Test Ride: BMW K1200GT

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CMG talks about the K1200GT.
CMG talks about the K1200GT.

Words: Editor ‘Arris    Photos: Richard Seck

It’s not a bad job really. Ride a bike for a week or two, analyze what it’s doing and then spew out some witty wordage. Slap in a couple of pics, post it online and it’s time for the next one.

Trouble is, ultimately it’s just a snapshot of the bike under the best conditions (new and in tip-top condition at all times), which is why we like long-term tests so much.

I know what you’re thinking, that bastard ‘arris gets a brand new bike to ride all summer and all he has to do is pay for the gas. Yep, sweet isn’t it? But don’t let this article’s splash page fool you – we do try and do a decent job in the process, that being to analyze the bike over the long ride, get opinions from other staffers and then tally up the running costs over the duration.

Hopefully we end up with an informative series of articles, get to do some interesting tours and then finish with an in-depth review of what we discovered over the last year. That’s the plan anyway.

With the hope of establishing the new CMG Touring section, last year we managed to get our hands on the new BMW K1200GT. Actually, we had two – sort of.

Over the year, the GT was taken on all the CMG tours, racking up a total of 18,103Km. We took it to the east coast, all around Quebec and through the north-eastern States. In order to get the series kicked off in a timely manner, I managed to scam one to ride the 4000 miles between Daytona, Florida and Los Angeles, California in March. This enabled for an initial test ride, while the first impression of the Canadian bike was submitted courtesy of Ed. Finally, a comparison with the much acclaimed Yamaha FJR1300 was completed, albeit on a chilly late Fall ride to Pennsylvania.

In this final wrap-up piece, we summarize the bike-specific bits for you, sans story and anecdotes. We’ve also itemized all the running costs, so that a prospective buyer can get a good idea of the cost of owning such a bike. All this information was garnered from any of the CMG staff that took the GT for a lengthy spin, namely Ed, Larry and myself, thus providing viewpoints from a mixture of body types, biases and wants – not to mention attitude.

ENGINE

No two ways about it – it’s a gem. Turbine smooth with gobs of torque and a linear power delivery all the way to the 9,000rpm redline, make it the perfect motor for this bike. Need to pass? Just roll-on the throttle and all 300Kgs launch themselves forward as if just released from a massive cartoon slingshot.

The only downside to the motor was a tendency to smoke at start-up. Again, it’s a relatively well-known BMW K series phenomenon, thanks to the flat positioning of the motor allowing oil to sit in the cylinders and weep back into the head during down-time. Although a lifetime of faux pas has meant that I’m not easily embarrassed, getting lost in a cloud of blue smoke with a new $25,000 Beemer would probably get a mild blush out of me.

Although the average BMW rider might not attempt to do any of their own maintenance, a simple oil level check and topping up proved a tad more troublesome than it should – A small, inaccessible window and filler hole meant that it was a two person job, and a tough one at that.

The six-speed box was quite capable, but did require a firmish foot to ensure that you got the change you wanted.

CHASSIS

The most noticeable factor of the GT is its weight. At 300Kg (660lbs) wet it’s a heavy machine. This weight is still somewhat noticeable when up to speed, but the chassis copes with it well – the telelever front-end continues to be one of the best designs out there.

Although this weight does add to an all-round rock-solid stability feel, it also makes the GT a bit of a handful if you try and ride it all sporty-like through the twisties. Not that it can’t do it, it just requires a bit of work to do so. However, if you’re the type that keeps arse firmly planted, heals on pegs and knees clasped to the tank, then you’ll be in good company with the GT.

ERGONOMICS

In the comfort department, the GT scored big. An excellent seat (didn’t kill my arse during the 10 day US tour) and roomy riding position (adjustable seat height accommodated a variety of rider sizes) combine to make it a mile-muncher of the first order.

However, there were some niggly bits uncovered too. For example;

  • Trying to set the seat to a new height is a real bitch. Getting all the bits to fit, slide-into place or latch secure is a tad overly complicated.
  • The additional wind protection provided by some additional bits of plastic do actually work but look a bit last minute, with the leg protectors getting in the way when putting feet to the ground, or during an on-the-go stretch.
  • The throttle cables are routed in front of the clock and gear indicator – requiring you to move up and forward to see them.
  • Although the electrically adjustable screen works well, it only has 2″ of travel and didn’t quite come up high enough to give the taller riders a full wind block.

Mr. Tate can attest to passenger comfort, as he took his better half on the back for an 886Km jaunt in the north-eastern U.S. Pat liked the seat and peg positioning, adding that it was the smoothest, vibe-free bike she can remember. And although she liked the fact that the higher passenger seat allows for a good view, it also caused some buffeting at speeds above 120km/h … which I assume she didn’t like.

BRAKING

In the braking department, the GT comes with servo-assisted semi-integral (front operates both, but rear is rear-only) and ABS.

When the servo-assist technology was introduced a few years back, there were some complaints about the overly aggressive and grabby nature of the set up (sounds like Mr. Tate). Although there is no official word on whether BMW have changed the system since, they’re definitely much more subtle now and can pull everything to a dead stop quicker than a confession of Herpes at a Swingers night.

The semi-integration also means that the rear brake doesn’t operate the front and so allows for fine low speed control.

Of note was warpage of the front right disc, which could be felt by pulsing in the front lever. It was first noticed around the 7,000Km mark, but somehow we never got round to getting it replaced. I assume that this would be a warranty item, although the BMW website suggests that warranty on this item is limited to the first 7,500Km, so promptness would have been an asset.

