2015 BMW R1200R Test
There is nothing on the road that sounds like or feels like a BMW boxer twin. Just swing a leg over any model thusly equipped, turn the key — or in this case with optional Keyless Ride remote — stab the starter button, and one is treated to the unique bark of the, now, 1170cc motor.
Give it a quick rev and feel the bike’s signature tug to the left. If you are a fan, or even an open-minded newcomer to the marque, you will feel that certain something that accompanies a unique experience.
For an engine with an architecture that traces its lineage to 1923, the boxer is still remarkably relevant. Much has been improved and refined, of course, and in recent years we have seen the addition of modern add-ons such as overhead cams and, most recently, liquid cooling — but the uninitiated might ask, “Why bother?”
The answer is not only in the charm evoked by the boxer’s connection to the past, but also in the many positive practical attributes of the design — the characteristics of power production and the particular balance it has within the chassis.
The water boxer powering the all-new 2015 BMW R1200R roadster has a kind of low-end grunt that is the envy of most similarly displaced V-twins. It delivers massive thrust right off idle as it charges through the gears, yet is never harsh.
Getting off the line on the R12R couldn’t be quicker or easier. No clutch finesse is necessary—just release it as you ease on the throttle and the bike starts forward in one smooth movement, accompanied by a complex engine note that is hard to describe.
It is not unlike a V-twin, but less gritty. There is a muffled syncopation that is always smooth, yet there is some growl to be had as the LCD tachometer races to its 9000 rpm redline. Cruising anywhere between 4000 to 7000 rpm has the rider feeling a sense of oneness with the motor that just thrums and seems like it wants to go on forever.
That trip to redline is, to the rider’s senses, a smooth and flat torque curve that follows the throttle input perfectly. Fueling is spot on and, whether the rider is putting around town or laying the whip to the beast, is always linear in its delivery. The 2015 BMW R1200R pulls hard throughout the rev range, and doesn’t run out of steam early. An easy twist converts this bike from calm, smooth touring to peg-scraping canyon carver in seconds.
The engine is always ready to deliver, as I found on our recent 240-mile test run over Ojai, and down through Pine Mountain Club in Southern California — one of many rides the R12R inspired.
This machine is equally at home at a spirited pace in fifth or sixth gear riding the twisties and feeding off the torque, or keeping the motor on the boil at top revs and cornering to the limits of clearance and rocketing out of the apexes.
The 2015 BMW R1200R is surely the big brother to BMW’s R nineT — it is equipped with an immediately noticeable 15 extra horse- power and a full suite of motor electronics and, on our test bike, BMW’s optional D-ESA electronic suspension.
Set the bike on Road for average riding, or Dynamic to get the most performance out of the suspension and traction control system. There is also a Rain setting, and the controls are intuitive and learned in 10 minutes of button pushing.
I found riding in Road to be smooth and compliant. Even riding fast in this mode feels planted and controlled. It is actually the mode I prefer for simply get- ting around and riding without serious intentions. It is as tight and responsive as I care it to be while, seemingly, riding on a magic carpet.
In Dynamic mode, the suspension tightens up to where one notices considerably more feedback and just about every tar strip and road imperfection. This is to be expected and, while tightly sprung, is never harsh, nor do these imperfections cause any bump steering or trajectory other than that which the pilot steers.
Dynamic mode also loosens up the traction control to allow a bit more rear slide before it activates. To me, this setup is just right, as I do not care for a ride that is too soft when riding hard. Road is ideal for most riding, and Dynamic is for chasing gremlins through the canyons.
Although the upright 2015 BMW R1200R can be used for anything from a commuter to touring, BMW optimized the chassis for sport riding; it feels small and compact. Quick to turn, and easy to push through even the tightest sets of corners, the R12R is more agile than its 508-pound (claimed wet) weight would suggest.
The new forks are a conventional inverted design — yes, BMW is not using its signature Telelever system on the new R 1200 R. The forks give excellent feedback and let you know when you near the edge of the envelope, although cornering clearance will usually limit lean before the Metzeler Roadtec Z8 tires reach their limits.
Linked brakes do an excellent job, and their abilities are commensurate with those of the bike. I do feel that there is too much lever travel before braking action begins, and initial bite is a bit strong – after that, the brake action and modulation is good.
In several situations when I had to brake hard with little notice, the brakes over-responded, clamping with proportionally more force than I was exerting. This resulted in several ABS activations at times where I wouldn’t have expected it to intervene.
Although we are used to only seeing this sort of feature on the highest performance bikes, the R 1200 R we tested had the optional Gear Shift Assist Pro. I sampled this marvel on the R 1200 RT last year, and immediately fell under its spell.
One needn’t be a racer to appreciate the fast, smooth, and effortless shifts—up or down. Upshifts require being on the throttle, and down wants no throttle. In time, I found I preferred the clutch from first to second unless I was fully committed, as quickshifting to second at a slower pace can be a bit rough. After second gear, it is smooth sailing.
The optional On Board Computer Pro dashboard is adjustable as to what is displayed, how and where, in several configurations. The trip computer puts more data at the rider’s fingertips than any system I have experienced. BMW has fully integrated its Garmin-sourced GPS; not only is it manipulated by the innovative handlebar-encircling multicontroller on the left grip, but the GPS also displays much of the trip computer functions, rather than the dashboard.
Unlike the BMW RT and GTL models, on which the multicontroller operates all the modes and functions, those changes are handled by toggles on the R12R’s handlebars.
One can, in one place, see front and rear tire pressure, engine and ambient temperatures, odometer and two trips, voltage, fuel economy, average and top speeds as well as fuel range. Just perfect for those riders that want to see the data, like me. Up to a dozen important readouts can be seen at once to eliminate scrolling, if desired, or you can have a more spare display.
The 2015 BMW R1200R is beautifully crafted, amazingly well thought out, all-day comfortable, and ultimately a satisfying entry in the Standard category it helps define. It is retro if you want it to be, but willing, able, and modern enough to meet the demands of today’s serious riders.
Photography by Don Williams
Story from Ultimate MotorCycling magazine; for subscription services, click here.