2010 BMW R-Series Motorcycles

By far the most popular search that leads people to this site, is a search for the rumored variants of the BMW R1200RT for 2010, such as “R1300RT”, or R1250RT”.  Everyone seems to want to know what the 2010 version of the BMW R-bikes are going to be.

Well, now we know.  It’s the R1200RT, and R1200GS.

2010 BMW R1200RT
2010 BMW R1200RT

BMW announced today that the 2010 R-Series bikes will all sport a DOHC Boxer motor derived from the Hp2 Sport.  Unlike the HP2 Sport, however, the R Engine will rev lower, and put out less horsepower.

So, the horsepower figure for the R-series Boxer will remain unchanged at 110HP, but torque will increase by 3lb-ft to 88lb-ft at an unchanged 6,000RPM, for faster acceleration.  The redline will increase to 8,500 RPM from the current 8,000rpm.

The R1200RT will receive an updated fairing and windscreen, designed to offer better wind protection.  The instrument panel has also been updated, with redesigned instruments and a visor to help keeps the sun’s glare off a bit better.  Also updated are the handlebar controls, with the old-style paddle turn signals on each side being replaced by standard turn signals.  An additional control is a rotary thumbwheel on the left handgrip to allow the rider to cycle through all the stereo options without taking his hand off the grip.  The stereo itself gets rid of BMW’s CD player, although a jack is provided for external audio sources.

2010 BMW R1200GS
2010 BMW R1200GS

TheR1200GS is visually unchanged from the previous year’s model, except for the cylider covers, which have two bolts, instead of four.  The new engine, on the other hand also gets the 110HP output, and increase of 5 horsies over last year’s.  There’s also an accessory LED headlight for a few extra bucks.

Overall, the change to the DOHC engine doesn’t provide as much oomph as I would have expected, considering that the HP2 engine actually puts out 130HP in the HP2.  I would’ve thought that BMW would have added more ponies to the R-series boxer, rather than upping the torque a bit.

I’m also a little disappointed in the new styling for the R1200RT.  I think last year’s version looked better, and came in better colors than white, beige and two-tone gray and white.  Overall, I suspect that GS afficionados will be a bit more pleased with the 2010 update than their RT brethren.

There’s tons of detail available from BMW about the new models in PDF format, which you can acquire here for the GS, and here for the RT.

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Motorcycle.Com’s Best of 2009

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The annual march of media bike choices continues, with Motorcycle.com weighing in with thir top picks of the year.  Their choices are interesting, and a bit different than I would have expected.

Triumph Street Triple R: Motorcycle.Com's Bike of the year for 2009.
Triumph Street Triple R: Motorcycle.Com's Bike of the year for 2009.

For the overall bike of the year, they picked the Triumph Street Triple R.

Best Sportbike honors go to the Kawasaki ZX-6R, with the runner-up being the Honda CBR1000RR.

The Ducati Monster 1100 gets the nod for best standard motorcycle, with second place going to the Harley-Davidson XR1200.

The best cruiser pick is the all new Triumph Thunderbird 1600, with the Suzuki Boulevard M90 taking an honorable mention.

The award for best touring bike goes to the BMW R1200RT, closely followed by the Honda Gold Wing.

BMW also take both first and second place spots for sport-touring, with the K1300GT winning, and the F800ST getting the honorable mention.

BMW stays in the winner’s circle for best off-road bike, with the top honors going to the F800GS, and the second spot going to the Aprilia SXV/RXV 5.5.

They also have picks for best eccentrics, scooters, technology, and more, so why not go there and read them?

Another BMW Rumor

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I‘ve been seeing this pop up for the last few days.  Oberdan Bezzi is an Italian motorcycle designer.  Sometimes his notions of what a future bike model would look like are just that: notions.  But, he is a guy who has some hooks into the major bike shops in Europe, so, sometimes, he’s spot on.

Oberdan Bezzi's BMW GS12500R Concept.
Oberdan Bezzi's BMW R12500GS Concept.

In this particular case, the rumor is that BMW is working on a 12500cc successor to the current 1200cc boxer in their R-Series bikes.  It would give the bike maybe, what, 10-15 more ponies, and an extra lb-ft or two?  And, it would keep in tradition with past incremental shifts for the R-Bikes, from the 110 to 1150, to 1200.  maybe it;s shave a few punds of weight off, too.  I dunno.

If I was BMW, though, I’m not sure why I would.  Instead, I think the move towards the HP2 boxer engine, with the dual overhead cams would be a better move.  They already get 130HP out of that engine.

Of course, if you bumped up that engine to 1250cc, you’d probably get to 140+ HP out of it in the HP2 series.

And, lets’ not forget my previous trip down BMW rumor lane, which is that there will be a 1300cc HP2 boxer, and it will go into the RT and GS.

Decisions, Decisions…

With the money from my insurance settlement coming, I really am trying to figure out what to do.  I know I’ll pay off my FJR, but beyond that, I’m not sure which direction to go.

