Bruno Valeri





Road Test Review

BMW R1200 ST Review: First Impressions

In many ways, the BMW R1100/1150 RS series have been somewhat neglected in recent years. It often seemed that the more popular models, at least more popular in the North American market, benefited from more frequent and more thorough styling updates.

And yet, the RS series represents the traditional essence of BMW sports touring. A relatively lightweight and versatile motorcycle that blends sporting performance with long distance comfort.

The wait is now over. The new BMW R1200 ST not only replaces the R1150 RS in the 2005 model lineup, but it does so emphatically.

While retaining the focus of a more sport-oriented touring, the BMW R1200 ST delivers improvements in every area. It offers higher engine output, lighter weight, better handling, improved brakes, a nicer gearbox, better weather protection, and an overall much higher level of refinement.

In addition, the new R1200 ST is endowed with a more sporting personality and conveys a welcome touch of soul.

As opposed to its R1200 RT stablemate, a tourer with a decidedly sporting orientation, the R1200 ST feels very much like a sport touring motorcycle. It seems to bridge the gap between the R1150 RS and the R1100S. It offers a sporting flavor reminiscent of the S model but with the increased comfort and long leggedness of the RS.

Of course it will willingly and comfortably take you cross country as a performance sport tourer should. But having arrived at destination, you remove the luggage and find yourself with a motorcycle that exudes real sporting performance.

Ride with gusto through any number of tight switchbacks, sail through fast sweepers, turn back and do it again. And at the end of the day, it will take you back home in comfort and style.


The instrument cluster contains analogue dials for the speedo and tachometer while a digital cluster provides readouts for fuel, oil temperature, projected fuel range, gear selection, and clock.

Like the R1200 RT, the new ABS EVO brake system is partially linked. The rear pedal activates only the rear brake while the front lever activates both front and rear.

The new generation EVO brakes (assisted) are much easier to modulate and feel transparent in normal use. Similar to the RT, the ST offers solid stopping power.

The clutch is also light and easy to modulate; a welcome trait when dealing with traffic.

Like the RT, the ST transmission is light, precise, and effortless to use. The spacing of ratios in the later gears is reasonably close to ensure lively acceleration.


The seating position has a slightly more forward lean to it. Though perhaps due to my preference for more sporting riding positions, I immediately felt comfortable on the ST.

To allow further personalization, the handlebars and the seat are easily adjustable for height while the brake and clutch levers are adjustable for reach.

If this is not enough, an optional lower seat is available, allowing riders with shorter inseams to flatfoot the ST.

The windscreen can be manually adjusted to one of 3 positions. In the lowest position, I felt no turbulence or buffeting and the noise level was very close to clean air. But I was puzzled to notice that the screen position did not seem to make much difference up or down while riding in very hot weather. Noise and wind pressure were roughly the same. For a more accurate sense, I would need to ride in rain or cold weather.

As with other BMW bikes, mirrors are well positioned and provide a good rear view.

Boxer Motor:

The Boxer motor is identical in spec to that of the RT. It produces 110hp at 7,500rpm and a solid 85ft/lbs of torque at 6,000rpm.

Though its 12:1 compression ratio requires premium fuel, an automatic knock sensor allows the use of lower octane grades should that be necessary.

The ST also shares the new BMW engine management system (EMS) BMS-K with the RT and engine response is seamless with no hint of surge.

As with the RT, the ST is claimed to be more fuel efficient. Given the claimed fuel economy at 70mph/120kph, the 5.5 gallon tank (21 liters) should yield a decent range of approximately 260 miles (420km).


There is no avoiding the fact that the R1200 ST has a very distinctive look and that it displays a considerable number of styling elements. In fact, it is the most thematically styled motorcycle that I can remember.

The many design elements mostly accentuate a theme based on the hexagon-shaped cylinder heads. These references are bountiful, with the most obvious one reflected by the shape of the stacked headlights.

The ST’s headlights courageously break away from conventional layouts and seemingly combine a form-follows-function approach along with the implementation of thematic styling.

The free-form reflectors, the twin H4 halogen bulbs, and the positioning of the higher beam, combine to ensure improved night time visibility. In addition, the slight vertical wedge shape of the front fairing (somewhat reminiscent of an eagle's beak), no doubt contributes to reducing aerodynamic drag. This angular profile runs from the tip of the fairing and up to include the headlight lens and windshield.

So, does the headlight treatment represent form-follows-function or is it a styling cue? Only the designers know for sure.

The R1200 ST should also prove very comfortable for 2-up riding

Be that as it may, the overall design of the BMW R1200 ST works for me.

There is a high level of detail most everywhere you look on the ST. For example, the way that the sculptured passenger grab handle integrates with the rear light pod and harmonizes in shape with the fuel tank. Very elegant, yet very functional. Also, note the nesting-in of the rear turn signals within the ovalized pod along with their shape.

