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2014 BMW R1200RT First Ride

Thursday, April 10, 2014
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2014 BMW R1200RT First Ride Video
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Watch the redesigned BMW R1200RT in action in MotoUSA's 2014 BMW R1200RT First Ride video.
 
Arizona and snowstorms don’t quite compute in my brain. But gliding through Oak Creek Canyon, between Flagstaff and Sedona, it’s definitely snow that I am wiping off my visor. Thick white flakes drape the entire windscreen on my BMW R1200RT, as our press ride charges through a brief blizzard. By all rights, I should be freezing, confirmed by the ambient air temperature reading on the Beemer’s dash. Instead I’m actually turning down the heated grips to an intermediate setting, because concealed behind the RT’s fairing and adjustable windscreen, I am as cozy as can be.

The 2014 BMW R1200RT features a completely new engine, replete with electronic do-dads and fancy acronyms to match. Yet it is rider comfort, via ample wind protection and relaxed upright ergonomics that leave the biggest impression during my day-long press ride. The cold never bothered me at all during our 200-mile jaunt through Arizona’s high desert terrain, and I would have happily ridden hours longer on the RT through the snow or rain. So the new Beemer is really, really comfortable… not the sexiest kudos ever declared by a bike reviewer, but a not a bad start for a touring bike.

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BMW hails its new RT as the most versatile luxury touring bike in its lineup. The Riese-Tourer – that’s Travel-Tourer for us Amerikaners – splits the difference between the Bavarian marque’s F800GT Twin and K1600GT Inline Six. The latest generation Boxer Twin, which debuted on the 2013 R1200GS, has made its expected migration to the rest of the R family.

The “precision-cooled” water Boxer, which routes liquid-cooling through the cylinder heads, delivers the identical power gains demonstrated on the GS, including a boost of 15 horsepower (a claimed 125 hp at 7750 rpm) and three lb-ft of torque (92 lb-ft at 6500 rpm). The RT profits from a more robust bottom and top-end, with Beemer engineers also ironing out the peaky mid-range. The RT’s Boxer differentiates from the GS engine with its two pounds-heavier crankshaft and larger alternator, which adds a further 1.3 pounds of rotating mass. The result is added flywheel effect, a trait exhibited on the new-for-2014 GS Adventure.

Twist the grip and the new RT mill reveals its flat power curve, churning out a steady pulse of usable torque. The new Boxer has way more pull than we recall from the old air/oil-cooled RT, and a pleasing top end surge that wasn’t there before. The engine is more refined, with an even flow of power and minimal amount of vibration from the horizontally-opposed Twin. This Teutonic efficiency does come at the expense of some engine character. Curmudgeons will wax wistful about some of the quirks of the now-departed engine, which sounded more playful – maybe. But these critiques are based more out of rose-tinted sympathy for tradition than cold objectivism.

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Fueling and throttle feel from the ride-by-wire system are smooth and glitch-free. The three Ride Modes: Rain, Road and Dynamic, deliver the same hp/lb-ft output but with markedly different throttle response. I found Road the most amenable to sport-touring, with its potent but not-hyper-sensitive throttle. When traffic disappears and the backroad pace increased, the Dynamic mapping exhibits a more engaging engine response – sporty without being harsh. Rain mode features a more deliberate throttle feel – comforting while encountering wet roads during those snow flurries. The Ride Modes also alter settings on BMW’s Automatic Stability Control (ASC) system – with early intervention on Rain, a standard baseline setting on Road and less intrusive setup for Dynamic. In fact, BMW promises minor drifting of the rear wheel is allowed on the latter setting – a claim we did not test.

