BMW  R 1200 RT


At the presentation we were told by BMW's Rob Barnes to think about the whole BMW experience, when writing about our test-ride on their R1200RT - and I must tell you, if this is what the BMW experience is all about, then hey... I want to be part of it. Never before have I been so impressed. From the moment we arrived at Jan Smuts Airport, we were looked after by the BMW crew. After having a drink in the British Airways Executive Lounge, we were flown to Cape Town, then shuttled by luxury coach to Franschhoek Country House & Villas for our first over-night stay.

Franschhoek Country House & Villas was great. The lounge of our room was bigger than... errr... it was BIG, with all the trappings of a Five Star Hotel. Luxury like I've never imagined. Heated floors, dressing gowns, slippers, huge white towels, huge stone bath, exquisite taps, beautiful His and Her hand-basins... mind boggling for a southern boy like me.

I could get used to this BMW Lifestyle!

Supper was divine, with things like "Confit of quail spring roll served with pumpkin seed and chive salad", "Warm goat cheese, rocket and courgette tart with minted apple and yoghurt salad and watercress cream", "Roasted loin of venison with potato rosti, sweet potato fritters, fine ratatouille and berry jus", Ja boet... like I knew what all that was about, but it tasted like heaven.

Breakfast was a similar affair, with me wishing I could speak French. Then it was onto the bikes, after all, this is what we came for. I was lucky enough to get the only RT in the group (besides big boss Lachlan Harris's) with ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) and a Radio-CD player, which are optional extras. We then rode through the magnificent Franschhoek mountains, which must be one the best biking roads in the country, changing suspension settings on the ESA, until settling on the 'Two-up, with Luggage, Comfort' setting. I found that the 'Sports' setting was very hard, making life uncomfortable for me and especially Lee, who very quickly asked me to switch to 'Comfort' mode. The R1200RT handles exceptionally well for a bike this size, while still being extremely comfortable for both Lee and myself. We covered over 500 kilometers that day and Lee never complained once (except for me going too fast).

With the 1200RT, the pleasure of the journey makes the destination irrelevant. "Active touring" is more than a slogan - it's a lifestyle which this touring bike puts into action kilometer after kilometer.

Near the top of Tradouws Pass, on the way from Swellendam, to the Country Pumpkin in Barrydale and Route 62.

Cruising on Route 62, with the new R1200RT there is no journey too long, no destination too far.


We rode to The Country Pumpkin in Barrydale for lunch (whew, more great food and hospitality) and then on Route 62, to Ladismith, Calitzdorp, Oudtshoorn, over the Outeniekwa mountains to George and along the shoreline to Knysna, where we stopped for our second overnight at the Pezula Resort Hotel & Spa.

The Pezula Hotel is situated on top of the left Knysna Head, surrounded by a magnificent Golf course, with the ocean on one side, and mountains, Knysna town and the lagoon on the other. The Five Star Pezula (meaning 'on top') is... FANTASTIC. These guys have their own private jet and helicopter to ferry guests around in, this is luxury without compromise... in a Garden-of-Eden. For supper that night we had "Amuse Bouche, Naked Knysna Oysters (with Graham Beck Brut), Grilled Springbok Loin with roast Butternut, Mustard Greens & Samp (with Matzikama Shiraz) and Dark Chocolate Mousse with caramelized Macadamia nut spike & Coffee creme Anglaise (with Pineau de Laborie). 

The next day after a gourmet Brunch, we headed for the George Airport and back home with South African Airways.

I definitely could get used to this BMW Lifestyle!

OK... let's get on with the bike test. Fulfilling the dream of motorcycle travel through active touring BMW Motorrad has always exerted a considerable influence in the touring motorcycle segment. BMW has a worldwide market share of more than 41 per cent. The RT 'Boxer' is the most successful BMW tourer ever. People buy it for it's outstanding ride comfort, long distance capability, fuel economy, performance, excellent ergonomics and luggage carrying capacity.

The new 1200RT is the second model of the new Boxer generation and is predestined to become the ultimate touring machine. It has been improved significantly in all areas. It is more powerful than its predecessor, faster, significantly lighter, has improved wind and weather protection, better fuel economy and an increased tank range (as well as longer service intervals than its competitors).

BMW is expecting much of its existing and loyal customer base of 1150RT owners to trade up to the new machine. However, like the R1200GS, which was launched in 2004, the new R1200RT will capture new market share. Its 'active touring' capabilities will appeal to many riders new to the brand, who have yet to be convinced that a touring motorcycle can also be dynamic, agile and fun to ride.

