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  • Price: £13560.00
  • Year: from 1999
  • Top speed: 122mph
  • Price new: 13560
  • Engine capacity: 1171cc
  • Power: 116bhp
  • Torque: 88lb ft
  • Weight: 387kg
  • 0-60: 4.2 seconds

BMW K1200 LT (1999 - present)

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Reviewed: 14 May 2010 by Visordown
A massively capable and well-equipped luxury mile-eater.
A bit of a handful which baulks at heavy traffic.

The K1200 LT is a significant improvement over the old model, mainly because of the extra stomp from the engine. It is a massively capable and well-equipped luxury mile-eater which really grew on me. In day-to-day use it’s a bit of a handful, and no more practical as an everyday commuter than the most extreme of sportsbikes. It baulks at heavy traffic and it’s often easier to sit patiently in a queue with the car drivers than trying to muscle the Bee Emm through gaps it barely fits into.

New bits include a much-improved, easily adjustable two-piece headlight, a redesigned, reshaped seat, a new instrument cluster with a flat-screen LCD display panel (showing mileage, trip meters, gear indicator, fuel level, radio information and time) and lots and lots of extra chrome bits.

But the real meat of the updated LT is in the engine. We’ve criticised the bike in the past for its lack of shove; it simply lacked the power to propel its 387kgs (including fuel, plus rider and pillion) at a respectable rate, so BMW has boosted torque and power. Where the outgoing model peaked at 98bhp, the new LT breathes more easily and tops out at a claimed 116bhp.

The difference is immediately noticeable. While revs build relatively ponderously below five grand, there’s an impressive surge above that and on to the 8000rpm redline. In fact, it could now do with an extra gear – maybe an ‘overdrive’ rather than sixth – to make use of the extra go, as there’s enough power to sustain higher cruising speeds than before. As it is, the motor will propel the LT to a GPS-certified 130mph.

You wouldn’t want to travel on such an enormous motorcycle without decent brakes, and fortunately the power of the anti-lock, servo-assisted, combined EVO braking system is impressive. In fact, with over half-a-ton of bike, rider, luggage and pillion to haul up, it was astonishing. My one gripe with the EVO set-up is that it’s too sharp at low speed. Not such a problem when travelling alone, but with a pillion it’s hard to avoid regular head butts when tottering around; as you come to a near standstill, the effect is akin to someone jamming a stick into the spokes. BMW really needs to come up with a way of reducing the EVO’s braking force at very low speeds.

Huge, heavy tourers of the K1200 LT’s ilk, and particularly the K1200LT of old, are motorcycling’s own disassociative anaesthetic, a two-wheeled dose of ketamine, relaxing the body and separating the mind from its physical surroundings before taking it on a long and winding journey. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Despite its size, however, the K1200LT rider remains pretty well attuned to the world – and road – around them.

Feedback through the Telelever front end is impressive, considering the LT’s bulk. A surprising amount of information is fed through to the bars, and every change in road surface and heart-stopping slide on Teflon-like French white lines can be felt. This has to be taken in context – the LT is about as far from a sportsbike as it’s possible to get and still be on two wheels – but it’s surprising how hard the LT could be pushed around once acclimatised to its ways.

Despite a top-heavy feel at a standstill, the LT carries its weight low enough for relatively easy walking pace manoeuvres, aided by a 15mm increase in trail over the old model. In fact, I was sat too low for comfort (I’m 6ft 2), but popping up the seat and adjusting it from ‘low’ to ‘high’ put things more to my liking.

Less to my liking was the higher-speed handling. On fast, wet autoroutes, the K1200 LT was far from confidence inspiring – well, it was at first. In long sweepers a gentle weave could be felt through the swept back bars. Winding on the throttle actually helped reduce it, but that’s not always a practical solution. But cranking up rear preload (via the hydraulic underseat adjuster) was, transforming the bike from wallowing, scraping behemoth into a slightly more composed behemoth.

But it still scraped. On billiard table-smooth roads the first things to touch down are the rider’s footrests and, on the right, the brake pedal. But hit a bump at anything past two or three degrees of lean and the centrestand digs into the road with alarming ease.

Ah yes, the centrestand. The LT’s Big Gimmick – and a very clever one at that – is its electro-hydraulically operated centrestand. Putting a bike of this size on its stand is always a worry, but the LT’s lift-o-matic system makes it push-button easy. Thumb the button next to the starter and a hydraulic ram lowers the stand and lifts the bike onto it. Very clever.

Ergonomically, the LT nearly hits the mark. The seating position is even comfortable for – perhaps especially for – big people like me, and the fairing does a superb job. I covered several hundred miles in sometimes torrential rain and remained dry but for my fingertips (which were wet but warm, due to the heated grips). Pillion comfort is excellent too. Thanks to the LT, I finally coaxed my wife back onto a bike after a four-year abstinence, and she actually enjoyed a sunny Sunday afternoon on two wheels. Now, that IS saying something.

Niggles would have to be directed at the switchgear, which is still on the confusing side thanks to Bee Emm’s convoluted indicator switch set-up. It’s complicated still further on the LT with the plethora of other switches, knobs and buttons, which all take some getting used to.

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