The Beemer’s six-speed transmission features an optional Gear Shift Assistant Pro. This functions like a quickshifter, but also allows for clutch-less downshifts as well. Open the throttle and rider meets with seamless upshifts sans clutch. Off-throttle downshifts are also smooth, particularly in the middle gears. In practice, I found the application of the Shift Assist somewhat inconsistent – most notably on downshifts, where the fault was mine for not completely closing the throttle. The gear shift assist is a curious addition to the transmission package. I can see the allure to touring riders, as once up to speed the bike can shuffle gears without clutch pull. But the standard clutch operation delivers smoother engagement, and is required at low speeds anyway. It should be noted that the heavy flywheel effect and light clutch make for a forgiving launch, and the RT scoots along at low-speeds far defter than any 604-pound machine should.

The RT also offers another novel feature for its touring clientele in the Hill Start Control system. Riders engage the system by squeezing the brakes on an incline, which activates the rear brake to hold so riders won’t have to hold the brake manually. The system disengages once the rider is up to speed again. I have to confess that I forgot about the Hill Start while riding… I benefited from it, I’m sure, but will have to reevaluate that functionality during a follow-up comparison review.

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Straddling the RT, I stand comfortably flat-footed with my 32-inch inseam. The frame and seat are slimmer than the predecessor, making reach to the ground easier, but the entire bike is 0.8 inches lower to the ground too. This lowering comes from the more compact Boxer layout. The entire riding triangle is lowered, and mimics the predecessor’s upright stance. The standard seat height (31.7/32.5 inch) can further be altered with the optional High (32.7/33.5 inch) and Low (29.9/30.7 inch) options. Because of the changes, the RT no longer requires a special “low suspension” variant for shorter riders.

BMW’s proprietary Telelever/Duolever suspension units are employed on the RT. Our test bike also sourced the optional dynamic ESA with semi-active suspension. It offers three base settings: Soft, Normal and Hard. The suspension is further modified by the three preload settings: Single rider, Single rider plus luggage and a Two-up setting. The ESA settings default with the Ride Modes: Rain/Soft, Road/Normal and Dynamic/Hard. However, riders can adjust the suspension settings on the fly. The semi-active system adjusts compression and rebound, and monitors spring travel via sensors front and rear.

Swapping between Soft/Normal/Hard brings a noticeable change to the bike. Soft is the preferable for low-intensity superslab work – sucking up rough chatter while floating along. Normal and Hard stiffen things up, with the latter firming up the RT into respectably sharp sport-riding trim. Leaving the RT in Soft setting while scything tight corners things can get a little loose, but used in the proper context the suspension settings deliver a composed, balanced ride. The RT’s Telelever front delivers improved feedback than from what I recall of its predecessor, or the old K1300 bikes. It still takes a little getting used to, but once riders gain confidence in the BMW setup, which doesn’t take long, the RT makes for an effortlessly stable mount.

At speed the RT does not feel like 600-pound bike. The neutral-handling RT dips down easy and changes direction with minimal effort. Lowering the bike has dropped the center of gravity, and BMW insists that while the ground clearance is reduced, the RT’s lean angle remains the same thanks to its narrower frame. During our ride we didn’t touch down the pegs or scrape any hard parts, and the RT was game for aggressive riding on the more challenging canyon stretches.

The dual-disc radial-mount Brembo stoppers and steel-braided lines up front do a fine job slowing the RT down. They offer up a pleasing initial bite that is strong without being grabby, and a handful of front brake doesn’t cause the Telelever front to dive down dramatically. The braking package is indicative of the RT as whole – refined yet powerful enough to deliver on its sporty pretenses. Riders are greeted to some pulsing levers and pedals when the always-on ABS engages, but I found the system far from intrusive.

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First and foremost the RT is a touring bike, and rider comfort, as previously already mentioned, is a highlight. Protection from the broad fairing and adjustable windscreen deserve the most credit here. Combined with the strategically placed wind deflectors the RT bodywork creates a virtually turbulence-free riding pocket. I am particularly critical of helmet buffeting from windscreens, and the RT excels in this regard. The screen channels most air around the rider but subtle vents at the base ensure a steadying airflow still cools the rider and helps eliminate backpressure turbulence. There’s no eye-blearing buffeting to be had, and with the adjustable screen riders can dial in their optimal setting.

