Heralded as the sportiest BMW motorbike ever, can the K 1200 S really rival the current hyper-sports bikes? Jon Urry travels to Munich to sample the delights of the German Autobahn and Austrian curves
What do Britney Spears and BMW have in common? They're both going through a bit of an identity crisis at the moment. Not really a very funny joke, but it's true. Like the once virginal princess of pop, the German firm is trying hard to shed a prudish, boring image in favour of a far racier persona. But where Britney is achieving this by shedding her innocent schoolgirl image in favour of a raunchier stage show, BMW is busy creating 167bhp hyper-sports bikes.
Enter the K 1200 S, with pre-launch excitement built up by images of the new bike lapping the famous Nürburgring at a very impressive speed, a Hayabusa-beating claimed power of 167bhp and such gadgetry as electronic suspension. Not to mention the traditional BMW hideous paint scheme.
So I have to say I was really looking forward to riding the new bike, and where better to launch a hyper-sports bike than Germany with its unrestricted speed limits and neighbouring Austria with its twisty Alpine roads?
After the traditional dull German presentation explaining the various new bits and bobs on the bike (see the tech spread), it's onto the Autobahn. Deciding not to push the boat out too soon, I select 'comfort' suspension mode in the car park via the bar mounted button and, despite a hefty breakfast of some odd looking sausages, I leave the rear spring preload in one-person mode.
Out of the car park and I decide to whack it open in first gear to see if I can encourage the 167bhp to either leave a decent black line or hoick the front up. Disappointingly, not a lot happens. The bike accelerates forward but, rather than the tyre shredding thrust I expected, it feels stifled and although it makes reasonably good progress it is nothing like the kick you get from a Hayabusa, ZX-12R or even a Blackbird. It almost feels restricted and there is a slight pause between the throttle being opened and the acceleration starting. Being a BMW, it will pass all emissions tests until the natural resources of the world run out, so my first thoughts are that this may be the cause of the slightly lacklustre motor.
The K 1200 S is in its natural territory on the Autobahn. The seating position is the perfect stretch to the high-ish bars, while the pegs are positioned in just the right place to create a real all-day riding position with a deeply padded seat. During the day's riding, we cover around 300 miles and it never once gets uncomfortable. The new design screen means that a slight dip of the shoulders is all that's needed to get the full benefit of its protection from windblast, while the clocks clearly show all the necessities, including a gear indicator and fuel gauge. In fact, the only thing that puts a down on the straight-line touring potential is a slight vibration from the engine at lower revs, but this smooths off at higher rpm.
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