COMING-OF-AGE: The 2015 BMW R 1200 RT has had a definite shift in focus towards being a pure tourer. Image: DRIES VAN DER WALT
BMW fans are spoilt for choice when it comes to long-distance capable bikes – while the R 1200 RT and the K 1600 GTL are the obvious choices, the nimble and economic ways of the F 800 GT and the legendary touring capability of the R 1200 GS makes the touring end of BMW’s line-up seem a tad crowded.
Which begs the question of the relevance of the RT...
When BMW introduced its new liquid-cooled 1200 Boxer models to the local media earlier this year I remarked on how much the 2014 RT looked like the top-of-the-range GTL. It turns out that looks aren’t all the two bikes have in common.
KEEPING IT LOW
The new RT is leaning much more to the “touring” side of the sport-touring spectrum. In my opinion, it’s lost some of the sportiness of the outgoing model but gained in terms of stability, comfort and luxury.
For one thing, the current RT feels notably heavier than its predecessor. A look at the specifications confirmed my subjective impression: the new model has gained 15kg.
IMAGE GALLERY: 2015 BMW R 1200 RT
While BMW excels at keeping each of its bikes’ centre of gravity low, the effect of the additional weight is noticeable. This is not necessarily a bad thing: while it makes the bike a little less nimble in city riding it adds stability for high-speed, open-road, cruising.
And open-road cruising is really what the new RT is all about. The dynamic electronic suspension adjustment means that the bike automatically and seamlessly compensates for the underlying road surface – so seamlessly, in fact, that it is hard to tell at any given moment if the ride is comfortable because the road surface is good, or because the Dynamic ESA has adjusted itself to soak up the imperfections.
FLAT TORQUE CURVE
The result, in conjunction with traction control and variable engine mappings, is that you can spend more time enjoying the ride and less time worrying about the road.
The weight gain is offset by an increase in power (11kg) and torque (5Nm) so the RT feels no less willing than its predecessor. BMW’s boxers have always been lauded for their low-rev torque and the new RT is no exception.
The torque curve is extremely flat and most of it is available from just above 2000rpm. This creates an extremely relaxed ride, brisk acceleration and the absolute minimum of downshifts. Overtaking in top gear, even from 60km/h, is as simple as twisting the throttle.
Handling remains as good as on any modern BMW. Like the GTL, this is not a bike that you would itch to take on to a race track, but neither would it make you want to choose the highway in favour of the scenic route.
The low centre of gravity inherent to the boxer engine makes the RT much less intimidating than its 274kg wet weight might suggest. The RT is narrower between the rider’s legs than the GTL; which means shorter riders should easily be able to cope with its size.
WANT IT? BMW'S PROBABLY GOT IT
Although it’s a competent tourer, even in standard form, BMW has an comprehensive list of accessories for it: among them are an Akropovic sport exhaust, Garmin GPS that drops in to a pre-wired cradle, a 49-litre top case that can carry 10kg, a higher windscreen and even a quick-shifter.
Whatever your touring requirements, it seems BMW has pre-empted them.
I suspect the shift of focus towards something more like a smaller version of the K 1600 GT/GTL is a deliberate strategy on BMW’s side. With the 1200 GS as the go anywhere, do anything bike in its range, I don’t think BMW had an option other than to rethink the RT’s positioning.
Moving it upmarket as a pure tourer, albeit less expensive and slightly wider-focused than the GT/GTL, may well have been its smartest move. What the RT does is offer all the virtues of the K 1600 tourers in a package that is much more accessible to the average bike buyer.
Model: R 1200 RT
Type: Air/liquid-cooled four stroke flat twin engine, double overhead camshaft, one balance shaft
Maximum Power: 92kW @ 7750rpm
Maximum Torque: 125Nm @ 6500rpm
Fuel supply system: Electronic fuel-injection
Fuel type: Unleaded, 95 octane (RON)
Fuel consumption: 5.3 lites/100 km @ 120km/h (claimed)
Type: Constant mesh six-speed gearbox with helical gear teeth
Final drive: Shaft
DIMENSIONSOverall length x width x height (mm): 2232 x 983 x 1416
Kerb weight: 274 kg
Fuel tank: 25 litres
Front: Dual 320mm discs, four-piston fixed callipers
Rear: Single 276mm, double-piston floating calliper
Front: BMW Motorrad Telelever; stanchion diameter 37mm, central spring strut
Rear: Cast aluminium single-sided swing arm with BMW Motorrad Paralever; WAD strut (travel-related damping), spring pre-load hydraulically adjustable (continuously variable) at handwheel, rebound damping adjustable
WHEELS & TYRES
Wheel, front: 3.50 x 17"
Wheel, rear: 5.50 x 17"
Tyre, front: 120/70 ZR 17
Tyre, rear: 180/55 ZR 17
PRICE: R165 150