IMPRESSIONS OF MY NEW R1200R
From Lawrence Watson – outer Brisbane, SE Queensland, Australia
This is one owner’s viewpoint on this particular model. It is not intended to be used as a buyer’s guide. For full technical and other data see your friendly BMW Motorrad dealer.
Now nudging 74, I found my 2010 GS, excellent in so many ways, was becoming a real handful for me due to its height and somewhat top-heavy weight, especially when loaded up for travel. My last long trip of over 4200km just before Christmas really told the tale, and when I’d recovered I made up my mind to move onto something more sympathetic to my ageing joints and bones!
I was very interested in BMW’s new F800 GT, and after a long wait for the bike’s release had a test-ride, but to be frank found the performance to be a little underwhelming, although I liked the look of the bike and many aspects about it, including the belt-drive. But I’ve always been fond of naked bikes, so after considering many alternatives the latest incarnation of the R1200 R Roadster beckoned, this time with the newer dohc engine. This is my third new 1200 R, after two R1150 Rs and my first big bike bought new in 1998, an R1100 R. In between, a cuppla GSs and other bikes…
So, off to the dealer one February morning, after an anxious look at threatening skies, although there was a patch of blue, whatever that may have been after weeks of non-stop rain. The ride home was through heavy city traffic initially, but I knew the route well enough so there was no problem finding my way while coping with a new bike – which in truth wasn’t really a new bike as – styling apart – it’s identical in almost all respects to the GS as far as the actual riding of the thing is concerned, it just has shorter legs!
Despite being brand-new, everything worked easily and smoothly and there was no fuss, although at the initial service the gear-change lever required minor adjustment to suit my personal preference. Rear brake pedal – perfect!
It was very easy getting on initially, and bliss to be able to get my feet firmly down at lights and in other stop/ go situations as I made my way out of the city. And once home I put the bike onto its main stand (very easy to do) and was again very pleased that I could easily get on and off without high-kicks!
In the showroom I liked the contrasting paintwork detail of some elements of the bike, replacing the now too-familiar flat silver paint. I thought initially that the colour was a sort-of ‘gunmetal’, but it’s still very hard to describe – now it looks more like a mid- to dark-ish grey in some lights. The rear Paralever single-sided swing-arm and front Telelever unit are in an unusual but tasty textured ‘sandblasted’ finish, while the cylinder heads are semi-gloss grey paint, and the wheels grey gloss.
One thing I hadn’t picked up earlier that’s changed from the GS and my other earlier Roadsters is that BMW have blacked-out the engine (except for the cylinder head covers): the crankcase and lower (inner) parts of the cylinders are now black, previously silver. That will make it easier to keep it looking clean! Anyway, whatever the real colour of the items mentioned, it’s very subtle and quite pleasing, and the different surface textures make for some nice contrasts.
Looking at the bike – which despite its family connection to the 1200 GS doesn’t appear anything like as intimidating as that undeniably b-i-g bike does – I feel very pleased with myself: for only a few hundred dollars more than I’d have paid for the F800 GT I think I have a superior road bike and certainly one with more rewarding on-road performance. It is – as they say – quite a lot of bike for the buck! Certainly, not everybody’s cup of tea as far as looks and styling may be concerned, but I’ve always much preferred naked bikes to faired ones, and this R1200 R certainly is naked!
One thing that’s already very pleasing is that I also – unexpectedly – again have a dash of that important ‘pride of ownership’ as the bike sits in the garage. I think in large part that’s due to the fact that despite it essentially being almost identical visually to earlier models I’ve had, it’s also different, if you know what I mean – in the sharper engine and more assertive exhaust note, smoother gearbox, slightly different details such as the revised dash and seat, and the new paint scheme. I’m very pleased about this!
This early, however, a cuppla points do annoy! On the GS the tyre-valve stems were mounted in the traditional centre of the wheel, pointing radially inwards (towards the centre of the wheel). They were very rigid, I assume because in some way the tyre-pressure monitoring device fitted inside the tyre requires that, whereas most stems are rubber-mounted and can be moved sideways a little for ease of inflation.
