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BMW’s latest ‘Mile Muncher’ the 1150RS

Roadtest and photographs by: Adrian Percival

On a cold and extremely wet day in June (it is summer after all!) I had the pleasure of going up to BMW nr Doncaster to collect a new test bike. The run up from Oxford was made on an 1150RT in the pouring rain via Peterborough and then on to BMW’s other headquarters in Thorne. A non-too pleasant trip of about 175 miles but at least the RT gave some protection from the sudden rainstorms, spray and other stuff kicked up by the never-ending stream of trucks I seemed to encounter! I thought that maybe I would have a better ride back (yes another 175 miles) this time on the latest R1150RS. I just hoped that the weather would calm down a bit for the run back.I got up to BMW at about 5.30pm and joy of joys it had stopped raining. There I met Ray Turner again for the swap over of the bikes, nice chap he always gives me a run down of every bike, even though they are very similar in their controls he makes sure that I know that the ABS on the RS works on the front brake lever and not the rear, as on the RT, a very useful tip when the roads are awash! Apart from that subtle point not much was different, except I had now lost that enormous fairing and electrically operated windscreen, and it was starting to rain again!! I had little time to take in the fact the Ray had supplied me with the latest SE version and that it had a Laser Pipe on it, all I really noticed was the noise, and the fact that it looked really nice and clean and was brand new! It was a shame that it’s first trip would be on such dreadful day.

I departed from Thorne and decided not to take the scenic route as it was now ‘chucking it down’ so it was the M18 followed by the M1, the M69 and then the M40 down to Oxford. Not the most exciting way back, but as I had my Sidi wet suit on at least I knew I would make it back dry, bored maybe but it was definitely the quickest way back on an awful day, tomorrow will be sunny I kept saying to myself, amongst other expletives directed toward either blind, or I’m sorry I just didn’t see your headlights in my mirror for the last 5 miles - typical never ridden a bike car drivers!When I left I thought I was going to be in for a soaking, the fairing on the RS is much smaller and slimmer than the RT but it still has an adjustable screen. It may not be the fancy electric version but it’s easy to do on the move and you can get it as upright as you need to deflect the wind and rain off you. The new bike’s screen size has been increased by 8 cm in height and is 6 cm wider than before, and believe me it’s a great modification. The top half wind/rain protection was extremely good, and when I finally got the screen in the correct place it took most of the awful weather up and over me as I continued my quest home, also with the heated grips on I could even dry my gloves as I rode along!

For 2002 the RS has now been treated to the same motor as fitted to the 1150 GS, 1150 R and the 1150 RT, it’s a more powerful engine complete with a fully controlled catalytic converter and six-speed transmission. There is a noticeable power and torque gain over the old unit (95bhp and 100Nm/74lb-ft) and it seems to be available almost all the time giving more thrust and acceleration. All this power is transmitted through a hydraulically operated clutch with a 3 position adjustable lever. As with the 1150 RT the new six-speed gearbox has been designed for more for comfortable touring. The new sixth gear is "longer" than usual, on the digital dash it shows as ‘E’ or an overdrive function reducing engine speed, overall noise, vibration and gives you better fuel consumption. The suspension, running gear and the geometry, are more or less unchanged and still feature BMW’s tremendous Telelever front end and Paralever rear.

The build quality of BMW’s is just superb. When you climb onto it you just know and feel that they put the same level of dedication and attention to detail as they do with their cars. Leather interior, comfortable sports seats, the switches are solid and the dials are clear, it’s almost like getting into an M3 or M5. It gives you that feeling that to do it justice you can’t just go out for a 100 mile run, it wouldn’t even break sweat before the tank needed filling! With a tank capacity of around 23lt you will get about 180 - 200 miles before you need to think about giving in to the fuel warning light that came on about 40miles ago! This warning light came on with me for the first time at about 135 miles so natural reaction is to look for the first fuel stop on a wet M1. Of course you have just passed one! So its back it down a bit and carry on for another 18 miles to the next. When I eventually got there after testing the filtering capabilities of the big boxer in the 6miles of stationary traffic I encountered, I only managed to get about 15lt in the tank, surprised? Yes, the light was lying, I had a full 6 or 7lt left. Also what is it about BMW’s that gives you Moses like qualities when you have to get through traffic, is everyone who rides one a Policeman? Other vehicles just move over to let you through, maybe they just don’t want cylinder imprints in their doors, who knows?