I found the riding position more than amenable to long-distance journeys. The placement of the one-piece cast handlebar proved ideal for my reach. My legs weren’t cramped by the footpeg placement and my knees nestled snugly under the tank. The new seat is 0.8 inches longer (the passenger perch 0.4 inches longer as well) with the foam padding changed for improved comfort. After 200 miles our derriere lodged no complaint.

Where is the menu for the heated grips and seat... As the day wore on and the temperature dropped to freezing  we actually turned down the heated features with the RTs cockpit so cozy and well protected from the elements.
Searching for the menu settings for the heated grips and seat... As the day wore on and the temperature dropped to freezing, we actually turned down the heat with the RT's cockpit so cozy and well protected from the elements.
The R1200RTs dash features a gorgeously crisp TFT color display.
The RT's instrument console is highlighted by the crisp, backlit TFT display. The Beemer also offers integrated GPS.
The RTs multi-controller and menu button on the left switchgear are intuitive and easy to operate.
BMW's multi-controller on the left switchgear offers intuitive navigation and operation of the RT's various menu settings.
My test bike featured the heated seat option, which offers five settings. Our riding group had been warned not to turn the seat all the way up to Level 5, as a technical glitch in the RT software might not turn off the thermostat. It’s a technical issue that will be fixed in time for consumers by a simple software download by dealers, but hadn’t been updated in our press bikes. That said, I never went above Level 3, and never felt inclined to as the perch was plenty warm. Same goes for the heated grips, which I turned down to the second setting, even with vented gloves and snow falling around me.

Riders manipulate the heated accessories’ settings, as well as the other RT electronic aids, via BMW’s intuitive instrumentation. Menu options are cycled by pressing the left switchgear button, with the sub-menus scrolled and selected by the multi-controller. The rotating multi-controller also commands the optional GPS, which is integrated above the dash as well as the sound system (more on this in a second). But first praise must be lavished on the instrument cluster’s crisp TFT display. The backlit color screen, a prime fit-and-finish feature that is both luxurious and easy to read, displays a host of info on tap including an inset gear position indicator, engine temperature and fuel gauge. The attention-grabbing TFT is flanked by an analog speedo and tach. The GPS navigator, added for a premium $800 asking price, is more difficult to read and a distraction at times – but its integration in the RT’s dash is welcomed for those who must resort to precarious aftermarket solutions to get their GPS mounted.

The RT sports a fully integrated sound system, like its K1600 sibling. A new bass woofer enhances the tones of the onboard radio, Sirius radio (with a one-year subscription included in the RT purchase) and also accommodates iPods and other Bluetooth enabled devices. We tested out the radio during our press ride and the Beemer sound system works just fine – if that’s your thing.

Style-wise BMW always has to tread a fine line when updating its bike models, restyling without upsetting the faithful too much. And I’d reckon the RT is one of the most, if not the most, pipes-and-slippers-y clan within the BMW tribe. I’m partial to the lines on the older RT’s front end, but the new bike ain’t ugly – with the reddish tint of the Ebony Metallic colorway particularly fetching. As always, we’ll leave the reader to draw their own conclusions in the looks department.
As far as storage goes, the integrated luggage is roomy, lockable and easy to open without the key when unlocked. The optional top-case adds another 13 gallons (49 liters) of luggage space, and again was intuitive to operate, with one-step latch opening. The rear view mirrors aren’t dominated by the saddlebag placement, and deliver a decent view of the road behind.

