You might have read my first ride of the BMW K1200R,
and perhaps you remember that I really liked that bike. I mean,
I really liked it. So much in fact that I've now gone and bought
one, and I now like it even more. If you haven't managed to
read between the lines, let me spell it out for you; I really
like my new K1200R.
I've been the lucky owner of a 2004 R1200GS
for the last 17,000 miles, and while I really enjoyed the
GS, all the commuting had taken a bit of shine off it and
I felt that she had become a bit grey and didn't really ignite
that special feeling for me anymore. A change was due - the
question of what to change to didn't take long to answer;
a slightly used K1200R would be just what the doctor ordered
to cure my lack-of-biking-shine. I just couldn't justify buying
a brand new one, and I really didn't want to bother with the
running in; especially as there's 163 Bavarian horses wanting
to go for a run. Nein Danke. Therefore I set a "slight
rule" for myself; once a suitable spec low mileage one
popped up, I'd
ransack my finances (i.e sink myself deeper into debt), and
see if the maths would meet up somewhere not too far in the
red. You've probably figured it out by now; I managed to get
the numbers to work, and I even managed to find a bike that
was near enough to my spec.
The bike is a May 05 K1200R, in yellow and black. My preferred
colour would have been graphite and black, but they don't
do that, so I guess I'll settle for the yellow and black.
The bike doesn't have ABS, which I've grown to loathe, more
on that later. It does have the Electronic Suspension Adjustment
(ESA) and Sport Wheels. Sadly it came with the original tiny
tiny tiny screen, which really isn't up for any prolonged
speeds around 70mph. The bike had a mere 2,400 miles on the
clocks - just perfect for me. I've also managed to find a
used Laser DuoTech can for it and I stuck that on as soon
as I could. This was a quick and easy job, which saw me looking
for the right tools longer than actually swapping the cans
Between the salt rocks, glimpses of daylight
and rain showers, I have now managed to do about 300 miles
on the bike, and I'm enjoying it a lot. The engine is truly
magnifficent in both power and torque. I have a slight suspicion
that the BMW engineers might have modelled this bike with
inspiration taken from the Acme Rocket so eagerly piloted
by Wile E. Coyote in his pursuit of Roadrunner. It sure feels
like being propelled by a rocket engine as there's torque
all over the rev range and the power just surges the bike
towards the horizon, all in perfect harmony with the wonderful
sound generated from both the intake and the DuoTech. Marvellous.
When I try to describe the sound of the engine I can only
think of the sunny days when I've been spectating at the Nurburgring
Nordschleife in Pflantzgarten I, when Sabine Schmitz comes
thundering down the hill in the BMW M5 Ring-Taxi, to give
it full power up the hill, only to disappear over the brow
leaving us, spectators with their jaws dropped. Yes, it sounds
a bit like an M5. (Editor's note - as I'm just buying an (old)
M5 I can only see this as a Good Thing)
The only negative I can find about the engine is that it's
a bit snatchy on lower revs and especially a bit difficult
when balancing between on the throttle and off. Pretty much
like many other fuel injected bikes. It's also a bit of a
pity that 98 octane fuel is required; it's expensive enough
without shelling (no pun intended) out that extra. I guess
I'll have to mumble "No pain, No gain" to myself
everytime I fill up.
The handling is quite remarkable too. The stability provided
by the DuoLever front suspension is hard to describe, probably
because it completely lacks drama. A traditional fork setup
will see the bike dive and rise through a corner as you first
slow down and then power up, but the DuoLever seems to keep
the bike completely level. The stability is so different that
it's near boring. Very enjoyable nevertheless. I promise I
will do my utmost to come up with a better description once
the weather gets better and the Nurburgring season starts.
Another interesting treat is the ESA - Electronic
Suspension Adjustment - that allows you to alter
the compression damping and the rear preload from a button
on the bars. It provides three settings for the compression
damping; "Comfort" (softest), "Normal"
and "Sport" (hardest). There's also three settings
for the rear preload; "Rider" (alone), "Rider
and Luggage", and "Rider, Pillion and Luggage".
