Friday, July 21, 2017

BMW K1200R Sport Review

November 20, 2008 by  
Filed under Motorcycle Reviews

Rolling south on I 485 an hour after sun down, some cooler pockets of air were finally coming over the fairing through the vents in my jacket and beginning to evaporate the moisture on my skin. It felt good, and with the familiar sound of the four-cylinder engine humming along beneath me at a steady 4,5000 rpm, I realized that I had put more than 3,500 miles on the odometer since the spring day I picked the bike up in New Jersey. Musing that in an ideal world this is how I would like to evaluate every bike I test, my peace and calm were suddenly interrupted.

Passing too close before cutting in front of me, when there was little other traffic on the road, the middle aged guy in his Nissan 350Z was trying to impress his passenger with his driving skills. Sporting a performance pipe and some aftermarket wheels, he must have fancied himself a bit of a Boy Racer. Registering around 75mph on the clock, I was in ticket avoiding mode enjoying the liquid, smooth ride. With the saddlebags loaded and my camera gear strapped to the passenger seat I must have looked like an easy target. Think again Mr.Z!

As there was little traffic around, I decided to show him what 163 Bavarian horses in a 531-pound package looked like at a full gallop. Sitting behind him for a while, I gently slipped the bike down into third gear and rolled out into the fast lane where I ran parallel to Mr. Z”s passenger door. A quick check in my mirrors showed we were alone, and sitting there for a while, I was actually surprised he didn”t make a move. Waiting for the first sign of any action, I felt the four cylinder”s urgent pull through the bars. A couple of miles rolled by, and he just sat there without any signs of going. So with my exit approaching, I dropped the hammer and twisted the throttle to the stop. Shifting right before the rev limiter kicked in at 11,200 rpm, I took fourth, then fifth, before rolling off and getting hard on the brakes. With a few months of seat time under my belt, I have intimate knowledge of the triple disc set up and timed it perfectly before tipping onto my favorite exit ramp. Bye, bye Mr. Z. All very childish of course, but when you are riding the most powerful BMW on the road, you have to show the caged world what real power to weight is all about occasionally.

Rolling off the throttle and purring through the village near my home at a nice, legal velocity, I realized how comfortable and attached I had become to the big K. It also got me thinking about how spoiled it was going to make me as I considered the amount of technology it possessed. From the onboard computer, to the heated handlebar grips, anti lock brakes, automatic suspension adjustment, and the traction control, the BMW K1200R Sport exudes a degree of sophistication that few motorcycles can equal.

The new BMW K1200R is one of four models based on the new K series inline, four-cylinder engine. Coming in a naked standard, the K1200R, a full sport touring rig, the K1200 GT, and a full-faired sport bike, the K1200S, the R Sport is the newest K bike in the line up. The only other one I have ridden is the GT, and after a day testing it in Arizona, the comfort, handling, and incredibly smooth engine simply blew me away. So with this base line of reference, I had big expectations for the Sport when I picked it up.

Responsible for the 163 horsepower that occurs at 10,250rpm, the inline four-cylinder engine displaces 1157 cc. While this is a pretty healthy figure, the big news about this engine is the way it is mounted in the frame. Where all previous K series engines were mounted longitudinally, gaining the early bikes the not so glamorous nickname of _the flying brick, the new generation engine is now mounted transversely. The cylinders are banked at an angle of 55 degrees to give the bike a low center of gravity and the engine uses dry sump lubrication. Compression ratio is 13.0:1, and 79mm pistons run in short 59mm bores for a high revving over square configuration. Double overhead camshafts are chain driven and operate four valves per cylinder.

The new engine uses a six speed transmission that is vertically stacked to help the engine remain as compact as possible. Gear ratios are the same as the rest of the K-models with 70mph in top gear turning the engine at just over 4,000 rpm. At these engine speeds, there is plenty of power being produced for overtaking maneuvers, and there is no need to down shift unless you are on a two-lane road and want to make it as quick as possible. Dropping to fifth or even fourth at this point will have you well in the meat of the power, which provides all the acceleration you are ever going to need on a public road. Gearbox action is good, but prepare for some BMW clunks and bangs. While these lessen with more familiarity and miles, I did wonder if the long shifter rod, due to the transmission sitting up behind the cylinders, might not be helping This can be frustrating at times, because generally the bike feels like an automatic and there are few, sweeter shifting bikes made.

