Published on December 13th, 2015 | by Boris
2016 BMW R1200RS RIDE & REVIEW – THE BOXER KING
Let me make this perfectly clear for you. I would hate for there to be any confusion as we move forward through this tale.
BMW’s R1200RS is the greatest iteration of the venerable boxer ever made. This is a bike that is so close to perfect in terms of handling, power-delivery comfort, ease-of-use, and general feel, it is hard to imagine what possible improvements could be made to it.
I know this because I banged out almost 3000km on one. This was not a normal “bike test”; some week-long commute with a few twisty roads on the weekend.
This was a fill the panniers, arm the credit card, and kiss the wife goodbye trip. Seven days. Good miles. Mad roads. Great friends. It’s the kind of trip that makes returning to your normal life hideously unbearable. It’s the kind of trip that tells you everything you need to know about the bike you’re on.
And I could not have had a better bike for the journey. The R1200RS answered every question, fulfilled every need and brought me home goggle-eyed with amazement.
Yes, it’s that good.
I know there’s a trend in the press and among the manufacturers to pigeonhole a motorcycle into some class that’s been invented to help us think about the bike in a certain way. Adventure, sports adventure, sports touring, adventure touring, café touring, sports café, dual sport, boogie sport and probably, coming to a marketing company near you, sexy café adventure touring sport with a beard.
If you care, the R1200RS occupies the sports-tourer category.
I occupy the heavy-set middle-aged bloke who rides a lot category.
We are marvelously compatible.
The RS is, in essence, the R (which I reviewed HERE), but with some additions, to wit, A two-position manually adjustable screen, flashy billet ’bars, a slightly longer wheelbase (maybe a centimetre or so), and a two-centimetre-taller seat. It’s also about five kg heavier.
The motor produces 125 horses and 125Nm at 6500rpm. It’s also got a compression ratio of 12.5:1. These strangely associated numbers make it very rewarding to ride, whether it be commuting, seeking a podium, or dare I say it, sports-tourering.
My belt north from Sydney could be termed Sports-Touring. But only in general terms. It could also be called Death-Racing With Bly’s Ducati Streetfighter, which would be more specific, so let’s call it that, shall we? Or DRWBDS for short.
Other acronyms of interest to you might be the ones BMW has loaded the RS with – ESA, DTC, ABS. All your traction control, stability control and hell-braking is taken care of. Unobtrusively. There are times you actually start to imagine you’re a better rider than you really are. Especially during DRWBDS.
You’ll notice the forks are 45mm USD jobbies. The wondrous (albeit weighty) Tele-lever now only lives on the GS range. It’s road-holding is legendary. The amount of feel it delivers to the rider, not so much. But you’d learn to trust it and ride fast and happy.
Thanks to the electronics, The RS requires no such leap of faith. The normal forks deliver excellent feel, and like I said, you don’t even realise there are electronic rider-assists in the game. Technology has come a long way in a very short time.
And there’s only one radiator, as opposed to the split units on the GS and RT models.
Have I mentioned the quickshifter? Lord, how I love a quick-shifter. This is a good one and felt better than the one on the XR. And it works up and down, but remains happiest when you’re in the mood for rapid transit. Or DRWBDS.
In short, the RS is fully loaded. It’s a technical masterwork wrapped around the traditional boxer donk, which hauls like a train, yet does it in a way that never proves unsettling, terrifying or makes you re-think your throttle inputs.
Mine came with panniers, which were very welcome (and very simple to pop on and off the bike), and of course, BMW offers a full suite of accessories. Including a top box, if you’re that way inclined. I hope I never am.
Comfort levels are superb, as you’d expect, but what’s surprising is that you can be perfectly at ease banging out easy miles one second, then when Bly’s Streetfighter comes hammering past you, you can be swinging off the seat and pretending you’re Marquez. It’s a seamless transition.
