As I conducted my initial walk-around of the BMW R1200ST at the Palm Springs press intro, my first impression was that the bike offered three good sides and one that only a Bavarian mother could love. Appointed in the most appealing of its available color combinations (red with black trim), from either side, the ST's lines flowed energetically from the front fender to the rear like a pair of speed-whipped ribbons. From the back, my eye was pleasantly led from alien-spacecraft-derived taillights forward through matched tail and tank racks and into the cockpit's symmetrical indicators. Then I came around to the front - Gack! Who let the intern play with the CAD software?! A funky-looking windscreen and fairing departed violently from the aesthetic of the rest of the bike. I'm not sure why a company that designs such uniformly regal and racy automobiles seems to insist on churning out motorcycles designed by Cubists (with the notable exception of their handsome K series), but for the most part, they do. Not surprisingly, this visual inspection foreshadowed my riding impressions, as the ST proved to be a predominantly wonderful sport tourer, marred by a small but irritating handful of flaws.
Like its big brother, the R1200RT, the ST updates and replaces a tired ancestor - in this case, the R1150RS. Similarly, the ST has had every component from stem to stern re-examined to reap the rewards of a 14 percent hp increase and a 17 percent boon in torque, all while slicing off 12 percent of the bike's useless flab. I was easily convinced of the validity of these claims, as the ST showed me an aggressive edge that the R1150RS never possessed. The bike fairly chomped at the bit waiting for a passing opportunity or exit drive to show off its newfound muscle. It was actually fun to twist my wrist!
We were told the ST was designed to compete with the Ducati ST4S and Honda Interceptor, and I would expect the Beemer to hold its own alongside them. When combined with its lighter, stronger frame, optional EVO ABS brakes, and deft Telelever suspension, the enhanced throttle response turned curves into a pavement playground. This machine is certainly capable of playing tag with any of its closest competitors.
It came as no surprise that the ST made for a nimbler, zoomier steed than the RT that I had just recently dismounted. Unfortunately, this moderate gain in agility came at the expense of about 50 pounds of creature comforts that I really wished I still had. Hard case panniers and clip-on tank bag to attach to the brilliantly concealed bracketry? Optional. ABS? Optional. Cruise control? Not an option. Heated grips? Optional. Heated seat? Not an option. Massive, weather jamming, electronically adjustable windscreen? Replaced by an allen-wrench-adjustable dash dimple. You get my drift. Personally, if I were buying an ST for anything more than fair weather, weekend warrior, sport touring conditions or basic around town commuter duty, the first thing I'd start doing is stacking on options to make it more like an RT.
The ST does offer concessions to comfort in the form of vertically adjustable clip-ons, and multiple saddle heights (or an even lower optional seat) that provide functional versatility. The bike's ergonomics were well-suited for tackling anything other than a straight line; but that said, the unavoidable "Boxer buzz," which I found irritating on the RT, felt even more pronounced on the ST. On straight-aways, the forward lean of the bike's ergoes put more pressure on my arms, and the absence of cruise control meant that my right hand never got a break, and began going numb. I also noticed substantial buzz in my feet that I hadn't detected on the RT. Upon further inspection, I discovered that the RT's plusher pegs, with roughly double the rubber of the ST's, explain the phenomenon. Some praise is in order though. Realizing that you have a problem is the first step toward recovery, and to their credit, BMW's engineers have added a counterbalancing shaft to relieve some of the symptoms of rocking couple vibration. It helps...just not enough.
If the ST was a glass, it would be three-quarters full. It's a vast improvement in every way over the R1150RS, but a few of its idiosyncrasies would gnaw at me as an owner. For $ 14,990 stock, the ST provides a blend of nimble-footed performance, passable comfort, and a firm kick in the pants upon rider request. With quality touring options available for a premium, the glass can be filled further.
BMW R 1200 ST
+ Great styling, powerful engine, good brakes and good high-speed handling
- Base model lacks touring creature comforts, boxer buzzyness, homely face
Distributor BMW Motorrad USA - www.bmwmotorcycles.com
Engine four-stroke boxer twin, eight valve
Bore x Stroke 101x73mm
Carburetion fuel injection
Power 81 KW/ 110 bhp at 7,500 RPM
Torque 115 Nm/ 85 lb-ft at 6,000
Ignition BMW engine controller - BMS K
Frame three-part, engine/cast aluminum/tubular steel
Front suspension BMW telelever, 4.3in travel
Rear suspension BMW paralever, 5.5in travel
Rake/trail 63°/ 112mm (4.4in)
Brakes front/rear twin four piston calipers, 320mm (12.6in) discs / single 2-piston caliper, 264mm (10.4in) disc
Tires front/rear tubeless 120/70 x 17 / 180/55 x 17
Dry weight 205kg (452lbs)
Wheelbase 1501mm (59.1in)
Seat height 810mm (31.9in)
Fuel capacity 20.8l (5.5gal)
Fuel consumption n/a
Colors various combinations of grey, silver, graphite, red, and blue
MSRP $ 14,990