The new BMW 1200RT, is a lighter and more powerful, long distance tourer. Radically innovative - and not just a cosmetic face-lift with token improvements - the new touring machine adheres to BMW's current philosophy of producing dynamic and agile, lower mass motorcycles without sacrificing traditional BMW virtues of safety, environmental compliance, practicality, and unmatched road holding. The R1200RT replaces BMW's benchmark-setting R1150RT.

With the 1150 model already acknowledged as the epitome of comfort, weather protection, aerodynamic stability, and long-distance touring capability, the new 1200RT builds on its predecessor's strengths and popularity while incorporating a  number of significant improvements.

With 16 per cent more power, propelling approximately 20kg less weight, the 1200RT delivers a considerable boost in performance and provides even greater agility than the 1150RT. Combined with excellent riding characteristics and comfort, more effective protection from the elements, and many other unique BMW practical riding features, the new R 1200RT is destined to become another best seller.

The Air-cooled, flat-twin motor displaces 1,170 cc and features a newly aligned balance shaft, greater power and performance - 81kW (110 bhp) maximum output and 115Nm (85 lb-ft) of maximum torque. The extra power comes from an increase in engine speed, a different intake system, new silencers, and modified camshafts. The power improvements are completed by an increase in the compression ratio to 12:1 by the use of higher pistons. The motor has electronic BMS-K engine management with dual ignition and anti-knock control. The 1200RT has a six-speed gearbox with helical gears, innovative on-board network with CAN-bus technology, a highly stable, tubular construction lightweight frame, a lightweight Paralever with weight-optimised driveshaft, adjustable TDD spring strut, an extra-stiff Telelever ensuring a smooth and comfortable response, new cast wheels. EVO brakes with BMW Integral ABS (partly integrated version) fitted as standard. New body design with good wind and weather protection, featuring integrated rear-view mirrors. Electrical windshield with continuous progressive adjustment. Fuel tank made of special, extra-strong synthetic material - 27 litres capacity for long range. Two-piece, adjustable seat in two versions with a seat height ranging from 780-840 mm. New hard-shell cases (32 litres volume per case) fitted as standard, with four-point locking system and case covers finished in body colour. Fuel tank railing for fastening accessories with maximum convenience. Weight in road trim (without cases) 259kg. Dry weight (without cases) 229kg.

What more could a man want... the open road, a hot chick and a great touring machine, the BMW R1200RT.

The BMS-K electronic engine management features anti-knock control and separate oxygen sensors that control the fuel/air mixture to each cylinder. As on the 1200GS, the latest generation of engine electronics combines automatic idle speed control with an automatic cold start function. The anti-knock function allows the engine to run on lower fuel grades, as basic as 95 RON without suffering damage (the engine is designed for 98 RON, but the only difference when running on 95 RON is a slight decrease in engine output. Precise adjustment of the fuel/air mixture to each cylinder, together with the high compression ratio and dual ignition, ensures even better fuel economy than on the former 1150 model. In comparison, fuel consumption of the 1200RT at a steady 120 kph is 4.8 ltr/100 km.

A completely new innovation on the 1200GS is the helical-gear transmission, which weighs only 13kg and also features in the 1200RT. The gearbox has been improved once again by detailed optimisation of the shift mechanism so that shifting gears is smooth and precise. This is characterised by the extra-short gear travel between gears. Designed for active riding, sixth gear is especially short and therefore dynamic. The optimum gear increments enable fast acceleration from 0-100 km/h in just 3.6 seconds.

Conceived and designed strictly for road use, superior comfort and superlative road holding, the Telelever has a fixed tube measuring 35mm in diameter. In conjunction with the modified longitudinal arm and suitable geometric adjustment, resulting in near perfect balance of sporting and comfort-orientated spring action. As on the GS, the maintenance-free system is designed to reduce brake dive to virtually zero, contributing to greater stability when applying the brakes and leaning into corners. Front-wheel spring travel is 120mm.

Rear-wheel suspension - the Evo-Paralever and TDD spring strut. The lightweight drive shaft featuring the BMW Paralever (Evo-Paralever) is hardly heavier than a conventional swing-arm with a chain drive. Apart from the modifications required for wider tyres, this wheel guidance system has been carried over completely from the R1200GS, and despite less weight, the entire unit is even stiffer than on the former model.

