2005 BMW R 1200 RT Retro Review | Spirited Travel
A well-planned expedition brings its own luck, and there is no decision more critical in two-wheeled travel than a choice of a mount. If there is one company that consistently delivers solid engineering for motorcycling explorers, it is BMW. And with the release of its completely revamped R 1200 RT touring machine, the paved roads of the world have become more accessible than ever.
The new R 1200 RT represents the level of significant design changes witnessed last year when the company unveiled the dramatically reworked R 1200 GS—an Ultimate Motorcycling favorite. BMW’s completely reworked RT bears little more than a moniker in common with the R 1150 RT it replaces.
Borrowing from new engine and chassis technology introduced with the GS last year, the revamped R 1200 RT pumps out 110 hp—a 16 percent boost over its predecessor—and boosts torque to 85 ft lbs at 6000 rpm. In addition, BMW engineers managed to trim an amazing 70 pounds from the new machine’s weight; it is ready to ride at a lithe 571 pounds. A surprisingly agile touring motorcycle, the 1200RT isn’t so much a touring bike that handles well as it is a sport-savvy machine set up for touring.
The legendary Boxer twin powerplant features a sophisticated counterbalancing shaft that significantly reduces the oscillating effect inherent in an opposed cylinder motor, and thus negates the vibration normally transmitted to chassis components and on to the rider and passenger. The new 1200RT delivers smooth, even power without sacrificing the distinctive rumble of the Boxer configuration. Redesigned bodywork gives the R1200RT an integrated, aesthetically pleasing flow from front to back.
A byproduct of the wind tunnel, the new fairing renders improved aerodynamics that keep wind blast off the rider and passenger—with the help of an adjustable electric wind screen—while channeling air over the engine and oil cooler. The big and functional mirrors molded into the fairing are too far out of reach to attempt to adjust on the move. This might have been an intentional design to preempt a bad habit—it’s just as well to set your mirrors before you get underway.
The RT’s exceptionally smooth ride comes courtesy of the legendary Telelever suspension arrangement up front with the equally impressive Paralever system handling the rear. An optional Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) allows the rider to adjust the rear shock’s preload and damping via a handlebar-mounted switch; multiple settings accommodate a single rider or a rider with passenger (with or without luggage), and ranges from soft to stiff ride quality. The system permits on-the-fly adjustment to accommodate varying road surfaces and performance demands.
The R1200RT utilizes BMW’s EVO brake system with standard partial integral ABS. With this system the front brake lever activates the dual 320mm front discs through an electric power-assist while simultaneously applying the rear brake through sophisticated electronics that determine the best ratio of front to rear application and pressure. The smart, practical, and safe feature is well suited to touring, especially in changing weather that can compromise road surface conditions.
Synonymous with long-distance travel, BMWs make up a good share of the motorcycles crisscrossing the highways and byways of the world. The practical elements designed into the R 1200 RT reflect this touring heritage, and suit both rider and passenger. A reshaped, independently adjustable “split-saddle” combined with relaxed footpeg placement allows for maximum legroom.
The redesigned bodywork eliminates the occasional bumping of knees on the fairing when putting a leg down at a stop, a disconcerting occurrence on the former machine for riders over six feet tall. The handlebar’s height and shape provide a natural, upright riding position for long hours in the seat without cramping or slouching. Heated handgrips and cruise control come standard. As can be expected from BMW, high-quality, useful options abound, from an anti-theft warning system to GPS (highly recommended) to heated seats.
For nighttime illumination, an important consideration to the distance-minded rider, the RT has two angled H7 halogen bulbs that comprise the low-beam setting for a wide spread and a single, centrally aimed H7 halogen high beam to brighten the road ahead. The instrument cluster has an easy-to-read flat-screen display with oil temperature, fuel consumption, tank level and transmission gear selected.
Considering that half of all the motorcycles BMW has produced in its 80-year history remain roadworthy speaks to the superior build quality of the company’s product. The company makes keeping the RT in operating condition easier with an air-cooled engine and shaft drive that eliminate maintenance concerns related to coolant levels and water pumps, and the oiling and adjustment of link chains. The gearbox lubricant need never be changed, as the EVO-Paralever shaft is sealed for life.
The 2005 BMW R 1200 RT was designed for the nomadic spirit that resides in the heart and minds of so many motorcyclists. The new bike narrows the chasm between sport and luxury touring machines, resulting in a motorcycle that is capable of cross-country sojourns, daily commutes, or weekend outings. Take your pick.
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.