I had opportunity to ride a 2015 BMW R1200RT for a couple weeks. Most of the 3,000 miles were done with passenger while on tour in South Africa. Here are my impressions on what the bike mags are calling this “sport touring” motorcycle.
Frame of reference: I’ve owned an air cooled boxer (R65LS) as well as a K bike (K100RS ABS) and currently ride a Ducati ST3. I’m 6’ tall and weigh 225 lbs with a 32” inseam. My passenger is of a normal size.
Fit and finish was great. Unfortunately there is a lot of plastic that has to be removed for service (which may or may not be too difficult…but damn…you can barely see the engine). The paint is of a matt finish and hides scuffs well but looks too dull for my taste. The saddle was “all-day” comfortable for both rider and passenger and was heated (didn’t try or need it in Africa). Riding position is upright with a comfortable reach to the handlebars and the foot pegs. Ride height was a tad high for my liking (32” inseam) but allowed both feet to touch the ground. Both the bags could hold a full face helmet and you can fit two in the top case. The cases easily detach from their secure mounts and seem to have durable latching mechanisms. The bags are pretty heavy though and contribute to the overall weight of the bike (630 lbs without the top trunk). An electronically adjustable windscreen provided a large envelope of protection for rider and passenger with relatively clean air spilling over the top (very little buffeting on the helmet).
The RT has the new water-cooled boxer engine that sports 115 hp with 82 ft lbs of torque. The engine started and performed flawlessly for the entire trip. The engine is smooth with very little vibration noticed in the foot pegs and the saddle. There was a minor buzz in the handlebars that was mildly annoying but did not result in hand or finger numbness. The engine will probably smooth out once completely broken in. Throttle response (in the “dynamic” and “road” settings) was crisp off idle and was easy to control in slow maneuvers. Fuel mapping seemed fine showing no signs of hesitation, surging, or popping on deceleration. Switching to “rain” mode resulted in less hp and softer throttle response. Whacking open the throttle in “dynamic” or “road” resulted in a quick and steady build of speed to about mid rpm, then there was a noticeable dip in power followed by a build of speed that was greater than that at the lower rpm. I’ve seen the dyno charts in the bike mags…the torque curve looks pretty flat…I can’t explain the dip and faster ramp-up of torque. This condition was reproducible and was somewhat disconcerting when overtaking vehicles. Aside from that, alone or two-up, the bike pulled hard and did not want for more power.
Suspension was electronically controlled and could be changed on the fly. When the roads became rough, I switched from “hard” or “normal” to “soft” and the bumps were absorbed away. One drawback was that rear ride height was affected by this setting. The bike was still stable, but you could tell the angle of the saddle changed slightly. The front suspension was a telelever type. I had never ridden a bike with one before. The front took on the rough surface without complaint and road imperfections while leaned over for a curve did not upset the front end. I did find a stretch of washboard dirt road that confused the computer that controlled the suspension…felt like the front shock was packing, resulting in a very harsh ride. Slowing down allowed time for the computer and servos to catch up and damp out the vibrations. The bike was very steady in corners but was not effortless. The telelever suspension deadened the road feel so I really couldn’t tell what the front tire was doing (not doing anything abnormal, just not used to such a lack of sensation). Coming from the other direction, when quick left to right counter steering inputs were applied (forcefully) on the bars, very little happened. You need to slow down a bit and plan the corners with this bike. Last minute adjustments are not really appreciated.
I don’t know what has happed to the motorcycle community. When did we start calling these kind of bikes “sport tourers?” This is a touring bike and that’s all, it’s not a big as a Gold Wing, but it’s definitely not sporty. The lack of front end feedback, sluggish response to handlebar input and leviathan weight keep this bike from being “sporty.” That being said, the bike was perfectly fine for its intended purpose: to comfortably covey two people with luggage down the curving and twisting roads. As soon as I got back I took my ST3 out for a ride to do a fresh comparison. Nearly 200 lbs lighter with responsive steering, the ST can run circles around the RT. Would I buy one…yes…if I wanted a long distance touring bike. I would have to think hard as to what bike to bring on a 2-up 3,000 mile tour…
I can sum it up like this:
On the RT, you become part of the machine.
On the ST, the machine becomes part of you.