Situating the support bar on the rear wheel drive housing, above the swing-arm, provides extra ground clearance, and a 10 per cent weight reduction reduces un-sprung masses. This translates into a smooth and sensitive response at all times and load change reactions are reduced to a minimum. The newly designed rear wheel drive features a 50mm hole drilled through the axle tube in the housing. A further advantage is the lifetime fluid filling, which means that there is no necessity to change the transmission fluid for the entire life of the motorcycle. The spring strut system was featured for the first time in 2002 on the R1150GS Adventure, with spring travel at the rear measuring 135mm. As an option, the 1200RT will be available with BMW's ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment). Introduced on the K1200S, the system enables the rider to adjust the spring base and damper rate - the latter even while riding - by pressing a button located on the handlebar.

The newly developed, extra-light cast aluminium wheels in almost filigree five-spoke design, combine easy care with superior strength and stiffness. The front wheel measures 3.5 x 17 and the rear wheel 5.5 x 17. Tyre dimensions are 120/70 ZR17 at the front and 180/55 ZR17 at the rear.

The proven EVO brake system featuring BMW Integral ABS (fitted as standard) offers better safety under all conditions. Maximum, easily controllable braking by using minimum force provides additional safety - especially when braking in an emergency. To meet customer demands, the new R1200RT comes with partly integral ABS for an even more active style of riding. Diameter of the front brake discs is 320mm. To reduce un-sprung masses and allow an even higher standard of brake precision, the diameter of the rear brake disc is 265mm as opposed to 276mm on the former model. Woven steel cladding on the brake hoses and brake calipers are stiffer than on the former model. This has resulted in a slight decrease in weight, but provides a more precisely defined and consistently stable, brake pressure point.

With fewer cables than ever, the new on-board network ensures a high standard of reliability plus an even wider range of functions. The single-wire system transmits all relevant data via one single wire to the respective control units. Physically, it is a double-wire system with CAN-bus (Controller Area Network) technology consistently interconnecting all control units and the central vehicle electronics (CVE) to form a permanent data network - the various units exchanging data with each other. Apart from simplifying the main wiring harness it also allows efficient, comprehensive diagnosis of all functions. A further advantage is that the system no longer requires conventional fuses. CAN-bus technology automatically switches off the suspect component - where possible - and checks whether the function is still defective when the rider again starts the motorcycle. The network also serves to feed all data to the dash display on the info-flat-screen. To easily adapt and integrate electronic accessories into the on-board network, there is a plug for special equipment. The lightweight alternator supplying the power required by the motorcycle has an output of 720W at 60 amps. The 19 ampere-hour battery is maintenance-free.

BMW's electronic immobiliser is an integral part of the modern on-board network. Making life very difficult for the potential thief, this security system offers the best technology currently available to prevent unauthorised use of the machine. The authorised rider benefits from a high standard of convenience - all that is required is to pull the key out of the ignition; the immobiliser intervenes in the engine management software and deactivates fuel-injection and ignition. When the rider next wishes to start the engine, a chip in the key compares its data with engine management data to determine compliance. Once the proper match has been established, the engine control unit switches on the ignition and the rider can start the engine. Instruments - everything clearly in sight. The easy-to-read, all-new instrument panel provides a clear view of all relevant functions and ensures clarity at all times. The control panel comprises the speedometer and rev counter in analogue, classic round design, as well as an extra-large info-flat-screen placed conveniently in the centre. This has a permanent display of the oil temperature, tank level, residual range on the fuel remaining in the tank, the gear currently engaged, and the current time. If the motorcycle is equipped with (optional) seat heating, the info-flat-screen also informs the rider of the current heating level. An on-board computer, completes with an oil level warning unit, comes as an option, and provides information on the info-flat-screen. The Leeds monitoring of all other functions are sited just above the screen, with instrument illumination controlled by a photocell that automatically adjusts to light conditions.

For optimum illumination of the road ahead, the main headlight incorporates free-form surface technology featuring geometrically optimised surface contours. Two H7 headlights provide a dual low beam, and the central bulb guarantees a powerful and bright high beam. With an output of 2 x 5W, the parking light is integrated into the headlight unit, is finished completely in clear glass look and has a polycarbonate front lens. All components are easily accessible for the quick changing of bulbs, and the headlight may be adjusted by using a folding lever while the motorcycle is at rest.

The controls, handlebar switches and reservoirs for the hydraulic brake and clutch fluids have been carried over from the former model. A new feature is the lifetime clutch filling, which means that the rider never needs to top-up the fluid level in the clutch reservoir. Grab width on the clutch and brake levers is variable - the RT retains the specific switches and direction indicator control units typical of BMW. Only slightly modified with a different surface finish, the handlebar is almost exactly the same as on the former model.

