2005 BMW K 1200 S "Second Time Around"

The '05 K1200S: Version 1.1?

story by Sean Alexander, Gabe Ets-Hokin, Photograph by MO Staff, Created Jun. 06, 2005
Part One: Dirty Doesn't Like It!
San Francisco, CA ~ BMW did something completely out of character recently, by acknowledging that there are a few deficiencies in the "Dynamic Reputations" of its motorcycles. Conventional wisdom says admitting you have a problem is half the battle. What they don't say, is that fixing the problem is often a tortuous process fraught with pitfalls and set backs. Every single bike they've introduced in the past twelve months is significantly lighter and more powerful than the bike it replaces, and the resulting vehicle dynamics stand as a testament to BMW's hard work. One test ride on any of BMW's new 2005 or 2006 models makes it impossible to miss their newfound performance emphasis.

BMW says the revised K1200S is finally ready for public consumption. Do you agree? When BMW introduced the initial run of K1200S' to the world's press last fall, they were surprised to hear numerous complaints from the assembled journos, concerning various fuel injection and rideability issues. Now, almost a year later, BMW says they've fixed those initial problems and are introducing an updated version of the K1200S to the US press. The rest of the machine is unchanged from its initial launch, and you can refer back to Yossef's excellent Technical Introduction, for a complete rundown on its highlights and features.

BMW states that they addressed those early issues by redesigning the combustion chamber shape and completely re-mapping both the ignition and the fuel injection systems. They also revised the production line procedures and changed the hardening process for the camshafts to enhance durability.

Sean tests the S' turning radius and is surprised to note that it isn't half bad, considering its 61.8" wheelbase According to BMW, the K1200S is not intended as a direct replacement for last year's K1200RS, but they would still like to point out that the new S is 26% lighter than the old RS, now weighing a claimed 499Lbs dry and 546Lbs "wet" (all fluids + 90% fuel). They also claim that the K1200S' engine produces 167HP @ 10,250Rpm and 96LbFt @ 8,250RPM at the crank. Unfortunately, those ponies can't all make it to the tire, so the MO Dynojet recorded an actual 144.71HP @ 10,100Rpm. That's stout to be sure, but probably not going to set the world on fire. However, the truly impressive figure is the 50+LbFt of torque delivered at a mere 1,800Rpm. Torque builds quickly from there on its long climb to a peak of 85.29LbFt @ 8,400Rpm, before tapering off to 70LbFt at the rev-limiter.

The great thing about this kind of power delivery is that you receive strong acceleration, regardless of gear selection or rpm. Indeed, the K1200S blurs scenery in the same effortless and invigorating manner as the Hayabusa and ZX-12R. According to our dyno tests, the K1200S spins the rear tire to 175mph at the top of sixth gear. I can personally verify that it will charge right up to an indicated 180mph in the real world, and I suspect that there might be a German nanny hidden away in there, preventing the bike from reaching its full top-speed potential. Honestly, the real difference in top-speeds is irrelevant, as all these bikes will spend 99.999% of their lives somewhere south of 130mph.

In normal use, we spend a much greater percentage of our time riding at smaller throttle openings. Unfortunately, this is where the K1200S presents its first major weakness. Though BMW claims to have solved last year's fuel injection woes, all three bikes that I've ridden for this story are still afflicted with a funky off/on throttle transition. It appears that BMW mapped the electronics to increase idle speed during trailing-throttle use, so that when the throttle is re-opened the engine has already covered the awkward transition. Unfortunately, not only did this not solve the issue, it seems to have created a new and much worse problem because the new idle speed is wildly inconsistent, causing the engine to hunt and surge. When decelerating into corners with the throttle closed, the hunting and surging can make it seem like the bike is starting to pull again on its own. I don't know if this is an actual pull from the engine or if it's just a sudden reduction in back-torque when the engine map starts to compensate for the closed throttle. Whatever the exact cause is, it is downright spooky, when you're hauling ass into a decreasing-radius corner in the rain and the bike decides on its own to slightly re-open the throttle.

You can eliminate the issue by decelerating with the clutch disengaged, but most people don't like to ride that way.