I might also mention that the instrument display, a mix of customisable analogue and digital readouts is the best I’ve yet encountered on a Beemer. Ageing eyes be buggered. Though it is instructive to look at the ridiculous speeds you’re doing, it’s nice to not have to peer at them while they shift into focus as you’re engaged in DRWBDS.
My journey allowed me to experience virtually every kind of road…
I got my eye in on the Putty. Damp in places, and hellishly fast in others. That was followed by the suspension testing circuit known as the Singleton to Stroud Bounce. We then made our way into Gloucester, and made ready to essay Thunderbolt’s Way at speed.
Thus far, we had seen no police. Not one. We didn’t really expect to see any, either. Pretty much every Highway Patrol car had been tasked southwards to deal with the ongoing harassment of riders heading to the MotoGP. My friends and I had decided that we would no longer subject ourselves to the heinous behaviour of VicPol and its NSW arm of revenue-raising and saliva-sample-collecting Stormtroopers. So we were heading north, to the Queensland border, to abide in the shade of palm trees, and watch the MotoGP in a nice resort, where girls in bikinis baked themselves an alluring shade of sexy. In terms of police exposure, it was the best call we ever made. In 3000km of mainly quite spirited riding we saw three Highway Patrol cars, who were totally disinterested in us.
I did Thunderbolt’s Way and its ever-challenging bitumen like professional executioner lopping the heads of filthy Huguenots. Efficient, ruthless and with a song in my heart. The RS not only stayed with the Streetfighter, it sometimes even sailed past. What was amazing was that Klink, astride a KTM 690, didn’t explode his motorcycle trying to keep up. I was impressed that he kept it pinned to the stop most of the way just keeping us in sight.
A leisurely lunch in Walcha was followed by a transport stage to Armidale. If the cops were anywhere, they’d be on the New England Highway near Armidale. And so it proved to be. We passed a Highway Patrol in Uralla. Half an hour later, we gave ourselves over to the many joys of getting drunk in a big town full of university students.
There was only one untoward incident, which occurred at 3.30am the following morning. For reasons I cannot understand, the bathroom door in my motel room had locked itself. My need was great, and rather than raise an alarm and smash the door down, I wandered outside to do my business in the garden bordering the street. A garden which was equipped with motion-sensing floodlights. I completed my business illuminated by a million lumens of shame.
The next morning, following a healthy organic breakfast, served by a magnificently pierced hottie, the serious business of riding like mad swine began.
Armidale, Ebor, Dundarrubin, Nymbodia and Grafton – a route as scenically glorious, fast and challenging as anything the Snowy Mountains can offer.
The RS was in its element. DRWBDS all the way. It did not put a tyre wrong. No matter what the road surface did, no matter how many apexes the blind corners provided, I was able to ride faster and smoother than I thought possible.
Bly spent some time looking at the RS when we pulled over to enjoy some quiet time in a rainforest pierced by birdsong.
“Goes alright,” he muttered, nodding at the Beemer.
“I had you like screaming whore on a piss-stained mattress back there,” I grinned.
He grinned back. I’m rarely able to even keep Bly in sight when the fever is upon him. But this time was different. The RS made me better than I was.
The Nymbodia stretch is insane. Parts of it are MotoGP track. Parts of it are roadworks and parts of it are 1960s timber road. All of it was taken, chewed and spat out with ease by the RS. Even those moments when I thought to myself: “Oh now you’re fucked”, I wasn’t. I wasn’t even close. On something less capable, sure. The RS just took it all in its immaculate stride.
But where all that marvellous electronic sorcery really came into its own was on the descent into Nimbin. I’d ridden this recently on the BMW1000XR and some time back on an Indian. Both of those times were instructive and exciting. This time, it was sublime. The road is tight, narrow and the bitumen sometimes piles itself on blind hairpins in waves of death. Tankslappers and crazy cornering lines are the norm. I descended into Nimbin like Christ on a beam of God’s kindness.
A few hours later, we were in the resort at Kingscliff, and the next few days were either pool-side, or carving up the stunning backroads behind the coast.
