BMW has a long history of producing some of the world’s best mile-eaters, beginning with the fully faired R 100 RT that first saw the light of day back in 1978, powered by an air-cooled 980cc boxer twin and essentially kicking off the comfortable long-distance touring genre.
Production of the R 100 range was momentarily paused in the 1980s as BMW pressed ahead with development of its water-cooled inline four-cylinder K100 range, but BMW fans wanted their beloved boxer twin, and in 1995 the company launched the air/oil cooled R 1100 RT, which featured four-valve heads, a trick Telelever front suspension and Paralever rear-end, making it a technological tour de force at the time.
BMW upgraded the RT for the new millennium and in 2002 launched the slightly larger capacity R 1150 RT. Three years later this model was replaced by the R 1200 RT.
Then – 2005 The BMW R 1200 RT was an unabashed long-distance tourer with a frame-mounted full fairing and an 1170cc air/oil cooled boxer twin that made a claimed 81kW of power and a meaty 115Nm of torque. When it hit the Aussie market it had a retail price of $27,600.
To meet emissions targets, the air/oil cooled boxer featured electronic fuel injection with dual ignition and anti-knock control, along with a three-way catalytic converter with two oxygen sensors. High octane fuel was advised but it would run happily enough on 91 RON, deemed necessary for a bike that would be ridden long distances, potentially to remote locations where premium fuel was not always available.
The R 1200 RT was no lightweight, tipping the scales at around 250kg fully fuelled, but that wasn’t bad for a big tourer at the time and, as with all BMW boxers, much of that weight sat low in the frame, which greatly benefitted on-road handling… as did BMW’s innovative Telelever/Paralever systems.
The Telelever front-end is designed to minimise unsprung weight and separate the wheel-placement function of the fork legs from the suspension function, which in turn eliminates diving under brakes. The Paralever rear-end combines power transmission (via a cardan shaft drive) and suspension function, and minimises upward movement under acceleration, which is a common trait with many shaft-drive systems. These two systems are extremely effective, and it’s little wonder they have stood the test of time and are still used on the current-generation R 1200 RT, along with many other models in BMW’s range.
The R 1200 RT always offered excellent rider and pillion accommodation, and a height-adjustable screen and seat ensured riders of all statures could find a comfortable seating position. The R 1200 RT could also haul an impressive amount of luggage thanks to its large panniers.
Early model R 1200 RTs were equipped with BMW’s servo-assisted brakes, which many owners didn’t like as they could be ‘grabby’ at slow speeds, but by 2007 this system was replaced and ABS was offered as an option, along with traction control.
In 2010 the R 1200 RT scored double-overhead cams and a few other revisions that saw peak torque increase by 5Nm to 120Nm at 6000rpm. For $30k the R 1200 LS came standard with ABS, factory low suspension, electronically controlled windscreen, sound system, automatic stability control (ASC), tyre pressure control, heated grips, trip computer, 32-litre panniers, 12V power outlet and cruise control. For an extra $900, the R 1200 RT SE model added normal suspension height, Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) and heated seat. The ESA allowed for on-the-fly spring preload and damping adjustments to suit road conditions and load.
Now – 2018 An all-new water-cooled BMW R 1200 RT was introduced to Australia in 2014 at $29,990, and its new boxer twin produced a claimed 92kW at 7750rpm and 125Nm at 6500rpm. Other than a few minor upgrades and colour changes, this is basically the model that remains on sale today.
As well water-cooling, the engine scored greater centrifugal mass for the crankshaft and alternator, aimed at providing smooth engine running.
The R 1200 RT features a multi-mode Automatic Stability Control (ASC) system with ‘Rain’ and ‘Road’ modes. An optional addition to this set-up is Riding mode Pro, which incorporates a ‘Dynamic’ setting allowing riders to explore the full sporting potential of this big touring bike, as well as Hill Start Control. Optional Gear Shift Assistant Pro allows for clutch-less shifting.
Like the previous generation ESA, the current model’s optional semi-active Dynamic ESA allows for rider selectable spring preload and damper adjustments. In addition, it uses sensors at the front and rear to monitor wheel travel, and automatically adapts the damping characteristics to suit riding conditions.
Distinguishing the new model from its predecessors is revised bodywork with improved aerodynamics and better wind and weather protection. The panniers and topbox feature a more integrated appearance and the screen now offers a greater range of power adjustment.
To improve rider comfort, the ergonomic triangle (handlebar, seat and footpegs) has been lowered 20mm and the windshield has been revised. A multifunction instrument cluster with 5.7-inch TFT colour display provides a wealth of information to riders including odometer, trip meters, ambient temperature, fuel consumption, speed, tyre pressure (optional), distance to service and more. It also displays audio settings, which are controlled via BMW’s multi-controller interface.
Optional equipment on the current R 1200 RT includes the aforementioned Gear Shift Assistant Pro, Dynamic ESA and Riding mode Pro, as well as a high rider’s seat, low rider’s seat, central locking system (for panniers and storage compartments), satnav, LED daytime running lamps, seat heating, tyre pressure monitor, second 12V power outlet and cruise control, as well as a range of additional luggage items such as inner bags and tank bags.
For the 2018 model year, the R 1200 RT scores BMW’s banking-optimised ABS Pro, which is designed to keep the bike leaned over in corners when braking, allowing the rider to slow down without picking the bike up. Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) is now available as an option and there’s a range of new colours depending on model (RT, RT Sport, RT Elegance or RT Spezial).
The BMW R 1200 RT has always been one of the best touring motorcycles on the market… and it still is, despite plenty of competition from the likes of Yamaha’s FJR1300 and Kawasaki’s 1400 GTR, as well as big luxo-barges like the Honda Goldwing and BMW’s own K 1600 GT.