This is what it looks like during the .001% of the time that most streetbikes spend above (censored) MPH
Though it'll turn plenty tight, there is a noticeable lack of front-end feedback & feel
The K1200S prefers fast sweeping corners and feels a bit out of its element in tight/slow stuff like this 15MPH hairpin
This is what Sean considers to be "Multi Tasking" Here, we see our fearless Publisher simultaneously testing the BMW's clutch, acceleration and its luggage capacity
With normal brakes and a new FI map, this bike would make an excellent choice for people who like to mix high speed with comfort and travel potential
Speaking of decelerating, the K1200S uses the "partially-integrated" version of BMW's EVO ABS brakes. Partially integrated means that squeezing the front brake lever also activates the rear caliper, but using the rear brake pedal doesn't apply any front brake. Though this is better than fully-linked brakes, BMW's servo-boosted system lacks both feel and linearity. What's worse is that applying the rear brake with your foot, while also using the front brakes causes a slight change in overall system pressure which has the unhappy effect of changing the front lever feel and slightly altering the amount pressure sent to the front calipers. Another issue with this system is that the lever feels as though there is quite a bit of stiction in its pivot, making it that much harder to achieve smooth and linear braking. Thankfully, the K1200S comes standard without the $995.00 EVO ABS system, and though ABS is nice to have in the slop or in an emergency, the drawbacks to this particular system cause me to recommend that you save your $995 and stick with the standard system. All in all, I'd demand a normal braking setup on any bike with this much performance potential.

The optional $750 ESA (Electrically Adjustable Suspension) is quite effective in real world use, offering nine different combinations, by selecting any one of three load profiles (Rider, Rider + Gear or Rider + Passenger) while parked and then offering three dynamic presets (Sport, Normal and Comfort) which you can switch between on the fly.

The system executes your suspension tuning requests, by altering front rebound damping, rear preload, rear compression damping and rear rebound damping. The changes are immediately noticeable when you switch between modes by pressing the ESA button with your left thumb. You might be thinking ESA sounds like another electronic gimmick, but when you're droning down a choppy highway the comfort setting immediately takes the edge off expansion joints, potholes and other highway unpleasantries. When you're blitzing through your favorite backroad the comfort setting wallows and grinds the footpegs in a manner reminiscent of an old Cadillac, this is when the E in ESA pays-off. All you need to do to fix the situation, is press the ESA button until Sport appears on the LCD screen and the bike immediately starts dialing-in more spring preload and increasing the damping rates to stop the wallowing and increase ground clearance. This system works quite well and is easily worth its added cost and complexity.

Another worthwhile electronic doodad is the nuclear powered grip heaters. On the low setting, they do a great job of keeping your hands and what seems like your entire upper body warm. However, on the high setting they'll cook your hands like frozen burritos in a 7-11 microwave. Not only will your hands be toasty, but your backside will love the new seat that offers a narrower front section, to help reduce the total stand-over length, making it easier to reach the ground. The new shape is mixed with an excellent foam that manages to remain comfortable far longer than most sportbikes. Another boost to comfort is provided by the K1200s' outstanding airflow management. No matter how you feel about its wide fairing and funky styling; the aerodynamics are excellent, creating a calm pocket for your chest and shoulders, while allowing enough airflow to keep you breathing fresh air.

Isn't it a bit too long, you ask? Looooong! Holy Cow this thing's practically an aircraft carrier! Its 61.8" wheelbase is 4" longer than the Hayabusa & ZX-12R and fully 7" longer than sportbikes like the Yamaha R1 etc... Let's not even mention the Buells, ok? As you would expect, that long wheelbase makes the K1200S stable at high speed and outside of tight canyons, the extra length doesn't pose much of a problem. However, my first test unit suffered the indignity of a fried clutch, after one too many wheelies, since the long wheelbase means you'll be using lots of clutch to loft that front tire. Funny enough, I also noted that the hydraulic clutch's pull is quite heavy and an adjustment to the master/slave ratio seems to be in order. Then again, I might just be getting weak in my old age.

Aside from throttle and brake issues, a few other nitpicks are: Steering feel is a bit vague at times and I felt like I needed to pay close attention to what the front tire was trying to say. However, in medium to high-speed sweepers and most normal riding situations that funky Hossack front suspension feels just like normal forks. I'm just not sure that there is a real benefit to it, given the current state of development in telescopic forks. As Yossef mentioned last fall, the new K1200S produces a grating harmonic vibration at certain engine speeds. Unfortunately, top-gear cruising at 80MPH happens to fall smack-dab into the middle of one of those harmonic zones. Thankfully, the grips remain smooth, but your feet often feel like they're wearing a barber's old Wahl scalp massager.

