I write stuff. A lot of it is about cars and motorcycles.

Test Rides: BMW K1300GT and R1200RT (Updated)

I spent the afternoon test riding both the K1300GT and the R1200RT.  I rode the same route I take to work, which, as I’ve mentioned before, is 1/3 city streets, 1/3 highway, and 1/3 twisty country roads.

Here are my impressions.

Both bikes have far superior handling to the FJR.  It’s not a matter of “hey, this is pretty nice”.  It more a matter of “Holy SH!t!  So this is how a motorcycle is supposed to handle!”  The FJR is a nimble bike for its size, but the handling of the BMWs made the FJR seem like riding a…uh…thing that doesn’t handle as well.

Sorry, the simile well ran dry, there.

The RT handles far better than the GT.  The GT handles really nice, but on the RT, going through the twisties, it was like the bike knew where it was supposed to go without me doing anything.  It runs like its on rails.  It falls right into the precise line you want, just when you want it to.  The GT was as obedient to steering input as you could ask for, but unlike the RT, it didn’t seem to anticipate.  The RT handled like it was reading your mind, not just obeying your inputs.  I think I could ride the RT or the GT equally fast in the twisties, because the RT is a step better in handling.  I just wonder where in the RT BMW installs the demon that reads the road ahead of you and prepares the bike to turn.

The GT has a superbly smooth engine.  It responds instantly to throttle input with no hesitation.  Twist, zoom, “oh, look, we’re doing 110 miles per hour.”  The RT responds much slower, and the Boxer engine has far more vibration.  It also has tons of torque in every gear.  If you’re stopped at a light, leaning on one leg, and you blip the RT’s throttle, the bike stands up straight as the torque hits.  It’s really noticeable.  Still, with the RT, you can sneak up on 110MPH without really trying either.  Just not as fast as the GT or FJR.  The RT engine growls, the GT engine screams.

But I now understand what the RT guys are talking about when the speak of the “character” of the boxer twin.  It growls and vibrates at low RPM, and burbles happily at freeway speeds.  Kick it down to fifth on the highway, twist the throttle, and it passes smoothly.  Shift back up into 6th, and it’ll just cruise along at 90MPH without a complaint.

The GT has a really touchy throttle.  Touch it, and you’re at 6000 RPM instantly.  That’s a bit unnerving at first, and really makes you pay attention to clutch control.  The GT accelerates faster than than the FJR, but there’s something…boring about it in comparison.  It’s as if the GT is saying, “Yes, I can go from 0 to 100MPH in 5 seconds.  Big deal.  It’s what I do.”  There’s all this acceleration, and…it just doesn’t impress you like the FJR does.  I can’t really describe it, other than to say the GT was more boring than I thought it would be, speed notwithstanding.  That was the biggest surprise of the day.  The FJR is just a more fun bike than the GT.  I wouldn’t have thought that would be true, but there you go.

The GT sucks in the comfort department.  The narrow seat just jams itself up your crotch.  It’s every bit as comfortable as sitting on a split-rail fence.  Well, that’s probably not a totally fair comparison.  The GT doesn’t leave splinters.  But other than that, it’s the same.  The pegs are also too high for real comfort.  It’s not different enough from the RT to notice it just sitting in the showroom, but after 45 minutes on each, the seat and higher pegs begin to irk you noticeably.  The FJR is a far more comfortable bike to ride than the GT, but the RT edges out the FJR in comfort.  The RT is Cadillac comfortable.  With the GT, you sit perched on top of the bike, like a canary riding the shoulder of an insane pirate.  With the RT, you feel like you’re inside bike, luxuriously cosseted in a comfy, smooth saddle that gently massages your bum.

Other than sheer acceleration, the RT struck me as a superior motorcycle to the FJR in almost every other way.

Except the rear-view mirrors.  Great mirrors on the GT; in the perfect position.  The RT, on the other hand, has the mirrors set low, giving you a perfect view of the ends of the handlebars.  Perhaps the BMW engineers wanted to be sure you could check your gloves frequently, so you would notice if a bug hit your knuckle armor, causing an unsightly soil on the leather.  Or perhaps to check and see if a flying stone struck your bar ends, leaving behind a nasty scratch on the perfect black enamel.  Because other than that, the rear-view mirrors on the RT are essentially useless.

But, frankly, that’s a fairly minor quibble.

I went into the test rides today, firmly convinced that I wanted a K1300GT.  I rode the RT mainly as a favor to the sales guy who said I really owed it to myself to compare the two bikes.  I came back from the RT test ride with a huge grin on my face, utterly surprised to like everything about the bike.  I came back from the GT test ride thinking I’d rather have my FJR.  I am still a little bit amazed at how much I like the RT, and how underwhelming the GT actually was to ride.

UPDATE: I took another test ride of the R1200RT the following week, and added more detailed impressions of the RT here.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

6 Responses to Test Rides: BMW K1300GT and R1200RT (Updated)

  • Did you see the review this month in Cycle World. It was comparing a K1300GT with the Kawasaki Concours. They liked the Connie better and gave it sport touring bike of the year.

    • No, I didn’t see it. I’m not all that surprised, though. The GT just isn’t a very user-friendly motorcycle, in terms of comfort, or, surprisingly, fun.

  • Hi Dale,

    I am a 54 year old bike rider now and in October/November 2006 I purchased my first R1200RT, strickly ran in the bike as recommended, at about 5000 somthing km while running flat out (230km/hr)up a long hill, at sea level, the engine blew up, right hand cylinder it later turned out. BMW Motorrad led me to belive that it was my fault to an extent, they offered me their demmo RT with 355km on the clock at nost cost although this was a 07 model. I completed the running in procedure to 1000km and proceded to enjoy the bike. Planning on doing a long trip with the ODO at just less than 10,000km I had it serviced for its 10K. 3 days after this service and still not on 10K, running the same hill also flat taps as previous the engine blew, again the RH cylinder with identical damage as the first. After a big fight and quite a lot of money I got a new 09 RT full house, ran it in as previous, blew this motor at less than 3000km, only difference I was on a different hill. Yes, the same cylinder with identical damage as the previous 2 bikes. Completely dishartened as I truely love this machine, I had it repaired kept it for a month after which I traded it in on 1200GS. The GS is a different beast, also good but nothing like the RT. Anyway in this time I found out that BMW are bringing out a new RT,to be released in Germany Nov/Dec this year, it’s apparently top secret, I’ve tried searching the web for any bit of info without any success, I’m waiting in anticipation for it as I know I will have it. Perhaps you know what BMW are doing and could advise me!
    Also please advise if you know about other RT owners blowing their motors, especially the R/H cylinders.

    Regards
    Deryck Siddons
    South Africa

Comment/Email Policy

Any messages transmitted to the administrator(s) or the author(s) of Dale's Motorcycle Blog, whether transmitted electronically or by any other means, may be reprinted at our discretion, and used for purposes of commentary, debate, satire, or humor. Transmission of such messages constitutes implied consent to publicly reprint such messages.