RT Review: First Impresssions
Of all the models in
BMWs motorcycle line-up, the
R1100/1150 RT series has always been a
favorite of mine.
So it was with a mixture
of anticipation and anxiety that I looked
forward to test-riding the new BMW R1200
to an evolution-further-along-a-concept
approach that the R1150 RT offered over
the 1100, the new R1200 RT came to market
proposing radically new styling. Looking
over the new model line-up and trends,
it's clear that there has been a wind
of change blowing over at
the motorcycle BMW Motorad headquarters.
Despite claimed weight
reductions, it looked bigger. It also
offered more luxury features.
Going over the specs, it
seemed to me that the BMW R1200 RT was
moving away from the sport touring
category (albeit with a slight emphasis
on the touring side of the equation) to a
decidedly more luxury touring
orientation. Maybe targeting an older,
more sedate rider. To further confirm
this, the BMW website now listed the
R1200 RT as a tourer.
Well, things are
not always what they seem.
Im quite impressed
with the R1200 RT. Not only is it a
significantly better motorcycle touring
platform than the R1150RT, it also sets a
new standard for touring and sport
been a fan of the styling as embodied in
previous incarnations of the RT, I was
initially underwhelmed by this new look.
It was just so different.
But the design has
grown on me
and I now find it very fitting.
Anyone who enjoys touring
in comfort but that has previously
perceived touring motorcycles to be too
big, ponderous, ill handling etc will be
in for a revelation and a surprise.
The R1200RT feels
noticeably lighter than it looks. It is
surprisingly agile and nimble, allowing
for effortless riding over twisty roads.
The boxer engine now produces 110hp. It
also revs effortlessly and with much
lower vibration levels.
Though the styling
suggests a heavier bike, the BMW R1200 RT
feels significantly lighter and more
agile than the R1150RT.
In recent years, BMW bikes
have experienced a certain amount of
weight creep. Thankfully, the R1200RT
reverses that direction with a claimed
dry weight of 505lbs. (some 70lbs. less
than a R1150RT!).
This is not only
commendably low, it is lighter than some
supersport tourers. To put this in
perspective, consider that the Honda VFR
(a tourer in the sporting category
offering non of the luxury features)
weighs in at 483lbs. dry. Thats a
22lb. difference! That is almost
luxury and improved sporting performance
When riding out on the
R1200RT, the initial sensation is
unmistakable. It feels significantly more
refined. But it also feels more sporting.
It transitions more easily from side to
side, the boxer engine puts out more
power up top, offers more torque down
low, and revs more freely, with a
noticeably lower level of vibrations. It
coddles the rider with more luxury
features, better weather protection, and
more performance while isolating the
rider from any unpleasantness encountered
on the road surface.
I found the R1200RT to
offer excellent comfort. The
seat-to-peg-to-handlebar relationship is
in the sweet spot range and reflects well
what a sport touring position should be.
In addition, standard BMW adjustable
ergonomics allow you to fine tune the
position to fit your own requirements.
The RT12 also comes with
an electrically adjustable windshield and
heated grips. The power windshield is a
pleasure to use. It can be raised or
lowered at will to suit varying
temperature or pace of riding.
Depending on the market,
the following features may be available
as standard equipment or as options:
- Radio with
integrated CD player
Suspension Adjustment (ESA)
- Cruise Control
- Heated Handlebar
Two-setting Heated Seats
The new fairing design
offers a high level of rider protection
from the elements. I found the integrated
under-the-bar mirrors to be unobtrusive
and very effective. In addition, they
serve to protect the riders hands
from cold, wind, or rain.
Its surprising to
notice how soothing the heated seat can
feel when riding in cool and damp
conditions. A definite addition to the
Subjectively, the 1200
Boxer feels like a totally different
motor. Not only for its increased level
of performance, but it feels much more
refined, with a totally different
character. It even sounds better.
It revs freely and
effortlessly. The typical boxer
vibrations have been greatly reduced by
the addition of a balance shaft. To be
sure, vibrations are still present, but
they now feel like much smaller amplitude
pulses that are soothing in nature. The
boxer revs so willingly that I sometimes
found myself inadvertently riding for
extended periods in fourth or fifth gear.
No doubt contributing to
this is the new engine management system.
BMW has moved away from the Motronic MA
2.4 EMS and now offers its proprietary
Surge? What surge?
. . . No surge!
The new RT engine is
delightful in use and I detected no
surging. Similarly, the fuel injection
mapping seemed to be spot on.
The RT is also
surprisingly economical for such a class
Though it runs an
unusually high compression ratio of 12:1,
requiring premium fuel, the knock sensor
allows the use of lower octane fuels.
If BMW claims are to be
believed, the R1200RT gets noticeably
better mileage than the R1150RT. Id
speculate that part of this may be the
result of the higher compression ratio
(higher efficiency), improved EMS,
possibly lowered aerodynamic drag, and,
of course, lower weight.
This weight loss also
results in an R1200 RT that feels more
nimble and agile in any transient
R1200RTs transmission is an
non-affair. Shifts are smooth, precise,
and light. Night and day with an R1100RT.
Sixth gear is now shorter as opposed to
being an overdrive gear. This allows for
more motivated passing and climbing while
requiring less downshifting.
The power assisted ABS
brakes on the R1200RT are another nice
surprise. They are now much easier to
modulate and have lost that binary on-off
behavior that was more characteristic of
the assisted brakes offered on the
R1150RT. They now feel more like a
rheostat in that there is a closer
relationship between the amount of
squeeze at the lever and the amount of
But the braking power
In a move that is sure to
please some folks, BMW has reversed an
earlier direction. The R1200RT ABS brakes
are now partly integrated. The rear pedal
only activates the rear brake while the
front lever applies front and rear brake.
All of this combines to
make navigating twisty roads a pleasure
that involves very little effort.
The R1200RT also offers
exemplary stability for sustained highway
Speaking of handling,
suspension settings have traditionally
always been a compromise between
achieving more comfort or achieving more
But the RT1200 now offers
something truly innovative. The on-board
Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) is
accessible on the dash and allows the
rider to select front and rear suspension
settings to suit changing needs on the
For example, when
navigating slow and bumpy roads, the
suspension could be set on soft. For
navigating higher speed sweepers, the
setting could be set on sport. Or set to
compensate for a passenger with luggage.
Performance in large part
relates to the power to weight ratio. The
increase in engine output coupled to a
significant decrease in weight results in
an enhanced power to weight ratio for the
R1200 RT. Combine this to the shorter
sixth gear and you get improved roll-on
and passing at highway speeds.
The new roster of
BMWs employ even more technology
than previous models and the good news is
that it all seems to work as planned.
So, enhanced luxury and
improved sporting performance can
It's a little like having
your cake and eating it too, if you will.
On the one hand it is
lighter, more powerful, and handles
better, and is more enjoyable to ride. On
the other hand, it offers more luxury
If anything, the RT
broadens its target market.
Traditionally, the sport
touring equation implied that you
increased ability on one side at the
expense of the other. But the R1200 RT
has improved both sides of the equation.
It is now better at Sport AND
better at Touring.
While it physically looks
like it has moved towards the luxury
motorcycle touring segment, its
performance has increased in many areas.
It is flat out a noticeably improved
In fact, riding an R1100
RT and an R1200 RT back to back is an eye
The motorcycle for this
report was kindly provided by BMW Canada