For the BMW riders who don’t give two cents about pricing, feel free to glaze over this paragraph, because costs gets confusing. BMW touts the new RT’s MSRP, which has climbed minimally compared with its predecessor. At $17,650 the base model is $300 higher than the previous model, but includes more in the base package – including steering damper, heated grips, ASC, onboard computer Pro, multi-controller, LED turn signals and two Ride Modes (Rain and Road). At $18,250 the Standard Package RT, which adds cruise control, accessory socket and GPS preparation (though not the GPS unit itself), is actually $100 less than last year’s spec but BMW claims adds $1055 worth of added value. Meanwhile the $20,850 Premium Package pricing is identical to the 2013 model, but adds $1100 of value in options. The Premium package includes all the Base and Standard settings plus Dynamic ESA, heated seats, Ride Modes Pro (adds Dynamic to the base package Rain/Road settings), Hill Start Control, plus the audio system, Tire Pressure Monitors and option for the accessory chrome exhaust. Mind boggled yet by the price/package options? Well, there’s more, as riders can mix and max various special package options (Comfort, Touring Dynamic, Technology and Luxury) to add to the base model. There’s also a $21,700 Fully-Loaded RT package, which we tested, which includes all the Premium stuff, plus Central locking ($400), Gear Shift Assist Pro ($475) and Anti-theft alarm ($395). Our test bike also had the $800 GPS too, as well as the optional top case (price to be determined). Oh, and don’t forget BMW’s standard destination and handling charge of $495. So $23 grand to purchase the bike we tested… Holy smokes, Bring Money With!

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While the RT’s costs compare favorably with its predecessor, its rivals on the sales floor are a different story. The Triumph Trophy SE retails for $18,999, with the Yamaha FJR1300ES $16,890 and Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS $16,199. Those three competitors also jack up MSRP with optional extras and destination charges too, particularly the Triumph, but the Beemer still commands a premium.

Our day aboard the RT left us yearning for more miles, thanks to its supreme comfort, and MotoUSA eagerly awaits a comparison test with its aforementioned proposed rivals. The new Boxer engine updates the RT package with a sportier disposition, which its revitalized chassis is happy to accommodate. But this is not a rocket ship touring bike like the Concours 14, and Beemer riders so inclined are better served by the K1600GT. Instead the RT offers a more subdued and refined riding experience. It’s a thoroughly competent sport-touring platform with luxury features, and the old guard BMW riders should be quite pleased with this new RT.

2014 BMW R1200RT Photo Gallery

On its side the RT tracks steady  its chassis composed and settled. BMW updates its RT for the 2014 model year with the new water Boxer and a revamped chassis and electronics package. The RT incorporates an upright stance with an easy reach to the bars. While the pegs sweep the riders feet back  somewhat  its a comfortable long-distance riding position.
The broad fairing and adjustable windscreen deliver ample protection from the elements  with the strategically placed wind deflectors all but eliminating turbulence inside the rider cockpit. The new water-cooled Boxer Twin is more compact  efficient and powerful. Like rest of the production Boxer R series  the R1200RT is shaft driven.
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2014 BMW R1200RT Specs
The RT comes with integrated saddlebags standard  with an optional top case available as an accessory.
Engine: Liquid-cooled Boxer Twin
Displacement: 1170 cc
Bore x Stroke: 101mm x 73mm
Compression Ratio: 12.5:1
Claimed Horsepower: 125 hp at 7750 rpm
Claimed Torque: 92 lb/ft at 6500 rpm
Transmission: Constant mesh 6-speed gearbox with helical gear teeth
Clutch: Oil lubricated clutch, hydraulically operated
Final Drive: Shaft drive
Frame: Two-section frame consisting of front and rear sections, load-bearing engine-gearbox unit
Front Suspension: BMW Motorrad Telelever; stanchion diameter 37mm, central spring strut
Rear Suspension: Cast aluminium single-sided swingarm with BMW Motorrad Paralever; WAD strut (travel-related damping), spring pre-load hydraulically adjustable (continuously variable) at handwheel, rebound damping adjustable
Wheelbase: 58.5 inch
Tires Front, Rear: 120/70 ZR 17, 180/55 ZR 17
Front Brakes: Dual 320mm disc with four-piston radial-mount Brembo calipers
Rear Brake: Single 276mm disc with double-piston floating caliper
ABS: BMW Motorrad Integral ABS (part-integral)
Seat height: 31.7/32.5 inch (high: 32.7/33.5 inch; low: 29.9/30.7 inch)
Fuel Capacity: 6.6 gallons
Curb Weight: 604 pounds
MSRP: $17,650 (Base), $18,250 (Standard), $20,850 (Premium), $21,700 (Fully-Loaded)
 
BMW R1200RT Power Claims
The new Boxer engine delivers 15 more horsepower and unkinks the previous Twins peaky mid-range.
BMW claims an increase of 15 horsepower from the new liquid-cooled Boxer Twin. The new engine gains power across the board, as seen in these dyno charts, which BMW reps shared during the R1200RT tech presentation to the media.
 