I rode the R1200RT, and absolutely loved it.  But I’d have to trade in my FJR to buy it outright.  I’m also really interested in a Buell 1125r, and I can get an ’09 white/blue one for a pretty good deal.  Good enough so that I can keep the FJR, and buy an 1125r outright.  I have a test ride scheduled for next Saturday on the 1125r.

Assuming I like the power and handling of the 1125r, I’m really in a quandary about which way to jump.  The Buell is the only sportbike that has ergos comfy enough for me to ride regularly, but, on the other hand, the BMW has all those cool amenities like cruise control, ASC, ESA, etc. that I miss on the FJR.

This may be my only chance to get a new bike with someone else’s money, and it’s a very hard decision to make.

Another R1200RT Test Ride

I took a trip down to San Diego BMW Motorrad today to see what kind of deal they’d give me on a R1200RT, so I could compare and contrast it to North County BMW.  Turns out that they want to do a deal a little more than North County does.  Not only did they offer me a black RT with a couple of more options than the one at NC BMW, they offered me more for the FJR, and came up with a deal that cost $900 less.  So, if I buy one of these things, I think San Diego BMW is the place to go.

Anyway, while I was there, they offered to let me take another RT test ride, which, of course, I did.

This time, since we were in the urban setting of San Diego, I did some different things with the bike, and tried out some of the options a bit more, so I could get a better feel for the details, instead of the overall impression, like I did last week.

Handling in the city was still fantastic, of course.  For a 571 lb bike, it really is flickable.  On the FJR, I feel like I need to lean down a bit over the tank to lower my center of gravity a bit to get the bike into a more maneuverable attitude.  That just isn’t necessary with the RT.

I went down the long open stretch of Kearny Villa Road.  There’s no cross traffic, it has a 65MPH speed limit, and it’s a bit of a bumpy road for some reason.  It was the perfect place to try out the ESA option.  On the sport setting, the suspension transmitted every bump in the road right to the seat of your pants.  But push the ESA button to set it to “Comfort”, wait about 10 seconds for the suspension to adjust, and all the little bumps in the pavement just disappear.  It had a really nice, smooth ride, even on a relatively bumpy stretch of road.  So, the ESA really does work as advertised.

I also found an empty parking lot to try out some slow-speed maneuvering in.  The handling of the RT shines just as well at slow-speed, tight maneuvers as it does on the twisties.  Give it some gas, find the friction point on the clutch, apply some trail-braking, and you can do lock-to-lock figures 8 with no problem at all.

This is in sharp counterpoint to my FJR AE.  Since the AE has an auto-clutch, you have to keep the RPMs above 2500, and apply lots of trail braking.  This really requires very fine throttle control, because if you let the RPMs drop too low, the clutch kicks in, and your trail-braking is instantly transformed to “stop now” braking, right in the middle of your lean.  This is not a good thing.   At very slow speeds, the RT is supremely controllable in comparison.

I really can see why cops love the RT as a police bike.  It’s very confidence-inspiring, and makes you look like a better rider than you are.  It rewards you for doing the fundamentals right, and doesn’t require you to learn quirky little compensatory riding habits to make up for the bike’s shortcomings.

Airflow management is quite a lot better than the FJR.  Even with my Scorpion EXO-1000, which is a sort of noisy helmet, the RT is noticeably quieter with the windshield at the lowest position.  At highway speeds, you can bring the windscreen up to the point where the wind noise almost goes completely away.

I really like the boxer engine.  The I-4 powerplant certainly has it’s charms, but the boxer has a lot going for it, too.  It has a really low center of gravity, which makes the bike easier to pick up, hold up, and maneuver.  The noticeable torque and low-speed vibration gives the bike a much more visceral feel, but wind it up, and the balancers kick in, the vibration goes away, and it feels much more like an I-4 powerplant than a twin.  It seems like a better motorcycle powerplant than the V-Twin does, because the weight distribution is more friendly for a motorcycle, because it’s down so low.

I fiddled with the rear-view mirrors with a little more rigor this time, and got them aimed properly.  I’m still not overjoyed about seeing the handlebars in the top of the mirror, and the top of the saddlebags at the bottom, but once they are adjusted properly, they give you an acceptable field of view at whats going on behind you.  At speed, they are rock-steady.  And their placement is part of the RT’s terrific wind management, so they perform an additional useful purpose, keeping your hands out of the airstream, unlike the FJR.

Street performance on the RT seems similar to the FJR AE, with a couple of exceptions.  From a standing start, the FJR responds much quicker off the line–although that could be just my unfamiliarity with the clutch on the RT, which would improve pretty quickly.  They both seem to hit 50MPH in about the same time, according to the “One Missisippi, Two Mississipi…” Timing method.

The FJR has taller gears, however, and doesn’t need to shift into second gear until about 60+ MPH or so.  The RT hits the rev limiter in 1st at just slightly above 50 MPH in first.  The RT’s 60-80MPH roll-on in 4th gear takes about 3.5 seconds.    The FJR AE does it in about the same time in 5th gear.

Interestingly, the better air management on the RT doesn’t give you the same feel of acceleration as the FJR does.  The RT is doing pretty much the same thing, stoplight-to-stoplight, as the FJR AE, but it feels less dramatic doing it.

