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First ride - bmw k1200r

Words: Jocke Selin
Pics: BMW

Sometimes 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 This year, the Boxer Cup bikes have been replaced by a rather anonymous new comer; the K1200R (K-who, I hear you say).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!

BMW 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 say slow!

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 bike.

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.

After 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.

On 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.


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