Living with a 2005 BMW R1200RT

Giles finds another BMW that he loves, the R1200RT

June 2005

Another year, another BMW! Just like last year prior to picking up the R1100S, I did have a few doubts as to whether or not it was what I really wanted, particularly a full-on tourer like the R1200RT. And just like last year, I was wrong to have any doubts. I've only been riding it for three weeks, but have already grown to love it.

I'd heard good things about the R1200RT before having my first go, but I couldn't help thinking it was only going to be a marginal improvement on the R1150RT, a bike I'd had a few opportunities to ride last year. Not that there's anything really wrong with the old version - it's just that it's pig ugly, slow and doesn't handle particularly well... But the new bike is a totally different animal. The engine, a tuned version of the 1200GS mill, produces loads of relatively vibe-free torque from around 2000rpm, and actually gets pretty lively from 4500rpm through to the red line.

It even feels a lot quicker than my old 'sports' R1100S in terms of engine performance, and the handling is incredibly good as well for such a big bike. You can really throw it around if the mood takes you. It's a shame that my test bike isn't fitted with the optional electronically adjustable front and rear suspension (ESA), as it is a little too softly sprung for my liking. I've upped the rear pre-load, which has helped, but unfortunately the front shock has no adjustments. To be fair though, for normal touring speeds it's a pretty good compromise between comfort and tautness.

But the best part is that comfort. I'm 6ft 8in but even with the seat in its 'high' position to give me an extra 40mm of leg-room, the huge, adjustable screen deflects all the wind over my head so I can sit bolt upright at 120mph with no wind buffeting at all. The two-tier seats themselves are wide and comfortable, and mean that it's no problem staying in the saddle between fuel stops. The 27-litre tank gives a range of at least 200 miles between fill ups, and the optional onboard computer (and extra £80) keeps you informed and updated with how many miles worth of fuel you've got left in the tank, based on your average mpg, which it kindly works out for you at the same time. It also gives your average speed, the ambient temperature and lets you know if you need to check the oil level.

My bike has also been fitted with the incredibly anti-social radio/CD player. It works reasonably well at low speeds, but while it automatically boosts the volume as your speed increases, by the time you get much above 70 you'd be hard pushed to recognise a beat, let alone any lyrics. If it was my money, I'd spend fifty quid of the extortionate £875 this option costs on a portable CD player with headphones, and the rest on other extras such as the electronic suspension (£395) and top box (£368).

I'm thoroughly enjoying everything about this bike so far. It's great fun to ride, has loads of luggage space, is comfortable - in fact perfect for going touring on. Just as well I've got a few trips planned on it this year - including a tour of Ireland, and a quick blast down to Gibraltar - I can't wait!

September 2005

Another couple of months and the BM's mileage is creeping up. And it's not all been boring motorway stuff, either. Bennetts were kind enough to let me come along to one of their track days at Mallory Park.

There were a few surprised looks as we rolled out onto the track, Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries blaring from the stereo and all the luggage still fitted! There were even more surprised faces as the BMW proved just how capable it is of putting in a decent performance on track. The only parts to touch down were the hero blobs, and the linked stoppers made out-braking other riders a doddle, the ABS leaving you safe in the knowledge that the tyres wouldn't lock up. Confidence was further improved by having a set of Michelin Pilot Race tyres fitted for the occasion. They really were superb, both on and off the track. They even lasted reasonably well at 2200 miles.

I seem to spend half my time getting tyres changed on the BMW. The OE Pilot Roads lasted 4300 miles, and worked well enough. They were replaced by Pirelli Diablo Stradas, which worked very well indeed both in the wet and dry, with the rear lasting 2700 miles. A Pirelli Dragon Strada replaced this for around 1000 miles until the front Diablo expired. I've also tried a set of Avon Viper AV60s, but never really got to fully test them as the roads were wet for most of their 2100 mile life. I'm currently using BT020s, a more obvious choice for a touring bike, giving plenty of grip and stability while hopefully lasting well.

Autocom came to the rescue with one of their Pro-7 intercom systems (£290, (01926) 431249) when they heard I couldn't hear the stereo at speed. I can now choose between hearing audio coming through the standard speakers when I want to annoy people in town, or through a headset in the helmet when I actually want to hear what's playing. And now I'll be able to talk to my pillion - when I'm lucky enough to find one...

The bike itself also sounds much better now with a full Remus race exhaust with titanium silencer (£598, (0870) 2402118). The catalytic converter has been lost in the process, and some extra weight with it, and the engine now feels livelier and makes satisfying burbles and pops on the overrun. I'll get it dyno'd soon.

BMW have kindly provided me with some extra accessories. The top box is huge, with plenty of room to hold two full-face helmets. Liner bags make packing a hell of a lot easier, and look pretty smart when you're off the bike. And the tank bag cleverly and securely locks to a rack to stop it moving around, as well as being expandable and totally waterproof.

A funny thing happened a couple of weeks ago when I stopped for fuel and realised a pannier was missing. Panic ensued as I tried to work out what was in it, and whether it would be traceable to me if it'd gone through someone's windscreen on the M3. Greater panic followed when I discovered that, being a standard part of the bike rather than an accessory, you could only buy its individual components. Total cost? Around £700! Embarrassingly, it turned out I'd just forgotten to re-fit it, having taken it off to inspect the rear pads and not noticed when I rode off!

Ironically, the very next day the top box fell off for real. Having eventually re-traced my route and found it, I discovered someone else had got there first, neatly leaving it safely on the verge before helping themselves to my laptop. Inspection revealed the base had cracked around the locking mechanism. I've Superglued it together but it looks pretty second-hand, and I now refrain from putting anything heavy in it.

Other than that, the bike has covered 14,000 miles without any real problems. A badly executed wheel change damaged the front ABS sensor, but this was the fitter's fault. A couple of fairing screws have fallen out, and it drinks a fair bit of oil (around half a litre every 600 miles).

I've just returned from a trip to Connemara in Ireland, and apart from picking up some reasonably priced speeding penalties within 20 miles of getting off the ferry, the trip was lovely and showed just how good a touring bike the R1200RT is. The scenery was stunning and the BMW did a perfect job of transporting me and all of my luggage around Ireland's horrendously bumpy roads. I really can't think of any bike I'd rather have been on for the journey. The combination of comfort, weather protection, luggage capacity, fuel range and stereo all make this the perfect touring tool. And, when you get to your destination, its excellent handling lets you have some proper fun. I can't wait to go away on it again - and soon.