BMW’s R1200R has an image problem. Unlike its Boxer engined siblings, it’s not one of those bikes that shouts about its qualities. It doesn’t have the kudos of the rugged GS, nor the physical presence of the RT, instead the R is happy to sit in the background minding its own business until someone shows an interest, which, when riders do, they may very well find it to their liking.
The 2011 R1200R gains the DOHC engine that was first debuted on the HP2 Sport, and most-recently introduced to the R1200GS. As well as an extra camshaft the engine brings with it a claimed 82kW and 119Nm of torque as well as 500 more rpm, upping the redline to 8500rpm. A new exhaust valve, according to BMW, gives a “superior powerful sound” while a redesigned cockpit and aluminium silencer makes it slightly more pleasing on the eye. Other than that it’s the same as the older version, but has factory options like ESA I (electronic suspension), ABS, ASC (traction control) and RDC (tyre pressure monitors).
The R feels a solid bike to ride. The seat is sculpted so that is cossets your buttocks in a both pleasing and comfortable fashion and the new aluminium ’bars are set at a height for relaxed riding. When you first sit on the BMW the ’pegs feel a touch too high, but after a few kilometres this isn’t an issue and I didn’t find myself having to rest my legs on the cylinder heads to ease any aches.
Having initially sniggered at BMW’s assertion that the R1200R has a “superior powerful sound” I was pleasantly surprised to find it is actually true. Even on a standard exhaust the Boxer engine has a deep and throaty burble about it as well as a surprising turn of pace. Give the engine some stick and the R1200R rips forward with a fair amount of haste – the Boxer engine is grunty and eager to respond when required. There is a strong bottom-end as you would expect from a Boxer twin but it is accompanied by a rush of power at the top that is anything but stereotypical BMW.
Riders who want a hassle free bike that is comfortable, fun when required and extremely practical should take a look at the R rather than simply follow the crowd and buy a GS. In many ways the R offers all the plus points of the GS – comfort, a huge 390km tank range and a strong engine – yet it does it on 17-inch wheels, which can give greater confidence when it comes to on-road cornering.
It has some negative points – the retro style numbered clocks are cluttered and hard to read and without a screen the weather protection is minimal – but the R1200R is a bike that grows on you and the optional extras catalogue contains items that make it far more practical.