I am disappointed to note how many dislikes and nit-picks I found with the new BMW K1200S. This bike has huge potential, but really needs to go back for a Revision 2.0 However, it is still a very fast and comfortable gentlemen's express with useful technology like the new ESA system and a neat character-boosting intake rasp to reward those with the stones to whack the throttle wide-open. With normal brakes and a new FI map this bike would make an excellent choice for people who like to mix high speed with comfort and travel potential. I'm hoping the new K1200R will address some of the S' issues when it's released. In the mean time, I'd choose a new R 1200 GS/ST or RT, if I needed to have the blue & white propeller on my next motorcycle. -Sean

 Coming Soon! 2006 BMW K1200R

The new K1200R is coming! MSRP: $14,250

Are you the type of guy who lusts after the Suzuki Boost King, or a naked Hayabusa Streetfighter? If you are, BMW has the ride for you! They are moving forward with the naked "R" version of the new K1200S and it will soon be available at your local dealer, starting from $14,250.

Due to a smaller airbox, this cool looking roadster is said to produce 4Hp and 2LbFt less than an S model. That would equate to 140Hp and 83LbFt at the rear tire, if you believe MO's Dynojet. Though it is slightly less powerful, it is also significantly lighter, with a claimed dry weight of 465Lbs (522 Wet) so the naked version will probably be a bit quicker than the S version. Puzzlingly, the K 1200R is going to have a 62.2 inch wheelbase, that's .4 inches longer than the already lengthy K1200S. You'd think a naked "streetfighter" would want a short wheelbase, since cut-n-thrust nimbleness is of far greater importance than high-speed stability in this category. However, the new K1200R also receives a slightly narrower 180-section rear tire and a bit less trail. This should improve overall handling and make the bike a little easier to turn. They say a press intro is imminent, so we'll know soon enough, if the adjusted trail, narrower rear tire and increased steering leverage can overcome a wheelbase in excess of 5 feet. We can't wait.

Page 2A Second Opinion: Gabe Goes the Distance on MO's 2005 BMW K1200S

After Dirty enjoyed his gourmet meal'ed, bed and breakfast'ed, superbly guided tour on the best roads in the world all-on-BMW's-dime press intro fantasy weekend on the K1200S, he abandoned the bug-spattered machine in my San Francisco garage, tossed the keys to me and said, "here, take this back to LA next week." and then hopped into the limo to SFO. So that's how you treat the new guy, eh? I dreaded the boring, eight hour drone.

So the following Monday, I hooked up my satellite radio receiver, strapped on my duffle bag, and hit the road. For about 12 minutes. Over 65 mph, the clutch seemed to be spinning faster than the motor. A trip to Don Lemelin's dyno at Scuderia West in San Francisco revealed a severely deteriorating clutch.

A week later, after much trial and tribulation, I was aboard a silver but otherwise identical K1200S, satellite radio in ears, on the 101 back to LA. My prior experience had not impressed me much, so the Beemer needed to really shine to impress me.

About 250 miles later, I was severely impressed. The 2005 BMW K1200S is really different than any BMW I've ever ridden. It's really everything a BMW motorcycle should be: an impeccably handling, obscenely fast, impossibly comfortable mile eater.

I selected a route to LA from San Francisco I would not have taken in a car or lesser motorcycle. From 101 south, I took CA 25 south through Hollister and then through almost 80 miles of lush, rolling hills and long straights pointing across broad valleys filled with grass, trees and cows.

After listening to an hour of NPR, I turned left onto CA 198 towards Coalinga and enjoyed a nice roller coaster ride through the Diablo mountain range. In Coalinga, I turned right onto CA 33 and rode along a mostly straight and boring road that was nonetheless nicely paved and even more nicely free of CHP and 18-wheelers. I could say I averaged ninety-something the whole length of it, but that would be admitting guilt to an incredibly heinous, dangerous and anti-societal act.

After an hour of that, I joined the fun on I-5 for an hour, almost being run down by a 95 mph tailgater in a Chrysler minivan and fighting the wind. After that, it was a short dinner break and another 90 minutes of the Grapevine mountain pass and the descent to the MO cave in Torrance, less than eight hours after I left San Francisco. I had listened to so much NPR I was ready to jab Terry Gross with a thumbtack.

