Ride Review: BMW R 1200 R

Let me get straight to the point. This is an absolutely superb motorcycle. The Roadster Bee Ems, have always lived in the shadow of the more versatile G.S. Fact is, many G.S. buyers have no intention of venturing off the blacktop and as such, should look seriously at the R model. As a pure road bike, the R 1200 R performs with a purity and accuracy that the G.S. version cannot match.

The R 1200 R offers keyless ignition. With the key in your pocket, hop aboard and press the “on/off” button located centrally in front of the clocks – exactly where the key would typically go. The boxer motor fires instantly and settles into an even mechanical buzz from the valvetrain. This is accentuated by the fact that the cylinder heads are not under the tank but exposed, due to the horizontally opposed boxer layout. The sound is part of the unique character of the latest incarnation of what is a brilliant motorcycle power-plant. The engine is silky smooth, powerful and torque rich. It has a lovely, willing, free revving nature, which all results in truly satisfying, real world performance.


To put the performance into perspective, I want to refer to a comparison test done by the excellent American publication “Cycle World”. Up against the manic 1290 KTM Super Duke R, you would think it would be a total mismatch. The KTM is 55 pounds lighter and makes 43.6 more rear wheel horsepower than the Bee Em. Similarly, the KTM has 16.1 ft lbs of torque more than the R 1200 R.

Ok, let’s compare performance then. Here’s a little table to facilitate easy comparison:


You can see that the KTM only has a really significant advantage on top end. Problem is, this is the one area that naked bikes seldom play. The gale that tries to blow you off the bike at anything over 160 kph makes it downright unpleasant to maintain serious velocity for long.


How does the Bee Em do it then? Well, it makes its power and torque where it really matters. Up to the R 1200 R’s redline it out powers the KTM and only beyond the Bee Ems peaks does the KTM eke out an advantage. That is where full-on sports bikes play, not the hot rod roadsters. Please understand, I am in no way, knocking the superb 1290 R Super Duke. On the contrary, I am pointing out that in the real world the R 1200 R runs with the performance benchmark of the big twin roadster class!

The steel trelliswork chassis uses the engine as a stressed member. Bolted up front is a conventional Marzochi upside down fork with a Sachs rear shock. Suspension adjustment is electric (set for two up was perfect for me). Firm, yet still supple over bumps, the R was rock steady and “planted” at all speeds over all surfaces. A hidden steering damper unobtrusively contributes to the overall stability, which is achieved without any “heaviness” in the steering. The bike is nimble and neutral steering at all speeds.


Clutch action is creamy and light, making gear changes a snap. Upshifts are perfectly precise without the clutch. There is a slight tendency to jump or rather surge into the next gear under full power shifts. Feathering the throttle, ever so slightly, achieves shifting perfection. Downshifts with the slipper clutch are perfectly controlled, negating any big twin compression funnies.

Check out the comparison table for a heads-up on the brakes. The Brembo’s are ferocious, yet have excellent feel – simply superb!!



BMW offers various (4) different seat heights. You buy the bike with the seat that suits you best. The ergonomics are all-day comfortable. Oh yes, Dammit! If BMW can make a seat this comfortable both in terms of shape and foam density, then what excuse, do all the other manufacturers have?

I am not going to summarise all the info available on the dash. You can do that on the manufacturers website. Suffice to say it tells you everything you need to know and more. Search long enough and you’ll probably find out if Zuma is going to pay for ”nkandla”! Typically BMW, you can accessories your R 1200 R with factory luggage, etc, etc and there is no doubt in my mind, that this motorcycle is really a complete package.


So, to sum it all up. What BMW have here is perhaps the ultimate roadster. From the sexy single sided swingarm, satin black shaft drive to the red steel frame surrounding that superb engine, topped by gold forks and 17” dark matt mags, this bike oozes class. I absolutely love it! Both looking at it and especially, riding it. Replace the cosmetic flyscreen on the front for something functional and you could just have the perfect roadbike. When the basics are this good you could forgo a lot of electronic gizmos and probably lop 20% off the price without detracting one bit from the riding experience. The only problem BM would then have, is building sufficient stock!

My name is Dave Cilliers. I consider cars as four wheeled shopping baskets and only worth using as a last resort! For years bikes have been my primary transport. Racing, touring, commuting or just kicking up dust on African tracks, I have owned over 270 motorcycles and ridden millions of kilometres. I am happiest when sharing my passion for motorcycles with like minded people whilst traversing Africa in search of adventure.