Our first impressions on the new BMW R1200R were formed on the roads of Southern California on a machine not sporting the new ASC (automatic stability control) system.
The early-release R1200R press bike I was riding wasn't equipped with the optional electronic tire pressure monitoring system (TPM), nor the automatic stability control system (ASC), but thank God the optional on-board computer was installed. How did I previously survive without five ways of calculating my remaining fuel load?
These were some of my thoughts as I rode BMW's new roadster around the roads of Southern California. This latest of the upgraded Boxer Twins has vaulted over the old R1150R to a new level of performance and panache.
But back to BMW's $225 computer. It not only counts down the remaining mileage like the final seconds of a sporting event, its low fuel light also begins threatening the rider 40 miles from empty. I suppose for this crowd, simply checking the odometer or resetting a tripmeter (of which the R1200R has two) when refueling is too menial a task.
The computer's calculations, however, are impressively accurate. With an indicated six miles of fuel remaining, I crammed a full load of gas into the 5.6-gallon fuel tank. Having ridden 248 miles means the R12R was returning 44 mpg - 2 mpg better than what the computer had been telling me all day. I thought the computer was lying because no matter what type of riding I did - around town, freeway, canyon, one-up, two-up or 80 mph in sixth, fifth or fourth gears - I couldn't get the computer to read anything different than 42 mpg. The outside air temperature went up, but I didn't need a computer to inform me of that.
For 2007 the R1200R utilizes BMW's semi-integral ABS braking system, which returns braking pressure back into manual generation.
A seemingly technological step backward is BMW's semi-integral ABS braking system, a $1040 option. Gone are the servo-assisted brakes of previous models for a return to - brace yourself - manually generated brake pressure. Considering the new brakes function like competitive systems while the previous system rendered itself useless without a running engine, these are for that reason an improvement.
BMW went a step further to ensure acceptance of the new system by unlinking the rear brake, meaning an operator can now modulate rear brake pressure independently of the front brakes, a useful resource when maneuvering in close quarters and dragging the rear brake. Applying the front brakes still engages the rear brake, and the ABS system works whether only the front, the rear or both brakes are being applied.
The feel of the new system, however, isn't as noteworthy as its technological pedigree implies. There's no free play in the throw of the front brake lever, making it hard to determine when the brakes are actually engaging. Of course you can feel when the bike begins to decelerate, but controlled manipulation is vague.
The seat on the R1200R left room for improvement in both our tester rider and passenger's opinions.
An uncomfortable seat is a subjective statement, but I wasn't the only one having trouble finding an agreeable posterior position on the 31.5-inch stock seat. My petite passenger and dutiful co-tester, Angela, liked the neutral seating position of the R12R but was unhappy about the seat's density and shape. "The seating position is for longer trips, but the seat is uncomfortable. It makes me question the bike's purpose," she said.
With no grab rails and a tank too far forward for her to brace herself, she had to lean into me in order to maintain a stable riding position. And in the twisties, the neutral position of the passenger pegs made it difficult for her to use her legs for support as opposed to more rear-set pegs that can help lock a pillion in place. BMW does offer taller and lower seats as a no-cost option. Aside from the seat, gripes fade to minor irritations such as an almost imperceptible driveline lash and indents in the tank that impeded my magnetic tank bag from adhering properly.
Riding The Technology
Besides not having TPM ($260) or ASC ($365), our press bike also lacked BMW's $800 electronic suspension adjustment (ESA) and hard saddlebags ($1014) - all of which BMW promised will be available to consumers by February. With no ESA, I removed the seat and cranked up the rear preload before navigating the twists and turns of Southern California's Angeles Forest Highway with my passenger. Together Angela and I worked the rear Continental Road Attack tire to its edge, but only once touched down the centerstand (a $120 option) in a bumpy right-hander.
The lightened R1200R was a nimble handling machine and the comfort factor would have been ratcheted even higher had our test bike been equipped with the optional ESA (electronic suspension adjustment).
The leverage provided by the comfortably positioned handlebars makes quick transitioning easy. The new bike's handling is also enhanced by a significant reduction in dry weight (437 lbs. vs. 514 lbs.). Three of the 77 pounds of lost weight are attributable to the new ABS system.
Finding gears was never a problem, and the gear ratios seem to be expertly chosen. Depending on the severity of corner radius tightness, I selected either third or fourth gear and left the transmission alone until forced to either up- or down-shift. Freeway speeds require no downshifting thanks to R12R's huge increase in claimed horsepower from 85 ponies to 109, a whopping 28% improvement over the previous R1150R. Torque is up from 71 lb-ft to 85 lb-ft. It's basically the same engine as in the versatile R1200RT
The optional sport windshield ($210) affixed to our press machine helped diminish head winds, and is also available in tinted and "high" versions. Other BMW accessories include a GPS system ($1399), chrome-plated exhaust (or a titanium Akropovic system), custom mirrors and a waterproof top case.
So the new Roadster is an unquestionable improvement over last year's model. Hopefully MCUSA will get to test the R12R with all the high-tech gadgetry installed. For now we'll have to make do with heated handgrips ($235) and a technologically redundant, on-board fuel computer.
The R1200R retails for $13,025 in Night Black, Crystal Gray Metallic or the Granite Gray Metallic of our test bike. An extra $250 will get you the black paint job with some slick white pinstripes.
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