BMW R1200Rt - A touring bike category that can still be a daily rider!
BMW motorcycles - abnormally normal bikes!
Last year at this time, I owned a 2012 Honda Goldwing which I purchased after selling my 2012 Harley Street Glide. The Goldwing is the ultimate touring bike, no question about that if you are two up, going a long way, and are pulling a trailer. The bike was hefty and wide, smooth and comfortable (try the passenger seat on for comfort sometime), and was a great bike. However, after setting the cruise and listening to the stereo surround sound, I thought to myself - why not get a Honda Civic...it is about the same experience :)
I have always wanted a boxer BMW since the first time I considered a touring bike for myself. The last year they built the R100Rt, was in 1995 and it had all the classic looks of a frame mounted fairing, with excellent wind protection and comfort in touring. In 1995 I just couldn't swing the purchase of a new one, but the twin opposed cylinder arrangement, along with a low center of gravity and shaft drive always appealed to me. Even today when I see one touring on the open road, it brings back images that I had placed in my head of what touring on a bike like that would be like.
Since BMW dealerships are far and few between, with the nearest dealer about 100 miles away, I didn't put the BMW's on my priority list as it just wasn't convenient. I did own a K75Rt, the three cylinder "brick" engine, but it just didn't do it for me as I had outgrown the 750 c.c. displacement. I have looked at the classic BMW boxer bikes available now that I can afford them, but for me I wanted ABS and fuel injection, so time and opportunity for this bike was no longer of much interest.
I sold the Goldwing and once it was gone, I realized my Yamaha Bolt XVS950 wasn't enough to satisfy me on my day adventures. I found a used 2006 BMW R1200Rt that was for sale and was owned by a farmer...who didn't treat the bike very nice as I found out. I negotiated the deal sight unseen, which was a mistake because had I seen the bike, I would have walked away, no ifs/and/butts!
Throughout the winter, I took the bike down to the frame, sans engine and transmission and the forks. The motorcycle has a servo-assist braking system similar to a power brake in most cars, so you need to keep the ignition on to maintain brake pressure. The bike has the electric windshield which is second to none, along with heated grips but does not have the ESA or electronic suspension adjustment. After servicing the bike, which includes the 6,000 mile valve adjustment (on a touring bike?), which is easy to do and can be completed in an hour if you have the tools conveniently laid out.
What about riding the bike? I absolutely fell in love with it the more miles I put on it. The engine at idle rocks the frame slightly, with the windshield vibrating to the pulse of 1,100 rpm. Once underway, the bike smooth's out very nicely, and has a lot of torque as well as some top end horsepower. Nothing like the FJR 1300, but at approximately 550 lbs fully fueled, the bike does get up and go. Add a six speed transmission, which is geared to the moon, the bike is completely in its element at speeds from 50 mph to 85 mph! Speaking of the gearing, 1st gear is tall also, so you have to feather the clutch slightly with power application until the bike gets rolling.
The engine is a two cylinder arrangement opposite of each other, with an air cooled cylinder and oil cooled heads. BMW for 2014 has eliminated the oil cooled system in favor of liquid cooling for more consistent head temperatures and leaner running which leads to a lot of heat on the exhaust valve. The bike has two plugs per cylinder, part for a surging issue the R1100Rt had, but doing so means excellent combustion and fuel economy.
Typically the computer or BC as BMW calls it, will show miles to empty, outside air temperature, average speed, average miles to the gallon, and you can check the oil level as you ride. I typically will see 50 + miles to the gallon while keeping the speeds in the 65 miles per hour range, bump that up to 75 with a headwind, and you will still see a respectable 42 miles per gallon.
The ABS is one of the best on the market, as I tested the linked/ABS system out on a slippery driveway one afternoon to make sure it is activating correctly. The servo assist system may have something to do with it, but I find the seamless transition to stabilizing the bike with full front or rear brake activation to be the best I have witnessed on a motorcycle. Some people don't like the servo assist, I believe BMW only had it on the bikes for two years, but my understand if you flush the system as recommended by BMW (every 2 years), the system should be trouble free. It may be a little over engineered for a motorcycle, that is probably why BMW simplified the system and removed the servo motor.
What to like? The motorcycle is very stable at speed and crosswinds, and has one of the best aerodynamic cockpits that has ever been made around a motorcycle. You get very little buffeting with smooth flow and excellent protection, without the behemoth size fairing you sometime get to keep you out of the elements. Considering most bikes I own have some buffeting around the helmet, the BMW eliminates this to an absolute zero turbulence level. The bike at 70 mph turns about 3,600 rpm and has a little bit of this pulse through the handlebars, but it isn't unpleasant at all and for the most part is very smooth at all rpm's from 2,000 - 5,000 rpm.
Handling? Well, it takes a little bit to get used to because it has the "understeer" that wants to suck you into the corners. Once you figure out that this is normal, you can really push the bike beyond what most people would consider a comfortable bank angle, but it really holds the road well. One idiosyncrasy I found with the boxer motor, was that the crankshaft rotation causes the bike to rotate opposite of the direction of the engine. At first I thought I had a problem with the frame, as I would get on/off the throttle and bike seemed to want to move laterally, but it is only the engine that gives you this funky feel...once you know it is there, you adjust to it and everything seems normal.
After a few thousand miles on the bike, I find it has the character of a motorcycle, and the idiosyncrasies that BMW seems to bring to the table. It is a wonderful bike to take cruising, and an even better bike on the open road. Being that it is much lighter than most touring bikes, you can still flick it around if you like, AND at the same time it can be loaded up for real comfortable touring. I wouldn't say it is a bike made for pulling a trailer, leave that job to the Goldwing class, but it is a capable bike with the electric cruise and its incredible range of about 350 miles!
If you are looking for a capable touring bike, yet want a daily commuter, this bike is exactly what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately BMW hasn't figured out how to build a dealer network, which is really too bad considering the features, performance, and safety the motorcycle has that is lacking on many other motorcycles in this class.