BMW R1200R

Text: Neale Bayly • Photography: Neale Bayly

An elegant new member of the naked community, the BMW R1200R is a very worthy successor to the extremely popular R1150R.

Rolling out under a gray sky, with the clouds so low and swollen they looked as if they might burst at any moment, I kept a close eye on the onboard temperature gauge. It read 42 degrees, and with over 600 miles of riding in front of me and a major storm racing in from the west, I was leaving Gladstone, New Jersey, on the wrong side of 1 p.m. While arguing with myself that I should have skipped the press briefing and left earlier in the day, it didn't take long to figure out I would need to haul some serious tail to make it home before midnight. And, if the temperature dropped by just a few degrees, I might end up stuck in a hotel beside the highway somewhere until the storm passed.

Good thing I'm in the saddle of BMW's new 2007 R1200R for the adventure, because there isn't another naked bike on the market I would have even considered riding for this sort of madness. Equipped with heated handlebar grips, a BMW electric vest, and dressed head to toe in BMW adventure touring gear, I knew I had all the right ingredients to give it a shot. So, making a corporate decision that I would ride until the tank ran dry, I dialed the 1,170 cc air/oil cooled twin on 75 mph and settled in for the ride.

As the direct successor to R1150R, the new R has been endowed with 28 percent more power for 2007. This gives it a quoted total of 109 at 7,500 rpm with a healthy 85-ft/lb dose of torque arriving at 6,000 rpm. A point to note here is that this figure is quoted using 98-octane fuel and will be lower on our U.S. premium grade. The machine weighs 437 pounds dry, and acceleration is brisk and immediate practically anywhere in the rev range. Allowing me to quickly get up to cruising speed whenever I was forced to slow, stop, or fuel, the most positive aspect of the new Beemer's power-to-weight ratio was evident during highway cruising. Dialing the white analog tachometer needle on 4,000 puts the similar styled speedometer needle right around the 70 mph mark. At this engine speed there are few smoother engines in the business and overtaking maneuvers are just a light throttle twist away. There's no need to downshift, unless you're trying to impress the person passed.

This new engine is still air/oil cooled as with the 1150R, and uses the tried and tested four valves per cylinder single camshaft arrangement that has been standard since BMW introduced the oil heads in 1993. Enlarging the engine to 1,170cc, 101mm pistons now run in the 73mm stroke.

In case of additional heat, a new oil cooler is fitted at the front of the engine. Fuel management on the new R is typical BMW (read: highly sophisticated). Called the BMW-K electronic engine management system, it features dual ignition, an anti-knock control, and an oxygen sensor to monitor the progress of the fuel and air entering the cylinders. On the other end of the process, a fully controllable, three-way catalytic converter is used in the two-into-one exhaust system. This single can is attractive and exits to the left, which provides a nice view of the rear wheel and the single side swingarm set up. It is also whisper quiet.

As I was blasting through West Virginia, the temperature had risen above 50 degrees and even though I was losing the light fast, I felt like I could make it home. My first tank had given me over 220 miles and taken 5.1 gallons to fill. Time-wise, I had been in the saddle for well over three hours and as one whose bones are close to the skin in this department, there were few complaints. I had the standard seat in place, which is 31.5 inches from the floor, but there is a shorter or a taller version available for those who require a variation on this theme. Close to six-feet tall and longer in the torso than the legs, I like the riding positions a lot. Compared to something like a Speed Triple or an Aprilia Tuono, you sit down in the R1200R - even more so than on Triumph's new Tiger. This makes the bars seem much higher and allows the small windshield to do a good job of keeping the oncoming breeze at bay. When sitting up straight, I experienced considerable buffeting behind the new Tiger's windshield; but the R left my head and the tops of my shoulders hitting clean air. Running at speeds under 80mph keeps you slotted in the comfort zone. Anything above that is going to be pretty noisy.

As night fell, I quickly came to appreciate the single headlight, which beams a super strong, wide cone of light. Tearing into the night, I monitored my progress with the R's sophisticated computer system. A function button on the left handlebar toggles through readouts of air temperature, how many miles till the tank runs dry, the average miles per gallon, and the time. Oil temperature is shown on the digital readout as is a gas display, which is useful if you have toggled through the readouts and are using a different function. The instruments are easy to read and have simple, clear numbers to inform you of road and engine speed. The mirrors show most of the rear view; but once up to highway speeds they present trembling, out of focus images, which is unsettling when the speedometer needle nudges the traffic-ticket precinct.

