Launch: R1200RS

Photos by Kevin Wing

Boxers are the traditional BMWs, and the company will continue to produce them probably as long as it will continue making motorcycles. Aside from the historic ties to the first BMWs, they are also very versatile, nimble, often comfortable, and they (sometimes) even sound great.

You can break down BMW’s boxer line into three different platforms:

1) The R nineT, which uses a unique chassis with a USD fork, as well as being the only bike in BMW’s line up to still use the previous-generation air-cooled boxer engine (though there are indications that possibly another model based on the nineT is on the way).

2) Then there’s the flagship R1200GS and RT, which are built around the 125-hp, liquid-cooled boxer engine, and share chassis as well as continue to use BMW’s unique telelever front ends.

3) And finally there’s the naked R1200R and half-faired RS, which are based on another chassis and use a USD fork, but have just been revamped around the liquid-cooled boxer engine. The latest of those bikes is the R1200RS, which we rode during its North American press launch, held in the picturesque Muskoka region of Ontario.


R1200RS_2015-lhs4Since some of you prefer to skip the techie stuff, and since the R1200RS is basically identical to the R1200R save for a tweak to the steering geometry, we’ll skip to the differences between the two bikes. The riding position is a little sportier with the addition of lower clip-ons to replace the R1200R’s taller handlebar, and a seat height that is 30 mm higher, at 820 mm (a taller 840 mm or a lower 760 mm seat are no-cost options).

Despite the addition of a frame-mounted fairing to finish off the transformation, the RS has only gained 5 kilos wet, weighing in at 236 kg. We won’t bore you with all the other details here, but you can read about what mechanical features the RS has, under the WHAT’S NEW header in the test of the R1200R. The RS retails for $675 more than the R at $16,725.


R1200RS_2015_costa-ride5It would seem that I was destined to ride the newest R1200s in the rain, because like my test of the R model in Spain, the RS model was greeted by the wettest weather Muskoka had to offer. Thankfully, the fairing offered a bit of protection for my torso, especially with its manually adjustable screen pulled up.

The sportier riding position  is okay, though I would have preferred the grips to be located about one inch rearward. The standard seat was quite firm, which took its toll on my buttocks by the end of the day; not sure if the added padding of the taller seat option would have made a difference, though I would have chosen it for a bit of extra legroom. Uncharacteristically for BMW, the seat is not adjustable, though you can opt for a taller or lower seat at the time of purchase, at no extra cost.

As soon as I let the clutch out, one thing that really surprised me about the RS was how smooth and vibration-free it was. I don’t remember the R model being as smooth as the RS, and that smoothness remains until just above highway speeds, where a light throbbing becomes apparent.

R1200RS_2015_costa-ride3The engine has such a wide, manageable powerband that Rain mode is actually redundant, especially when you consider that the bike has standard stability control, so I remained in Road mode for the rest of the wet ride.

Two more ride modes are available (Dynamic and User) if you get the Ride Modes Pro option ($400), which also includes dynamic traction control. Dynamic mode offers the most aggressive throttle response, while turning the lean-angle sensitive dynamic traction control down to the minimum. User mode allows you to pick and choose between the various ride and traction control modes to custom tailor your own mode, say if you’d like to combine the soft throttle response of Rain mode with the minimal traction control intervention of Dynamic mode.

R1200RS_2015_costa-ride4The RS can also come with the Gear shift assist option ($515) that allows you to shift up and down without the clutch. I’m still not sold on this, as it firms up the otherwise feather-light shift effort, unless you make clutch-less gear changes at high speeds. If you must spend some extra money on the RS, opt for the Ride Modes Pro feature instead, and it costs less.

Our bikes were also equipped with Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) which is part of the $1,900 Touring package that also includes an on-board computer, GPS mount and wiring, cruise control, a centre stand, luggage rack and saddlebag mounts.

R1200RS_2015-motor2As with other ESA-equipped BMWs, the RS’s electronically adjustable suspension works exceptionally well, though it’s limited to just two settings, Road and Dynamic. Being that we rode in wet conditions, I kept it in Road mode, which proved compliant enough for comfort, while keeping the bike planted and weave-free. I sampled Dynamic mode for a short stretch to affirm that it was, indeed, the firmer setup.

The bike feels surprisingly light, and flicks effortlessly between tight esses. Our speeds were limited by the wet pavement, but we still managed a quick enough pace on the Metzeler Roadtec Z8 radials to feel the rigidity and precision of the R1200RS’s chassis. It felt much lighter between my legs and with a lower centre of gravity than a 2015 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 I rode recently, despite the Kawasaki weighing in at five kg lighter, the same weight as the naked R model.


R1200RS_2015-frontThe R1200RS is a sportier bike than you’d think, with wheel-lifting power, aggressive styling and sharp, sport-bike handling. Its USD fork allows it to dive into turns on braking, unlike BMW’s telelever bikes that tend to run wide when charging towards the apex. It’s a more rounded bike than the naked R model, offering better long-distance capability, and it comes in at a negligible increase in price.

R1200RS_2015-twoThe R1200RS is almost in a class by itself. It fits in somewhere between a sport tourer and a sport bike, easily filling the shoes within either of those categories. European competition might come from the Moto Guzzi Norge GT, which costs just a couple of hundred dollars more at $16,990, though it also includes saddlebags, even if it falls about 20 hp shy of the BMW. Then there’s BMW’s own F800GT, with a smaller 800 parallel twin motor, but for only $3,000 more the RS offers a whole lot more motorcycle. If you’re looking to Japan for a rival, maybe the best bargain in the class would be the Suzuki GSX1250FA, which has a torquey engine and ABS, and a super-low retail price of $11,399.

Of course, none of the R1200RS competition can match its three-year warranty, with the Guzzi offering 24 months and the Japanese bikes just 12 months.



Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.


  1. I saw your group ride through Magnetawan. Pretty crappy, rainy day you were stuck with. Been watching for the review. Nice looking bike.

  2. I own a 2014GS and find the engine heat from the left side a little un comfy on hot days, something I’ve never read about, did you notice any engine heat during this test ride? Probably wasn’t warm enough to be an issue either way.

  3. Good looking bike, if a little busy in the lower parts. I could see myself riding this, although I would also probably prefer slightly higher or closer bars. Did BMW ever finally sort out the issues with its rear drive units? I know they had a lot (relatively speaking) of failures early on, but I would hope after some years they would have worked those gremlins out.

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