the magic happens. You get on a bike and it fits,
you ride it off, and it feels perfect, you ride it a bit more,
and you discover yourself grinning like a chocoholic locked
in the Cadbury's factory, this happened to me today!
Let's track back a bit. Last weekend we went
to see the MotoGP circus hit the excellent Donnington track.
While the MotoGP bikes are, of course, an awesome sight, there
are other gems going around the track. Last year we were really
impressed by the Boxer Cup bikes; Overweight and lacking in
power they came flying past us like a squadron of World War
II bombers, or like group of huge mechanical bumblebees. This
year, the Boxer Cup bikes have been replaced by a rather anonymous
new comer; the K1200R (K-who, I hear you say). They've also
had to change the name (for obvious reasons) to Power Cup!
Bikes has never been associated with “Power”.
Sure the M-series cars have been around for donkey's years,
and we all have massive respect for the rather anonymous M3s
and M5’s, it’s Porsche performance with a practical
car-shell. But BMW bikes have traditionally been associated
as overweight, slow, safe and boring, did I really mean to
With this in mind, replacing the charismatic
Boxer Cup with the Power Cup seemed a bit like an anticlimax.
Well, that was until we actually saw the new bikes on the
track. You see, the “anonymous” bikes are the
latest from the guys at BMW Motorrad. Personally I reckon
someone is mixing Viagra into the water at the design studio,
because this is not the traditional BWM Motorrad we used to
know. The K1200R is actually a naked K1200S (K-who, I hear
you say). Not very long ago BMW Motorrad announced a new generation
of K-bikes. K-stands for inline engines. The old K-series
had a longitudinally mounted engine, which actually isn't
that good (unless you want a very long wheelbase bike). The
new K-series on the other hand has a more bike-like transverse
inline four – pretty much like any of today’s
inline fours you get on the super bikes.
The K1200S made it's headline
when it set the fastest lap on the infamous Nurburgring Nordschleife.
It beat Helmut Dahne's old record quite easily, and all that
with a completely standard, shaft-driven, fairly heavy road
Not very long after that, into the ring steps
the K1200R – R standing for Roadster. What the BMW engineers
have done is taken the excellent K1200S, and taken the fairing
off it, and added quite a lot of attitude. In the process
they've lost a bit of power too – being a bit skeptical
about that, I figure that maybe that's just on paper –
you wouldn't want the naked bike to trounce the new King-Of-The-Ring,
would you?! Even with the loss of a few ponies from Bavaria
the K1200R is the most powerful naked production bike, EVER.
Yes, you got it right, it's not a spelling mistake, it's not
a trick on your mind, and it’s not done with mirrors.
It's the most powerful naked production bike, ever. This is
where the “Power”, in Power Cup comes from, there
actually is power.
The figure you've been waiting
for is 1-6-3, yes, one-hundred-and-sixty-three brake horse
powers. 163 bhp. Yes, indeed. That's more grunt than the 2003
Yamaha R1, and yes it’s than the 2002 GSX-R1000, it's
heavier, but still that's an incredible figure.
The bikes we saw at Donnington were truly
amazing, the sound they made was wild, but yet, in perfect
tune. The racers didn't back off the throttle when shifting
up, making the bikes give off a sort of “poofffff”-sound
between changing gears and the magnificent tune of the engine
revving up to 11,000 rpms (yes, a BMW engine that goes over
9,000rpms!). This sound-sensation was combined with the racers
leaning the bikes over more than intended by the designers,
manifested by some of the bikes leaving sparks in the corers.
All these impressions left our jaws dropped.
the race we had many questions, and naturally we
wanted one! Knowing that talk is cheap, I headed over to North
Oxford Garage and cornered Phil and Matt until they handed
over the keys to the black one with silver tank.
Looking at the bike in pictures you immediately see that this
bike isn't designed to be “pleasing to the eye”,
if you're looking for a pretty bike – look elsewhere.
But seeing the bike in the flesh reveals that the bike is
actually much more kind on your eyes. The shape of the bike
is a bit different too, it's long, and very low.
Stick the key in, turn it over to “fun”
and you'll get the LCD display show up a lot of information.
Once the computers come to an agreement that it's time for
the “victim” to push the button, you fire her
up, and you're greeted by an unrefined metallic growl. You
hear that this engine doesn't really like idling, and is begging
you to move it away from its idling-misery. Of course we aim
to please. Sit down on the bike, and you're greeted with a
nice surprise. I'm not a very big person, but I can sit on
it, and keep both of my feet flat on the ground. You're quite
low, but your body is in a relaxed position. Your hands are
not low, but they're still in a position where you feel you're
in control. The buttons and switches are the usual BMW gear
from when the Berlin Wall was still standing proud. Our pet-hate
here at MBT is the over-complicated indicator system, what
others accomplish with a thumb and one switch, BMW require
two hands and three switches!
