BMW K1200S First ride

21 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on BMW K1200S First ride

Words and Pictures by Stelvio Verdani

MotorbikesToday reader and avid Nurburgringer Stelvio Verdani is a lucky guy. Not only does he live in one of the most bike friendly places on the planet but he won an expenses paid trip back to his beloved Nurburgring, courtesy of BMW, to try their new K1200S. I don’t know what he did ina past life but it must have been good.

Here’s what he says about the experience:

Read with care: this is written by a long-time BMW enthusiast.

I was one of the lucky testers of the new K1200S at the Nordschleife a few weeks ago. The selection of the 30 testers among more than 10 thousand applicants was done by BMW subsidiaries in the different countries, so I don’t know if some homogeneous criteria was adopted: as a matter of fact, it was a mix of BMW customers and people who had never ridden a BMW in their life.

Among the three of us from Italy, apart from me (owner of 6 different BMWs so far, currently riding 2 BMWs and a Kawasaki ZX-10R), there was the webmaster of an independent BMW-aficionados site, and a guy who owns a few sports and supersports bikes, and never had a BMW. One of the criteria, however, was that we were expected to be sporty riders.

I must tell you that various BMWs I had, in different ways, did surprise me. For example, a K 1200 RS, despite its enormous weight, proved to be a very agile bike (it was the first bike on which I rode the Nordschleife, a few years ago); and the R 1100 S, despite its relatively low power and somewhat important weight, can be a real track-tool that allowed me to leave a few supersports behind, at least in corners. So I was sort of expecting another surprise from the Bavarians.

But not as big as the K 1200 S proved to be.

Let’s take it from the start. I had seen pictures of the bike, on magazines and on the web, and they all gave the impression of a huge, very long bike. In real life, the only big part seems to be the (rather ugly) headlight: the bike is smaller than expected, and it does not even appear that long, although the wheelbase figure is a large one.

I really like the tail of the bike (pity the huge German license plate was spoiling it), the design of the rims, and the way the big exhaust silencer literally disappears in the profile of the bike, thanks to the lack of swingarm on the right side, that allows it to be positioned extremely close to the wheel.

Time to start the engine. The sound is nothing like any previous BMW I heard, whatever the number of cylinders.

It’s closer to the sound of a supersports, in that the engine is very sharp in raising revs, but it has more body than a supersports, and it is still civilized and quiet as a BMW.

Standard (=visible!!) analogue meters, plus an LCD display with, presumably, a lot of information (but that was not the part I was more interested into).

Time to move. The very first impression, moving slowly in the car park, was of a heavy steering. I stopped and looked for a steering damper (which wasn’t there), and even if my front tyre was properly inflated (which it was).

Then I realized that the feeling disappears as soon as you move at more than, say, 15 km/h: it’s probably an effect of the new front suspension geometry.

We spent the first afternoon riding around narrow roads of the Eifel, at speeds that would not make German police specially happy. I must admit I was paying more attention to the riding, especially when we went on a few kms of road that was being repaved, than on collecting feedback from the bike, but the general impression was of comfort, good wind protection and great torque at every rpm.

But, of course, everybody was waiting for the real test on the Nordschleife. So, very early in the morning, nordic style (at least, not italian style) we assembled at the gates of the track. First part of the morning was spent in studying one section of the track (I was getting a bit impatient, having done several hundred laps of the place) and in braking exercises.

I must admit the ABS (which, in principle, I don’t like) is getting better and better, and the electrically assisted braking (which I tried once on a Rockster and on the huge K1200LT they gave me to go to the event) reduces the power to apply to the lever but is now also very sensible. Only drawback, if you move your bike in the garage without turning the ignition key on, you are very likely to hit the wall.

However, an Austrian guy in my group stopped from about 50 km/h in 4 meters (with his back wheel about 40 cm in the air).

At last, around 10 in the morning, it was time to start lapping.

On my very fist lap I found myself with the knee slider on the floor in a great downhill corner called Aremberg (which is something I don’t do that often on the ZX-10R). The bike gives a lot of confidence, it’s very stable and agile, due to an extremely low center of gravity, and the engine can pull you out of any corner in any gear.

In my group, I was the only one with some knowledge of the track, and we also had mixed riding abilities, so the policy of the instructor was quicker and quicker in corners, slow down to recompact the group in the straights. Typically I was not using lower gears than 4th. Nevertheless, at the end of the second day, after about 40 laps (more than 800 kms) we were going quite quick.

BMW K1200S

The bike handles great, is comfortable and easy. It’s no supersports, and yet it is very powerful and very fast: you feel like you are on a quiet stroll, and then you realize you are doing 220 at the bottom of Fuchsrohre. I found myself with my knee on the floor in Angstkurve, which is a 180 km/h uphill lefthander, and on the final straight the engine still pushes hard at about 280 km/h indicated.

Defects? Someone noticed some engine irregularity at low revs: I also had some, but only for a few minutes on a cold and damp morning. I hear that some journalist complains about vibrations. Vibrations? Come on!

You are practically sitting on an engine! If it does not vibrate, you better check it: is probably not running. The age of seriously vibrating engines ended probably in the seventies.

Other, Iitalian, journalists (of the hooligan type) complain that the bike is not easy to wheelie. I must admit, this is a serious fault, especially if you use the bike to go from home to the pub and back (possibly in a straight line), but then a BMW would never be flashy enough for you, would it?

My point is: modern 1-litre supersports are great bikes, but they simply cannot be used on the road. Probably a 600 is still too much. On my ZX-10R, in Italy, I could have my license retired on any road, including motorways, using only first gear.

The only road I end up using it on is the motorway between my place and the Nordschleife.

The K1200S is a BMW. It’s quiet, comfortable, it has state-of-the-art electronics, you can decently carry luggage, go for a trip, go for a stroll, go to the office (I’ll never do that. ), but then, somehow, the K1200S is NOT a BMW. It has just 8 bhp less than my ZX-10R, it made me scrape the surface of the Nordschleife in places where I never did before, it has proven to lap the place in less than 8 minutes (even on a lousy line, if you have seen Markus Barth’s video).

By the way, Markus Barth was at the Ring both days, and we saw him passing by at a speed in a different league.

I heard from our instructor that his 7’57 lap was recorded in a session of only 3 laps, on Markus’ first visit of the year to the Ring, with a pre-production prototype still equipped with a center-stand (= sparkles all the way), and Markus admits he made at least three mistakes.

He says the bike has the potential for a 7’40.

And I believe him.

Editor’s note: The bike lap record around the Nordschleife of 7’49, was set by Helmut Dahne on a Honda RC30.

BMW K1200S
BMW K1200S
BMW K1200S


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