This GS feature made it very difficult to inflate the tyres with the conventional air-hose as found in most servos. The rider has to carry some other device, such as a right-angled adaptor, to allow the tyre to be inflated – this takes time, is fiddly, and loses air in the process so it’s necessary to over-inflate and re-check, etc. – I was once aggressively harangued by a car driver who thought I was fiddling too long at the air-hose that he wanted to use!
I was pleased to note that on the F800 GT this was resolved by putting the tyre stems on a wheel spoke, pointing outwards – instant accessibility and all’s well. One would have thought and hoped that this would have been the same on the new 1200 R, but no! – the front wheel has this useful feature, while on the rear wheel it’s still as on the GS – i.e. almost inaccessible! Only a small point, but frustrating – and of course nothing can be done about it! Aarrgggghhh!
With my Roadster history I was pretty familiar with the bike and so knew what to do in terms of modest improvements. First was the replacement of the squeaky-toy OE horn for a much more authoritative Stebel Magnum unit.
Next came a tough stainless-steel mesh oil-cooler radiator guard to protect that rather vulnerably-placed item.
A 70mm taller and slightly wider touring screen replaced the OE Sport Screen, which is a pretty thing that does an excellent job of keeping flying bugs off the front of the instruments cluster but is pretty useless for rider protection in other than urban riding. I selected an ‘Eagle Screens’ after-market item – I’d had one from them before – in a rather nice soft-blue tinted material that complements the Montego Blue paintwork of the bike, fitting it without difficulty to the existing bracket. It’s not the sleekest-looking screen, but it does an excellent job.
Now I’m contemplating fitting a Wunderlich ‘Trophy’ bikini fairing and screen, largely to give a slightly different look to the front of the bike.
‘Grip Puppies’ eliminated the already-minimal vibes through the hand-grips, and the slightly larger diameter they provide may, I hope, help to relieve some of the chronic shoulder pain I suffer on longer rides.
A rear ‘Carbono’ hugger from the UK arrived only nine days after ordering on-line, and was quickly fitted. It not only looks good but this early on seems effective in minimising the spraying of muck under the bike under wet conditions
As expected, I have found the 1200 R to be quiet, and extremely comfortable with its ‘Konfortsitz’ comfort seat. All my previous bikes have come with a ‘standard’ seat, but now there’s no more squirming around after a couple of hours in the saddle in an effort to relieve the discomfort. The seat on this Roadster is definitely THE most comfortable I’ve had on any motorbike. Some have been hideous, and on one (non-BMW) bike I had to resort to buying an ‘Airhawk’ inflatable seat, which didn’t work for me (but the dealer promptly gave the promised full refund on its cost).
The easy-riding nature of the big Roadster makes it child’s play to cover long distances comfortably and at reasonable speed, if desired. It may be lazy, but I find it very enjoyable to ride on the throttle instead of going through the gearbox a lot, and in top or fifth gear overtaking slower traffic is quickly achieved, powering up hills is a joy, and just rolling-off for fast sweepers becomes the norm. The suspension handles everything thrown at it, and in truth I have always felt that these large Boxers have made me seem or feel to be a better rider than I probably am, such is the smooth and uneventful progress that they inspire.
Before leaving home on a recent (April) 2300km trip I zeroed the fuel consumption read-out, which showed overall consumption for the trip at 4.3L/100 km, or 23km per L. Pretty good, especially for the barely run-in motor! Air pressures in the tyres remained unchanged, and no oil had to be added.
Next stop then – a trip of about 5600km over about three weeks or more, to Longreach, Karumba and the Gulf, Cooktown, Airlie Beach *** – later this year, probably around late September. You are – as they say – a long time dead!
Lawrence Watson aka Lawrence of Suburbia
*** for non-Aussie readers these are all in Far North Queensland and mostly in the legendary Australian outback.