BAGS AND BITS

Baggage-wise, the GT comes with matching coloured hard bags. Initially I thought that they’d be scratched to shit by the end of our tenure, but they ended up with a surprisingly good finish even after a whole year of CMG abuse.

They also proved to be quite adept at taking more than enough stuff for a lengthy tour, although I don’t like the fact that BMW are still sacrificing 10 litres of space on the lhs thanks to the exhaust location.

Other touches like the heated grips are always welcome and very usable. As far as I’m concerned, these should be standard fitment on any bike that implies even a modicum of touring ability. A two-stage heated seat further adds to the warming abilities of the GT. The lower setting did get used occasionally and proved to offer a pleasant warming sensation – without the additional unpleasant dampness usually associated with such experiences. The high was a bit like sitting on a stove top with all the rings at max, although some people might get off on that.

Likewise, the cruise-control seems to be a tad superfluous, though it did come in handy for either those long endless straights in the US desert (enabling me to get on the passenger seat and take a nap) or when you wanted to give your right hand a rest towards the end of the day. It also proved to be very efficient at keeping a constant speed whether climbing/descending steep hills or just cruising the endless expanse of Route 66.

EXPENDABLES

Although they’re disposable items, it’s a good time to mention tires. Original fitments (and what we stayed with) were Metzeler MEZ4s.

They always performed well, with a front lasting between 7,000 and 9,000Kms and a rear between 5,000 and 7,000Km, depending on riding style.

There was one incident when the front tire cupped to such an extent that it made the bike unrideable and required a temporary replacement mid-tour. Cupping can occur on some BMWs, thanks to a chunk of weight loading on the front end. As a result, you might want to err on the short side of expected tire life if you’re about to go on an extended tour.

This also seems like a good place to mention fueling statistics. Consumption would vary quite a lot depending on how the bike was run, but an average was in the 6.34 litres/100Kms (15.76 Km/l) range. With the 20.4 litre tank, that would give a relatively respectable range of 320Km. The worst we saw was in the order of 7.71 litres/Km, but that was during a psychotic ride around Pennsylvania.

From day one on the Canadian bike, the low level fuel light would come on when there was still a good half tank left. Although we sussed this out quickly, it was still always slightly unnerving to be passing gas stations with the light glowing wildly in the corner of your eye. In the end we just used the odometer and made sure that we filled up before the 300Km mark. This would have been fixed under warranty – had we been organized enough to say anything come service time. Sigh.

AND FINALLY

As a long-distance tourer the GT is in its element. Great comfort and a superb motor combine with a strong – although heavy – chassis to make munching the miles a pleasure. Although it can be pushed into sporty mode, weight and lack of clearance/sport posture make it a bit of a work-out to do so, so it’s definitely on the touring end of the sport-touring spectrum.

As a flagship BMW we were slightly disappointed by some of the problems encountered. Although they were all on the small side, at C$24,600 you shouldn’t really be having any! That’s also a good $6,400.00 more than Yamaha’s luscious FJR1300, although the GT does come with a 3 year road-side assistance program and some mechanical extras not offered by other companies.

Would I buy one? No, I don’t have that kind of money … or any money for that matter. But if I did, then I’d still probably go for the FJR, but that’s simply because I prefer the sporty side of the spectrum. If you prefer the touring side, then it’s unlikely that the GT wouldn’t satisfy.

Keep an eye on CMG for some upcoming touring articles to Moncton and Mont Trembant involving the GT.

RUNNING COSTS (first 18,000Km)

Date/Reason
Odometer
Action
Cost

*27th May

1,000 Km SERVICE

1,073 Km

Oil filter, engine oil and gear oil replaced

Labour (includes service checks)

$52.45

$120.75

 
 
 SUB-TOTAL
$173.20

**17th July

10,000 Km SERVICE

7,266 Km

Oil filter, engine oil replaced

2 X Rear brake pads replaced

1X MEZ4 (180/55 ZR17 – Rear) replaced

Tire disposal

Labour (includes service checks)

$41.73

$51.75

$197.99

$3.00

$189.20

 
 
 SUB-TOTAL
$483.07
26th July
10,800 Km
Temporary front tire fitted (emergency during tour)
$100.00
 
 
 SUB-TOTAL
N/A

**4th August

Pre-tour mini service

11,841 Km

Oil filter, engine oil replaced

Labour

$40.94

$29.99

 
 
 SUB-TOTAL
$70.93

*27th August

Rear tire was shagged. Front replaced temp tire.

12,764 Km

1X MEZ4 (180/55 ZR17 – Rear) replaced

1X MEZ4 (120/70 ZR17 – Front) replaced

Tire disposal

Wheel weights

Labour

$288.96

$212.45

$6.00

$1.00

$109.95

 
 
 SUB-TOTAL
$618.36

*17th October

And shagged once more.

16,772 Km

1X MEZ4 (180/55 ZR17 – Rear) replaced

Tire disposal

Wheel weights

Fault diagnosis (ABS light & warped front left disc)

Labour

$288.96

$2.50

$1.25

$N/C

$57.50

 
 
 SUB-TOTAL
$350.21
 
 
 TOTAL TAXES
$254.37
Final
 18,103Km
 TOTAL (inc taxes)
$1,950.14

Note – Service Intervals occur at every 10,000k or 20,000k or a once a year service – whichever comes up first. The 10k is a service while the 20k is an inspection.


THANKS TO…

*Bavarian Motosport (now part of Open Road BMW) for the prep and service work.

**Moto Internationale for the Montreal service work.

BMW Canada for giving us the bike in the first place and letting us do what we do.

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