The first thing you notice
when you pull away is that the bike feels very compact, it
feels very low, and very well balanced, and all this at a
touch over 200kg underneath you, gold star, BMW! Picking up
some more speed you find the whole bike completely un-dramatic.
Bumps are swallowed without any sort of drama. Clutch, brakes,
throttle; they all work without any sort of unpleasant quirks.
In fact, this is where I started to get that homely feeling
that I had been riding this bike before, probably in my dreams.
It started to make sense, it felt right. I was comfortable,
in control, riding a bike with a very responsive chassis.
All this time I've been entertained by a very nice, metallic
sounding engine. The induction nose, sorry, growling, is there
all the time, even at low revs. Wonderful! But let's up the
stakes a bit and get those 163 eager German precision ponies
into the arena. You can ride this bike well below 4,000rpms
at normal pace, the torque is there, and you have nothing
to worry about. But the real fun starts when you open the
bike up properly. The engine thanks you at 5,000 rpm and literally
worships you at around 10,000 rpm! Anyone who's ridden a modern
GSX-R knows how the Suzuki engine barks and growls at you.
They have a deep induction noise. This bike has got a similar
thing going for it except for some reason it makes the GSX-R
seem crude – I didn't think this was possible. The K1200R
sings, whereas the GSX-R just sounds angry. The closest sound
I can think of is an E46 BMW M3 nailing it away at full eagerness
factor, its very addictive, and very beautiful. Ride one,
and go home and write poetry.
I admit that the engine doesn't respond well
to active throttle movements from idling, and it does feel
a bit rough on the really low revs. Maybe a new fuel-map will
sort that out in the future – if not, just rev it more,
you know you want to! Another thing that doesn't feel as refined
as the Japanese bikes is the gearbox. It's fine if you work
the bike actively, but riding along in town the box is a bit
too clunky to get the highest marks.
the more positive side the handling of the bike is
a chapter that needs to be sung with a choir. The Duo-Lever
front forks really work. Unfortunately during my too brief
test ride I was riddled showers, so I didn't really have any
chance to push thee bike through the few safe corners that
I could find, but I assure you that the times I could crank
the bike over and exercise some eagerness, it performed flawlessly.
The front feels really planted, and the bike kept the line
through the corner in a way that only full breed pedigree
can do. You can even grab a handful of brake lever without
upsetting anything. I for one, would love to take this bike
to a track and see what it can do, normal roads just don't
do it justice!
Another first on the new K1200 series is
the ESA, Electronic Suspension Adjustment. This nifty system
allows the rider to alter the suspension on the move. By the
click of a button it gives you the option to toggle between
“Comfort”, “Normal” and “Sport”.
I can hear the skeptics mumble in the back, but you stop now.
This system works. Yes, it really works. You can really feel
the differences between the modes. Riding through town with
the suspension set in “Comfort” gives you a ride
that doesn't transmit all the bumps and manhole covers up
your spine. Switch to “Sport” and you feel the
stones in the tarmac. What I found most intriguing is that
in “Comfort”mode the bike doesn't turn into a
soggy pogo-stick, instead it retains the normal feel, but
with, erhmmm, more comfort. Intrigued by all this I parked
up and kept the engine running and put the suspension into
“Comfort”. I then started bouncing up-n-down on
the bike and I got a very large suspension movement. I then
kept bouncing at the same pace but quickly switched to “Sport”mode
and after a few seconds the bike firmed up and the suspension
movement was reduced to less than a third of the “Comfort”
mode. This means I can ride the bike leisurely down the motorway
or wherever, and keep the suspension on “Normal”
or “Comfort”. If I want to do an overtake or if
I see a nice bend, I can, with the click of my thumb, switch
to “Sport” and feel the tarmac being transmitted
through the bike to me.
This bike is very special.
I was enjoying myself in a way that I haven't done for a long
time. I had a permanent smile plastered on my face and I had
fun, lots of fun! The whole biking experience, the sound,
the exact feeling from the suspension, the controls the wind
and the power made me feel really good.
After my way-too-short ride, I had to hand
the keys back, I really didn't want to, and my face made no
efforts to hide the fact that I had really enjoyed the ride.
K1200R – 1
Journo – Defeated.