Bruno Valeri


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Road Test Review

BMW R1200 RT Review: First Impresssions

Of all the models in BMW’s motorcycle line-up, the R1100/1150 RT series has always been a favorite of mine.

So it was with a mixture of anticipation and anxiety that I looked forward to test-riding the new BMW R1200 RT.

In contrast to an evolution-further-along-a-concept approach that the R1150 RT offered over the 1100, the new R1200 RT came to market proposing radically new styling. Looking over the new model line-up and trends, it's clear that there has been a wind of change blowing over at the motorcycle BMW Motorad headquarters.

Despite claimed weight reductions, it looked bigger. It also offered more luxury features.

Going over the specs, it seemed to me that the BMW R1200 RT was moving away from the sport touring category (albeit with a slight emphasis on the touring side of the equation) to a decidedly more luxury touring orientation. Maybe targeting an older, more sedate rider. To further confirm this, the BMW website now listed the R1200 RT as a tourer.

Well, things are not always what they seem.

I’m quite impressed with the R1200 RT. Not only is it a significantly better motorcycle touring platform than the R1150RT, it also sets a new standard for touring and sport touring category.

Having been a fan of the styling as embodied in previous incarnations of the RT, I was initially underwhelmed by this new look. It was just so different.

But the design has grown on me and I now find it very fitting.

Anyone who enjoys touring in comfort but that has previously perceived touring motorcycles to be too big, ponderous, ill handling etc will be in for a revelation and a surprise.

Some highlights:

The R1200RT feels noticeably lighter than it looks. It is surprisingly agile and nimble, allowing for effortless riding over twisty roads. The boxer engine now produces 110hp. It also revs effortlessly and with much lower vibration levels.

My impressions:

Though the styling suggests a heavier bike, the BMW R1200 RT feels significantly lighter and more agile than the R1150RT.

In recent years, BMW bikes have experienced a certain amount of weight creep. Thankfully, the R1200RT reverses that direction with a claimed dry weight of 505lbs. (some 70lbs. less than a R1150RT!).

This is not only commendably low, it is lighter than some supersport tourers. To put this in perspective, consider that the Honda VFR (a tourer in the sporting category offering non of the luxury features) weighs in at 483lbs. dry. That’s a 22lb. difference! That is almost unbelievable.

Can enhanced luxury and improved sporting performance co-exist?

When riding out on the R1200RT, the initial sensation is unmistakable. It feels significantly more refined. But it also feels more sporting. It transitions more easily from side to side, the boxer engine puts out more power up top, offers more torque down low, and revs more freely, with a noticeably lower level of vibrations. It coddles the rider with more luxury features, better weather protection, and more performance while isolating the rider from any unpleasantness encountered on the road surface.

I found the R1200RT to offer excellent comfort. The seat-to-peg-to-handlebar relationship is in the sweet spot range and reflects well what a sport touring position should be. In addition, standard BMW adjustable ergonomics allow you to fine tune the position to fit your own requirements.

The RT12 also comes with an electrically adjustable windshield and heated grips. The power windshield is a pleasure to use. It can be raised or lowered at will to suit varying temperature or pace of riding.

Depending on the market, the following features may be available as standard equipment or as options:

  • Radio with integrated CD player
  • Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA)
  • Cruise Control
  • Heated Handlebar Grips
  • Optional Two-setting Heated Seats

The new fairing design offers a high level of rider protection from the elements. I found the integrated under-the-bar mirrors to be unobtrusive and very effective. In addition, they serve to protect the rider’s hands from cold, wind, or rain.

It’s surprising to notice how soothing the heated seat can feel when riding in cool and damp conditions. A definite addition to the comfort factor.

Subjectively, the 1200 Boxer feels like a totally different motor. Not only for its increased level of performance, but it feels much more refined, with a totally different character. It even sounds better.

It revs freely and effortlessly. The typical boxer vibrations have been greatly reduced by the addition of a balance shaft. To be sure, vibrations are still present, but they now feel like much smaller amplitude pulses that are soothing in nature. The boxer revs so willingly that I sometimes found myself inadvertently riding for extended periods in fourth or fifth gear.

No doubt contributing to this is the new engine management system. BMW has moved away from the Motronic MA 2.4 EMS and now offers its proprietary BMW-K EMS.

Surge? What surge? . . . No surge!

The new RT engine is delightful in use and I detected no surging. Similarly, the fuel injection mapping seemed to be spot on.

The RT is also surprisingly economical for such a class of motorcycle.

Though it runs an unusually high compression ratio of 12:1, requiring premium fuel, the knock sensor allows the use of lower octane fuels.

If BMW claims are to be believed, the R1200RT gets noticeably better mileage than the R1150RT. I’d speculate that part of this may be the result of the higher compression ratio (higher efficiency), improved EMS, possibly lowered aerodynamic drag, and, of course, lower weight.

This weight loss also results in an R1200 RT that feels more nimble and agile in any transient maneuver.

Shifting the R1200RT’s transmission is an non-affair. Shifts are smooth, precise, and light. Night and day with an R1100RT. Sixth gear is now shorter as opposed to being an overdrive gear. This allows for more motivated passing and climbing while requiring less downshifting.

The power assisted ABS brakes on the R1200RT are another nice surprise. They are now much easier to modulate and have lost that binary on-off behavior that was more characteristic of the assisted brakes offered on the R1150RT. They now feel more like a rheostat in that there is a closer relationship between the amount of squeeze at the lever and the amount of braking applied.

But the braking power remains impressive.

In a move that is sure to please some folks, BMW has reversed an earlier direction. The R1200RT ABS brakes are now partly integrated. The rear pedal only activates the rear brake while the front lever applies front and rear brake.

All of this combines to make navigating twisty roads a pleasure that involves very little effort.

The R1200RT also offers exemplary stability for sustained highway cruising.

Speaking of handling, suspension settings have traditionally always been a compromise between achieving more comfort or achieving more performance.

But the RT1200 now offers something truly innovative. The on-board Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) is accessible on the dash and allows the rider to select front and rear suspension settings to suit changing needs on the fly.

For example, when navigating slow and bumpy roads, the suspension could be set on soft. For navigating higher speed sweepers, the setting could be set on sport. Or set to compensate for a passenger with luggage.


Performance in large part relates to the power to weight ratio. The increase in engine output coupled to a significant decrease in weight results in an enhanced power to weight ratio for the R1200 RT. Combine this to the shorter sixth gear and you get improved roll-on and passing at highway speeds.

The new roster of BMW’s employ even more technology than previous models and the good news is that it all seems to work as planned.

So, enhanced luxury and improved sporting performance can co-exist.

It's a little like having your cake and eating it too, if you will.

On the one hand it is lighter, more powerful, and handles better, and is more enjoyable to ride. On the other hand, it offers more luxury appointments.

If anything, the RT broadens its target market.

Traditionally, the sport touring equation implied that you increased ability on one side at the expense of the other. But the R1200 RT has improved both sides of the equation. It is now better at Sport AND better at Touring.

While it physically looks like it has moved towards the luxury motorcycle touring segment, it’s performance has increased in many areas. It is flat out a noticeably improved motorcycle.

In fact, riding an R1100 RT and an R1200 RT back to back is an eye opener.

The motorcycle for this report was kindly provided by BMW Canada and Monette Sports.

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