I’m getting soft in my old age. There was a time when I would not hesitate to choose the motorcycle as my primary transport – even when a car was available – and no matter the situation. These days, questions like “what should I take down to Paris, Ontario?” have a less obvious answer.
Enter the 2018 BMW R1200RS. For the first time in a long time, my immediate choice for the two-hour journey was “motorbike”. Heated grips, a large windshield, cruise control, and one of the most comfortable seats on any motorcycle I’ve ridden recently, all combine to make my decision for a long(ish)-haul road trip an easy one. And sure, at $21,755 as-tested you could actually buy a car – but if you’re thinking along those lines you’re probably missing the point.
BMW calls this bike a Sport Tourer. It’s one of the many ways you can get your R1200, and one of the many ways BMW approaches the long-haul riding mission. Its focus is on comfort and touring, with a healthy amount of grunt added in, just to keep things interesting.
The 1,170 cc boxer twin is a lumpy 125 hp unit. Rapid throttle openings are accompanied by a shimmy as 92 lb-ft of torque attempts to twist the load-bearing twin out of the two-section chassis.
That initial sideways torque shifts quickly into rapid acceleration as the rear tire hooks up. A flashing light on the dash indicates the intrusion of BMW’s traction control system before a quick flick of the gear lever executes a chunky full-throttle shift. The quick-shifter renders the clutch all but redundant, but I found shifts smoother and more pleasant when I did use the clutch.
Perhaps because of the shaft drive, the quick-shifter just wasn’t as clean and crisp as it is in BMW’s chain-drive products. This is one example of where the competing needs of comfort and sport clash on this bike.
At 2,202 mm long and 925 mm wide, the R1200RS is a large bike. The standard 820 mm seat height is a little too tall for me, but the narrower and less padded 760 mm seat is a no-charge option. If you had once been stretched on a rack, you might need the 840 mm seat height option. The sheer bulk of the 236 kg BMW makes it difficult for it to hide its weight, and while it rides with composure and responds to commands, it is a hefty bike to throw about. The 45 mm upside down forks are as imposing visually as they are in ride feel.
Meanwhile, the single-sided swing arm glides effortlessly over bumps as the Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) sorts out damping and rebound with aplomb. The pathway into the Paris Speedway is downhill, rutted, and rocky. The R1200 had no qualms about the rough terrain, and responded well to my efforts at standing up and peg steering. Taking it out onto the clay short track for a bit of flat tracking was never on the cards, but to head down as a spectator, this was a flawless companion.
That ESA is available with the $2,000 touring option, which also adds an on-board computer display, cruise control, centre stand, luggage racks and preparation for a GPS module.
As it does on the car side of the business, BMW is not shy about throwing option lists at the customer, and this test bike had almost all of them: Dynamic Traction Control is a zero-cost option on this bike, likely so the luddites and tough guys can say they “didn’t choose that stuff, I don’t need it bro!”.
After that, you start paying. Our tester was fitted with the $360 Keyless Ride system, Gear Shift Assistant Pro (aka “quick shifter”) for $565, Ride Modes Pro, which gives you the ability to tune the engine maps at the press of a button for $545, and a $300 anti-theft Alarm.
We also had the aforementioned Touring Package, plus the $350 Comfort Package and the $485 Sport Package.
Only the $475 Exclusive Package was missing – and that’s because it’s an aesthetics pack that you can only get with the Frozen Bronze colour option.
The comfort package added a chrome-plated exhaust and tire pressure control – so that’s $350 you can save with ease – while the Sport package added an engine spoiler (belly pan), red frame, and anodized gold brake calipers. Aesthetics are worth money, but whether or not this specific set is worth the money is a matter of personal taste.
I would, were I spending my own money, go with the Touring Package, as I think it’s what makes an R1200 an R1200. But then again, I might also go with a dual-purpose GS if I were to stick with an R1200, and an S1000R if I wanted a sporty touring bike.
Here’s the key point: If you own an R1200 of pretty much any stripe, it’s a bike you’ll never shy away from riding. It’s a good dose of comfort for those of us whose backsides aren’t as ironclad as they once were.
Better yet, the R1200 does a good job of the other fun motorcycling things that make the bike the better option in the first place.
Key Specs: 2018 BMW R1200RS
Base Price: $17,150
Options: $4,605 (Dynamic Traction Control – $0, Keyless Ride – $360, Gear Shift Assistant Pro – $565, Ride Modes Pro – $545, Anti-theft Alarm – $300, Comfort Package – $350, Sport Package – $485, Touring Package – $2,000)
Price as Tested: $21,755
Engine: 1,170 cc boxer twin
Curb weight: 236 kg
Power: 125 hp @ 7,750 rpm
Torque: 92 lb-ft @ 6,500 rpm
Wheelbase: 1,527 mm
Length: 2,205 mm
Seat height: 820 mm
Brakes: Dual disc brake, floating brake discs, diameter 320 mm, 4-piston radial calipers front/ Single disc rear