I haven't figured out what I'm supposed to do when I've got
a pillion passenger and no luggage, so I've simply decided
that one day I'll remove the pillion pegs and grabrail. The
difference between the settings is very noticeable. When I'm
riding through town or bouncing down dual carriage ways, I'll
flick the setting to "Comfort" and let myself wallow
nicely along while I enjoy the scenery. For moderate "twisties"
I have so far stuck it on "Normal" which seems to
be hard enough to enjoy the corners, but soft enough to avoid
enjoying bad road surfaces. When I approach a nice bit of
road that I really enjoy and know, I snick it into "Sports"
and marvel over the cornering capabilities. The negative parts
with the ESA is that there's no real manual adjustment; wouldn't
it be lovely if you could adjust compression and rebound on
all three ESA settings?! Or maybe that would just give us
too many things to, literally, screw up. Another little niggle
is that, to me, the compression damping is quite harsh on
sudden bumps in the road; way too much of the bump is transferred
up to the bars. The GS was the same, so I suspect this is
a generic modern BMW trait.
I mentioned earlier this K1200R is without ABS, and that's
how I want it for a few reasons. The most important reason
is that I've experienced a few "issues" on the GS
both with the ABS on and the ABS off. On an ABS equipped K1200R,
you can't turn the ABS off like you can on the GS, which means
you're in an "all or nothing" situation. On the
GS you can turn the ABS off, but you can't disable the servo
assistance. While the ABS system is a life saver in many situations
and for most riders, it can play up. It is this "can"
that worries me, because on the GS, it did. I'm intending
to ride this bike "in a spirited manner", especially
on the Nordschleife, and in this environment I will be braking
quite hard, sometimes off camber. In this situation my life
is depending on the brakes, and I really feel more comfortable
if I'm in complete control over the way the brakes behave.
I don't want any snatchiness from the servo assistance, and
I definitely don't want the ABS to cut in and release the
brake pressure only to see my eyes get to the size of golf
balls whilst staring at an approaching piece of expensive
Armco. On the GS I was quite often able to provoke the ABS
to cut in, especially on bumpy roads, and that, to me, is
where the brakes should work without exceptions. I haven't
been able to try a DuoLever equipped bike with ABS near its
limits, so I won't claim that the K1200R will behave the same
way. Bottom line is; If I'm going to stuff it, I'd like to
stuff it all on my own without a computer interfering.
What's in store for the future? You might
ask. First on the agenda is better weather, I'm working on
that and I think I can have something sorted by the end of
March. Other than that, plans are to ride the bike, but to
try to avoid mundane commuting on it as that only racks up
miles, covers it in muck, and takes the shine off riding for
fun. She will go to the Nurburgring and earn her Ring-sticker,
that's a must. I wouldn't mind a short circuit track day or
two either. But I guess most miles will be done around UK
with a big grin on my face.
I'd like to do some modifications too, but I think that
my lack of funds will be a big obstacle. Here's a few ideas:
- Larger screen (but not too large).
- Air box modification to accommodate dual high-flow filters
as per K1200S.
- Bellypan a la the PowerCup bikes
- Single seat cowl/unit again a la the PowerCup bikes
- Crash protection
- Removal of pillion pegs - this requires an exhaust bracket.
- Maybe a paint-job, I'm not very keen on the yellow.
Other goodies would also be nice, such as:
- Autocom/Starcom incl bike-to-bike functionality.
- Bigger GPS (TomTom Rider, or Garmin Quest?)
- A paddock stand would be useful.
Only time will tell where we'll end up. If you are a manufacturer
or importer of any of said goodies, please get in contact,
we'd love to try your products out and do a write up. Right
now I'm in progress of trying to tidy up the tail a bit. The
OEM licence plate hanger is too big for my liking. I've also
mounted my tiny eTrex Legend C GPS and the Geodesy gatso-detector.
