2002 BMW K1200RS Requiem and Review

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k1200rstrackdayAfter just over a year of ownership and 36,000 kms or so my K1200RS is no more due to a rather serious partially airborne incident. After riding a bike for 36,000 kms you get to know it pretty well and as part of a semi-spiritual farewell to the bike and to ward off the sheer boredom of being injured and on the couch a lot I though I’d write up a long-term review of the K1200RS.  But without all the tragedy…

One word can be used to sum up the K1200RS and that word is “smooth”. The engine is smooth, the power is smooth, the ride is smooth, the bodylines are smooth, the style of the bike is sculpted and smooth, the build quality is slick, tight and smooth, and the idle is… not smooth. It idles like a Massey-Ferguson running semi-congealed fat from a Burger King as fuel. The only other bike that idles worse would be one running a BMW R type engine. Beyond being smooth, the bike itself has a lot else to it.

Depending on who weighs it the K1200RS comes in near a hefty 650lbs on the scales. To its credit though the moment the throttle is twisted to anything beyond walking speed and the weight really just disappears and an issue. Many would point at the tele-lever and para-lever suspension set up and the low-slung engine and say the engineering deals well with the weight. I prefer to believe that the weight is shunted thru a German engineered dimensional portal for later use – that later use seems to be the handling in tight twisties. It’s a pity they didn’t use this technology to add more space to the left bag where a considerable chunk of space is consumed by the pipe.

Stationary or moving the bike has a smooth and sculpted design that leaves you with an urge to put it on a rotating platform in your front room with a spotlight on it, provided you’ve reinforced the floor. This is not to say it’s pretty, no it is a handsome bike. Everything about the design says smooth, stylish, masculine and powerful; and these words don’t just apply to the design, they apply to the engine too.

The K1200RS has power, 130 horses claimed and up to 136 depending on the dyno test. And all these horses are smooth, efficient, athletic beasts, Royal Lipazazn Stallions perhaps. None of them are untrained or pulling frantically, they all work in unison efficiently pulling… and the pulling some more. They are well-trained horses indeed, but they are not particularly exciting and they are all very quiet. The engine note at idle is like a shaking bag of gravel, at a consistent speed a non-existent vibe free whir and under acceleration a muted growl. There is nothing for the senses here, it’s all been refined out into something smooth.

To use the word again the suspension is “smooth”. The ride is plush at times, no matter how much you crank up the settings for preload and rebound. Plush, smooth and vague. The front tele-lever suspension leaves you well insulated from the road, to the point of having to have faith. Too ride a K1200RS hard you put your faith in a group of far away engineers who thought up the tele-lever suspension about 7 years ago, because the suspension tells you nothing about the road except it is still there. This refined feeling free set up is a poor set up for sport riding, but exceptional if you feel inclined to ride to NYC for desert.

One downside to the suspension for the K1200RS is fatigue. It tires out at around 25000 kms, at which point the ride quality starts to diminish and you can be guaranteed to start scraping hard bits in a non-heroic manner on the twisites. Though admittedly this bike does scrape a lot sooner than most, aggressive riding will see you touching your peg feelers, pegs, and center stand. Oh and all that weight that disappeared into an alternate dimension, you’ll find it again in the twisties. The bike is not flickable, but it is huckable; which still makes for an enjoyable ride in the tight stuff, and a good work out.

Now back to the smooth. On a bike this smooth you will encounter issues that you are unlikely to find on other bikes; like forgetting to shift. Suspended from the frame and rubber mounted you don’t feel the engine, so you need to use your gages – a lot. For some time I found myself forgetting to shift above third on the upper levels until I bounced off the rev limiter. The engine does not communicate with you or the rest of the bike.

Oh, yes, the rev limiter can be shocking. The sudden, abrupt and almost over the bar cut of power can make for a very startling and panicky pass if you haven’t been shifting rapidly and watching your gauges.

On other bikes you go for a ride, on a K1200RS you are going on a mission with a partner who is a refined muscular German co-conspirator who refuses to chit-chat. He’ll get you to your destination quickly, safely and in comfort, but he’s not a lot of fun along the way. He’s almost too refined.

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