Bikes we love

What I want: BMW R1200RS

One of the people I’ve always looked up to in life is James Moore. A friend of my father’s since the two of them were reporters in Texas in the 1970s, he’s always been a touchstone figure for me. He’s a strong writer, quick-witted, intelligent, ambitious and generally a lot of other things that I aspire to be.
Back in the summer of 1972, one of Moore’s good friends, Butch, returned home from Vietnam and the two of them set out from Michigan on a cross-country road trip. Butch rode a Triumph Bonneville, Moore was astride a Honda CB450.
That last fact is at the heart of why I will never dismiss a Honda.
These days, though, Moore rides a BMW. He rides a few of them, actually, and rides them everywhere. His current main steed is a BMW K1200LT, of which he speaks very highly. Yes, he admitted to me once, repair costs are higher than with other brands, but to his mind they’re worth it because the bikes are generally so wonderful and so reliable.
I tell you all of this to get at the heart of why I am never really able to get over my incredible desire to own a BMW, despite my feeling that the brand is overpriced and generally not all that pleasing in terms of aesthetics.
A dude I want to be like says they are good bikes and deep down inside, some part of me takes that as unquestionable truth.
Admittedly, Moore isn’t the only person singing BMW’s praises. Love for the brand is abundant despite its current propensity for issuing recalls on everything it has ever made.
The newest target of praise is the R1200RS, for which reviews are just now beginning to show up. In Visor Down’s review, the word “good” is used five times. As are the words “excellent”, and “fun”. And the general feeling I get from these reviews is that the RS is exactly the sort of sport tourer you would want and expect from BMW.
Essentially, the RS is just an R1200R with some bits of fairing. The R is a bike that I’d also love to have, and in the “What I Want post” I wrote about it a few months ago I admitted that I prefer its look over the RS. But if it came down to a situation of spending my own money on one or the other, I’d probably let practicality win the day and choose the RS. Fairing is useful stuff.
Butch (red helmet) and James Moore, departing Michigan on a rainy summer day in 1972.
Speaking of practicality, like the R, the RS is shaft-driven, which is the sort of thing I have daydreams about. (Oh, to ride a bike that doesn’t require fussing with a chain. One day…) And somehow BMW have managed to keep the bike’s weight respectable despite the shaft. According to official figures, it weighs just 236 kg wet, which is only 9 kg more than my chain-driven V-Strom.
Meanwhile, the RS’s 1,170-cc engine delivers 125 horsepower, the same as the R. But it beats its naked sibling in the torque game, thanks to a different airbox. That last sentence contains information I’m just repeating from other people. If you can explain how an airbox increases or decreases torque, please do so in the comments section.
There are lots of other numbers and features to fixate on (the electronic suspension adjustment appeals to me for some reason), but the thing that draws me to the RS most is the idea of it. We’ve talked about that a lot on this blog, haven’t we? The way some bikes seem to have a spirit.
The R1200RS seems like the bike you would want to choose for a tour of Europe. I’ve yet to see any photos of the bike with its accessory panniers and top box, but in my mind I can picture it clearly. I can picture the pillion seat stacked up with bags. I can picture myself on the bike. And although I’ve not yet ever ridden a BMW, I can somehow imagine the thrum of its engine easily tackling mile after mile of French and Spanish and Italian landscape.
And speaking of pictures, you get the sense that this is the sort of machine you’ll be proud to show pictures of when you’re 90. It has that sort of resonance. It looks like the vehicle upon which great stories are built: “Yeah, I rode that thing to Croatia back in in the summer of ’16. That was when I met your Uncle Barry, actually; I saved him from a pack of wild dogs.”
In the way that I aspire professionally and personally to be like James Moore, the RS is a bike that (looks like it) fits my aspirations as a rider.
Though, I’ll admit that my vision of myself is evolving rapidly now I’m a V-Strom owner. Perhaps the bike I should instead be salivating over is the R1200GS, which runs the same engine as the RS. Hard to say; the worlds of sport touring and adventure touring blur for me. I like both. I just want to be able to go far and have a good time getting there. The RS seems like a great way to accomplish that.
Having said all that…
Notice that the bike’s appeal to me is primarily emotional. Yeah, shaft drive is nice, but the Honda VFR1200F has shaft drive, more horsepower, most of the same features, and will cost you less (and it looks better). The things I like most about the RS are particularly intangible, and although intangibles clearly mean a lot to me, my history shows those intangibles don’t hold up well when the money to pay for something is coming out of my wallet.
Meanwhile, according to reviews I’ve read so far, the wind protection isn’t quite what you’d hope from such a high-end sport tourer. And it’s got an analogue speedometer, yo. Analogue. In 2015.
If you are reading this in the God-blessed United States of America, you may not give a damn about being able to ride in countries that measure their distances in kilometres. But with my aspirations toward more European (a) riding, the ability to switch easily between mph and kph has become somewhat important to me. Especially if I’m paying BMW prices.
My V-Strom has a digital speedometer and clicking between the two distance measurements simply requires pushing a button. This is how things should be, and if Suzuki can manage it on a £9,000 motorcycle BMW should be able to provide the same on a bike that costs up to £4,000 more.
And, yeah. what’s with that price, anyway? The R1200RS Sport SE will set you back almost £13,000. And after that you’ll still have to pay extra for panniers and top box.
(a) Yes, technically the United Kingdom is part of the European continent, and certainly it is a member of the European Union, but very few of its citizens think of themselves as European. Indeed, many are aggressively anti-European, as evidenced by the rise of UKIP.