Why did I detail my trip so thoroughly? Because the K12 just inhales that kind of ride, and made it the most fun transit from SF to LA I've had since I was a teenager. It is an excellent distance mount, without feeling like a tourer.

The first thing that makes it good is the seating position. The bars are fairly low, but you are still just barely leaning forward. The pegs are placed well enough that I never scraped them but also felt no need to stretch my legs out until six hours into the trip. The rider's weight is so nicely distributed that you hardly notice the fact that you are truly in a sportbike position for the turns.

Transparent, neutral handling adds to the effortless feel of this sporty K bike. The front end is very good for an alternative design. It felt much more planted than previous Telelevers, but didn't dive under braking or hop under sharp bumps, even mid-corner under braking. This is a good thing on twisty, bumpy, and usually too fast roads.

Too fast? This brings us to the motor, which is impressive not for being the fastest, which it isn't, or the smoothest, or the most compact. It's impressive because it works well at real-world speeds, lets you leave it in any gear, at almost any speed without lugging or getting snatchy, and has a very non-Teutonic zaniness at high RPMs. I don't know why the clutch sticks out so far on the left, though. That can be annoying, especially for taller riders.

As Americans, we truly understand that it's better to have more than you can possibly use than to want for anything, so the extra 80 horsepower offered by a machine like this is just nice to have. If you read our Classic Touring Comparo, you will recall I thought that "a $16,000 motorcycle should have more power than you can use in any situation". BMW, thanks for listening! Freakin' mission accomplished! Even up a steep hill, in sixth gear, at 80mph, passing in the dead of night up that Grapevine hill was sickeningly easy. That motor is just a gem on the Interstate or on twisty two-lane roads.

But it's not totally perfect. The odd front end feels a bit ponderous at low speeds, like the front tire is low on air. The brakes take a bit of getting used to: you can feel the servo mechanism boosting the brakes. I didn't notice the fuel injection glitches, but I wasn't trying to keep up with Sean, either. And the seat stopped being comfortable after four or five hours, although what seat doesn't?

BMW has a mission of building smooth, fast and comfortable escape pods for their well-heeled owners. That's why they have such a great reputation and why they command so much respect from motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists alike. The K1200S is definitely a classic BMW in this regard. And although there are competitors that can perform a similar mission at a much lower price, the K1200S is still a great motorcycle, not just a great BMW. -Gabe


** Specs Provided By BMW Motorcycles **
2005 BMW K 1200 S - MSRP $15,750
Our Test bike had the following options: ABS $995, ESA $750, and Heated Handgrips $200.

Engine Type

4-cyl - 4 stroke inline 4


1157 cc

Claimed Horsepower

167 bhp @ 10,250 rpm

Claimed Torque

96 lb-ft @ 8,250 rpm




Dohc, 4 valve

Cooling system


Secondary drive



Aluminum frame

Front suspension

Double longitudinal link (Duolever)

Front travel

4.5 inches

Rear suspension


Rear travel

5.3 inches

Brake system

Partial integral ABS

Front brakes

4-piston 4-cyl fixed caliper

Front discs

2 x 12.6 inches

Rear brakes

2-cyl fist caliper

Rear disc

10.4 inches


Hydraulic, DOT 4 fluid type

Front wheel

3.50 x 17 cast alloy, five, double-spoke

Rear wheel

5.50 x 17 cast alloy, five, double-spoke

Front tire

Metzeler Sportec-M1 120/70 ZR 17
Bridgestone BT 014F 120/70 ZR 17

Rear tire

Metzler Sportec-M1 190/50 ZR 17
Bridgestone BT 014R 190/50 ZR 17

Overall length

7.26 feet

Overall width

33.8 inches


61.8 inches

Ground clearance

4.65 inches

Seat height

32.3 inches/31.1 inches

Steering angle

60.6 degrees

Front wheel trail

4.9 inches

Claimed Weight - Dry (w/ dry battery)

499 lbs.

Load Capacity

448 lbs.

Maximum load

992 lbs. GVWR

Fuel tank capacity

5.0 gallons

Theoretical range before refueling (75 mph)

218 miles


Granite gray metallic
Indigo blue metallic
Indigo blue metallic / alpine white
Sun yellow / white aluminum metallic / dark graphit metallic

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