Living with a 2001 BMW R1150R

World Superbike journalist, Gordon Ritches, chose a BMW R1150R to review. And very nice he thought it was too

August 2001

Given that it's been over three years since I actually rode a motorcycle - thanks to the fact that I live my life either in airports, WSB press rooms or Scotland - I wanted a bike that would be easy to get on with from the off, and useable all of the time. I've always been a big fan of BMW's utilitarian do-it-all monster GS series and the R1150R is much the same bike, just dressed up with a mix of retro/post modern bits and pieces, so just to be different I thought I'd give it a go.

The Beemer is one of those bikes that initially feels odd, then thoroughly hooks its talons under your skin. Sure, it twitches from left to right with every blip of throttle, but the engine's got a lovely, mellifluous note and lays down drive from 2,500rpm. It's sprightly enough, but never in a frenzied way - those two Boxer-opposed pistons provide a force that propels you forward with thoroughly efficient newton-metres of Germanic torque. With the little screen on (from the BMW catalogue) cruising at 100-110mph is realistic.

The switchgear on the R1150R, like it does on every BMW, takes some getting used to. I'm used to it, now, but still have to think about it sometimes by which time it's too late for whatever indicator I wanted (or didn't). Not so sure about the gearbox either, which doesn't seem the most accurate in the world and is a bit woolly. Minor criticisms, really - the R1150R has a real presence. It gets loads of looks and compliments wherever it's parked, and will doubtless go on forever. So, it's like me in at least one respect, then. I think we'll be very happy together. But only time will tell on that one.

September 2001

Not many extra miles this month, for two reasons. One is I've been unable to ride the damn thing much, due to being out of the country for long periods. The second is the miserable weather which has plagued the Scottish coast I live on. It's nice when I'm abroad at race meetings of course, but as soon as I hit Glasgow again, it's come, gone, and left a load of rain behind. Very frustrating.

But the more important reason for my limited miles (most on the clock were done by the rest of the office while the bike was at TWO HQ before I picked it up) is that the bloody gearlever fell off while I was using the bike's cool traffic-splitting abilities to collect a package from central Glasgow.

Nursing it home, in third gear, through rush hour traffic, did the clutch no good (judging from the smell when I stopped at least) but what could I do? I was in a deadline-fuelled rush.

Putting it back together wasn't exactly stressful, but such was my annoyance I left the big black Beemer to a couple of days solitary garage confinement, to think hard about ever pissing me off like that again.  

As the gearlever fell off on Alex during the initial running-in period, we could think about putting this down as a fault, but my forthcoming trip around the whole coast of Scotland will tell the real story and rack up some proper miles. If only it would stop raining...

Drawing admiring glances from the neighbours, wee boys, old duffers and just about anybody else, the Bee Em is as still purrty as ever though, and if the gearlever stays on, I'm enjoying living with the German oddball.

November 2001

Okay, let's start with what's bad about it. It squeals    the brakes at low speeds, the left mirror still has chemically imbalanced mind of its own, the suspension can occasionally be a bit less than sophisticated when trying to go hard on extra bumpy tar - and of course it's a lardy old bloody thing.

Oh, and the switchgear is also an acquired taste. Acquired as in AIDS, and about as welcome.

Sounds like a long list but there is nothing there that isn't very easy to live with and to be honest, isn't forgotten a couple of thousand miles into the relationship. The good points? Well pretty much everything else. It is about the easiest bike in the world to look after, especially with the BMW Paralever rear shaft drive and all its important bits dangling out in the breeze to be adjusted, washed, polished and generally fiddled with as you please.

I can honestly say that no bike I have had in the loving embrace of my gluteous maxima has been easier to take for granted as a dependable, efficient, competent consumer article. Few have been as quirky but stylish, and laden with metallic personality as the Beemer. It sits somewhere between a Ducati Monster with a diving belt attached and a CBR600 with some character attached.

I don't adore it and cherish it like I would an MV-F4 or a 180¡ Laverda Jota - but for what it does (performs equally well on long and short distance runs), and how well it does it (surprisingly well) I have to say that it rocks my wee world right nicely.

February 2002

The plan was, of course, to fit some aftermarket goodies. Maybe even pipe it, chip the EFI and go for more power.

The other plan was of course to go for another Grand Tour of the Highlands, like the one I managed to somehow squeeze into my manic summer schedule. Only a longer, faster one this time.

Plan A, fitting some aftermarket goodies never really came about for one simple reason. There's no need, no need, because the Beemer requires nothing really. Wants? Yes, there are always wants, but needs? Nah. Needs to be ridden more often, and of course the second Highland Invasion was an unachieved ambition dashed by schedules, shite weather and failure to seize fleeting opportunities.

The only extra I would consider serious fitment of is, …hlins (or whatever) suspension front and rear. But honestly this has proved to be unnecessary in terms of the R's modest outright performance envelope. Sticky Michelins have sorted most of that niggle anyway.

More weather protection (which I once desired)? Buy an RT. More top speed and a sportier riding position? Buy the S.

Would I buy the R though?

Well, I even got as far as costing it out and looking at insurance quotes until the falsetto chorus of "need a four wheel drive car for the winter" from the other side of the dinner table got the better of my protective hunter/gatherer instincts - and the piggy bank was prematurely emptied on the floor of the wrong kind of dealer's showroom. (I might have enough left for an immaculate Mark 2 350 Powervalve though...).

I know one thing, I never got to ride the Beemer enough, and when the keys are finally wrenched from my grasp very soon, it will be a sad wee day for the Clan Gordo.