BMW K1300GT and K1300S – Comparo

BMW have updated their four cylinder GT, S and R line for 2009. Neil Johnston and Kevin Miklossy take the GT tourer and sporty S out for a quick tour of the Okanagan Valley.

Words: Neil Johnston. Pics: Kevin Miklossy with some BMW supplied.

If the new 2009 BMW K1300s have a hallmark over their previous 1200 incarnations, it’s progress, but possibly trumping all the latest in engine, braking and suspension technology is … new switchgear.

Now switchgear might not seem like a big deal, but showing me around the test bikes one of the dealer’s salesmen is quite proud of the fact, “The switchgear has been revised, it’s normal like the signals found on Japanese bikes … That shows BMW listens to customer feedback.”

bmw_k1300_switchgear.jpgRegular switchgear on a BMW is the second sign of the coming apocalypse.

Err, yes. I can’t help but point out that this particular change has been years in the making with BMW steadfastly refusing to dump their over-complex layout of a separate left and right button for the respective signals – and an additional third to cancel – over many generations of bikes.

It is somewhat ironic then that the first thing I do pulling out of the lot is honk the horn, automatically thumbing for BMW lefty-lefty and righty-righty signal switches that are no longer there. It seems that years of BMW testing have prepared me for a character point that no longer exists.



K motor has been enlarged to 1293 cc.

The K1300GT (Grand Tourer) and K1300S (Sport) are marvels of shared platform engineering, with similar engines, suspension and electronics, yet offering entirely different ride experiences. It’s not just a matter of sport versus grand tourer packaging either – though that has a lot to do with it.

Right off there’s the engine. Both bikes share a 1,293 cc inline-four at their heart. The K1300S is tuned for 175 hp (at 9,250 RPM) with 103 ft-lbs of torque (at 8,250 RPM), while the K1300GT gets a lower state of tune with a still respectable 160 hp and 99 ft-lbs – both coming in 250 RPMs lower down the scale.

Quantities fail to tell qualities story though.

Despite being down 15 horses, twisting the GT’s throttle is like Prospero loosing the tempest, sweeping you up to speed. Yet somehow the speed feels more distant, an abstract on dials. This is velocity civilized and repackaged into effortless 600 km days.


Despite being tuned down, the GT has Prospero-like tendencies, the swath of MacDuff and a Shakespearean frilly collar … Okay, maybe just that first bit.

The sporty S is an altogether more complex experience, smooth and savvy, until the vibration kicks in. If you never glanced at the tachometer you’d swear it was time to shift – it’s not, you’re only at 5,500 RPM and you’ve still got 4,500 RPM to go before redline, with the engine reaching full fury by 7,500 RPM.

The S is an electric rush, complete with tingle and vibe though the pegs and bars, which is better insulated on the GT – you know it’s there, but it’s not as raw and angry. In common, the power on both bikes is offered without crescendo or exhaustion, just thrust towards the horizon and straight on to redline.

Throughout it all the fueling on both bikes exhibits no surging or abruptness, an improvement over their precursors. The only glitch is in a moderate hesitation in pick up after rolling off the throttle and then back on.



The S gets an optional quick-shifter.

To nominate the single biggest improvement over the 1200s, hands down it’s the transmission. Throws are short, slick, precise and (this being BMW) the S comes with added technology in the form of an optional Gear-Shift Assist.

This quick-shifter allows full throttle upshifts without clutching by momentarily pausing ignition, removing load on the transmission when the rider loads the shifter. It takes a bit of training to stop rolling off the gas as you would for normal clutchless upshifting, but the system works very well, allowing you to effortlessly scale through the cogs with only a moment’s delay between changes.

Another evolutionary change from its precursor is immediately apparent with the first grab of the brakes. Previous generations of BMW’s EVO servo assisted braking system offered binary subtlety, wooden and dead, feeling at the lever that the binders were on, or they were off.

The new system offers good feel, good progression, only a little electrical whine and hauls either bike down from speed with deftly applied force. In short, it’s a transparent technology, working in the background without intruding on or detracting from the ride experience.  Even the biggest problem of the system’s previous generation, the brakes being too grabby at low speeds, seems to have been eased.


Brakes and suspension have been improved.

Both bikes feature the second generation of BMW’s ESA system which now features spring rate adjustment in addition to the previous generations’ pre-load and damping. So take your pick: solo, solo plus luggage, two-up and luggage all with Comfort, Normal and Sport modes – graph it out and you’ve got suspension tic-tac-toe for hours of riding comfort and fun.


Swooping through the loose mountain sweepers of Manning Park on the K1300GT, comfortable and upright thanks to the adjustable bar riser, but I’m getting a bit chilled.


K1300GT also comes with adjustable bars.

No problem, I reach for the heated grip button on the right switchgear, but my thumb naturally falls on the seat heater. I’m not complaining about the warmth, but it strikes me that the new small buttons are less affirmative with gloves on and that the order is backwards – I use heated grips far more often than a seat.

I won’t be turning either down, but I also want to turn down the windblast and so I adjust the electrically actuated windscreen through its range in search of just right. Sadly there is none, neither Kevin’s 5’10”, nor I at 6’2” couldn’t escape the buffeting. BMW do offer a higher windshield ($150.00), which might be worth the money unless you’re a dwarf.

