BMW wants us to know their new R1200S is very much a sports bike. But by whose reckoning? Theirs or ours? Sporting all-sorts go to the Alps to find out. And not a race track in sight...
BMW wants us to know their new R1200S is very much a sports bike. But by whose reckoning? Theirs or ours? Sporting all-sorts go to the Alps to find out. And not a race track in sight...There's more to motorcycling than sports bikes, but here in the UK the sales charts of new machines continue to be topped by sports-focused tools. Everyone's got one, from Aprilia to Yamaha and, for the most part, they sell bucket loads. Sports bikes have another use too: people race them, and success on the track is intrinsic to sales of that particular firm's models - not just the ones seen winning races on the telly.Except most of us don't ride on race tracks most of the time, and while many of us may buy sports bikes to live out fantasies of Rossi-esque superstardom on sunny Sunday mornings before lunch, the reality is we actually want our sports bikes to be much more than one-trick wonders.
A bit of practicality here and some usability there goes a long way. What we're looking for is a, er, 'real world' sports bike, if such a thing exists. So here's BMW's new R1200S. Launched earlier this year, on road and track, to an, 'It's a sports bike!' fanfare, the 1200S is the long awaited replacement for the R1100S. In line with the revamp dished out to the R1200GS and RT, the S gets the lighter, punchier, 1170cc Boxer motor, a 13-kilo loss in weight and nearly funky new styling to go with the £8955 price tag for the basic bike.
But once again BMW is choosing to carve its own niche; the R1200S is a sports bike within the context of BMW's penchant for doing things its own way. Wander over to the firm's website and you'll find them stamping their feet, proclaiming, 'Sport, sport, sport!'. 'Yeah, right,' scoffs the Fireblade/GSX-R/R1/ ZX-10R massive, 'course it is...' But look closer and you'll see where BMW is coming from: 'Sporty like no other flat twin before it... ', 'Moving in the direction of sporty riding... '. A candidate for racing success the R1200S may not be, but as far as BMW's range of Boxer twins go, this is very much a sports bike.
Had we been of the mind we could, cynically and irrelevantly, have rocked up at a racetrack with an R1200S, a Blade, an R1 and the rest, had Mackenzie wazz round for a few laps on each, then laughed and pointed at the BMW. Too easy, too obvious and missing the point entirely.
Instead we chose a global cross-section of takes on the sports bike theme and headed off south-ish to the French Alps, via south London and Dover, then back to Blighty for speed and dyno testing, and home in time for Desperate Housewives to keep Niall happy.
Step forward, then, the all-too obvious choice, Honda's slightly-revised-for-2006 Fireblade, yours for £8899. Neck-and-neck with the GSX-R1000 for all-out litre class sports bike honours, the pin sharp, always usable Blade comes with a snarling edge of added aggression this year thanks to lowered gearing and a shortened wheelbase (plus a few new insidey-engine bits and pieces). As a full-on sports bike the Honda rocks big time, but is as at home hooning round Donington on a track day as it is dealing with the morning commute or heading off across the water for a foreign blast.
Representing the Italian way of doing things we have Aprilia's RSV-R. A perennial favourite among a hardcore of British sports bike fans, the Aprilia has long offered an affordable slice of evocative V-twin pie to those looking for some true Latin soul. Here in its best-looking guise yet, the basic RSV-R (the higher-spec Factory was deemed a step too far for this test) gets improved fuel injection, a handful more bhp and very shiny Öhlins forks, all for £8999.
Triumph's 955i has been around for, oh, ever such a long time now. Itself billed as a 'Blade beater' in its day, the Daytona has since quietly got on with being a genuinely usable everyday all-round sports(ish) tool. Why 'ish'? Because the Triumph, while once knocking on the door of real sports bike contention, has plodded on as good as unchanged while pretty much everything around it has jumped on the technological bandwagon and cleared off into the distance. Cutting edge it ain't. Still, it's a lot of bike for just £7499.
It says a lot for the gentle hum of speculation and hype surrounding the new R1200S that there was a genuine argument about who should get to ride it first when the bike arrived at the office. Everyone was asking: "What's it like?" And it's like... a BMW. More specifically, it's like a Boxer BMW. That means you have the combination of flat twin power and the weirdly un-involving sensations delivered by the front Telelever and rear Paralever suspension. At this point, 'cos it's as good as any, we should point out that our bike came fitted with a few optional extras, as is often the way with BMW press fleet machines. Ours had heated grips and the £450 'sports pack', which meant an Öhlins shock, larger six-inch rear rim and 190/55 rear tyre (180/55 is standard). It also came with switch-offable ABS, which adds another £650. All-in, it would chime the till at £10,320.
Continue reading Road Test: R1200S v. RSV-R v. CBR1000RR v. 955i 2/4
TYPE - SUPERSPORTS PRODUCTION DATE - 2006 PRICE NEW - £10,320 ENGINE CAPACITY - 1170cc POWER - 111.5bhp@8000rpm TORQUE - 76.6lb.ft@6800rpm WEIGHT - 190kg SEAT HEIGHT - 830mm FUEL CAPACITY - 17L TOP SPEED - 151mph 0-60 - n/a TANK RANGE - 150MILES
Become a fan of Visordown
Follow us on twitter
Other Immediate Media Sites
Our eCommerce Platform
© Immediate Media Company Ltd 2012. This website is owned and published by Immediate Media Company Limited. www.immediatemedia.co.uk