First Ride: 2004 BMW R1200C Montauk

Named after a town in New York State, the new R1200 C Montauk boasts more chrome and retro styling than a fifties diner. But it's also BMW's most successful foray into the cruiser market to date

The cool breeze drifts in from the Mediterranean as I cruise the French coastline past Nice, Antibes, Cannes and onwards to St. Raphael. My steed is the newest member of BMW's cruiser family, the Montauk. The engine throbs lazily as I click into third and overtake another sightseeing car through the cliff-top sweeps.

BMW has identified a growing market in the form of the cruiser. You may laugh but worldwide they now account for 32% of bike sales (excluding scooters), so this is a market not to be sniffed at. The Montauk is the fourth member of the R1200 C family and complements perfectly the Independent, Cruiser and CL Tourer models.

With the Montauk (named after a coastal resort on New York State's famous Long Island), BMW have finally hit the nail on the head. Although the other models are fully capable bikes, none of them has really struck me as being a full-on cruiser. Until now. The new bars are wider and set slightly lower, the seat is more plush and comfy and the whole riding position a lot more relaxed. Rather than struggle with its size, you instantly feel at one with the bike, making the experience that much more enjoyable.

For 2004 BMW has revamped the famous Boxer engine. The new twin spark ignition system works brilliantly in making the engine feel more responsive at lower revs and less gutless at the top end. Apparently fuel economy also benefits from this and has boosted the 17-litre tank range up to over 140 miles including reserve. Much more palatable for a sunny afternoon's long cruise. Emissions are also said to be lower as a result.

The gorgeous chromed stainless steel silencer has had the internals reworked to produce a fantastic burbling note synonymous with big cruisers. Even in stock trim a quick blip on the throttle has heads turning.

The gearbox is an updated unit that has reworked ratios and an upright gear-mesh on 4th and 5th to reduce transmission noise and to make the shift feel so much smoother. Even though max torque and power remain unchanged the engine feels much stronger.

The new EVO braking system has been fitted as standard to all models with integral ABS an optional extra. Stopping power comes in the form of huge twin 305mm discs to the front with twin-pots for bite, and a single floating disc to the rear.

Suspension is paramount to cruiser comfort. The front Telelever and 150mm wide front tyre give good road stability up to 80mph. Anything over this becomes a little worrisome as the Montauk felt affected by side winds and turbulence from vehicles in front, especially on the motorway, best to avoid those, then. The rear has an easy-to-use hydraulic preload knob to adjust for a pillion or heavy luggage.

Cosmetically the Montauk is very striking. Approach from any angle and the technology that BMW has used, coupled with some traditional cruiser traits, instantly grabs you. From the stacked twin headlights to the extra wide forks and fat front tyre taken from the 1200 CL, the Montauk commands attention, and gets it from other riders and passers-by alike. Even the pillion seat has been reworked so as to not look so much like a duck's arse. The wheels are outstanding. Polished cast aluminium slotted 5-spokes, shown off in their full glory by the single-sided shaft drive.

With only 3% of production destined for the UK, you can be assured that if you buy a Montauk you will be one of the elite few.

Will it become a winner in the cruiser stakes? With only a handful of units heading for the UK I doubt it, but the Montauk will win a lot of fans for its individuality in the cruiser sector. It's certainly the Bavarian firm's best looking and handling cruiser to date and as it is a BMW you can be assured it will run forever.

BMW R1200C Montauk Specs

PRICE NEW - £9495
POWER - 61bhp@5000rpm
TORQUE - 72lb.ft@3000rpm
WEIGHT - 245kg
TOP SPEED - 98mph