The levers are not adjustable, and for a bike starting at a base price of $ 13,025, that's definitely a mark against it, as they favor those with larger hands. Their operation is perfect though - the clutch is light and extremely smooth, and the front brake lever felt very light too. But BMW's quirky brake system takes some getting used to. There is a short period of smooth travel, which is ideal during trail braking, and then the pads bite the 320mm discs with quite the bang. Not as harsh as some of the earlier power brake systems, but getting the hang of it certainly calls for a little mental re-programming. Featuring a single, thin, braided-steel brake line, the operation is entirely hydraulic, with the rider's hand completely controlling the amount of pressure exerted on the pads. The rear brake system still generates pressure with an electronically controlled hydraulic pump, but works conventionally in the event of any failure in the system.

For 2007, the R is fitted with a new partial integral ABS, which operates the rear brake when the front is applied. For more control, this is not reciprocated when you use the rear brake, as the front brake is not engaged then. Slamming on the front brake for a few emergency stop simulations never got the front to come into play, and I was impressed by the stopping power of the setup and how quickly the bike could be hauled down from speed. If the front wheel ever starts going through the ABS cycle on this bike, you are going to be in an emergency situation, because for anything on the right side of sanity, these brakes are seriously powerful.

Upping the ante as usual, BMW is now offering ASC (Automatic Stability Control) in conjunction with the ABS. Allowing the bike to gauge when the rear wheel is going to lose traction under acceleration, it immediately cuts power to prevent wheel spin. And, for those who want to make that decision for themselves, it can be turned off, even while you are riding. Suspension is typical BMW. Telelever forks up front, with a single side Paralever swingarm in the rear. Damping settings are close to spot on, with only just a little more pre-load needed from the adjustment knob under the seat for my 180-pound weight. All of which confers a very compliant ride. The bumping caused by interstate expansion joints is quickly dispersed by the suspension, which doesn't produce any long lasting reactions or ripples after the initial jolt.

The wheels are clean, cast aluminum and almost works of art in their own right. Wrapped in sporting rubber, a 180/55-ZR 17 to the rear and a 120/70-ZR 17 up front, they are significant factors in the bike's slick handling manners. Aiding the wide bars in giving the R1200R very light, precise steering, the whole package is rock solid at extreme lean angles and in high-speed sweepers. However, track-day savvy it isn't - but for prevailing in the daily trials of urban warfare, this package excels. And once you're out on a swooping country road, all is bliss.

Basic in appearance, sophisticated in its design, the new R1200R comes in a choice of four colors, with an option package catering to any needs you may have, running the gamut from having more power to providing more comfort while touring. New owners won't run out of items to purchase to improve this ride anytime soon.

Exactly 10 hours and twenty minutes after leaving New Jersey, with the odometer registering 631 miles, I pulled in at my local bike hangout for dinner. My original assessment of the situation had held true: Riding nonstop on a naked bike when temperatures are in the forties for the majority of the ride certainly isn't standard operating procedure, and I wouldn't have tried it at all on anything other than a BMW.

TECHNICAL SPECS:

BMW R1200R

+ smooth, sophisticated and comfortable

- price

Distributor BMW Motorrad USA
www.bmwmotorcycles.com
Engine four stroke boxer twin,eight valve
Displacement 1170cc
Bore x Stroke 101x73mm
Fuel System Fuel injection
Power 85 ft/lb / 109 bhp @7500 rpm
Cooling air/oil
Ignition BMW engine controller: BMS K
Transmission six speed
Frame tubular steel space frame, load bearing engine
Front Suspension BMW Telelever, 4.7in (120mm) of travel
Rear Suspension BMW Paralever, 5.5in (140mm of travel)
Rake/Trail 63 degree/119mm
Brakes Front/Rear twin four piston caliper, 320mm discs/ single 2-piston caliper 265mm disc
Tires Front/Rear 120/70-ZR 17/180/55-ZR 17
Dry Weight 437lb (198Kg)
Wheelbase 58.9in (1495mm)
Seat Height 31.5 (800mm)
Fuel Capacity 4.6gal (17.4 liters)
Fuel Consumption approx 45mpg US
Colors night black non-metalic/ crystal grey metallic/ granite grey metallic
MSRP $ 13,025