News 2005 BMW K 1200 S Retro Review | Digging Into Archives

2005 BMW K 1200 S Retro Review | Digging Into Archives

2005 BMW K 1200 S Review

2005 BMW K 1200 S parts
2005 BMW K 1200S

While Japanese manufacturers set superbike standards with lightweight, high-horsepower production motorcycles showcasing futuristic technology developed on the racetrack, Italian bike builders created a signature niche with handmade, race-inspired motorcycles that fit like exquisitely tailored suits. But German BMW long scoffed at the crotch rocket tradition, declining to engage in such two-wheeled games, until now. BMW has finally entered the high-speed fray with the introduction of its new 2005 BMW K 1200 S (2016 KBB : around $6100 in excellent condition, ed.).

Born of a desire to change the 82-year-old company’s public image and to release itself from its utilitarian past, the 2005 BMW K 1200 S experienced a prolonged gestation commensurate with its starry-eyed performance goals. The arduous development process showed that the Munich-based manufacturer possessed a stubborn constitution and the resolve to engineer itself out of conundrums ranging from fuel injection problems to camshaft issues.

The K 1200 S’s soul—its 167 horsepower inline-4—provides the first clue to the bike’s intentions. The engine’s low-end torque provides strong pull, and peaks, with 96 ft/lbs of torque, at a relatively high 8250 rpm. Contrary to BMW’s traditional penchant for subdued engine tuning, the 1157cc powerplant, though smooth at lower rpm, proves deliciously rev–happy above 5000 rpm.

The engine comes to life at high rpm with some vibration that betrays the vast horsepower that makes this not only the most powerful BMW ever, but also the fastest. Though the bike can actually exceed 170 mph, BMW demurely claims a top speed of “more than 120 mph.” However, with surprising optimism the company claims a 0-60 mph time of “less than 2.8 seconds.” Considering that BMW’s first inline-4 earned it the “flying brick” moniker in the 1980s, these are shockingly quick numbers.

Still, being competitive in the superbike arena demands more than straight line acceleration and top speed. BMW engineers aimed for the superlative ride and handling dynamics earned when engine weight and position, chassis tuning, and suspension calibration work in harmony. With its inline-4 mounted across the frame and cylinders tilted at a radical 55 degrees forward, the engine not only dramatically lowers the bike’s center of gravity, its position also produces perfect 50/50 weight distribution.

2005 BMW K 1200 S Retro Review | Digging Into ArchivesDeft balance alone wouldn’t give the K 1200 S an edge over one of the well-evolved benchmarks from its peers, so BMW incorporated radical new suspension systems. The front end features a Hossack-inspired Duolever suspension, a non-telescopic design with a shock situated between two parallel links. Because the Duolever’s geometry does not effectively change the wheelbase when the suspension is compressed (braking in a turn) or while front load is decreased (accelerating out of a turn), the result is confidence-inspiring directional stability in spite of aggressive input. The Duolever enables the BMW to belie its considerable 61.8-inch wheelbase and feel surprisingly nimble, while also dramatically reducing brake dive.

Despite the bike’s claimed 499-pound dry weight, lean angle is impressively sharp and the handling is pleasantly neutral. Tremendously stable, the K 1200 S carves canyons with ease. Spirited handling exercises might eventually become tiring, however, as the laws of physics—and the bike’s heft—invariably catch up, one way or another.

In an effort to bend those physical laws, an optional Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) increases the K 1200 S’s flexibility by tightening the suspension for twisty backroads, or softening it for long distance touring. With a total of nine settings available from a single button, ESA allows damping levels to be adjusted without stopping.

BMW’s innovations don’t end with its suspension. Servo-assist ABS provides solid stopping power. On the downside, initial lever travel feels a bit wooden and, perhaps, the braking system lacks the feedback of high-quality radial brakes. Nonetheless, the brakes—like several other quirky aspects of the K 1200 S—are acquired tastes that demand the rider to adapt to technology, rather than vice versa.

Advances such as anti-squat front suspension and servo assist brakes may appear to be barriers to a pure riding experience, but don’t let the technology fool you. The BMW K 1200 S’s engineering exists to provide a solid, exceptionally comfortable ride that also happens to be fast as hell.

Although not so featherweight as a Suzuki GSX-R1000 or Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, the BMW K 1200 S offers the power of an uncompromising superbike, but comes packaged with peerless comfort, solidity, and build integrity. Because it trades a bit of absolute performance for luxury and civility, the K 1200 S could be classified as a sport tourer, with emphasis on the former term. Call it a gentleman’s crotch rocket, if you will.

By adding power and nimbleness to its carefully cultivated refinement, BMW has extended on foot into the bold new world of speed while keeping one foot in its storied past. In the strictest sense of the term, the 2005 BMW K 1200 S may not qualify as a true superbike, but if it sacrificed comfort and unflappability for lower lap times and boy racer appeal, it wouldn’t distinguish itself from competitors, and it most certainly wouldn’t be a BMW.

What rider doesn’t love a look back at the motorcycles that preceded today’s tech-savvy creations? Welcome to the Ultimate MotorCycling retro review archives; we’re revisiting some of our favorite reviews from year’s past, highlighting the machines that laid the rubber for what’s on the today’s showroom floors. Enjoy. – Ron Lieback, ed.

2015 BMW K 1200 S Retro Review – Photo Gallery

2020 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Standard Review: Stripped-Down

The 2020 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Standard serves several purposes. Its stripped-down nature makes it an ideal starting point for a custom build, as it...

Cardo Freecom 4+ Review: Motorcycle Bluetooth Communication

This is the story of Neil and the three Bluetooth communication devices. Once upon a time, I spent a ton of money on a...

2021 Yamaha YZ Lineup First Look: The Dirty Dozen Racers

Yamaha brings 12 YZ models for racing in 2021, running from the neophyte-ready YZ65 to the new supercross-platform YZ450F Monster Energy Yamaha Racing Edition....

2021 Beta 300 RX First Look: Limited-Edition Motocross Motorcycle

Beta, the boutique Italian motorcycle manufacturer known for its enduro, dual-sport, and observed trials motorcycles, is making a move into the American motocross market...

Pirelli Sport Demon Street Tires: Long-Term Review Begins

The Metzeler Lasertec tires that arrived as standard equipment on my 2015 Triumph T214 Bonneville had served me well. But, with 7,012 miles on...

Voxan Wattman Land Speed Record Electric Motorcycle First Look

Almost totally unknown in the United States, Voxan Motors was founded in 1995 in France by Jacques Gardette. Voxan began life building a variety...