2005 BMW K 1200 S
The '05 K1200S: Revolutionary!
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Time to learn the German translation for "Supersport".
With such high levels of intimacy and trust from the word go, I twist the throttle hard as soon as my front wheel rolls over a few yards of German Autobahn. The K-S leaps forward with attention grabbing force but without drama. Not even a hint of a wheelie or rear tire spin, just forward thrust. It's pure and powerful acceleration, very different from that of the last crop of liter SS tools in its linearity. The K1200S is quite muscular everywhere. With 70% of max torque available at 3,000 rpm, it feels more like being flung from a powerful slingshot, rather than being kicked in the butt all at once. Nothing boring or mild, mind you. Keep the throttle pinned and the pull gets dead serious as the engine hits 8,000RPM, ZX12R/Busa' serious. Now, I'm catching cars that are crawling along at 90 mph way too fast. I chop the throttle some and upon rolling it back open, the way the engine shoots the bike from 90 back to 140 mph in 6th gear is mighty impressive. There is some real grunt at work down there.
While playing these silly throttle games, another thing becomes clear. Till now, I did not have to fight any windblast, tame any front-end nervousness or fold myself over to fit behind the bubble. Slightly canted into the wind, the wide fairing supplies plenty of protection, the tallish handlebars (positioned in "above the triple clamp", compared to a normal front end) diminish wrist strain and all-in-all, it's high-speed nirvana. The heavy traffic on the Autobahn though means that I have to stop my top speed runs around 170mph indicated, with a few hundred rpm's left before the 11K(ish) redline.
Our route book says we should pull off the highway, so we head to some secondary roads that roll over the soft hills east of Munich. On these medium-fast bends, without much field of view (bends continuing over the crest of a hill), the K behaves quite nicely indeed. It is happy to trail-brake into turns in a high gear, lay down on a last second handlebar input and accelerate-out happily from 4,000 rpm. It's not CBR 1000RR quick in responding to these late steering inputs, but is still lightning-quick, when you consider its long 62" wheelbase. I am not carving at 45° of lean just yet, but the linear way the bike responds allows me to cover these flowing sections quite efficiently. In the mean time, the Duolever thing has won me over with its delightful balance between stability, accuracy and bump absorption. Furthermore, it is extremely fun to watch the exposed scissor-link work overtime over the tiniest of ripples. The progressive suspension in the back is a good match, though the questionable fit between drive shaft and super-sporty riding remains an open issue.
Just before stopping for lunch, I make a mental note of the high comfort level from the soft saddle. There are sport bikes on which you really need to take a break every hour or two and even then, your buttocks are not happy to meet the saddle again. Not here, after each fag stop, the K welcomed me refreshingly with its business class spaciousness. Another point in this age of genital frying under-tail exhaust systems is that engine heat management felt well sorted. The night before, Herr Robb told me about the hot air exits sitting very low in the fairing and indeed, I did not suffer from any heat-induced agony on this rather hot day.
After lunch, it's pose-for-the-cameras time. I've done a fair bit of corner carving for lens men before and it usually takes me a couple minutes to warm up to knee dragging angles. However, with this Beemer, I am dragging my pucks all through the left-right-left section, after my second pass. I know it's not a very scientific criteria, but it shows the speed with which you blend with the K1200S. The Metzler Sportecs felt very linear in their response and confidence inspiring at high lean angles, while the Duolever continued its star showing with good feedback and neutral manners.
I haven't mentioned the brakes yet, have I? There's a good reason for that, because I just hate the latest servo assisted BMW ABS. No feel, see?
Yet there comes a moment, when I should be eating my hat (or helmet) and adding a thank you. Our photo session soon draws a crowd of locals and some cars have created a small bottleneck exactly where we're shooting. Thing is, I don't discover that fact until a fraction of a second before throwing the bike into the first kink. Shite! Turns out, I have two possibilities: 1.) Run into the tail of a Renault Megane, or 2.) ride straight into the cows just in front of me. They do look somewhat softer, but after taking this crucial decision in their favor, I realize that there is some barbed wire separating us. This is a no-brainer. Just mash the brakes and cheers; see you in the emergency room. Seconds later, I'm standing with my front wheel inches form the fence, rubber-side-up, after traveling the last few yards on loose gravel. So, I still have a hard time admitting that a black box is better than I am at braking, but it's on these once-a-year occasions when you bow your head in shame and confess that ABS is not such a bad idea, reduced lever feel and all. (The lever feel is more a function of the servo-assist, than the actual ABS. -Sean)
Until now, the K has been supplying the goods rather nicely, but the itinerary chosen by BMW has gotten on my nerves. We hadn't had any proper stints long enough to really push the thing's limits. I persuade a fellow journo to forget about the road book and off we head into some proper Alpine roads. Another short Autobahn stint and finally we find a fast, furious and long road flowing next to a small river. As we get into the groove, I push the electronic suspension button (ESA) to "sport" mode and things get much firmer and sharper indeed. However, I must say that riding up to now on the "comfort" setting, didn't prevent me from gassing it rather hard and I ended up riding in "Normal" for the rest of the day.