road” or “Dynamic” mode. Dynamic mode allows a choice of spring preload and damping rates to accommodate a passenger and luggage; the suspension automatically adjusts to the road surface conditions.
Riding two-up on unfamiliar wet roads was handled faultlessly by the sophisticated electronics. It was completely invisible. You may love the intervention or hate the whole idea of electronic intrusion; however, it’s now up to the rider to decide the depth of protection chosen.
The 1200cc flat-twin motor with its water-cooled heads is the same basic mill throughout the R series, including the RT, GS, and RS. Max power hits 125 horsepower at 7,750 rpm and torque peaks at 92 lb.-ft. at 6,500 revs. A two-into-one chromed exhaust plus a modified air box and newly reshaped air intake snorkels boost torque throughout the range — always a welcome adjunct for sporty riding. I found torque widely available throughout the rev range and having that power in my right fist made hauling us two-up through hundreds of miles of South Dakota twisties great fun. The six-speed transmission was flawless and never required preloading the shift lever, a technique once common for smooth Beemer gear changes.
A purpose-built tubular steel frame uses the motor as a self-supporting stressed member. Across the R model line, BMW Motorrad moved away from its previous Telelever front suspension in favor of upside-down telescopic technology derived from their S1000R sport bike, but kept the EVO Paralever at the rear. The parallelogram geometry of the rear suspension absolves the tendency of the drive shaft bike to squat under braking.
It’s a stunning bike. Our Dynamic ESA upgraded version had sporty gold forks, their visibility a highlight of the front end. The chassis feels tight, light, and nimble, and it carves asphalt like a cat on carpet. The front brakes are four-piston calipers on dual 320mm discs with a single 270mm dual-piston rear. The brakes are a partially integral system; the front brake lever operates both front and rear brakes while the rear pedal controls only the rear wheel.
Seat height is adjustable from 30 to 33 inches with available accessory seat options. Ergonomically, it fit me like a pair of old jeans providing a safe low-speed feel for a 508-pound wet-weight bike. The felt weight is light since the Boxer twin holds its engine mass low in the chassis. Topped up with 4.7 gallons of premium fuel, the BMW can travel about 175 miles before needing a refill. The seating was fine for both rider and pillion; we rode long hours in comfort: BMW knows rider comfort.
Our tester was a Premium Package machine, and was fully loaded with keyless ignition, tire pressure monitors, center stand, GPS, clutchless gearshift assist, heated grips, cruise control, luggage grid, sport windshield, GPS, and engine spoiler.
Three color options are available; we rode the very sexy Light White color with a matching engine spoiler. The trellis frame section is highlighted in bright Racing Red; it’s simply stunning. Other colors are Thunder Grey Metallic and Cordoba Blue. No choice for me, gimme a Light White/Racing Red one any day; the other colors allow the bike to disappear into the crowd.
Instrumentation includes a large analog speedo on the left of a Thin Film Transistor liquid crystal screen with three available configurations: Sport, Touring, and Full views. Information can be displayed in various and sundry quantities. I settled for the Touring view, which provided such basic engine data as revs, fuel, clock, speedo, gear indicator, and grip heater.
Pricing for the basic model R1200R (with ABS) is $14,000. Dip deeply into the plush options catalogue and you can expect to approach $19,000, but you get a fistful of motorcycle. BMW Motorrad has always built fine motorcycles. I want one.