BMW R1200RT – Road Test Review BMW’s new sport-touring boxer is now liquid-cooled, but it packs a knockout punch.



BMW R1200RT action shot The stellar success of the K1600GT, an inline-6 that has won awards worldwide and set new standards of sport-touring excellence, caused concern among some BMW disciples. They feared the company might focus less on the R1200RT, a beloved, long-running sport-tourer powered by a boxer twin. That engine configuration, of course, has fueled BMW’s legacy since the 1930s, but as far back as the early ’80s, the company also began producing other types of powerplants. Loyalists needn’t have worried. Not only are 5 boxer models still in the lineup, but the 2014 R1200RT has been the beneficiary of significant upgrades, including some technology developed on the 1600. Most important, propulsion for the RT now comes from the same new liquid-cooled, dohc, counterbalanced opposed twin first seen last year in the R1200GS adventure bike. The result is a sport-tourer that needn’t take a back seat to any other, including its big brother. On the open road, the RT motors along with the same soothing, low-frequency engine thrum that has endeared BMW’s opposed twins to so many riders for so long. Rolling open the ride-by-wire throttle at practically any rpm, though, results in strong, linear torque and deceptively quick acceleration. The RT is only 3-tenths of a second and a mere 3 mph slower than the 1600 in the quarter-mile—not bad for an 1,170cc twin. And because the RT is 131 pounds lighter than the 1600, its performance also demonstrates the importance of power-to-weight ratios.


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BMW R1200RT dyno chart

Among the many options on our test unit was BMW’s Dynamic Riding mode, which adds to the stock Road and Rain settings and provides slightly more aggressive engine response. The bike also was fitted with Shift Assistant Pro, which allows clutchless shifting both up and down. It even matches engine revs to road speed during downshifts. Nothing shabby about the handling, either. The low center of gravity provided by the flat-twin engine allows the RT to feel much lighter and less intimidating than other 587-pound bikes might. The seat is not significantly lower than the GT’s, but the RT is narrower between the rider’s legs; and that, along with the light feel, gives shorter, smaller riders added confidence, especially when stopped. Not surprisingly, the RT is a blast when chasing corners on a back road. It dives into turns willingly and easily, even making quick side-to-side transitions a snap. Credit that not just to the low CG but also to the crankshaft’s fore-aft orientation, which does not cause the gyroscopic resistance to leaning that’s a factor with across-the-frame cranks. BMW fitted our bike with its optional Dynamic ESA, which, within fractions of a second, electronically adjusts the Telelever front and Paralever rear suspension settings according to road conditions and how you are riding the bike. Although the system worked nicely on most surfaces, the damping sometimes felt a bit soft over consecutive roller bumps; otherwise, D-ESA provided an excellent compromise between ride comfort when cruising and chassis control when riding aggressively.
BMW R1200RT static side view If comfort stokes your fires, you’ll be plenty warm on the RT. The ergonomics put the rider in an upright, natural seating position, with footpegs just high enough for generous cornering clearance but not too high or far to the rear. And the handgrips have you neither crouched forward nor leaning backward. The rider’s portion of the cushy, supportive seat is 2-position adjustable over 3-quarters of an inch; the fixed passenger segment is wide, long, and sufficiently padded to keep an all-day smile on your ride-along companion. Thanks to the bike’s 6.6-gallon gas tank and mid-40s average fuel mileage, gas stops are a welcome occasional respite instead of a frequent annoying interruption. Then there’s that big, Transformers-looking fairing topped with a long, electrically adjustable windshield and fronted by an imposing trio of powerful headlights—one low beam, 2 high. Even though the fairing looks like it’s only half-length, it works with lowers that are behind the cylinders to keep the elements—as well as heat from the engine and radiator—off the rider. When the shield is all the way down, it allows an unobstructed view of the road ahead and produces very little turbulence around the helmet; when it’s all the way up, the rider sits in one of the most quiet still-air pockets provided by any sport-tourer, including the K1600GT. In that cozy cockpit are instrument, electronics, and sound packages very much like those of the 1600 but with several small improvements to make certain features more user-friendly. An optional Garmin GPS receiver snaps neatly into a recess just above the speedo/tach cluster. Accessing most settings—trip data, sound system, optional heated grips and seat, suspension, traction control, Bluetooth connectivity, GPS display, etc.—is accomplished through either the same rotating-ring “mouse” next to the left handgrip as premiered on the 1600 or a single Menu button. Once you learn the operational sequence of these systems, which doesn’t take long, you can quickly and easily tailor most aspects of the RT to your liking.
BMW R1200RT instruments Such adjustability is important on long trips, as is carrying capacity, and the R1200RT excels here too. The standard saddlebags are spacious, quick-detach units that are dead simple to load and access. Plus, 2 small, lockable compartments, one on each upper side of the fairing, provide room for the likes of toll change, toll-road transponders, and smartphone connection cables. All of this combines to make the R1200RT an extremely competent, thoroughly enjoyable motorcycle. Among the rest of the offerings in the wide and ever-expanding realm of sport-tourers, it ranks right up there with the best of them. But it gets the job done in its own inimitable way, using composure and subtlety to sneak up on excellence rather than sheer size and banshee-wail rpm to stampede it. Thus, the RT doesn’t threaten the K1600GT. Rather, it complements that bike, offering an alternative with almost as much performance and just as much luxury in a package that is less expensive and not as physically imposing. Any motorcycle is, of course, much more than just its engine. But something has made BMW’s boxers seem special in the minds of thousands upon thousands of riders for the greater part of a century. Whatever that something is, it’s still alive and well in the R1200RT.

