BMW R1200R: The R that Resonates

It’s German, but the BMW R1200R roadster is the Swiss army knife of bikes

This could quite possibly turn out to be the shortest review ever published, short of a tweet. It took all of five minutes after jumping on and riding the new 2015 BMW R1200R to decide that this is absolutely the right bike for me at this point of my “middle-aged” life.

Browse through BMW Motorrad’s websites and you get a sense that BMW does a solid job curating the lifestyles around the bikes that they create and produce. Maybe it’s the other way around, that the engineers have a very good relationship with the marketing folks. Whatever the case, the R1200R resonates with me like no other bike in the Motorrad stable. The other iterations of the boxer engine layout, and there are plenty, are more focused in their use. The closest one to the R1200R is the recently launched RnineT.


The custom bike scene is really big right now. So, naturally BMW launches a bike that is begging to be cut up and modified. I generally love the idea of this, but being oriental means I don’t have genes to grow that hippy beard found liberally all over their marketing materials. The big RT and GS may share engines, but they are more focused bikes, one being a long-range tourer and the other an adventure bike, neither something I personally see myself doing.

So the R1200R fits me like the proverbial glove, here’s why.

No one needs a scalpel

r120013The BMW R1200R is a bike for all seasons. A proverbial Swiss-Army knife, this bike does it all. Need a quick jaunt into town? No problem. The low center of gravity and the polite handling manners makes lane splitting easy, assisted by a light clutch pull and a very tractable motor. Want to go on a road trip? No problem. Slap on some luggage (BMW options) and go. The smooth but willing motor, and comfortable ride you can easily keep riding till you need to stop for fuel.

I personally find the horsepower wars between manufacturers tiresome. Each manufacturer takes turn to up the ante, producing bikes with higher and higher engine outputs (BMW is just as guilty here with their S1000RR), and it is starting to feel quite like a locker room dick measuring contest. As is always the case, it’s the quality of those “inches” that count, and the R1200R delivers.

r120010Feel like having a spot of fun? The R1200R will carve canyons with the best sports machines. To tell you the truth, I could never understand how my riding buddies in those big unwieldy GS adventure bikes would simply annihilate the corners up Genting whilst I struggled in what I assumed should have been a superior canyon carver. Needless to say, I now understand. Somehow, those big jugs on either side of the bike lower the center of gravity making cornering surprisingly easy. Coupled with the brilliant electronically modulated suspension and the generous wheelbase, the R1200R is an easy steer, holding its line brilliantly without any real need to feed an extra dose of counter-steer through its wide handle bars.

Everything but the sidecar

r12004The new R1200R is new in every way. The old model was air-cooled and ran a Telelever fork. With the new water-cooled 125hp (up by 15hp) engine, the presence of a radiator means the Telelever front suspension would have to be replaced by a conventional upside down fork. I haven’t sampled the previous fork design, so I cannot comment or tell you if the new set up is better. But from what I can tell, the optional “Dynamic ESA” (for Electronically Modulated Suspension) suspension is superb. Setting up the suspension to handle different loads is a simple press of a button and choosing between “Road” and “Dynamic” (harder) modes is just as simple. I kept on “Road” most of the time, only flicking on to the harder setting on smoother highway pavements. My feeling is that the suspension is perfectly judged right out of the box and I would be hard pressed to improve it, but if you must, there is a “User” setting that allows you to personalize the ride to exactly the way you want it to be.

r12008Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) that comes standard on the R1200R gives the rider three different modes. “Rain” blunts the power delivery, “Road” gives me the impression that we get the all the ponies the liquid cooled boxer can muster and then there is “Dynamic” which gives the otherwise powerful but placid nature of the bike a bit more bite. The test bike was also fitted with “Gear Shift Assist” which allows the rider to switch up gears without rolling off the accelerator or using the clutch. This feature however doesn’t work so well at lower revs and speeds, it can be get jerky. Full bore upshifts are perfect otherwise.

The model I tested came with Keyless Ride. Leave your key fob in your pocket, climb on board, press the start button and go. A feature not appreciated until you have it, then you wonder why other manufacturers still rely on that archaic key to get your bike started.

r12003Like any BMW worth its salt, the R1200R provides every owner with a long list of options. From a Bluetooth enabled GPS, a plethora of luggage pannier styles, fancy milled aluminum foot pegs, fly screens, different seat heights to a louder Akrapovic exhaust muffler, you can literally go nuts for as long as your bank account allows. And of course, there’s also the official protective wear.

I reckon I will leave the bike pretty much factory standard when I do buy one, because you don’t really need to improve it much more.

Some room for improvement


r12005Not everything is perfect about the R1200R. For one thing, the newly designed instrument panel is a bit of a mess. There’s just too much information, which makes reading it highly challenging when in motion. The big analog speedometer is barely legible at speed and the digital tachometer is tiny and almost useless. I’d swap the tachometer with the speedo. The newly launched (in Europe) S1000XR Adventure bike has an instrument panel that looks exactly like what I would like it to be.

Another thing that I hope BMW would improve on is the compound of the front brake pads. At low speeds, something that is unavoidable in KL, the front brake snatches causing the forks to dive too easily, thus marring the otherwise perfect maneuverability.

Raiding the piggy wombat bank

As already revealed, I am quite enamored by the new R1200R and I will have to go raid my son’s piggy wombat bank soon to be able to afford it. Starting from RM98,900 (OTR without insurance), ownership of the BMW roadster doesn’t come easy. For the price, you do get a bike that can really do it all. Plus, the fact that all official BMW Motorrad imported bikes come with arguably the best buying and after sales experience.

r12002BMW R1200R

Price: RM98,900 (incl/ GST, w/o insurance)
Engine: 1170cc, liquid-cooled flat twin, DOHC
Output: 125hp @ 7,750rpm; 125Nm @ 6,500rpm
Frame: Tubular steel with bolt-on rear frame
Suspension: 45mm inverted fork (FF), single-sided swing-arm (RR)
Brakes: 320mm discs, 4-piston calliper (FF), 276mm disc, double-piston calliper
Wheelbase: 1,515mm
Fuel tank: 18 litres