The 1150R platform is normally mild, but packaged in the Rockster format becomes a canyon carving machine.
The newfound snarl of the R1150R is enhanced by a menacing black and orange paint scheme (also available in lime and black) and a pseudo-fairing cluster that houses a pair of offset headlamps and the instrument panel. Clear turn signals round out the custom appearance and the end result is a rowdy, low-slung Beemer that looks the part of a lean, mean, twisty-eating machine.
The pulse of the Rockster comes from a fuel-injected 1130cc, eight-valve air-cooled Opposed Twin, which utilizes BMW's new-for-2004 Twin-Spark cylinder heads. The German manufacturer claims that using two sparks plugs per cylinder improves gas mileage (hard to believe with an average of 30 mpg during our test) and reduces emissions through more uniform combustion.
BMW's most notable design derivation comes in the form of their distinctly non-traditional chassis. Its tubular steel frame uses the engine as a stressed member, and it has BMW's exclusive Telelever suspension up front and a single-sided swingarm with a hydraulically adjustable single shock out back.
The Ballabio, which derives its moniker from a famous hillclimb in the high plains of Resinelli, Italy, fits the mold of a naked sportbike much clearer than the BMW. The Ballabio's (a less expensive version of the Ohlins-equipped Guzzi Café Sport) most striking features are the elongated blood-red tank and small bikini fairing which covers a single oval headlamp.
The 2004 Rockster is the first bike from BMW to come out with the company's new twin spark cylinder head, claimed to offer more efficient combustion for fewer emissions.
The fuel-injected 1060cc, 90-degree, transverse engine that has its roots in the late '60s is the heart of the Ballabio, and serves as a stressed member thanks to the monobeam frame. The design result is an aesthetic triumph, with the aluminum cylinders and gold exhaust contrasting sharply against the black of the powder-coated crankcase. Sitting atop the mechanical pallet like a cherry is the traditional red Italian gas tank. The Guzzi screams eccentric, Italian styling, and looks like a $25,000 motorcycle when resting on its sidestand.
These two stately gentlemen, as handsome as they appear, aren't museum pieces. When we took possession we couldn't wait to mount the Twins (pun intended) to see how they performed through the canyons, on the freeway, and during regular rides through the city.