Text: Andi Seiler • Photography: Christian Neuhauser
BMW's boxer models are quite popular, and the GS, GS Adventure, RS, RT, and R of the 1150cc range are highly regarded as great touring and all-round bikes. Each of them typifies BMW comfort. This year another thrilling theme was added to the Bavarian brand's boxer lineup. They call it the R1150R Rockster.
Concept & Transformation
Bavarians are known for their directness and for dealing with things in their own way. Their traditional motorcycle and car brand isn't any different. In bikes, they've proved their individuality with fresh, young, innovative designs. This uncompromising stance means motorcyclists either like it or don't. When the first R1100GS came out in 1994, quite a few people criticized the front plastics for resembling a duck's beak. But many liked and bought it - and its successor, the R1150GS - in big numbers. Changes in the looks of other examples in the range have also been dramatic; but the fact remains that the BMW guys go their own way and that perhaps, more than anything else, makes the brand so successful.
Building a new version around the big displacement boxer, the crew led by chief designer David Robb, an American, has created the R1150R Rockster. While basic parts (engine and chassis) come from the R1150R, design-wise the bike presents a distinctive street-fighter profile, which is a very popular look in Europe. And even here in the U.S. these designs are gaining popularity.
Boxer means BMW. There's no way around it, even though the brand also offers inline fours in their K-range. But the typical flat twin has been connected at the hip to the brand since the legendary R32, the first motorcycle BMW built, was presented at the Paris motorcycle show in September of 1923. It's no wonder the Bavarians, known for preserving the best aspects of tradition, still manufacture boxer engines.Engine & Transmission
The Rockster uses the same power plant in the R1150R. All boxer engines except for the 1200 come with dual-spark ignition (beginning in 2003), which makes for a big improvement over former models that jerked when throttled in a constant position at lower speeds and rpm, as in downtown traffic. Thoroughly modified, this behavior disappeared this year, judging from our experience on the test bike. The dual spark also provides better combustion and lower emissions. The men (and women) from Munich have modified the six-speed gearbox again for better shifting comfort, too. And it seems they've exceeded their goal. Like never before, switching gears has become as easy a task as it is to operate the single-plate dry clutch.
The air- and oil-cooled twin is fun to ride to boot. It pulls strong from low rpm, gets a second kick at 4,000, and revs quickly up to almost 7,000. With no flat spot exhibited in the power curve, you feel the bike makes more than the claimed 85 horses. That fits its street-fighter character. The modern fuel injection deals with all kinds of changes like altitude, air pressure, cold, or heat. Even if the thermometer dips into the 30's and 20's, the bike starts without hesitation. You still have to adjust a choke lever, even with the fuel injection, but that's not a big deal. Just wait a few miles before taking it completely back.
Chassis & Brakes
Changes to the chassis were made at the periphery. The stanchion tubes for the forks come from the sport boxer R1100S as well as the 5.5-inch rear rim and the front fender. This rim allows the mounting of a wider 180/55 ZR 17 tire on the back (R1150R: 5.0 inch rim, 170/60 ZR 17 tire), which offers a great com-bination of flawless handling and good grip. Generally, compared to a 190/50 ZR 17 rubber, it's the better deal for public road use in most cases - and certainly so if you mount outstanding tires like the Metzeler Sportec M-1's on the Rockster. On canyon roads the bike showed great performance, running a clean line and offering plenty of ground clearance. The wide, low, and slightly bent handlebar (another feature that differs from the basic R model) exhibits perfect leverage for steering into tight turns. Although on longer trips we would prefer the R hand-lebar, which is slightly higher and bent back farther for a more comfortable riding position.
Even though the shock springs of the Telelever system in the front and the Paralever unit in the back are painted white, they are the same as found on the R model. So the Rockster's suspension provides the same degree of comfort. If you want to push harder, you can stiffen the rebound damping on the front shock as well as the spring rate (by an adjusting knob) and rebound damping on the rear shock. We were satisfied with the standard adjustment - most impressive in swift riding on bumpy back roads. Compared to other BMW models ridden at the same time the brake support for the antilock system didn't affect our lines on curvy roads that much. Overall, our test team still prefers a standard setup without support because it's easier to modulate when you have to brake in between turns.
