BMW R 1200R – Pure Retro Madness

Photos & Text: Bobby Roy | Bobby Roy Photography

Since the time this Universe came into existence, man was always in love with anything single.  Eventually, he started mounting this ‘single’ in a frame and fitted it with two wheels (to either end of the frame, to put it crudely), and felt that this as a ‘package’ was really awesome! Singles were good, till the time he found out that ‘more was fun’.

It was once he realized that TWO was better, the twin was born and man was really happy with this invention of his. (Un)fortunately, the fairer sex arrived and told man that he must stop all this ‘nonsense’ and start looking for a job and settle into a particular lifestyle which would be beneficial for both the sexes, or so it happened I believe, although I am sure none of this might be true. Back in school, I think we were taught about how we came to evolve but I never paid any attention to what I was taught, anyways. And knowing that motorcycle (or motorcycling) was not really in the “list of subjects to be taught”, my interest in studies never quite attained that zen like state, if you get my drift.

Nonetheless, today we are neither learning about evolution, nor are we talking about studies. Rather, we are going to talk about a ‘revolution’ that is the Boxer twin. BMW’s Boxer engines have been around for as long as we can remember, and we all have loved (and hated) it for uncountable reasons. But, when fitted to this beautiful BMW R1200R, it is a different beast, altogether. The BMW R1200R is something of a ‘slow’ machine; not in performance, mind you, but it slowly gets through to you. To look at, and by simply glancing at the specifications, you wouldn’t really be excited and perhaps even think, a 1200cc motor with a 110 odd horses is nothing to brag about. But, who said BMW was bragging about it anyways? All they want you to do is go ahead and ride it and THEN be blown away.

Now, as far as the engine is concerned, twelve hundred CCs of it, with 110 horses and 119Nm of torque makes sure you are not short of power when the need arises. Brilliant fuelling and a gearbox to match the motor means you would be grinning ear to ear while onboard one. The good news about this model is the fact that it gets an updated version of the Boxer, which was originally developed on the HP2 Sport and subsequently debuted on the brand’s best-selling motorcycle, the BMW R1200GS during the 2010 model year. This 1170cc horizontally opposed Flat-Twin now makes use of a DOHC in each of its two cylinders while the intake and exhaust valves are larger, with the valves being in a radial arrangement. All this technological hullabo means that one twist of the throttle and you are boogied around in no time. What I personally noticed while my saddle-time on this massive twin is how flexible this motor is – it can go from as low as 40km/hr. all the way to 210km/hr. (and beyond, provided you have enough tarmac) in top gear! Now, that, for me personally is the peak of flexibility as far as a twin cylinder motorcycle is concerned. There are the ‘normal’ BMW components visible all over the bike, like the Telelever and Paralever suspension, the front-end Telelever being particulary prominent on the naked R1200R model. However, features like the ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) and the braking component like the ABS and ASC aren’t available for the Indian market, unfortunately.

Then, there is the seat, which the more I talk about, the less. It is oh so comfortable. I have ridden quite a few big (and small) machines in my career as an automotive journalist, but I have seldom ridden a two wheeled beauty with such humongous seats as the BMW R1200R. Not only is the seat massive, but that upright seating position means that you are comfortably perched atop the ‘R’ with ease. Although, I could not sample the machine for a long trip, but I am dead sure, the seat will play its fair share in making sure that those buttocks of yours don’t go numb after a 600km. ride!

I must mention a few lines about how beautifully the BMW handles as well. Although, it might not look like it is built for handling by the looks of it, but ride it hard out of bumpy corners at more acute angles of lean, and the BMW is surprisingly capable of getting right over in the corners, with the whole machine beautifully poised and well in-sync with the rider.

I am told (although I didn’t really cared to measure) that the fuel consumption of the R1200R is also really good. Yeah, yeah, I know we enthusiasts don’t really care about how many kilometres we can make on 1 litre of petrol, but it is good to learn that BMW has taken care of that aspect as well. As far as that beautiful suspension is concerned, I have always believed that it has been a clever point of BMW motorcycles. That front end of the R1200R separates the braking and steering forces beautifully for added stability and absolutely hassle-free stopping under panic situations. The rear is no slouch either; with a single sided setup that gets a beautiful shaft-driven final drive which is miles ahead of a conventional chain drive as far as maintenance, etc. is concerned.

So, all is well, it seems, is it? Well, not quite. I am not that big a fan of Classic motorcycles. So, to be frank, I am a little disappointed by the plain-jane looks, if you will. And at Rs.15-lakh (ex-showroom), personally, I would have preferred a little more ‘show’ along with the go. However, I think this is me nitpicking rather than being an outright fault of the bike. But, that is my job, you see – to nitpick and to find faults where there is arguably none!

I am sure there are many BMW die-hard fans out here in this country who will love to join this no-frills bandwagon of a machine that the BMW R1200R is, with no hi-fi onboard computer trying to take away the riding fun from the rider. For them, the technologically laden models like the S1000RR or even a K1600GT/ GTL doesn’t make much of a sense, what with both these models neck deep with all sorts of gadgets onboard, and then some! When I was first introduced to the R1200R, frankly, I was not really that interested. But, once I got to sample the beautiful twin that sits quietly underneath the frame, I was a changed man altogether.

You see, if you like your bike to have a lot of character, and want a machine to do a range of duties – from daily office commutes, to fun weekend rides, to long tours; all this with the added benefit of a rugged, handsome style, then the R1200R does make a lot of sense. Yes, there are more powerful (and, more importantly, cheaper) 4-cylinder naked alternatives available in the Indian market right now, but believe you me, once you ride this machine and go back to ANY 4-cylinder in the world, you would certainly start to miss the BMW’s personality; a personality which only a R1200R has. And that is saying quite a lot, really.

Note: A special thanks to BMW Motorrad (Munich), Ken,  and Deutsche Motoren New Delhi for making this road-test possible.


  • Ken  On May 11, 2012 at 9:08 AM

    Wow! Superbly written article! Really nice.


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