Call it an exercise in Bavarian blandness, the R 1200 R is still a significant piece of BMW’s boxer puzzle and now’s the time to grab a bargain.
On the surface at least, it seems unfair. The R 1200 GS steals the limelight and successfully sells the promise of adventure to accountants while, at the other end, the rational R 1200 RT tourer is bought in bulk by police and pensioners. Then there’s the unassuming R 1200 R naked bike collecting dust in the showroom corner like an unloved runt of a prized, pedigree litter.
These big, boxer pups are about to receive a new littermate in April with the arrival of the R NineT. Forget your Thruxton or Commando, this cool retro thing is so hot it has a waiting list as long as my boss’s beard. Even BMW employees have to join the far queue.
Priced from $20,950 (plus on-road costs), the R NineT aims to cash in on the custom-bike scene and airhead revival (yes, the cool kids are flocking to them, including me) with its minimalist styling and clever, modular seat that switches between three configurations to suit your mood.
When it comes to the bike’s comparatively flamboyant image, there’s clearly a Panzer-powered think tank within the German giant’s marketing trenches and it so far seems to be infiltrating. Wunderbar!
So where does that leave the current ‘retro’ bike of the R-Series range, the rather modest and similarly priced R 1200 R (and the wire-wheeled R 1200 R Classic)? BMW says it still has a place in the range for the foreseeable future and serves a comparatively small but loyal following, so it’s not about to be quietly euthanized.
Despite its visual bulk and 223-kilogram wet weight, R 1200 R tours, commutes and even scratches far better than you’d expect. It is the quintessential boxer in a business suit. As you probably would expect being German, however, it brims with high-tech gear including heated grips, electronically adjustable dampers, ABS, a tyre-pressure monitor, a multi-level traction control system that rarely interrupts conversation and the company’s polarising Telelever front suspension system that prevents fork dive under brakes – a weird sensation that works brilliantly in everyday commuting.
A quick spin demonstrates a lovely, low centre of gravity where it simply dances and weaves through sharp angles and tight gaps without upsetting its balance. Aiding this is perfectly wide ’bars, logically placed ’pegs, a scooter-like turning circle and a surprisingly low perch that easily accommodates the vertically challenged. A long ride proves that perch is also plush.
BMW’s naked boxer has traditionally been the last of its siblings to receive attention and it wasn’t until a few years ago that it finally received a performance boost with the addition of twin-cam heads along with sharper styling. Power climbed marginally to 81 kW (110hp) at 8500rpm (up 500rpm) while more torque arrived sooner – now 119Nm at 6000rpm. Sure, its acceleration will never blow the fairings off a Superbike, but what it does offer is a meaty low- and mid-range that calls for few gear changes from the slick ’box. Instrumentation is appreciatively precise and legible, which is just as well because this is one of those bikes that’s deceptively faster than it feels.
Before the birth of the R Nine T, the R 1200 R held the mantle as the last of the air/ oil-cooled boxers. And now that it’s heading towards the end of its lifespan, the ‘Roadster’, in BMW speak, is next in line to receive the “wasser boxer”, or partial water-cooled engine, of its bigger siblings, which will bring even better, more consistent performance, particularly in hot, stop-start conditions.
This makes two compelling reasons to pick up the existing R 1200 R for a steal. Between the introduction of the shiny new cool kid and the arrival of the updated version, the Roadster has never looked so vulnerable on the showroom floor. In other words, dealers will be keen to shift existing stock, thus attractive offers should be available.
Conversely, however, the R 1200 R could become an effective stopgap for the R Nine T’s high demand. “Sorry sir, you can wait an eternity like everybody else or you can ride this lovely retro bike home today…” Hmm.
Some might wrongly perceive it as a little dowdy now but, like all trends that come and go, the R 1200 R’s time will come. That’s a sound investment to us.
SPEX - BMW R 1200 R
Type: Air/oil-cooled flat twin with four valves per cylinder
Bore and stroke: 101 x 73mm
Compression ratio: 12.0:1
Fuel system: EFI
Type: Six-speed constant mesh
Final drive: Shaft
CHASSIS & RUNNING GEAR:
Frame Type: Tubular steel space frame, load-bearing engine
Front suspension: 41mm USD fork, Telelever, 120mm travel
Rear suspension: Paralever,
fully adjustable, 140mm travel
Front brake: Four-piston, 320mm twin discs, ABS
Rear brake:Twin-piston, 265mm disc, ABS
DIMENSIONS & CAPACITIES:
Wet weight: 223kg
Seat height: 800mm
Fuel capacity: 18 litres
WHEELS & TYRES:
Front: 3.5 x 17-inch multi-spoke alloy with 120/70 R17 Continental Road Attack tyre
Rear: 5.5 x 17-inch multi-spoke alloy with 180/55 R17 Continental Road Attack tyre
Max power: 81kW at 7500rpm
Max torque: 119Nm at 6000rpm
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