I must have done the Burringbar Range four times. Once again, the RS danced like a prima ballerina. Not once did I wish for more power. Not once did I think that something was lacking somewhere. On fast sweepers the RS transported me to that wondrous place we all seek and only sometimes find. That place that is stable, smooth and carved from the stone of confidence. Could I have been faster on a sportsbike?
At the expense of comfort anything is possible. Without heated handlebar grips, panniers and a seat made for easy miles, it’s all sticky tyres and lap-times.
That is no longer my happy place. Actually, it was never really my happy place. Sportsbikes demand too many compromises of the rider. Sure, they deliver, but when you’re doing big miles on varied surfaces, do you really need that delivery? Or do you just think you do?
We made it back to Sydney from Kingscliff in 11.5 hours, via much the same route. This included an hour for lunch and half-an-hour for breakfast. And some time spent buzzing mindlessly along the highway north of Grafton because Bly missed a turn.
It’s doubtful the trip could have been made faster on a sportsbike. And I know it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as comfortable.
I like to grin and laugh when I pull over with my friends. Not stretch and moan. It tends to bring the vibe down.
I did a lot of grinning and laughing, and that was entirely due to the R1200RS.
I would buy one over an S1000XR. None of the buzziness and all of the capability. I would buy one over a GS. For starters, it looks better and isn’t as vague about the front-end when pushing becomes shoving.
For mine, this is the Boxer King.
- Type: Air/liquid-cooled four stroke flat twin engine, double overhead camshaft, one balance shaft
- Bore x stroke: 101 mm x 73 mm
- Capacity: 1,170 cc
- Rated output: 92 kW
- Max. torque: 125 Nm at 6,500 rpm
- Compression ratio: 12.5 : 1
- Fuel consumption per 100 km at constant 90 km/h: 4.1 l
- Fuel consumption per 100 km at constant 120 km/h: 5.5 l
- Clutch: oil lubricated clutch, hydraulically operated
- Gearbox: Constant mesh 6-speed gearbox with helical gear teeth
- Drive: Shaft drive
- Frame: Two-section frame, front- and bolted on rear frame, load-bearing engine
- Front suspension: Telescopic Upside-Down fork; stanchion diameter 45 mm
- Rear suspension: Cast aluminium single-sided swing arm with BMW Motorrad Paralever; WAD strut (travel-related damping), spring pre-load hydraulically adjustable (continuously variable) at handwheel, rebound damping adjustable at handwheel
- Suspension travel front/rear: 140 mm / 140 mm
- Wheelbase: 1.527 mm
- Cast aluminium wheels:
Rim, front: 3,50 x 17″
Rim, rear: 5,50 x 17″
Tyres, front: 120/70 ZR 17
Tyres, rear: 180/55 ZR 17
Brake, front: Dual disc brake, floating brake discs, diameter 320 mm, 4-piston radial calipers
Brake, rear: Single disc brake, diameter 276 mm, double-piston floating caliper
ABS BMW Motorrad Integral ABS (part-integral), disengageable
- Length: 2.202 mm
- Width (incl. mirrors): 925 mm
- Height (excl. mirrors): 1.250 mm
- Seat height, unladen weight: 820 mm (rider seat low*/high* 760 / 840 mm) *OE
- Inner leg curve, unladen weight: 1.840 mm (rider seat* low*/high* 1720 / 1875 mm) *OE
- Unladen weight, road ready, fully fuelled: 236 k
Permitted total weight: 450 kg
- Payload (with standard equipment): 214 kg
- Usable tank volume: 18l
- Reserve approx. 4l
You may acquire more details HERE
Click on the brands for more info.
- Helmet: Bell
- Jacket: Segura
- Gloves: Gimoto
- Goggles: EKSBrand
- Pants: Rhok
- Boots: BMW
- Luggage: Andy Strapz
- Tattoos: Tony Cohen, Tom Denholm and some bloke from Thailand