The rain in Spain fell mostly as snow. Jon Urry discovers it's not all glamour in this job as he tests BMW's new sports tourer.
Heading up into the mountains outside the Spanish town of Jerez I got the feeling all was not well ahead. The driving rain that had started the minute we left the hotel wasn't really too much of a problem. Luckily enough I'd remembered to pack my waterproofs, but what was worrying me were the cars coming down the mountain. Every one of them appeared to have a covering of snow over their front number plate. Sure enough, a few minutes later the rain turned into snow and a little further on we found out that the road ahead had been closed due to the weather. Oh well, never mind. At least there was a nearby café to shelter in and dry off a bit.Despite BMW choosing to launch the new R1200ST in southern Spain the weather dealt a cruel blow during the time I was there. The usual sunshine that accompanies a trip to Spain was missing, and instead the whole of Europe was gripped by a cold spell. Because of this I won't pretend to have tested the bike to its limits; it simply wasn't possible. The ride home, however, was in the dry so I can give you a fairly clear impression of what it is like when the pace heats up.BMW describe this bike as a 'long-distance sprinter', or sports tourer to you and me. It is designed to fill the gap between the new R1200RT, which is a more touring dedicated machine, and the old R1100S, which is BMW's 'sports' model. But rather than actually create a new machine BMW has chosen to give the R1200RT a bit of a nip and tuck, subjected it to a controlled diet and sent it down the gym.Although the frame is virtually identical between the RT and ST, BMW has beefed up the 'front tubes' to 41mm. By which I mean forks, but as the BMW has a Telelever front end they aren't actually forks, just tubes. Confused? Me too, but never mind, apparently it improves the handling by reducing 'fork' flex, or tube flex. Or whatever it is that is or isn't flexing any more or less.The engine is the same new generation Boxer twin as used in the R1200GS and R1200RT, in this case the higher-spec 110bhp version as used in the RT, not the 100bhp de-tuned GS's. BMW also say it should be run on 98 RON fuel, which I can't remember on them insisting before. Clever anti-knock sensors mean it will run on lower-spec 95 RON, although performance may be affected.The RT's huge fairing is gone, replaced by a small half fairing and a three-way adjustable screen that you kind of wrench into position until it clicks home. It's a manoeuvre that, with practice, can be performed on the move, although there is almost certainly something in the user's manual about not doing this. The tail unit is the same as the RT's and comes complete with a two-way adjustable seat and pannier mounting points. Although on the ST the optional extra panniers aren't colour coded to the bike, which is a bit surprising.By dumping the RT's big fairing the ST's weight is down to 205kg - 24kg less than the RT- to speed the handling up. And it does. I was actually very impressed by the handling of the big RT and the ST, despite the weather, did seem better. It isn't a lightning fast turner or sporty sports tourer like the VFR or Sprint ST, but it doesn't have the R1150RS's tendency to run wide and is definitely an improvement. I can't really see any ST owners reaching for a new set of knee sliders every five minutes, so the fact that the bike is more in the tourer section of the sports tourer market than the competition probably won't be a problem.
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