ROADS TER. THE MERE name conjures romantic notions of wanderlust. And when it’s associ- ated with BMW, it serves as shorthand for an
uncomplicated upright machine.
With BMW looking to reach a broader (read:
younger) audience to invigorate sales, it stands to
reason it would return to the same philosophy that
started it all back in 1923 with the legendary R32;
a clean, functional, stylish motorcycle that exuded
an unadulterated appeal to the senses of enthusiasts
and non-enthusiasts alike. Granted, there have been
some amazing technical advances in the intervening
92 years, but at heart, the new Roadster is much like the
R32—it’s still about the pure experience of riding.
Motorcycling is currently in the throes of a sea change.
After decades of steadily pushing the limits of engine performance, suspension dynamics, and the applications of electronics, there is now a trend toward reassessment and taking a breath
to define exactly what it is we really need. With the R1200R,
BMW has wisely incorporated all its hard-earned know-how
and packaged it in a basic motorcycle that delivers a visceral
riding experience, augmented by the best rider safety aids modern technology offers. Sensibility and practicality is where the
new Roadster shines.
The Roadster, holding to its heritage, is powered by a classic Boxer flat twin—but now with the latest air/liquid-cooled,
fuel-injected 1170cc iteration. The engine churns out 106.6 hp
@ 7800 rpm at the rear wheel— 12 horses more than the previous Boxer, and its sharp response and exhaust sound can’t be
confused with earlier versions. In a bike that weighs only 528
lbs. (wet) it delivers potent performance. Equally as important,
and perhaps even more relevant, its maximum torque at the rear
wheel is a stump-pulling 77.29 ft. lbs. 3520 rpm. This imbues
the Roadster with abundant, adrenaline-elevating muscle.
Counter-rotating internal components have smoothed out the
Boxer’s inherent sideways torque considerably over the years.
Though purists need not worry, as the bike proudly rumbles with
its characteristic rocking couple when sitting at a stop, a blip of
the throttle still sends a tremble of torque through its core.
Despite the simplistic appearance, the R1200R comes standard
with electronic enhancements like Automatic Traction Control
(ATC), and dual-mode engine mapping, either Rain (which softens throttle response) or Road (for normal riding). There is also
an optional Pro Mode at extra cost, which includes Dynamic
Traction Control (DTC) and adds Dynamic and User settings
to the standard Rain and Road modes. The Dynamic setting
provides crisper throttle response and User Mode allows the
rider to custom tailor the various settings to suit their individual
needs. The DTC utilizes both lean angle and rear wheel sensors
to modulate and compensate for rear tire slippage as opposed to
the ATC, which works solely through rear wheel sensors.
Transmission & Clutch
The R1200R’s transmission is solid and precise yet still pos-sesses that tractor-like clunk into first, with subsequent clunks
into second and third. But this slight roughness tends to smooth
out considerably as mileage is accrued. Our tester was equipped
with Shift Assist, which is addicting. The system allows for
clutchless upshifts and, now, downshifts. If you’re a serious sport
rider or tech head, its operation is endlessly fascinating. That
said, the tranny and clutch work just fine when used in traditional
fashion. Also, the standard back-torque limiting clutch works
well to prevent rear wheel hop with overzealous downshifts,
although it can also resist high-rpm starts by creating grabby
Our test machine was fitted with BMW’s Dynamic Electronic
Suspension Adjustment (D-ESA)–which is easily identified by
the gold anodized forks. The system offers easy to manage
on-the-fly changes (once you learn where to find the various
icons on the dash display). In addition to the superior front end
feedback granted by the new telescopic fork, the space around
the Roadster’s steering stem, usually devoted to the workings of a
Telelever fork, has been opened up to provide more room for the
radiator and airbox, keeping the width of the Roadster’s gastank
relatively slim. Unfortunately, the standard fork is not adjustable.
At the back end of the Roadster, BMW’s torque-cancelling
Paralever shaft drive handles the bumps, but with less than
impressive results. Had we been able to adjust the fork, we might
have been able to correct for the front/rear spring imbalance that
created noticeable pitching sensations. As it was, set up in either
Road or Dynamic mode, and after experimenting with a variety
of settings, hitting small dips at freeway speeds resulted in a
harsh whack at the seat that was transmitted up through the spine.
It was disconcerting enough to make you carefully choose your
lines to avoid potential bumps.
The Roadster’s braking components are superbike spec; a pair
by Jeff Buchanan