With the engine being exposed on the R Sport, my first impression was that with its shaft drive the bike would be extremely long, and shouldn_t be carrying a sport motif. A quick check of the specification chart confirmed the wheelbase to be over three inches longer than BMW”s own R1200R at 62.2 inches. Put into perspective, a modern 600cc sport bike is around 54.5 inches and a modern cruiser around 67-68 inches, so the Sport fits somewhere in the middle. Therefore, nimble is not a word that springs to mind, although it takes little effort to maneuver the BMW”s 531 pound wet weight at parking lot speeds. Tight turns need some body English on the road, but once you get the bike up to cruising speeds, steering effort is minimal from the fairly wide bars. The K1200R Sport is completely in its element when taking high-speed sweepers. Here the relatively long wheelbase gives it a stability that inspires amazing levels of confidence. So much so, you will find yourself seeking out this type of road as often as you can to indulge yourself. My favorite piece of road for this is heading east to Asheville, NC, on US 74 blasting up Balsam Mountain. With the all-powerful engine providing gobs of sumptuous power for the climb, I was totally impressed with how fast I could negotiate the wide, open bends, and the amount of lean angle the BMW achieved without inducing any stress as the bike rolled from side to side.

A big part of this handling bliss is the unique aluminum Duolever front end. Replacing the usual Telelever system, look closely at the two front legs and you will notice they look more like a swing arm than forks. Operating a single shock absorber, there is virtually no dive when you apply the brakes, and this is just another one of the confidence inspiring qualities the Sport exhibits. I can understand that on a racetrack, fork dive is useful for tightening the steering angle to help initiate tighter turns, but this is unnecessary for the street making BMW”s system without equal. Testing the Duolever system repeatedly revealed how trained my brain is to finish the braking before the turn, and it was difficult to approach a corner fast enough to test the K”s trail braking abilities. When I managed it, the full benefit of the Duolever was evident, as there is no unsettling rebound when you let off the brakes mid turn. In the rear, BMW”s tried and tested Paralever system with its two universal joints is used. This is one of the best modern shaft systems available, and allows the big Beemer to accelerate and decelerate without any unsettling shaft jacking.

With its powerful engine and superb chassis, it is no surprise to learn the BMW comes with one of the best brake systems on a modern motorcycle. Featuring what BMW calls, EVO (evolution) brakes, there is a pair of four-piston calipers for the front wheel, and a single two-piston caliper in the rear. When you pull the adjustable, front brake lever, fluid is sent through the braided steel brake lines to the calipers. At the same time, the rear brake circuit is activated, and the correct amount of pressure to compliment the front brake action is added. If you want more rear brake than the system is giving, you push the rear brake pedal in the conventional fashion to apply more. If you want to use the rear brake only, just use your foot as the rear circuit is completely separate from the front brake circuit.

Both brakes are equipped with BMW”s latest ABS (Anti lock brakes), and once you experience the comfort factor it affords, it is hard to go back to a non-ABS system on the road. Providing a mild pulsing under your foot when working the rear, I never found the minerals to activate the front system, and it wasn”t for lack of trying. The front brakes haul the K bike down from With as a dominant sign in your natal chart, you love to please, to charm, and to be likeable. speed so hard, with so much control, long before the wheel ever gets close to locking, I just couldn”t get my brain to yank on the lever harder to see what it felt like. With the plethora of junk found on modern roads these days, BMW”s new ABS dials in a large, extra margin of safety.