Having lived with this bike for a couple of weeks now and done about a 1000mls on it, I can understand why BMW-riders will happily cross continents for a packet of cigarettes or to get some chips! I really like the bike, It's reasonably fast, it’s solid as a rock on the motorway and it’s extremely comfortable. Surprisingly enough I also enjoyed some of my favourite A & B roads, a little suspension adjustment to stiffen the bike up a bit and it will do just about anything a Jap superbike can do albeit a little less frantic! And yes I got my knee down on it, surprisingly easily! Wherever I went on this bike I seemed to ride at a consistent pace, it will break the national speed limit with ease but it’s the way it cruises that impressed me so much. It seems to get into a stride on motorways and there’s not much that would keep up with it for long or at such a high cruising speed! I consciously had to back off to enable others to keep in sight of me, not just on motorways but also on ordinary roads. The RS will carry a lot of speed through corners, it handles very well, is precise and extremely predictable in all situations. The suspension is attached to the engine via BMW’s front Telelever wishbone and their rear single-sided Paralever swinging arm. This system works very well, both on the road and under stress (see later) and there’s virtually no dive from it at all. The RS now sports a 17 inch rear, for wider choice of rubber in 170 section and also the wheels for the new model are a lighter, almost delicate looking 5 spoke design, as seen on the 1150R and RT, and do look nicely up to date.

The RS SE has the second generation EVO 2 ABS fitted to it as standard and it was subjected to an reasonably early test on damp roads when, coming through Oxford’s busy evening traffic a man in a ‘very yellow’ Seat decided to ignore the red traffic lights and just carry on talking on his phone. Without the slightest inclination as to where he was or what he was doing he blindly drove straight out across my path. At that hour Oxford High St is full of foreign students, bicycles, Police and so on, so my immediate concern was to make some sort of effort to attempt to stop with dignity, and without attempting a pavement mount and killing a mixed bag of tourists and students! I hit the brakes. I missed the car and stopped in a straight line, no fuss, no noise, no stoppie, no sweat, the BMW just took it all in it’s stride! I was impressed – a lot, and so was the white car with the fluorescent stripes and blue light following it!


Like the RT the RS has the new switchgear, which even after a month on both bikes I still find hard to get to grips with. I find myself having to look to find the indicator cancel button which if you are turning left is on the right bar, a bit easier if you turn right! Maybe it’s me but it does take a bit of getting used to although the rest of the switches are fine. If you are in the market for a new BMW Boxer which model should it be, though? If my idea of what a bike should be like were the same as our photographer (Steve Gregory) then I would go straight out and get an 1150GS Adventure! If you were planning to ride to the base of Everest or a trip across the Sahara then it would have to be the ‘Hummer’ of the motorcycle world, the 1150GS. I don’t hold the same views as Steve and don’t relish the prospect of sitting to attention for hours on end at speed so maybe the R1150RT? No, that’s out. I’ve ridden one of those for the last 2 weeks and besides, I don’t need or want a full dressed tourer, also I didn’t fancy starting to smoke a pipe or having to grow the compulsory beard! The RT is a great bike for what it was designed for, touring. So on to the 1150RS SE, the bike I was riding, and the bike I was thoroughly impressed with. The SE option gives you heated grips and ABS and a fancy paint scheme. Heated grips? Are they necessary? Once experienced they are an essential item and come complete with two settings to either keep your digits warm or to dry your gloves! I did have a few little complaints but compared to the overall package they’re pretty trivial. The console warning lights will dazzle you at night, the ABS does take the braking feeling away somewhat, but I wouldn’t do without it now, the reserve setting was way too early (maybe it was just our test bike) and of course those indicator switches!

The RS can be categorised as a Sports Tourer and a very capable one at that. Some people may well consider BMW’s to be the dull option for the older rider, and the superbike jockeys may hardly regard it as a bike at all, but the new breed of BMW’s are not to be discounted. This bike satisfies every requirement for riding a motorcycle. I looked forward to every ride I went on, no matter how short or long it was, and when it was parked up outside a little country café or pub it drew attention from everyone. Yes this bike is good and it certainly does exactly what it says on the tin!

Tech Specs Engine

  • Type 2-cylinder 4-stroke flat twin, 8 valve with Bosch Motronic MA 2.2 and overrun fuel cut-off with closed-loop 3-way catalytic converter.
  • Gearbox 5 speeds.
  • Displacement 1130 cm³ Running gear.
  • Frame - 3-piece, front, rear frame with monocoque engine/gearbox unit.
  • Tyre, front 120/70 ZR 17 (Tubeless).
  • Tyre, rear 170/60 ZR 17 (Tubeless).
  • Wheels Light alloy wheels.
  • Fork BMW Telelever with central spring strut, with infinitely variable tension adjustment.
  • Swinging arm (BMW Paralever single sided)
  • Tank volume 23 l, of which approx. 4 l Reserve
  • Seat height (adjustable) at unladen weight 790, 810, 830 mm
  • Unladen weight, ready for road 246Kg / 251Kg (ABS)
  • Maximum speed approx. 124 mph
  • Price: £7,995.00 (Std model) £9,095.00 (SE version)

Motorbikes Today Rating·

  • Engine: 4 star
  • Braking: 5 star
  • Comfort: 5 star
  • Handling: 3 star
  • Fun factor: 4 star
  • Overall Rating: 4 star

Can I insure it?


Read external BMW 1150RS reviews on Ciao.


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