New 2014 BMW R1200RT arrives! 399 km First Ride

New 2014 BMW R1200RT arrives - first ride, 400 km

New 2014 BMW R1200RT arrives – first ride, 400 km

We say a fond farewell to our beloved 2012 Moto Guzzi Stelvio 1200 NTX, a bike we’ve come to call the ‘Italian sport tractor.’  We’ll miss it dearly.  Of all the bikes I’ve owned, the Stelvio NTX will be one of my all-time favourite motorcycles.  Blessed with rugged good looks that could come only from Italian designers, the Stelvio was a model of mechanical simplicity, relatively unadorned with hi-tech frippery, and possessed one of the most soulful, joyous V-twin engines in motorcycling.

But we’ve moved on to a new love, the 2014 BMW R1200RT, in Calisto grey metallic matt paint.  This ‘new’ RT is one of the 2014 models bought back by BMW Motorrad Canada as the result of the world-wide “No Ride” recall issued on all 2014 RTs due to a possible rear shock failure.  When we picked up the RT, it showed 5391 km on the odometer and is fully equipped with every option package available.  We added the option large topcase, BMW Navigator V gps, pannier liners, and valve cover guards.

First ride – 399 km ‘shake down’ run

Saturday morning, I make it to the dealership for my orientation to the new RT, which I’ve never ridden.  Forty-five minutes later, the RT is wheeled to the back of the dealership, I adjust the mirrors and Glenn, my salesman and a host of dealership staff gather round to see me off.  Ignition on, clutch in, hit the starter button, click the transmission into 1st gear, and stall.  It’s a nice start and my rookie mistake amuses everybody.

The RT’s clutch pull is light, but the clutch ‘bites’ early in the clutch lever’s release arc and doesn’t have as wide an engagement zone as the Stelvio I’ve been riding for the past two years.

Under way, the R1200RT is supremely refined.  The fuel injection is perfect and running at low speeds, it’s creamy smooth and glitch-free, something the Guzzi struggled with.

I’ve got the suspension set to Comfort and the ride is easily the most compliant, bump-absorbing suspension I’ve ever experienced.  While not quite plush, the RT soaks up potholes, expansion joints and broken pavement better than my Honda Gold Wing GL1800A ever did, and it too had adjustable suspension, though nowhere near as sophisticated as BMW’s version.

I’m not wearing ear plugs as I head out onto the QE2 divided 4-lane highway to meet friends for breakfast.  At 120 km/h with the windscreen adjusted so I can see over the top edge, there’s no wind turbulence, and the cocoon of air is relatively quiet.  Some moto journalists have written that the new RT is perfectly quiet at high speeds, but for my 5-foot 7-in. frame and wearing a Nolan N90 modular helmet (with chinbar locked down and faceshield cracked open slightly), the ride is not perfectly quiet.  Opening my faceshield, I can still feel a breeze on my face, but the weather protection is very, very good.

My bike has arrived with the low saddle.  (The dealership will swap it out for a standard height saddle when they get one.)  It’s very firm and relatively flat.  I’ve got it set in the ‘high’ position and I can almost flat-foot the bike.  I’m used to the tall saddle of the Stelvio so flat-footing (or not being able to) is no big deal for me.  The OEM low saddle is nowhere near as comfortable as the standard Gold Wing saddle, which for me, was 12-hour plush.

The new RT’s riding position is pretty standard sport touring fare.  It’s not quite as upright and open as the Gold Wing GL1800A, and if memory serves me correctly, the bars feel a tad lower and more forward than those of the 2004 R1150RT.

The RT’s cruise control works brilliantly.  Because the RT has a hi-tech ride-by-wire throttle, there is no throttle movement as the BMW adjusts the throttle to compensate for increasing or decreasing grades.  On bikes with cable-operated throttles (like the Gold Wing) the throttle rotates as the cruise control continually adjusts to maintain the bike’s speed.  That throttle movement is bothersome to some riders.

And kudos to BMW product planners for designing the RT’s luggage system so you can open any case without using a key.  The automatic locking/unlocking system is a terrific convenience.  A button on the right side of the bike can lock/unlock the cases or this can be done via the key fob.  Nice.

Some troubling issues on this first ride are the GPS is difficult to read.  I’ll have to delve into the manual to see if I can brighten and increase the contrast of its display.  Also, the instrument panel picks up a lot of relfections, making it difficult to read at times.

After a short, 399 kilometre first ride with Robyn S. (riding a 2010 BMW R1200RT), my first impressions are very good.

So far, we like:

  • superbly compliant suspension
  • ‘automatic’ locking/unlocking luggage cases (including topcase)
  • excellent weather protection
  • refined, powerful and ‘throaty’ 124 horsepower liquid-cooled 1170 c.c. ‘boxer’ engine
  • gearshift indicator display

So far, we’re not so happy with:

  • steep learning curve needed for the multitude of onboard menus, displays and controls
  • GPS is difficult to read
  • reflections on the instrument panel make readouts difficult to see

I’m excited to have this new touring bike in the garage.  We’ll post more riding impressions very soon.



1 Comment

  1. Richard says:

    sounds mighty fine

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