Accessories & Arrangements
Another tradition at BMW is the array of choices supplied to complete your bike with accessory features. For instance, our test machine came with heated handgrips, a detail that makes a ride in cold conditions much more comfortable. Standard setup for the Rockster includes a luggage rack plate instead of the passenger seat which comes as a cost-added option. The rear footpegs are already mounted. Clutch and brake levers are adjustable to individual needs. A center stand (besides the side stand) makes tire changes and maintenance checks easy.
Other than the paint job, obvious differences to the R model are the small flyscreen and the headlights of the R1150GS that give the Rockster its aggressive countenance. The riding position is still comfy but a more active posture is demanded of the upper body. Amazing how something as simple as a handlebar changes riding characteristics.
For touring riders BMW offers the same convenient arrangements provided on the R, like cylinder guards, two versions of bigger luggage racks with soft case, luggage hard cases with mounting kit, inner bags for hard cases, tank bag, and an anti-theft system with remote control. Evidently you can turn the Rockster into a good touring bike without changing its distinctive looks.
The new Rockster BMW is a great riding machine with modern engine and chassis technology. Complementing the well-known boxer line, the company created a new aggressive style concept merely by selecting the right parts from other models and combining them with only a few new elements. This lowers costs and also makes parts management easier and more comprehensible. It's obvious the Bavarians still honor their roots and their tradition, even if they do like to mix things up with unusual designs from time to time.
BMW R1150R Rockster
Retail Price $ 10,790
Warranty One year, unlimited mileage
Maintenance Schedule 600/6,000/ every 6,000 miles (1,000/10,000/every 10,000km)
BMW of North America, Inc.
P.O. Box 1227
Westwood, NJ 07675
phone (800) 831-1117
Type 2-cylinder, boxer, 4-stroke
Valve Arrangement 4 valves per cyl., hc, cams chain driven, pushrods and rockers
Bore & Stroke 101 x 50.5mm
Compression Ratio 10.3:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection, ø 45mm (throttle bodies)
Exhaust Emission Control catalytic converter
Clutch single-plate dry clutch, hydraulically operated
Final Driveshaft drive
Frame cast-alloy front frame w/steel subframe
Wheelbase 1,487mm (58.5in.)
Rake 63 degree
Trail 127mm (5.0in.)
Front Suspension telelever w/single shock
Stanchion Diameter 35mm (1.38in.)
Adjustments rebound damping
Travel 120mm (4.7in.)
Rear Suspension cast aluminum-alloy single-sided swingarm w/single shock
Adjustments spring preload and rebound damping
Travel 135mm (5.3in.)
WHEELS & TIRES
Type cast aluminum-alloy wheels
Front 3.50 x 17
Rear 5.50 x 17
Front Tire 120/70 ZR 17
Rear Tire 180/55 ZR 17
Front Brake 2 discs, 4-piston calipers
Diameter 320mm (12.6in.)
Rear Brake 1 disc, floating double-piston caliper
Diameter 276mm (10.9in.)
Combining optional: Integral Antilock System/combining
Seat Height 850mm (33.5in.)
Wet-Weight 248kg (551lb.)
Fuel Capacity 20,5l (5,4gal.)
Claimed Horsepower (measured at clutch)85hp at 6,750rpm
Torque 10.0mkp (98Nm, 74.1ft.-lbs.) at 5,250rpm
Top Speed 197km/h (123mph)
Acceleration 0-100km/h (0-62.5mph):3.8s
Fuel Consumption 6.7l/100km (42mpg)
Fuel Range 360km (225mls.)
Cockpit fairing, dashboard w/speed-o-meter, odometer, trip-odometer and tachometer, warning light for fuel reserve, emergency flashers, key switch in the center of the dashboard, luggage plate, center and side stand. Mounted BMW accessories: antilock brake system (Integral ABS), heated grips. Available accessories: rear seat, cylinder guards, luggage rack (2 versions), soft case for luggage rack, luggage hard cases w/mounting kit, soft inner bags for hard cases, tank bag, anti-theft system w/remote control.
ROADRUNNER Test Diagram
Luggage w/accessories 4/5
Bike for the buck 4/5