Just a little background on why I got this bike a year ago. I had been riding with friends on weekends, and we would regularly ride all day. It was common to ride about 200 to 300 miles in a day. That may not sound like much to iron butt endurance riders, but it was more than I was comfortable on my F800ST sport-touring bike. I walked into San Jose BMW one day and was talking to owner Chris Hodgson about what I might do to make my F800ST more comfortable for long rides. He handed me the keys to a BMW R1200RT and said, “Take the RT out for a few hours. Do your typical ride. Get out onto the highway and into the hills and see what you think.” And, that’s what I did. Covering about 100 miles from San Jose to Half Moon Bay through the hills. Back along the coastal highway 1 to Santa Cruz. Than back to San Jose BMW. You know the end of this story. I bought one.
BMW R1200RT Motorcycle Model Overview
One of the first things I was told about the R1200RT, was that you need to ride it for a few hours to really appreciate it. I’m not sure why. Maybe because sitting on the seat the front fairing seems huge. Or maybe because the horizontally opposed twin-cylinder boxer engine has a funky vibration that feels a different from other motorcycles, particularly Japanese fours.
I had previously checked out the Kawasaki Concours and Yamaha FJR1300. Coming from a smaller, sportier bike, both of these bikes seemed quite large and heavy. Interestingly, the BMW R1200RT feels quite different from a Japanese touring bike. Although the large front fairing and windshield make it feel bigger, once you get it moving, it actually feels a lot lighter and more maneuverable. That’s because it is. At a wet weight of 570 lbs, the RT is considerably lighter than the Concours at 670 lbs, and the FJR1300 at 640 lbs. This makes the RT not only good for touring, but also makes it much more fun at low speeds, in city traffic, and out on twisty mountain roads.
My first reaction was the RT is first and foremost a touring bike. All of its features are designed to help you put on serious miles. The large front fairing, comfortable seat, and large gas tank allow you to easily go over 300 miles on a tank of gas. Not only that, but the heated grips, heated seat, and plug-in for electrically heated clothes, allow you to do those miles in comfort, regardless of the weather.
What the RT is probably best known for is taking these miles year-after-year without complaining. Check out classified lists and you will often see these bikes for sale with over 100,000 miles on them. The RT may not be the least expensive touring bike out there, and not the most powerful touring bike, but pound-for-pound and mile-for-mile, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last 6,000 miles. I hope to enjoy many, many more.
In the next section, I’ll cover the RT’s features in more detail.
Performance and Specifications
The 2010 BMW R1200RT has some new and improved features over the previous years. It has a new double overhead cam (DOHC) engine based on the BMW HP2 Sport motorcycle. This motor provides 110 HP, with a maximum torque of 88 lb-ft. The new DOHC engine provides more torque and a flatter torque curve, and therefore better pull at low RPM, than last year’s model.
There are also several other new features for 2010. A a redesigned fairing and windshield providing better wind and weather protection. And, if you are like me and want some entertainment during long rides, the optional BMW audio system provides USB MP3 music and iPod integration, FM radio, and bluetooth headset support.
If you haven’t ridden an RT before, one of the most obvious design differences from other motorcycles is the paralever/telelever suspension. Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA II) allows you to change between standard, comfort and sport settings will riding. You can also electronically change between single rider, passenger, and luggage settings to optimize the shock settings for various riding/passenger/luggage configurations. This provides 9 different suspension settings. In addition to being a very comfortable suspension, the telelever front shock prevents nose dive even under hard braking. In conjunction with the ABS braking system, this provides the RT with smooth and strong braking performance.
The on-board computer provides a wide range of information such as warning lights for low engine oil, coolant and oil temperature, low fuel, low tire pressure, and other potential problems. It also provides lots of nice to have information such as trip miles, remaining fuel miles, average mpg, average speed, ambient temperature, tire pressure, and more.
If your goal is to put on a lot of miles in a day, the 7.5 gallon fuel tank definitely helps. I’ve been averaging between 45 and 50 mpg. So with a 7.5 gallon tank, I can go over 300 miles before needed to find a gas station.
Probably the best feature for helping me put on miles is the cruise control. Unlike many motorcycle cruise controls that simply lock the throttle, the RT has a true cruise control similar to a car. Once you reach cruising speed you simply turn on cruise control. It will maintain your speed whether on flat ground, or going up and down hills. In my younger days, I broke my right hand playing football. It still starts to ache after too long on the bike. Turning on cruise control allows me to take pressure off my throttle hand, and even remove it from the handlebar. After a few minutes my hand is feeling fine again.
The RT comes standard with hard-shell side cases. Each is capable of holding up to 32 liters of storage. There are also two optional hard-shell top cases. I have both. The small top case holds 28 liters. That’s enough storage for a single helmet and some other stuff. The large top case holds 49 liters. It can hold two helmets. For trips, it is large enough to hold my tent, therm-a-rest, sleeping bag and other camping gear. I find it a little large for casual riding, so I generally ride with the small top case.
The RT has performed very well for me, so far. In 6,000 miles, I’ve only had one minor problem. The gas tank uses an electronic strip to measure fuel level. In the middle of one ride, my fuel warning indicator came on, and my fuel level indicator dropped to zero. The strip had come unattached inside the tank. It was a quick warranty repair. I believe that BMW may have gone back to using the traditional float bowl for measuring fuel level on newer bikes.
I think that this covers most of the highlights. You can also post questions if you want any additional information.
Is the BMW R1200RT Right for You?
If you have read other posts on oldboystoys.com, you probably know that I have a couple of motorcycles. I have yet to find a single motorcycle that is ideal for all of my riding. The RT is definitely my machine of choice for any highway riding, or rides longer than about 3 hours. I get off the bike feeling as fresh and relaxed as when I got on it. If you do a lot of highway riding, or long rides, you will probably love the RT just like me. However, if most of your riding is below 55 mph, or is just short rides around town, the RT is probably overkill. I generally ride my Triumph Bonneville T100 for just tooling around town. It is smaller, lighter, and just more fun for short rides around town. And, although setting the ESA II in sport mode provides for reasonable performance on twisty mountain roads, my sport bike is a little more fun in the hills.
I hope this helps you in figuring out if the RT is right for you. Don’t hesitate to ask me any other questions if I’ve missed something of interest to you.
Touring and Long Rides
In about 4 weeks, I embark on a 10,000 mile motorcycle ride across Canada and the USA. I’ll be riding up the Pacific Coast Highway through California, Oregon and Washington, and then into Canada. From there, I’ll be heading through the Rocky Mountains to Banff and Jasper, continuing east across the prairies, passing through Toronto and Montreal, and eventually reaching eastern Canada where I’ll spend a week in Prince Edward Island. Then south to Boston before I start riding my way west across the USA. Six weeks later, back in California. This will give me a much better feel for long distance riding on the RT. I’ll post most about my experiences when I get back. If you can track my cross country ride through the oldboystoys.com blog pages, and my oldboystoys.com twitter feed.
In the meantime, if you want to see the RT in touring action, here is a short on touring Scotland on an RT.
If you have any additional questions, or want more information, don’t hesitate to ask. Also, please post your comments below.
review: Motorcycle Reviews