Test Ride: BMW K1200GT

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Words: Editor ‘Arris   Photos: Richard Seck

Although we’ve only just got our hands on the K1200GT CMG long-termer, I got my grubbies on one courtesy of BMW USA, way back in March for my US Tour.

After racking up a total of 4000 miles in ten days I’d gotten pretty familiar with the bike’s capabilities. The following is my account of how it performed, although I should probably clarify that this is based on the bike I had in the US, not the actual CMG long termer.

HERITAGE

The GT is BMW’s latest variant of their luscious K1200RS and, according to BMW, takes the four cylinder platform to “fill the gap between the sport-orientated K1200RS and the luxury orientated K1200LT”. In essence, what we have is an RS with a greater emphasis on touring, thanks to an electrically adjustable screen, additional wind protection (with extra fairing parts at the hands and legs), higher bars, cruise-control, new seat, rear rack and matching hard luggage. There’s also ABS as standard and integral, servo-assist brakes.

Okay, let me start this by saying that I really like the RS version. It’s a solid, powerful and quite comfortable machine that just eats up the highway miles. Granted, it’s lardy and so requires a bit of extra effort to get it through the twisties, but with the weight also comes a rock-steady feel that gives you the confidence to push it hard, where you’d normally expect it to get out of shape. It’s also powered by a gloriously smooth 1200 motor that oozes torque and delivers a near-linear power delivery.

The GT hasn’t messed with this equation, keeping the RS’s guts and adorning it with some additional touring trinkets.


THE SUM OF THE (EXTRA) PARTS

The additional wind protection is welcome, with the RS’s manually adjusted screen being replaced by an electrically adjustable one on the GT. However, with only two inches of travel it doesn’t quite do what you want. Initially I thought that the switch had jammed as it rose up and then seemingly stopped half way up. But that was apparently that. Even so, it’s not bad at deflecting the majority of blast away from the rider, although another two inches would be just enough to give the good wind hole (did I just say that?) that I was expecting.

Further rider protection has been achieved by additions to the fairing in front of the hands and some curious looking black strips in front of the legs. The hand protectors are colour matched and so blend in quite well, except for a now rather large expanse of fairing around the cockpit area (a place for CD player and speakers BMW?). The leg additions just look like an afterthought. Welcome in the rain, but annoyingly protuberant when putting your feet to the ground, as their sharp edges press against your calves. They also prevent the long distance tourer satisfying “ahh, yess” leg stretch – when your straighten your legs out forwards as you ride.

The bars (which have lost the RS’s adjustability) are higher and turned in slightly. This gives a quite upright riding position, which I liked, but there is a bit of an odd angle thing going on here, which did have the effect of bringing on some wrist ache after a couple of days in the saddle. Thankfully the cruise control enabled me to alternate hands and give my wrists a rest … or go no hands, sit on the passenger seat a take a quick power nap. No it didn’t. Well, not the nap bit anyway.

Additional wind protectors look like a bit of an afterthought.

The seat is one of the best I’ve tried. Regulars will already be aware that the only sensitive part about me is my arse, and 10 days of riding with this seat saw me well into the mid-point of the trip before I felt the need to start the buttock shuffle and the occasional elevation for pressure relief.

It’s also adjustable for two heights, although all the BMW literature seems to contradict itself regarding which seat is standard, being either 790/820 mm or 770/800 mm. Either way, the other is available as an option. Of course, I put mine to the taller setting, which gave just enough legroom pour moi, the lower setting being cramped to say the least. Oh and in typical BMW fashion it’s a bit of a bitch to get to slot into place, initially at least.

Did I mention that my GT came with heated seat? No I didn’t, but again it’s unclear as to whether this is an option or not. It did prove handy when in the snow-capped mountains of California though, although I’m not sure when you’d ever use the high setting as it felt a bit like sitting on a stove top. Unlike the heated grips, which were more like holding onto a warm pot handle and always welcome.

Bags and rack are very useful.

And that brings us nicely to the luggage. The GT gets colour matched hard bags and rear rack as standard. Although they now blend in well with the bike, I’m not sure about losing that grainy black finish as the smooth painted surface just screams to be scratched. Of course, you might not be as klutzy as me and so may preserve the finish in all it’s glory, but who’s to say I’m not going to try and squeeze past on my trusty XS and do the honours for you?

Otherwise, they seem to be standard BMW panniers, which are generally pretty good except that the left one of mine pulled out the strap that stops it from falling open 180 degrees. Oh, and lost the exhaust heat shield padding. Oh (#2), and was smaller than the other one to allow for the exhaust pipe (25 verses 35 litres capacity).