Seen from the rear, the ST presents a very clean and tidy look

Weather protection:

To protect from the elements, the new fairing offers enhanced mid-body and leg protection. It combines well with the overhanging Boxer cylinder heads that contribute to protecting lower legs and feet from cold and rain.

The R1200 ST sports a very athletic look
The design conveys fluidity of line - nothing staid or stodgy here

My impressions:

Out on the road, handling is stable and confidence-inspiring. Suspension performance is typical BMW in that it shines when dealing with real world road conditions. The R1200 ST benefits from BMW’s front Telelever suspension and rear EVO Paralever shaft drive.

The suspension on the R1200 ST is firm but compliant, offering both comfort and control. The front Telelever helps to effortlessly soak over rough and broken pavement, especially while leaned over.

The rear suspension now offers a variable rate damping strut (WAD) to improve both comfort and performance over rougher surfaces.

I was, however, initially surprised at the low amount of engine braking effect from this big twin and suspect that it may be due to the slightly sportier cam timing.

But this is not a bad thing as excessive engine braking can often inadvertently upset a bike’s handling. This is especially true when abruptly rolling off throttle mid corner in low traction conditions.


With its lower weight, it's not surprising that the ST feels more responsive than the RT.

This new boxer revs freely and with a remarkably low level of vibrations right up to the 7,500rpm redline where you encounter the rev limiter. Whereas the 1150 boxer felt more strained at the higher reaches, the new boxer just sings.

In a sport touring market that is quite competitive, the R1200 ST offers strong power to weight and torque to weight ratios.

The 110 hp and 85ft/lb of torque on a motorcycle weighing in at 451lbs dry (205kg) provide satisfying and ample levels of acceleration for real world uses. Perhaps more impressive is that approximately 60ft/lbs of torque is available from 2,500rpm and 73ft/lb at 3,500rpm. This allows for effortless roll-on performance. Twist the throttle and the boxer thrust eagerly provides spirited passing or propels you out of one corner and onto the next all the while emitting a livelier sound from its less restrictive exhaust.


Like many riders, my touring typically consists of covering fairly long distances at a brisk pace in order to arrive at my riding destination. And it’s in this type of travel that the R1200 ST shines, by offering unique versatility and adaptability.

Adjust the height of bars and seat for a more relaxed riding position, load your luggage, and off you go. The ST delivers long distance and rapid transit comfort.

Upon arriving at your destination, remove the luggage, set the seat and handlebar heights for a more sporting position and enjoy the area.

As a bonus, the 720 watt alternator provides all the capacity to power any touring related essentials that you might need.

Refinement meets emotion:

Like the RT, the ST conveys a feeling of refinement. But whereas BMW’s have always been known as rational motorcycles, the changes brought to the new R1200 ST infuse a dose of emotion to the riding experience.

The 1200 variant of the boxer displays excellent throttle response and sounds more like a sporting twin than recent generations. Gone are the low rpm judders that were sometimes present on the R1100/R1150 series.

The Boxer also adapts itself well to a wide variety of riding situations. From low speed touring through quiet coastal fishing villages or meandering riverside drives on a warm summer evening — where the relaxed nature of a boxer twin shines — to more spirited jaunts over twisty stretches, or sustained high speed and long distance riding, the boxer can do it all.

A Boxer with soul:

The ST’s personality readily comes to light when powering out of a corner. Whereas past boxers tend to vibrate and chuff in a muted tone, the new ST emanates sounds and sensations from deep inside that are decidedly evocative of a sporting twin.

And this new sensation is quite addictive. You find yourself eagerly seeking out the twisty bits just so that you can roll-on the throttle to hear and feel the music.

It’s in these moments that the R1200 ST feels delightful and adds a measure of emotion to the mix. Light, solid handling, with a powerful and refined boxer motor eager to hum and sing, aided by strong and predictable brakes. Yes indeed!


Note that outfitting the R1200 ST with options can quickly bring it perilously close to the asking price of an RT. However, my sense is that the target ST buyer is not choosing an ST because he cannot afford an R1200 RT, but rather because it better meets his riding needs.

In that respect, the ST pricing will be a factor to consider when evaluating competitive market offerings.


BMW Motorrad has hit solid marks with this new crop. With the R1200 ST, it brings to market a refined and capable sport tourer that will be equally at ease at rapid transit over long distances as it will over technically challenging and sinewy roads. It offers an ideal real world balance of power, comfort, and handling.

By offering a higher level of sporting performance as well as noticeably improved weather protection and riding comfort, it should satisfy the needs of a broader market than that addressed by the R1150RS.

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

photos: courtesy BMW-Motorrad


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