FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF MY THIRD NEW R1200R, RELUCTANTLY LEAVING MY R1200GS
Nudging 74, I have found that the GS, excellent in so many ways, is 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 F800GT and after a long wait for the bike’s release had a test-ride, but to be frank found the performance to be 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 newer R1200R beckoned, this time with the newer dohc engine. This will be my third new R1200R, after two R1150Rs and my first big bike, a 1998 R1100R. In between, a cuppla GSs and other bikes…
Well, unexpectedly, the dealer phoned to say that the funds I’d transferred had been cleared and the bike was available to collect at any time! I’d arranged insurance to commence on Monday, so it was a mad scramble to get that changed to midnight on Thursday, but it only took a phone call…
So, off to the dealer one recent morning, after an anxious look at threatening skies, although there was a patch of blue, whatever that may have been! The ride home was through heavy city traffic initially, but I know the route well enough so there was no problem finding my way while coping with a new bike – which in truth isn’t really a new bike as it’s identical in almost all respects to the GS as far as the actual riding of the thing is concerned.
Some squally showers and very high winds prevented me from going home via a longer route, and I was soon home, having dodged the worst of it. Despite being brand-new, everything worked easily and smoothly and there was no fuss, although at the initial service the gear-change lever will require minor adjustment. 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. My wife had driven me to the dealer, and drove behind me on the way home, telling me later that despite the fierce winds the bike looked stable and she was also pleased to see both my feet flat on the ground at lights. And once home I put the bike onto its main stand (very easy to do) and was again very pleased that I can 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’, which I later mentally changed to ‘bronze’, but it’s still very hard to describe – now it looks more like a mid- to dark-ish grey in some lights. Forget bronze! The rear Paralever single-sided swing-arm and front Telelever unit are in an unusual but tasty ‘sandblasted’ finish, while the cylinder heads are semi-gloss grey paint, and the wheels gloss.
One thing I hadn’t picked up earlier that’s changed from the GS and other earlier Rs 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 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 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 R1200R certainly is naked!
The BMW F800GT most definitely is a very attractive bike with some nice features, but after riding the R again I’m convinced that in time I’d have become dissatisfied with the relatively lack-lustre performance of the GT – but I’m sure it will find its niche and will satisfy very many people. I must say that when I went to the dealer first to complete the paperwork there was a Graphite GT on the floor, and for one brief moment I wondered if I should have bought that instead…!
One thing that’s already very pleasing is that I also – unexpectedly – again have a dash of that important (I think) ‘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 am very pleased about this!
This early, a cuppla points, however, do annoy! On the GS the tyre-valve stems are mounted on each wheel in the traditional centre of the wheel rim, pointing radially inwards (towards the centre of the wheel). They are 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. This GS feature makes it very difficult, in fact impossible, to re-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 GT they have resolved this 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 2013 1200R, but no! – the front wheel has this useful feature, while on the other wheel it’s as on the GS – i.e. almost inaccessible! Only a small point, but frustrating – and of course nothing to be done about it! Aarrgggghhh!
While in the BMW dealership I also looked at, then bought, my solution for luggage, in the form of the small (they make two sizes) ‘Soft Bag’. It sits very neatly indeed on the rear rack and partially on the very back of the pillion seat, and importantly for me it doesn’t get in the way of my foot when I swing the leg over to mount the bike. It attaches by sliding the base of the bag onto the rack, as the bag has a sort-of wide strap fixed underneath: then two snap-buckle-ended straps are fastened elsewhere, locating the bag fore-and-aft and down. Installing the bag, and removing it, is a moment’s work.
The bag has a capacity of about 34L (by my quick measurement) and is as beautifully made as one would expect from BMW. It expands a little vertically via a zip-out extra section of the material, and can take a full-face helmet, and has lots of other little pockets. Since I travel very light that will do me for at least three weeks on the road! I won’t mount the bag permanently, but for day-to-day rides will use a small hard case that’s more than sufficient for a day out.
So, as you may imagine I’m now looking forward to getting reacquainted with the 1200R.
I hope to take a long trip down to Victoria just before or after Easter, a 4200km round-trip over about ten days or so, then mid-year to head north into the tropics for a winter ride to Cooktown – where on this eastern side of Australia the tarmac runs out, another 4000km+ round trip. You are – as they say – a long time dead!
Lawrence of Suburbia – Brisbane, eastern Australia