Bikes we love

What I want: BMW R1200R

“It suits you, mate. Really does.”

I furrowed my brow at him, half trying to communicate that I didn’t quite believe him, half trying to communicate that I hadn’t asked for his opinion.
“That’s an important part of it, I reckon,” he said, unfettered. “How you fit on the bike, like. Me, I look better on that big K1600 over there. Not sure the missus would agree if I told her how much it costs, but, you know, that’s how it is. Anyway, I’m just sayin’: it suits you, mate.”
This conversation took place a few months ago at Motorcycle Live, as I was sitting on the new BMW R1200R. The random bloke in faded high-vis wasn’t a salesman trying to sell the bike, he was just being friendly. I think.

His accent was clearly Southeast England — possibly Kent or Essex — and I always have a little trouble reading those dudes. Britons love being ironic, so a knowledge of the subtleties of dialectical intonation is key to understanding whether they are joking. I get the Welsh. I get people from the West Country. I’m pretty sure I’ve cracked Brummies. But my interaction with natives of the Southeast has been limited, so I’m never 100-percent sure. Hence the furrowed brow.

Eventually, I decided he was expressing an honest opinion. I look good on a BMW R1200R.

I guess that’s good to know.

And ever since that day — because I am so highly impressionable — I’ve found myself paying more and more attention to the iconic flat-twinned machine that is the R1200R. There’s something in its look I find deeply appealing. I have long said I identify more with John Sutherland in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance than with Phaedrus/Robert Pirsig. The new R1200R feels like a natural, almost organic progression of the R60/2 that carried John and his wife, Sylvia, to the West.
It looks like a motorcycle you would want to keep for a very long time. Every review I’ve read of the R1200R suggests you would be rewarded if you did. The engine’s character, 125-hp oomph and presumed durability has had moto-journalists swooning. 
“From where I’m sitting, BMW can do no wrong,” wrote Luke Bowler.
I’ve never ridden a BMW, so I can’t fully imagine what it is that earns so much praise. But from aesthetics and features, it’s certainly a damned impressive bike. Firstly, it’s shaft-driven. As I mentioned in talking about the Honda VFR1200F, that is a fantasy feature for me. Oh! To be free from the hassle of constantly fussing with a chain!

The R1200R carries its 230 kg curb weight down low, which is another feature I find myself looking for in bikes. My current motorcycle tends to carry its weight (220 kg) a little high, which means there’s a lot of huffing and puffing to keep it upright when moving around in tight spaces. Additionally, in all the motorcycles I’ve ridden that have had a low centre of gravity I’ve found manoeuvring at speed to be pretty much effortless.

Traction control comes standard on the R1200R, as do anti-lock brakes. I’ve had a little experience with the former and refuse to even consider a motorcycle without the latter. The Triumph Explorer XC I rode last year was equipped with traction control, and only several months after the fact did I clock that this was why a little light on the dashboard would occasionally flash as I navigated the muddy and broken-up roads of the Peak District.

Every time my tire slips on the cow manure that is inescapable on Welsh lanes, I wish my present bike had traction control.

Of course, there are dozens of other features. Electronic suspension. LED lights. Computerised this and that. And on and on. But, truthfully, the things that appeal to me most about the R1200R are its looks, and the fact it is a BMW.

BMW, yo. Though I may occasionally poke fun at the image of BMW guys, some deep-seeded (or is it deep-seated?) part of me wants to be one of those guys. I feel simple-minded for being so drawn to a brand — wanting to “connect” with its heritage, its image, and all that nonsense — but I equally can’t deny that I am. BMWs just suit me, mate.

This one in particular. Just looking at the R1200R makes me feel a little jittery with excitement and want. I want to hear the engine, feel its heat. I want to swoop through curving roads on it. I want to launch it down the motorway. I daydream of bedecking an R1200R with panniers and screen and taking ridiculously long and meandering treks through Europe, perpetually coming up with weak excuses to take road trips (“Hey, I want to celebrate Bastille Day in Marseilles,” “I’d like to see Eurovision in person”).

And all the while, I would look so cool doing it.

Having said all that…

The BMW R1200R is as expensive as all get out. The base model will set you back £10,250 (US $15,500) in Her Majesty’s United Kingdom. And to get the sexy grey version with fancy gold forks and all the farkles will see you paying out £11,910 (US $18,000).

That’s before you invest in a screen and panniers.

To that end, I’m half inclined to say that the faired version of this bike, the R1200RS, might be a more practical choice. But it doesn’t look as viscerally good.

Meanwhile, prices for the R1200RS model have not yet been released, but it’s a good bet they’ll be considerably more than the unfaired R1200R. And it’s at about that point, when you’re looking at a bike that costs twice that of, say, a Kawasaki Ninja 650 (aka ER-6f in Not America), that a real feeling of doubt creeps in.

Would the BMW be worth it? Especially considering that the maintenance and servicing costs would be greater than with other bikes? I don’t know. I wish I had the money to find out.