THE HEART THAT BEATS

Okay, so we’ve covered the GT’s differences over the RS, but I fear that this alone paints a skewered picture, because the beast below the skin is such a gem.

For starters there’s that glorious 1171cc inline four motor. It’s just soooooo smoooooth, combined with a strong, linear laying on of power, it’s sure to bring a smile to any rider’s face. BMW claim a max power of 130 hp (@ 8,750rpm) with max torque of 85 ftlb (@ 6,750rpm). The redline is at 9,000rpm, but with so much of that power coming on so low down, you have to be really manic to hit the rev limiter. In fact in sixth gear it’s only churning 3,400rpm at 100km/h, which was also about the lowest rpm that it would be happy to pull from in that gear.

The fuel injection was glitch free, although I did notice a tendency for the motor to ‘ping’ more than most, especially in the taller gears (and yes, I did use Premium fuel, mostly anyway).

The only thing not as smooth as the motor was the gearbox. Although very usable, it definitely required a firm foot action to get it to shift, occasionally finding a false neutral if your heart wasn’t quite in it.

Although oil consumption was negligible for the whole 4000 mile trip, there was a slight weep at the cylinder head. It was enough to get to my boot, but I was assured by the BMW mechanic at drop off that a quick torquing down would fix that.


THE CHASSIS OF A GOD

Lovely!

Okay, a fat God, but a God nonetheless. Contrary to something like Honda’s surprisingly sporty 1800 Goldwing, the GT never quite sheds the feeling of weight once moving, but that doesn’t feel out of place either.

The effect is a very solid and dependable one – allowing the rider to punish the GT like an errant gimp through bumpy terrain, yet still not break it or be unpleasantly jacked off (err, the other meaning) as it gets bent out of shape. Ahh, western Texas – 90 mph and more bumps than a measles-infected Pamela Anderson. And sporty mode in the twisities can still be attained if the rider is willing to put a bit more effort into hanging off for the corners and pushing and pulling on the bars somewhat.

If you do get in trouble, there’s always the partly-integrated (front operates both, rear operates just the rear) brakes. If you’ve forgotten, this system is also servo-assisted and has been fairly criticized for being too sudden and taking too much control away from the rider. Well something’s been fixed, as the action is now smooth but strong, with decent feedback and no sudden grabbiness. And because it’s the semi-integrated version, you can use the rear at slow speeds without it pulling on the front as well.

And finally, the suspension. The patented BMW Telever at the front never gave me any cause for concern so I left it at the stock setting. The only thing I changed was the preload at the rear due to my large load (there’s a double-entendre in there somewhere), but otherwise it coped with all the abuse I could throw at it.


VALUE FOR MONEY

How big is your wallet?

Although I think some of the additions that are found on the GT are questionable, the K1200RS platform is such a lovely one that it’s hard for BMW to go wrong with it. Still, that begs the question; at $24,600 is the GT worth the additional $2,100 over the RS?

Well, having the screen adjusted electronically is nice, but then it doesn’t come up quite far enough. The extra wind protection helps, but looks a bit last minute. I’m not sold on the bars either (i.e. the angle), but the more upright position helps for the long distance.

The comfy seat and rack/luggage are all good, but you can always add them later to your RS anyway.

Maybe more worthy of consideration is the difference in cost over the Honda ST1300A ($5,600 less) and the Yamaha FJR1300A ($5,700 less). Both excellent machines as well as being capable tourers.

Hmhh, I sense another comparo coming on.


STATS

Over 4000 miles of varied roads (but mostly straight and mostly at illegal speeds) saw an average fuel consumption of 6.34 litres/100km (15.76 km/l). With a capacity of 20.4 litres, that gives an average range of 321.5km.

The reserve light tended to pop on around the 235km mark, although abusing the GT could get as low as 208kms or, if treated all civilized like, as high as 270kms. With a reserve of approximately 4.4 litres, you should get 69km before you have to start pushing, but best to allow for a maximum of 57km (worst case) if you’re the abusive type.

 

 

Bike

BMW K1200GT

MSL

$24,600.00

Displacement

1,171 cc

Engine type

Inline dohc four, liquid cooled

Carburetion

Fuel Injection

Final drive

Six speed, Shaft drive

Tires, front

120/70 ZR17

Tires, rear

180/55 ZR17

Brakes, front

Dual 320 mm discs with four piston calipers

Brakes, rear

Single 285 mm disc

Seat height

790/820 mm

Wheelbase

1,555 mm (61.2″)

Wet weight

300 Kg (660 lbs) (claimed)

Canadian colours

Blue, Green

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