Text: Eric Bass • Photography: Chris Myers
It's rare air up in the hyper-tourer stratosphere. You've got the Suzuki Hayabusa, the Kawasaki ZX-12R, the discontinued-stateside Blackbird, and now, the BMW K1200S has joined the fray. Never known for speed and acceleration, the K series is nonetheless my favorite line of Beemers, and the only one that shares clear stylistic points of reference with their brawny yet luxurious automobiles. The only thing lacking, in my mind, has been the va-va-va-voom factor, and at long last, BMW has delivered the goods in that department.
Initially, observing the bikes lined up in front of our hotel, I was disappointed to find that the black-and-yellow graphic scheme went unrepresented amidst the indigo blue and granite grey testers. Frankly, the plain wrapper versions offer cheap-looking paint that lacks the richness (blue) or sparkle (grey) to do this bike justice; whereas the racy bumblebee design does an eye-popping job of accenting the bike's aggressive lines.
Climbing aboard, the wasp-waisted shape of the bike's seat reduced the "straddle effect" when standing, and allowed me to pinch in with my legs for stability in aggressive turns, thereby relaxing my arms for smoother steering inputs. The seat itself is thin but made of very resilient foam that proved to be far more comfortable than it looked. Overall, the ergoes proved well conceived for both cornering and distance work.
The beginning of that distance consisted of a twisty climb and descent through Mount Tamalpais in Sausalito, California. Having shaved 26 percent off of the dry weight of the K1200RS, and with a new Duolever front suspension that lowers its center of gravity, the K1200S is easily the best handling bike BMW has ever produced. The suspension sneered at the numerous rain-filled potholes I encountered, and was far more willing to tip into hairpins than I would have expected for a bike of its longitude.
One of the "must get" options available for the K1200S is the $ 750 Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA). This system allows you to calibrate front rebound damping, as well as rear preload, compression, and rebound damping using a simple grid. Configure the load for single rider, rider with passenger, or rider with passenger and luggage (available as an option) while parked, and then enjoy on-the-fly adjustments between sport, normal, and comfort modes. The verdict on ESA seemed unanimous among the testers: a great idea, and well worth the cost.
Later that evening, at our posh dinner destination, the relative merits of the partially integrated ABS system were a far more hotly debated topic, particularly by the ex-racers at the table. While ABS comes standard, the K1200S can be ordered without it for a $ 995 reduction in price. For mere mortals like me, however, the system provided a welcome insurance policy, particularly in the wet weather I encountered. As for the brake lever feel of the servo-assist, it does take some getting used to, but the pinchers most certainly did their job when asked.
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For the complete article of the riding impression(s) and technical specifications, please purchase the November/December 2005 back issue.