» Go to next page for our complete test data and Editor’s Notes.

On-road action shot #1 On-road action shot #2 On-road action shot #3 On-road action shot #4 On-road action shot #5 On-road action shot #6 On-road action shot #7 On-road action shot #8 Static right-side view. Static front 3/4 left-side view. Powerful radial-mount Brembo calipers. Cockpit view. Powerful trio of headlights. Instrument panel. ESA selector. Speedometer. Left grip controls. Audio controls. Name badge. Liquid-cooled flat-twin has shrouding on the trailing side of the cylinders. Shaft drive, as expected. Muffler. Hard bags and top case swallow a lot. Studio right-side view. Dyno chart.
SPECIFICATIONS
BMW R1200RT studio image
GENERAL
LIST PRICE $ 23,258
IMPORTER BMW of North America, Inc. 300 Chestnut Ridge Rd. Woodcliff Lake, NJ 07675 www.bmwmotorcycles.com
CUSTOMER SERVICE PHONE 800/831-1117
WARRANTY 3 yr./36,000 mi.
ENGINE & DRIVETRAIN
ENGINE liquid-cooled, 4-stroke opposed-twin
BORE & STROKE 101.0 x 73.0
DISPLACEMENT 1170cc
COMPRESSION RATIO 12.5:1
VALVE TRAIN dohc, 4 valves per cylinder, shim adjustment
VALVE-ADJUST INTERVALS 6000 mi.
CARBURETION (2) 52mm throttle bodies
OIL CAPACITY 4.2 qt.
ELECTRIC POWER 540w
BATTERY 12v, 16 ah
CHASSIS
WEIGHT:
TANK EMPTY 587 lb.
TANK FULL 629 lb.
FUEL CAPACITY 6.6 gal.
WHEELBASE 58.4 in.
RAKE/TRAIL 24.4º/4.6 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 31.6/32.4 in.
GROUND CLEARANCE 7.5 in.
GVWR 1091 lb.
LOAD CAPACITY (TANK FULL) 462 lb.
SUSPENSION & TIRES
FRONT SUSPENSION:
MANUFACTURER BMW
TYPE Duolever
CLAIMED WHEEL TRAVEL 4.7 in.
ADJUSTMENTS D-ESA
REAR SUSPENSION:
MANUFACTURER BMW
TYPE Paralever
CLAIMED WHEEL TRAVEL 5.4 in.
ADJUSTMENTS D-ESA
TIRES:
FRONT 120/70ZR-17 Metzeler Roadtec Z8 Interact
REAR 180/55ZR-17 Metzeler Roadtec Z8 Interact
PERFORMANCE
1/4 MILE 11.22 sec. @ 119.24 mph
0-30 MPH 1.3 sec.
0-60 MPH 3.0 sec.
0-90 MPH 5.9 sec.
0-100 MPH 7.1 sec.
TOP GEAR TIME TO SPEED:
40-60 MPH 3.5 sec.
60-80 MPH 3.9 sec.
MEASURED TOP SPEED 133 mph
ENGINE SPEED @ 60 MPH 3190 rpm
FUEL MILEAGE
HIGH/LOW/AVERAGE 46/40/43 mpg
AVG. RANGE INC. RESERVE 284 mi.
BRAKING DISTANCE
FROM 30 MPH 28 ft.
FROM 60 MPH 118 ft.
SPEEDOMETER ERROR
30 MPH INDICATED 30 mph
60 MPH INDICATED 59 mph

EDITOR’;S NOTES

Paul Dean headshot

Paul Dean Contributing Editor

I really didn’t believe I would like the R1200RT as much as I did. Sport-touring bikes are my favorites, but I’m generally drawn to the ones that rev and run and sound and feel like actual sportbikes with saddlebags tacked on. But after a couple of days on straight and twisty roads aboard the RT, I had to rethink my opinion. This is one brilliant motorcycle, whether for the sporty part of sport-touring or the touring part—or everything in between.

Mark Hoyer headshot

Mark Hoyer Editor-in-Chief

The beauty of the RT’s complex electronics is that it simplifies all kinds of riding. Shift Assist Pro’s clutchless upshifts and downshifts were great on a winding road (just don’t use it between 1 and 2), and the Hill Holder brake is fantastic. ABS/TC and the heated grips/seat were the greatest on the snowy press ride near Flagstaff, Arizona. Add to this the essential goodness of the basic motorcycle and you are looking at my new favorite traveling bike. Go, simple complexity!

Don Canet headshot

Don Canet Road Test Editor

I’ve been getting in a lot of 2-up sport-touring lately aboard our Ninja 1000 long-term test bike, which is fitted with hard bags. All was fine and dandy until I exposed my gal to the RT’s posh heated passenger pillion. Making matters worse, the RT’s accessory top case has spoiled her with its storage and backrest potential. It may well be a lonely summer piling up the miles on the Ninja. Blast you, BMW!

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