Living with a 2003 BMW R1150RT

No-one in the Visordown office knows who Johnny Daukes is, but presumably he's a relation of Simon Daukes from Haymarket days. Nepotism?

July 2003

I'm hot knifing through the butter of the M25 and I still can't get the figures out of my head. £19.00. 23.77 litres. I'm astonished. I'm astonished I've put so much fuel into a bike. I'm also pleased, as with that tankage I can easily get 200 miles before the reserve light even bothers to blink into life.

I'm also astonished as it's lashing it down, but the BMW R1150RT's bulky curves are keeping my hands, legs and feet dry. I'm even wearing summer gloves in the pouring rain.

But then I've been astonished by this bike since I (cleverly) gave it to myself to do my 600 mile minimum mileage punt a week...

Shouldn't have been surprised really. Back in 2001 I was on the launch of the facelifted RT in France and I reckoned then it was the best tourer BMW had in their range, my opinion's now changed. It's the best tourer, period. Full stop.The End.

Sure, in my dream garage there's a GoldWing, but in my 'comfortably off' garage there's one of these. Why? Listen up and learn. First off, it handles brilliantly, you can really hitch its skirts up and go hustle, the Metzeler MEZ4s giving plenty of feedback even up to the gentle tssssccchhhh of peg touch down, and that's despite some generous ground clearance. Filtering is good too - you've got lots of presence on the road as you feel high up from the ground (805mm seat height as opposed to a 'Wing's 740mm!), meaning that you command a view in the mirrors of everything from a Sinclair C5 to a Citršen C5. Add in that handling and you've got a nimble little (big) number. And as for your own mirrors, you can see everything in them, as they're situated in front of your hands and down low ensuring a big field of vision.

Engine-wise, it feels very punchy low down, sprinting away from the lights like Michael Jackson from a Martin Bashir interview. Things lose a bit of puff higher up, meaning that from the naughty side of 70, you're best off tapping that gear lever, which is a little sloppy and hit and miss at times. Overall more top-end punch would be nice, although the max speed I've seen is 120. Closed roads, of course, officer. Getting down from those speeds is easy thanks to that front brake lever. BMW's servo assisted brakes are excellent, although I rarely touch the rear. I still believe BM's rear brakes are too sharp to be safe for the average rider not in tune with such a set-up.

Our long-termer came complete with fog lights (fookin' brilliant...), heated grips (ditto), panniers (not very big... must get a top box) and a radio cassette player which has a good sound, and can be heard up to about 70mph, unless you duck behind that lecky screen. Oh, the screen? Yup. It can go from a fairly prone position, at which it serves no real purpose, to just above eye level. Shame it can't go up further so you can hear the radio at a shade above legal speeds, although then at night and in rain, you'll have the same 'can't see for shite' problems that plague the 'Wing's screen.

It's a bugger that it isn't a CD player as well, as my blushes could have been saved when I had a little 'accident'.

There I was, leaving for work one cold morning, having slapped an ancient tape in the player. I've been CD-literate since 1989, so there wasn't a lot to choose from. Suddenly, paddling the monster backward past my pride and joy four-wheeler, I lost my footing and put a big dent into my car with - of all things - the BM's screen. I've put this down to two things. Firstly, I'm six-foot tall, but I am long in the body, not in the leg (stop laughing at the back). Thing with the RT is that it's wide at the seat, so you've got to decide which foot is going to hit the ground first when you pull up. Obviously the foot question is not an issue when you've got a shite drive made up of crumbling concrete.

The result was one dent in my Fiat CoupŽ Turbo (Germany 1 - Italy 0) and sheer embarrassment, not at the dent, but doing it to the sounds of Swing Out Sister's 1986 hit 'Breakout.' Never has such a big bike been lifted up so quickly by a rider with such a red face.

Oh well. Best get a CD player for it so I can fall off it to something more modern, like Level 42...

November 2003

MY NAME IS not Rolf. My girlfriend is not called Lotte. We do not have a combined weight in excess of 34 stone and neither do we communicate via intercom whilst ensconced in matching Heine Gericke two piece suits.

What the fack then were we doing bowling down the A303 to Exeter on this Bavarian Behemoth? Let me take you back three weeks (harp glissando and wobbly picture). It's a Friday night and just before retiring up the little wooden hill to Bedfordshire I've locked and covered my achingly gorgeous and supremely sorted GSX-R750. Some of you already know what's coming next - and one person out there knows not only what happened next but where he then sold it. That's right, welcome to the conceptual art installation I'm now touting to Charles Saatchi as 'stolen motorcycle'.

One phone call to my old chums at TWO and I'm the proud (short term) owner of motorcycling's answer to a question I hadn't thought of asking. The first few days were spent riding aimlessly around, unsure of whether the sick feeling was because of my lost love, or because the suspension is 'soft' like Virgin Radio presenters are 'not funny'.

Thanks to the BM's (not 'Beemer' thankyou) ludicrously loud and undistorted stereo I've become quite well acquainted with 'Pete & Jeff' and 'Jezza'. Pulling up at traffic lights with the latest single from The Coral blasting draws admiring glances and thumbs up from pedestrians and fruit stall owners alike, but when the commercials cut in it's a different story... 'Itchy flaky scalp? Call the London Trichological Centre'. (I did, they were out of itchy scalps but I'm booked in next week to get a sebaceous cyst fitted).

Most of my mileage consists of riding between home in west London's Ladbroke Grove and various studios in Soho, a distance of approximately four miles. At first I was massively frustrated that the LazyBoy's metre wide girth (sounds like Bertie?) wouldn't allow me to filter, but within a couple of days my growing confidence and lofty viewing position allowed a degree of manouverability, then this happened. Everyone's got a piece of mental racetrack, that combination of corners on the way home where everything just 'flows'.

Coming up Park Lane sweeping left at Marble Arch then dropping onto the right and flicking back to sweep onto Bayswater Road with every other wannabe 200 yards behind... but wait a minute... I was on the Silver Sofa! Then again around the Thames Water tower roundabout in Sheperd's Bush outside two local hooligans on R6s. OK, they were a pair of goons who didn't realise a bike could lean as well as accelerate, but doing that on the GSX-R was no fun, it was what was expected, doing it on the Germinator was putting a big smile on my face.

Now I could tell you how the ride to Exeter and back two up was an absolute doddle, and that keeping up a very respectable pace for two and a half hours and not stopping for fuel AND arriving feeling calm and relaxed made a wonderful change - but that's what the BM is known for. What isn't so well documented is what happens when the IAM member coming towards you on said Teutonic Tackle flashes his light, then gives you a nod then all but falls off when he clocks your shorts and flip flops.

(This is not a recommendation, more a request for absolution. It's been hot, OK?). Now I can't give you a list of extras and phone numbers, but were I hanging onto this Deutsche Damen I'd get the front forks stiffened up , some stickier rubber and cause even more red faces among the cafŽ racers of W10 (and have Bertie's 'Swing Out Sister' cassette unjammed from the stereo).