I enjoy the luxury of having three BMWs at my disposal. My mainstay, day-to-day bike is the 2005 R 1200 GS that was the subject of the recent, multi-part tech series. In addition to the GS, I have a 1998 K 1200 RS with a Hannigan Classic sidecar that I use for taking my wife or kid on trips. Finally, for those lazy days, I picked up a 2003 R 1200 CLC over the winter and have been enjoying the cruiser lifestyle from time to time.
When I got this 2016 R 1200 RT to test, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I imagined I’d go into old man mode—after all, isn’t that who rides RTs? Old men? Stereotypes exist for a reason, right? Seeing as how I’m still under 50, I figured it would be a short test: I’d ride it, I’d hate it, I’d apologize for wasting everybody’s time.
I couldn’t have been more wrong more quickly. From the first time I rode the RT, I knew it was a bike that absolutely shouldn’t be restricted to old men. Instead of focusing on sport touring, by necessity I found myself focused on commuting. My round-trip between home and work totals 45 miles, and nearly all of it is interstate highway. The first thing I noticed about the RT is that it compresses the highway time in a Star Trek-like fashion. Once I got on the highway, it seemed like I had only gone 19 miles before it was time to get off. Between the smooth power delivery and the cruise control, eating up highway miles on the RT is simply effortless.
After several weeks of commuting to work and going on longer rides on the weekends, I recognized an odd dichotomy with the RT. It both requires you to think less and causes you to think more. Thinking less comes from the physical operation of the motorcycle. The throttle is smooth and responds cleanly and crisply no matter what riding mode you’re in (naturally, in Dynamic mode the response is more linear, but even in Rain mode you feel the bike responding immediately).
Shift Assist Pro makes changing gears almost an afterthought, especially in gears three through six. Whether you’re shifting up or down, the computer does the hard work, and you just toe the shift lever. It seems trite to use the word effortless again, but shifting when you don’t have to worry about the clutch really is effortless. Up or down, it doesn’t matter. The only hitch is that Shift Assist Pro has some difficulty getting into or out of first gear. The transition up from second to third is a little rough if you’re going slowly. The procedure I found that works best is to shift north of 5,000 rpm; with the engine turning fast, Shift Assist Pro can do its work most efficiently. It’s an impressive bit of technology that suits tight, curvy roads, as you can shift up and down through the gears with impunity, never moving your left hand from the grip and never having to worry if you’re in the right gear.
The suspension functions quite well without much active intervention from the rider. The system has the typical Rider, Rider + Luggage, and Rider + Passenger settings; at my weight and riding style, I found Rider + Luggage to be the best setting. I tried the Soft and Hard settings as well, but Normal gave me the best combination of comfort and feedback. Hard is truly hard, but it gives the feeling of being directly connected to the road through the hands, feet and seat. During technical riding, especially on complex back roads, the combination of Dynamic, Hard, and Rider + Luggage was perfect. Out on the highway, Normal and Soft made for a plush ride that could last all day, with the only distraction being a little noticeable heat coming off the left side and blowing onto the rider’s leg.
Read the rest of Wes Fleming's review in the August issue of the BMW Owners News available in print and online. Not a BMW MOA member? You can sign up for a trial membership for immediate access to the digital edition of the BMW Owners News.