The new BMW RT is unmistakable at first sight. Clear lines and striking surfaces ensure a modern and dynamic look while exuding a touch of class and a notable perfection of finish. The look of the R1200RT accentuates the sheer lightness of the machine - despite large fairings that provide great protection from wind and weather. Dominating the front of the R1200RT is the headlight. Its sharp contours give the motorcycle a truly unique look and powerful presence. Extra-large rear-view mirrors, with integrated direction indicators, not only provide excellent visibility to the rear but also give the rider's hands highly effective protection from the elements. Compared with the windscreen of the R1150RT, the new screen is higher and wider and has infinite electrical adjustment. The effective height of the windscreen may be adjusted by up to 140mm reducing noise and ensuring that riders of any size have optimum protection from all elements.

Entering the Franschhoek Pass, after leaving the Franschhoek Country House and Villas.


The new, comfortable seat of the R1200RT is divided into two sections with a manual height adjustment of the rider's section - either 820mm or 840mm. A lower seat is available as an option and this adjusts to a height of either 780 or 800mm. The particular layout and configuration of the 'ergonomics triangle' comprising the footrests, seat and handlebar, ensures a particularly comfortable seating position for long-distance riding comfort. This gives the rider and passenger a comfortable and convenient knee-bend angle. The variable seat height will adjust to the rider's exact step-arch length - a new dimension introduced on the R1200GS. The R1200RT enables riders to put their feet firmly on the ground, more easily, for easy manoeuvering.

The BMW R1200RT has newly designed hard-shell cases as standard. The case supports are integrated almost completely into the body of the motorcycle and provide a perfect match. High-quality case covers finished in body colour make the cases an integral element of the motorcycle. A strong and secure locking system acting on four different points keeps the case covers exactly in position and reliably seals the contents against water. The capacity of each case is 32 litres. Ample storage space for additional luggage is provided by the newly designed luggage rack, which will accommodate two top cases (capacity 49 or 28 litres). The smaller top case is finished entirely in black, while the larger case features a black lower section and a cover in White Aluminium Metallic. An integrated railing on the top of the tank holds a specially developed tank bag securely in position. In addition there are a number of lashing points for extra luggage.

The retail price of the R1200RT is R125,000. While the Electronic Suspension Adjustment ESA will cost R5,500.

Pezula... meaning "on top", is the best hotel I've ever had the privilege of being spoiled in,

absolute luxury, fantastic cuisine, in the most beautiful surroundings and very obliging staff.

and of course the bike... also luxurious, beautiful features and very obliging, even 2-up with kit.

Fantastic lights in front (and the rear).

What more can I say...  the BMW lifestyle is to way to go, case closed!



Max output kW/bhp: 81/110 at 7,500 rpm
Max torque Nm: 115 at 6,000 rpm
Configuration Flat-twin Four stroke
No of cylinders 2
Compression ratio/fuel grade 11.0/premium
Valve/gas control HC (high camshaft)
Valves per cylinder 4
Intake/outlet diameter 36/31 mm
Fuel supply BMS-K
Alternator W 600
Battery V/Ah: 12V/14Ah maintenance-free
Clutch Single-plate dry clutch, diameter 180 mm
Gearbox Six-speed
Final drive Driveshaft
Type of frame Tubular spaceframe, engine load-bearing
Front suspension BMW Telelever
Rear suspension BMW Paralever
Suspension, front/rear 120/135 mm
Wheelbase 1,485 mm
Brakes Front: Double disc brake, diameter 320 mm
  Rear: Single disc brake, diameter 265 mm
  BMW Integral ABS (partly integral)
Wheels Cast wheels
  Front: 2.5 x 17
  Rear: 4.0 x 17
Tyres Front: 110/80 H 17
  Rear: 150/70 H 17
Length, overall 2,230 mm
Width, overall, with mirrors 905 mm
Seat height 820/840 mm
Weight, unladen and with full tank 289 kg (259 kg without fuel)
Fuel tank 27 liters
Fuel consumption 3.61 ltr/100 km @ 90 km/h
4.81 ltr/100 km @ 120 km/h
Acceleration 0-100 km/h in 3.6 sec.
Standing-start km in 25 sec.
Top speed 225 kph



Thanks to Rob Barnes, Cora Forssman and Lachlan Harris of BMW South Africa

for the great ride, on a great bike and the truly great hospitality.