Test BMW K 1200 RS
We are we
BMW motorcycles have always been idiosyncratic and down-to-earth characters who like to tread unfamiliar but sure-footed paths. The new K 1200 RS fits into this picture: Visibly non-conformist, but with a tried and tested technical foundation.
Subversive tendencies seem to be just as little part of the Bavarian species as the tendency to hectically follow the zeitgeist.
Even when, after a creative break of 60 years at BMW, the desire for four cylinders was realized – in-house there is talk of the revolution of 1983 – they did not want to do without much-loved unique selling points. This time a Mr. Fritz (!) Enwenger had the brilliant idea. With the command “there you lay down!” He brought a longitudinally arranged row of four into a stable side position, and the foundation of the new K-series, which with a little imagination conveys something like a boxer look, was laid.
How promising the K concept was at the time is shown today by the K 1200 RS, whose drivetrain adheres strictly to the historical model in its basic features. On the other hand, the new BMW also demonstrates what problems can grow from faithfully adhering to traditional principles – and how they can be solved.
Difficulties were encountered, for example, with the desire for more steam from more displacement. Due to the close collaboration of the four holes, only an increase in the already considerable stroke by five to 75 millimeters was considered. As expected, the new 1200 was not a lathe either. If you want to, it leaves its nominal speed by up to 1500 rpm without any signs of displeasure, but the right kick doesn’t come across. He’s just not allowed to do it as he could. It may be that in unbraked form, with 130 hp, it has more sporty traits, but there is (still) voluntary power limitation in Germany.
The renunciation is sweetened by the thump of the long stroke in the low of the rev range. Even with a slightly increased resting heart rate, it reaches 80 Nm to the transmission, and between 3000 and 8000 rpm it romps around in the three-digit torque range.
The cellar ghosts of the K 1200 engine are perfect for confident, dynamic gliding. Regardless of which gear the accurately functioning six-speed box is engaged, the load pushes energetically as soon as the right hand jerks backwards.
The largely free choice of gear and speed range is of course not only favored by the steam engine characteristics of the engine: apart from idling – there is a slight shivering over the entire machine – significant vibrations can only be felt selectively. Not because the four-cylinder, which was not particularly smooth-running from birth, would have gained in culture through the increase in displacement – on the contrary – but because the entire drive unit was released from load-bearing tasks and can now, wrapped in rubber, flounder unnoticed. With a pleasant side effect: the back torque of the motor in the event of sudden jumps in speed, which the entire machine tries to tilt around its longitudinal axis, largely seeps into the flexibility of the new rubber solution.
The task of bridging the gap between the steering head and the swing arm bearing without the stiffening cooperation of the engine block is fulfilled by a backbone welded from four aluminum chill cast parts. The front wheel is guided by a Telelever, the rear wheel sits in a parallel swing arm with a strongly inclined suspension strut – well-known assemblies, but new in this combination in the K series.
With a lot of wheelbase and caster and the impressive fighting weight of 290 kilograms, the K 1200 RS does not arouse high expectations in terms of handling. A psychologically clever move, as the surprise effect is all the greater: As soon as the clutch is engaged and the driver’s feet have taken their place on the pegs, the machine loses the earthly gravity that it shows when maneuvering (not when jacking up – it’s child’s play) lays. Well, the RS doesn’t drive like a three-hundredweight moped, but it’s amazing how lightly the machine can be steered through the four-wheeled slalom obstacles of city traffic. The next aha experience in smoothly presented alternating curves: Regardless of the inertial forces and moments that take hold of you when you change direction quickly, the weighty machine swings nimbly from incline to incline with only a light use of sticks.
On the other hand, the straight-line stability is impeccable. Even with the suitcases strapped in and under the influence of gusty winds, the RS does not go into a spin at speeds of over 200 km / h.
In addition, the suspension elements do a neat job. The constant, slight up and down of the Telelever bars visually signals what the hands are feeling on the handlebars: The finest bumps in the floor are filtered out, road surfaces that are no longer perfect seem to have been improved by a maintenance level. The hindquarters are not quite as sensitive, they allow the crew to participate more in their work, but the bottom line is that it promotes the impression of superior suspension comfort that the RS conveys.
The chassis components also impress with their good guidance in the chapter on driving dynamics. Uneven road surfaces in the curve do not get a chance to have an unpleasant influence on the course design, handlebar slap when accelerating on bumpy terrain is not an issue, and the feedback in the rubber grips about what is happening between the tires and the road surface has a confidence-building effect. Last but not least, the neutrality of the RS chassis can be traced back to a voluntary self-restraint in terms of rear-wheel tires: instead of a respectful rubber roller, a 170 tire was found to be good and right.
The braking system is also doing really well. Equipped with ABS as standard, the RS stoppers allow risk-free braking maneuvers at the edge of the tire grip limit under all prevailing conditions, although the front brake requires strong grip. The early response of the ABS on bumpy road surfaces and the barely submerged front section take some getting used to – the Telelever with 90 percent pitch compensation impairs the feeling for the degree of deceleration.
The design of the workplace should ensure the feeling of security on board the K 1200 RS. An extensive, clear cockpit, new, ergonomically improved switch units, smooth transitions between the seat and the tank flanks, multiple adjustment options – handlebar position, seat height, angle and height of the windshield, position of the footrests – everything is good, beautiful and well thought out. And yet not everyone is satisfied: even when the range of variation is fully utilized, tall »dwarf seats« have trouble folding their legs between the seat and the notches, and the pane of the otherwise well-protecting cladding does not satisfy everyone. There are no complaints from the second row for this, the usual BMW comfort is offered there.
E.The striking design of the K 1200 RS also met with broad approval. It underlines that the white-blue “Mir san mir” philosophy can take shape even without the courage to be ugly.
I’m really not a BMW fan, but the new K 1200 RS turns me on. The engine is primarily responsible for this: It delivers pressure in all situations and ensures stately driving pleasure. The fact that experience shows that the four-cylinder has eternal life and that, thanks to injection and Kat, it has a clean slate, makes it even more likeable. The chassis, which gives the RS surprisingly easy handling, also arouses sympathy. Driving fast on winding roads is really easy, and the comfort of the suspension thanks to the responsive Telelever is just as little to be despised as the possibility of being able to step into the irons unrestrained at any time. Well, the uncoupling of the engine block from the frame was not perfect, but the slight vibrations that can be felt here and there don’t bother me. What is more annoying is the short distance between the seat and the pegs – I would like to do without this “sporty” feature. Jürgen Schmitz
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