It may have been cold and dicey on the bikes  but the ride through the Black Forest passes was memorable and trouble free aboard the R1200RT.
Hitting snow in the Arizona desert was a surprise, but I also experienced deja vu. When I got back to the hotel in Sedona after our press ride I finally connected the dots... My previous riding encounter with serious snowfall was several years ago in the Black Forest of Germany. My ride? The R1200RT of course, my designated snow bike it would seem. How did I block that out of my memory? Well, that riding tour kicked off with a visit to Oktoberfest in Munich, so... Read more in our touring feature: Beemers and Bier.
 
 

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Comments
MCUSA Bart   April 28, 2014 09:12 AM
Regarding the torque/horsepower graphic. Please note these are claimed power numbers, provided via BMW. We won't have independent power stats until MotoUSA secures an R1200RT for a follow-up review/comparison, when we can then run it on our own dyno. Rear wheel power data from the dyno is generally less than the OEM claims, primarily because they usually measure power at the crank - not the rear wheel. Generally, we have noted a 10-15% reduction of claimed hp/torque when measured at the rear wheel - with shaftdriven bikes, like the RT/GS, closer to that 15%. We hope to have an RT to evaluate by summer. Thanks.
Piglet2010   April 27, 2014 10:56 PM
What people need to understand is that what is presented as torque at the rear wheel on a dynamometer graph is no such thing – it is a value derived from the rear wheel horsepower (RWHP), which itself is derived from the measured values of engine rpm (from the spark plug leads), rear wheel diameter, dynamometer roller speed (to obtain approximate rear wheel rotational speed, since some slippage occurs), and force at the dynamometer reaction arm (used to derive actual rear wheel torque). To present rear wheel torque properly requires a curve for each gear – simple enough since what is presented as RWHP simply needs to be multiplied by the gear reduction ratio.
weitzman   April 19, 2014 09:12 AM
Bart, while you are correct on a second look, it is also coincidentally interesting that by the charts the engine produces about 92kW and 125 NM, which are almost the reverse numbers for peak torque (92 lb-ft) and horsepower (125). 92kW/.746=123.2hp and 125NMx.737=92.1 lb-ft. That is truly coincidental. It actually makes about 93kW, but the charts are too small to discern that kind of accuracy. Sorry for being so quick on the draw. By and large you do a great job. However, you guys do need a little work on understanding torque and horsepower and their importance in motor vehicle performance in general. We can leave that for another day.
MCUSA Bart   April 16, 2014 08:24 AM
Weitzman, you can keep smokin' them socks because you're just fine. I think what's throwing you off is the charts are from BMW's press department and not MotoUSA's usual dyno chart graphic. BMW has the power numbers listed in kilowatts (kW) for horsepower and Newton Meters (NM) for torque.
weitzman   April 15, 2014 06:47 PM
I think you guys have your torque and hp graphs vertical scales reversed or else I have smoked too many of my socks.
MCUSA Bart   April 11, 2014 02:59 PM
OutOfTheBox, our snow storm wasn't a full day of sustained precipitation. The road surface was wet and the snow wasn't sticking, but I was still a little leery about traction. I switched the RT into Rain Mode, kept the throttle steady and had no issues.
OutOfTheBox   April 10, 2014 04:09 PM
"integrated LCD/GPS display", nice. Easy to add on, but still nice to have as OEM equipment. Now my question would be, how much does tire-grip drop off with decreasing temperature? The grips and seat may be warm but I'd still worry about the tires holding the road when it's cold enough to snow.