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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
The STs 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
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
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
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 BMWs front Telelever
suspension and rear EVO Paralever shaft
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 bikes
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 its 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.
Like the RT, the ST
conveys a feeling of refinement. But
whereas BMWs 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
A Boxer with soul:
The STs 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.
Its 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
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