“Dramatic” is a good word to describe the difference between the bikes.  I think that comes as a result of different design philosophies.  BMW puts a premium on rider comfort, while Yamaha puts a higher priority to giving you a more sporty feel.  So, when you do X on the Yamaha, the bike seems to be saying “Woo Hoo!  Isnt this fun?!”  When you do it on the BMW, the bike says, “Well, we are proceeding at quite a clip, aren’t we?  You comfy enough?  That nasty wind isn’t bothering you, is it?”  The FJR has drama.  The BMW doesn’t.

They’re equally fun, but the fun comes in different ways.  The RT really is about the handling.  It acts like it wants to lean into the turn for you.  It’s as if the RT senses what you want to do, and then does it instantly.  The FJR, on the other hand, wants to be told what to do.  It wants you to dominate it, and it rewards you with the gratification of accomplishment in making it do your will.  In short, the RT is a sub, the FJR is a dom.

And there’s lots of fun in exploring both of those personalities.

Interesting Bookmark

Have you ever wondered about how your bike’s street performance might stack up against another bike.  Well, the folks over at Motorcyclist Online are there to help you out.  They have the actual dyno results and performance numbers of every bike they’ve tested.

I was reminded of that again, because, after my test ride of the BMW’s, I really wanted to see how they stacked up to each other in street performance.  The results are interesting, because one of my concerns about buying an RT–assuming my insurance settlement is enough to cover it, of course–was whether I’d find the performance anemic compared to my FJR.

According to that actual tests that Motorcyclist has performed, the results are:

Bike HP (HP @ RPM) Torque (lb. – ft. @ rpm) 1/4 Mile (sec. @ mph) Top Gear Roll-On  (60-80 MPH)
BMW R1200RT
101.1 @ 7500 78.0 @ 6250 11.68 @ 118.8 4.30
BMW K1200GT
127.6 @ 8900 79.3 @ 8100 11.30 @123.7 3.80
HD V-Rod 109.3 @ 8250 74.3 @ 7000 11.31 @115.0 4.05
FJR1300AE 127.2 @7900 89.6 @ 6800 11.86 @ 118.8 4.02

Well, I must say this comes as a surprise.  First, it seems that the AE is slower off the start than the RT, with a 1/4 time that’s 2/10 second slower than the RT.  Where the RT loses out is in the grunt at rolling from 60-80 in 6th gear, as the FJR does it 3/10 second faster rolling on in fifth.  I suspect that a 5th gear roll-on would be closer on the RT.

Another surprise is how close the performance between the K1200GT is to the Harley V-Rod.  That’s about a dead heat.  I suspect the K1300GT has some performance increase though. But for a cruiser (sport-cruiser?) the V-Rod is pretty hot.

But, based on the numbers above, I don’t see that the performance difference between the RT and the FJR AE model, like I have, would be particularly noticeable.  And based on handling alone, I can already see that I can hustle the RT faster through the corners than I can the FJR.

Can you hear me talking myself into it?

I really want to know what that insurance settlement is gonna be, now.

BMW R1200RT Second Thoughts

So, now that a day or two has gone by, I find myself having some second thoughts about the R1200RT test ride I took.  But, not second thoughts in the way you might expect.  What I keep remembering about the K1300GT is that when I went back into the dealership after my test ride, my first word to the salesman was, “Ick.”

Pure Bavarian Pleasure
Pure Bavarian Pleasure...in black.

I really can’t get over how much I didn’t like that bike compared to the RT.  I came back from the RT test ride with a huge grin on my face.

And, keep in mind, I was the first person to take that bike on a ride.  It had 7 miles on the odometer, and brand new tires.  BMW hadn’t even given the clearance for that bike to be used as a test bike, though the dealer had submitted the paperwork.  The sales guy had to call the owner to get permission for me to take it out, which he graciously granted.

So, I didn’t really get to wind the bike up to see what it would do.  I kept the RPMs down below 5k (though my understanding is that is where the bike really takes off)m and I had to keep it very restrained in the twisty segment I took it on, because of the new tires.

And I still came back with this big, old, stupid grin on my face.

So, my second thoughts have really been on the order of:

1. I don’t need the crappy 30-watt BMW stereo for $2,000.  For $400-$500, I can get an audio shop to stick in some marine speakers, a hefty amp, and hookups for my portable XM unit and iPod.

2. The dyno results for the stock RTs I’ve seen show that they have about 102HP at the rear wheel, and about 80 lb/ft of torque.  So, let’s say I put a high capacity K&N filter and a Remus or Staintune full exhaust.  What will that get me?  Maybe 107HP and 83 lb/ft of torque?  Is it worth the 1300 bucks?  I dunno.

3.  What would the bike feel like if I could ride out with my regular FJR style?  Would it feel wimpy in comparison?  Again, I dunno, but I’d like to find out.

Still, even with the relatively sedate paces I put it through, I really liked it far better than the GT.

I’m thinking black would be the best color…

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.