So far I've enjoyed the bike and I've truly found my riding
shine again. I can't wait for the roads to dry up and the
evenings to become lighter. If you haven't figured it out
yet, here's a bigger hint. Ring your local BMW dealer
now and book a test ride. It's worth it. See you
A second opinion from Julie Marshall,
Motoring Correspondent at the Wakefield Express
THE glossy brochure for BMWs K 1200 R is
undeniably misogynous. The only woman who gets a look-in is
driving a car along the highway, gazing dreamily in her wing
mirror at the approaching he-man on his muscle bike. The pictures,
and particularly the words, are targeted exclusively at the
macho rider and there's nothing to endure the bike to the
fairer, or should I say gentler, sex. And that's a shame because,
despite the fact that this is BMW's most powerful and aggressively
styled naked street bike (to borrow a phrase from the press
pack) and that it's got 163 bhp at its disposal, the K1200R
is a bike that can, and should, be enjoyed by all.
Now I'm a bit of a novice in the bike department. In my 18
months on two wheels I've never ridden anything like as powerful
as the K1200 and so I was initially a bit daunted at the prospect.
Factor in that the rain was lashing down, accompanied by thunder
and lightning, and that I was on unfamiliar roads and you
can appreciate I was not at my most confident. But within
minutes, if not moments, of slipping it into gear and gently
rolling away, I felt entirely at home and I continued to do
so throughout the 50-odd miles of the test ride which took
in villages and gently sweeping A roads round and about Newbury.
if I'd a mind (and a death wish) I could have sprinted
up to 62mph in 2.8 seconds, but of course I didn't. Instead
I accelerated smoothly through the gears and never got much
beyond 4,000 rpm even when I hit the top speed for the roads
I was on.
Now even I must admit that this is not what the K1200R is
all about. Despite my complaints of its macho image, when
you're on the fastest unfaired machine on the road it deserves
to be treated with a bit more respect. Nevertheless, my mission
on this rain-lashed Wednesday was to prove that this was a
bike as forgiving to the relative newcomer as it was said
to be mean in the hands of an expert.
Much of its allure for me was that the 1200 R, unlike the
1200 S on which it's based, has a far more upright riding
position and the bars are straighter and wider.This makes
for more confident manoeuvres and a more comfortable riding
position over long distances. The look is not to everyone's
tastes I know, but I'm a die-hard fan of the naked bike and
am particularly well disposed to BMWs in general so I was
generally happy with its quirky styling. Not sure about the
strange headlight light configuration though.
The engine is pushed to the front thus contributing to its
low centre of gravity and the weight, which at 237 kilos is
on par with many other bikes of this class, makes for a controlled
ride, even at not much more than a walking pace.
My test bike was fitted with the optional electronic suspension
adjustment (ESA) which can be accessed by a push of the button
on the handlebars. This is an operation that can be performed
on the move when road conditions dictate or set up inadvance,
depending on payload.
The BMW EVO brake system, as featured on all K series models,
is said to be one of the safest and most effective brake systems
in the world. The test bike was also fitted with sports integral
ABS which means that both brakes are activated by the hand
lever while the footbrake lever acts only on the rear wheel.
I had to rely on all this technology when a nasty bend almost
took me unawares in the worsening weather conditions and I
was forced to brake a little harder than I would have liked.
The bike behaved with impeccable manners and showed no tendency
to push wide.
The gauges are a mixture of analogue and digital; speed and
rev counter are analogue with fuel, time and what gear you're
in shown on the LCD. ESA current setting, if fitted, can also
be found there.
In the short time I was with the bike I didn't get to grips
with the indicators at all. In common with many BMWs the switches
for right and left are on their respective handlebars. No
problem there. What I couldn't get used to was that the indicator
kill switch was on the right and meant that while stretching
my thumb across to operate it I occasionally blipped the throttle.
However, I was assured that in time this becomes second nature
and doesn't cause regular riders any trouble.