Looks-wise, things have improved. The old K1200GT’s slab sides have visually been broken up with a (albeit fake) vent and BMW roundel, but that doesn’t change the aerodynamics and the big bike still has a tendency to kite about somewhat in side winds.


Faux vent and BMW logo break up the GT’s slabby sides.

At 288 kg (635 lbs) fully fueled the GT is a seriously big bike, it sashays though the twists like a dark horse in Dancing with the Stars. The wide bars provide good leverage, while the slightly peaked profile assist with the fall in, though adding a top heavy feel in the process.

Once set, the same chassis as found on the sporty S keeps the GT on your chosen line, while the Duolever/Telelever suspension setup suits the dissociated feel of a continent-crosser like the K1300GT.

As far as the K1300S goes, the visual differences between the old and new are subtle, with bodywork tweaked for better wind protection, and a smaller muffler assisting with power development but also just looking better than the outgoing K1200S’s bazooka.


Smaller muffler on the S.

One complaint from sport riders for the K1200S was that the fancy Duolever front-end felt too vague. To correct this, the aluminum lower control arm of the Duolever is now a full kilogram (2.2 pounds) lighter, trail is shortened by 2 cm (0.8 inches), and spring rates front and rear are firmer.

The result is an increase in feel for the road’s imperfections, but also a feeling that the front is rebounding too quickly, especially on choppy surfaces, and it’s still lacking a good sense of how much grip the front tire has. The K1300GT receives a similar update, but thanks to the bikes extra mass, the front-end seems more settled.

Judging by the old switchgear’s longevity, the Duolever may be with us for some time …


bmw_k1300gt_lsf.jpgGT proved to be a superb grant tourer, but …

Conceptually I love the GT’s take-it-all-with-you saddlebags, upright comfort, and more relaxed demeanor, but little details like the windscreen and an over firm seat detract. The K1300S with its good aero-dynamics, comfortable (for a sportbike) ergonomics and raucous nature that drowns out the details just works better for me.

While the K1300’s share an engine, chassis, numerous components and options, the ride experience is surprisingly different. On the S everything feels urgent and fast, on the GT you are constantly surprised by the clocks when you look down at how fast a pace you’re setting.

The S may shoot through the sweepers and be in its element, but the shock is that the GT isn’t far behind.


… Neil was happier with the S.

The GT has a base sticker of $21,825.00 and comes with ABS, electrically adjustable windscreen and heated grips. However, there are other options including the higher windshield, lower seat and alarm, but BMW also offer three stages of ‘packages’ to further entice your money away.

Package 1 offers up the on-board computer for $215.00. For $1,300.00 for the Package 2 you get the ESA, heated seat as well as the onboard computer. But wait, there’s more, Package 3 adds cruise control and a Xenon headlight to Package 2’s offerings for a mere $3,000.00.

The S isn’t much easier on the pocketbook, starting at $16,990.00 with ABS and heated grips standard, the ESA adds $850.00, the quick-shift $350.00, and the ASC anti-slip (part of the safety package) rings up another $600.00.

So with either bike you’ll be passing everything but the local ATM.


Anti-spin control was tested.

The important thing is that all these technologies finally, regardless of price tag, deliver the goods. Slaloming through Green Valley Road on the K1300S in BC’s Okanagan, I don’t mean to test the Anti-Spin Control (everyone else calls it traction control), but road fresh from winter offers the opportunity with a cloud of sand and dust.

There’s a bit of side step, the engine’s power is cut and the tire holds. If there is a key to this generation of K1300 it is technology that works transparently and have transitioned from intrusive gimmicks to enhancements of the rider experience.

We’ve also lost quirks like the switchgear, but now that I’ve adapted to being like everyone else, I’m not complaining.






1293 cc 1293 cc

four-stroke dohc four,
dohc four, liquid-cooled

(crank – claimed)
160 hp (at 9,000 RPM) 175 hp (at 9,250 RPM)

99 ft-lbs (at 8,000 RPM) 103 ft-lbs (at 8,250 RPM)
19 litres

Electronic intake pipe injection/digital engine management including knock sensor Electronic intake pipe injection/digital engine management including knock sensor

Final drive
Six speed, shaft drive Six speed, shaft drive

120/70 ZR 17 120/70 ZR 17

180/55 ZR 17 190/55 ZR 17

Twin disc, floating brake discs, diameter 320 mm, 4-piston fixed calipers Twin disc, floating brake discs, diameter 320 mm, 4-piston fixed calipers

Single disc, diameter 294 mm, double-piston floating caliper Single disc, diameter 265 mm, double-piston floating caliper

820/840 mm + 20 mm lower option 820 mm + 30 mm lower option

1572 mm 1585 mm

255 kg (562 lb) 228 kg (503

Red, Beige and Blue Grey, Black/Grey/Red, Orange
36 months, unlimited kilometres
36 months, unlimited kilometres


  1. Re: the switchgear — BMW had it right all along– it is (and now was) extremely intuitive.

    Re: the “old” K1200s vs the new. I adore my 2005 model; can’t wait to ride the 1300!

  2. ^ why do you say that? They’re largely bulletproof.

    I don’t min the old switchgear…guess I’m alone.

    If I must have only only bike, it’d be one of these.

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