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BMW R 1200 R
It's funny how a change of colour and a small injection of attitude can radically transform your perception of a bike. Take the BMW R 1200 R, as an example. The old air-cooled R in its muted paint schemes is a typical example of an 'old' BMW model. It's hard to fault, as 50,000 owners will happily tell you, but there is no way such a drab looking bike could ever get my pulse racing. Fast forward to 2015 and I reckon the new R 1200 R with its red frame and white graphics is one of the best looking machines around. Or am I getting old? This is a naked roadster with a partially water-cooled engine, cutting edge electronics package, inverted forks, radial brakes and 124bhp.
Did I mention the up and down quickshifter? How cool is that! However, the best thing about the new generation of BMW models is that as well as giving them a healthy dose of attitude, BMW has retained the practicality that made the older bike so popular with those less impressed by performance figures. And that's the underlying philosophy behind the R 1200 R. This is a bike that despite looking fairly mean is actually a very sensible and practical machine that can turn its hand to just about any application.
It is built in the mould of the GS, but without the adventure bike styling. Calling it a sheep in wolf's clothing is possibly a little harsh as it still has plenty of go, but this certainly isn't a full on sports naked in the same philosophy as the S 1000 R, something that's reflected in the ride. It's not a slow steering bike by any stretch of the imagination, but BMW has certainly leant more towards stability and poise than outright agility when it comes to the R's handling. You can still barrel along at a merry old pace, but when you get on the gas exiting a bend the bars remain rock solid, helped by a very advanced electronics package. The bike I tested had the optional extra new 'gyroscopic' traction control system.
Very similar to the S 1000 RR's DTC, it alters the level of interference according to lean angle and also power mode. Stick it in dynamic mode and where the stock ASC traction control has a shit fit when the front lifts over a crest, the DTC assumes (rightly or wrongly) you know what you are doing and allows the front to hover in the air and gently return to earth. It's clever enough to know the difference between a surprise abrupt lack of traction and a controlled one, even if the rider possibly doesn't... To be honest, I'm still to be convinced by the up and down quickshifter.
On a race bike around a track it makes sense, on a road bike I still reckon it's more about fashion than function. Unlike the dowdy old model, this new bike looks fresh, exciting and I have to say it, very cool.
The water-cooled boxer engine delivers more than enough performance and although the handling isn't lightning fast, it is certainly capable of charging through a set of bends with haste. And this is a naked boxer that you don't need to make excuses for owning and I reckon will be one of BMW's top selling bikes next year. Behind the omnipresent GS, naturally.
Engine: The partially water-cooled Boxer engine is the same unit as used in the GS, RT and RS models, however the naked bike features a modified airbox, new intake snorkels and a repositioned radiator. Two riding modes come as standard (rain and road), as well as stability control, with the option of adding dynamic traction control that responds to inputs from a gyroscope and three further riding modes (dynamic, pro and user). Other optional extras include an up and down quickshifter, a range of HP accessories and an Akrapovic Sport silencer.
Chassis:The big news for the R 1200 R is that BMW has junked the Telelever front end and replaced it with a proper set of 45mm inverted forks! Great news for riders who can't get their heads around the odd feeling that the Telelever provides, but you don't get any adjustment as standard. The tubular steel chassis uses the Boxer engine as a stressed member and BMW's semiactive suspension (ESA) is an optional extra. The radial brakes bite 320mm discs and come with ABS as standard as well as lightweight 10-spoke alloy wheels.
BMW R 1200 R - image gallery