On this subject, the BMW K1200R comes with yet another innovative safety feature called ASC (Automatic Stability Control). In everyday motorcycle speak, we have come to know this as traction control, and BMW is the first manufacturer to offer this on a production motorcycle. Using the ABS sensors, any wheel spin is detected by the engine”s brain. This compares front and rear wheel speeds and cuts the ignition accordingly if it senses the rear wheel losing traction. I never consciously felt it working on the K, but did get to experience it recently while guiding a tour on a GS1200 in the Italian Alps. Riding like a sugared-up seven year old with my lead rider, I first thought the bike was misfiring coming out of the corners. Then I realized we were pushing so hard, the ASC was kicking in and stopping the rear wheel from spinning. Very cool stuff.

Continuing on with the grocery list of cool, technological innovations to be found on the new K1200R Sport, we need to talk about the ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) As another unique BMW feature, this allows the rider to change the suspension settings with the touch of a button on the left hand switchgear. Given the choice of three preload settings when you start the motorcycle, depressing the button allows you to toggle between them, picking a symbol designated by a single helmet, two helmets, or two helmets with a luggage. All pretty self-explanatory! Once on the move, you can toggle your initial setting between comfort, normal, or sport depending on the choice of riding you choose. You can_t change you initial choice without stopping though. This has to be done before you commence your ride. It took a while to remember I had this option, but once I was familiar it was very useful when riding over the mountains from my home in Charlotte. Set on solo rider, I would make the super-slab haul in comfort mode, before selecting sport mode as soon as I hit the twisties. Even for a technology challenged person like myself, it was a breeze. There is one thing to note, this is not a standard feature and will cost you an extra $800 at purchase time.

Another nice feature of the Sport is the detachable bags. Able to hold a good amount of luggage as fitted, they also have the ability to expand with an internal membrane that turns them instantly super-sized. Combined with the back rack and a full sized tank bag, sport-touring duties are a breeze. The lockable bags pop off easily and can also be locked in place when you leave the bike. With all the storage, the heated grips, and the power socket for your heated vest, the new K is a highly comprehensive sport-touring package.

During the time I had the bike on test, it did provoke some interesting conversations about its looks. The most common comment was from people who were surprised it was a BMW, as it looked so sporty. Once I told them about the monster amount of horsepower available and the bikes handling and braking abilities, they were even more surprised. Looking very sharp, angular, and sleek, the K1200 R Sport is a more cohesive package to me than my last long term test bike, the R1200R. The frame, forks, and swingarm all seem to compliment the color of the bodywork, and I personally like this exposed engine and frame look. I also like the reasonably upright riding position, as it is sporty without leaving you needing chiropractic adjustment after a long ride. Although the seat did a good imitation of a meat tenderizer on my delicate buns on the 700-mile haul home from New Jersey.

After 4500 miles together, I was sad to see the K leave. Over the last few months I have used the bike for everything except a track day and it has passed all tests with flying colors. Passengers like the smoothness and stability, and the easily accessible speed doesn”t hurt the experience either. The onboard computer next to the gauges has become a big part of my riding life that I am going to miss. By using a different button on the left hand switch gear, you can select the digital read out to display the current time, temperature, average miles per gallon, distance to fill up, average speed, or how much fuel you are using. This becomes invaluable when traveling, as you can plot fuel stops, clothing changes, and estimated times of arrival by simply toggling through the program. Sitting next to the sharp analogue gauges, which still give you the road and engine speed in simple, easy to read format, the onboard computer is just another of the many wonderful touches that make the BMW such a superlative motorcycle.

Craftsmanship, quality, and innovation abound, but with a base price of $14,925 the admission price to this show isn_t cheap. Add on ESA, the heated handlebar grips, an alarm, and a couple of other bits and pieces and you could quickly be up around $17,500. While on the face of it this seems like a lot of money for a sport-touring rig, you have to remember you are buying a motorcycle that can last a lifetime if you maintain it properly. The new BMW K1200R is able to cross continents without breaking a sweat, straighten out most curvy roads with aplomb, and happily fight the grid lock of daily life while keeping a smile on your face. With a rock-solid road presence and a sense of security few machines can equal, the experience is typical BMW.

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Author: Neale Bayly (49 Articles)


Originally from England, Neale is a full time freelance blogger and journalist who lives his passion motorcycles through writing, television production, and video creation.

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