2006 BMW K 1200 GT

Sun, Sedona and a New Beemer.

story by Pete Brissette, Managing Editor, Photograph by Kevin Wing, Created Apr. 20, 2006
If you're a rider in the market for a new bike, model year 2006 has offered up a number of the "new and/or improved." For example, Triumph successfully re-introduced themselves into the supersport segment with the much adored Daytona 675. Kawasaki has seen fit to up the ante and at the same time upset the balance in the very narrow category of hyper-bike-cum-everyday-ride, long ruled by Suzuki's Hayabusa. And Yamaha has embarked on a quest to redefine how sport touring motorcycles may operate in the future; the FJR has been liberated of its clutch lever with the Yamaha Chip Controlled-Shift (YCC-S) as on option for '06. These are just a few of the benefits of being a motorcyclist today.

Not one to be left too far behind, BMW has also joined the fray this year with the introduction of their "all-new" K1200GT. Aimed squarely at its nearest two competitors, the FJR1300 from Yamaha and Honda's ST1300, BMW has made a concerted effort to raise the bar in what is quickly becoming a large segment of motorcycling: sport touring. How do they plan to shake things up?

The new BMW K 1200 GT. One of only two bikes that BMW lists as a sport touring motorcycle in their entire line.

By massaging a 152 horsepower at 9,500 rpm and 96 lbs./ft. torque at 7,750 rpm at the crank from 1,157 cubic centimeters of engine with a bore and stroke of 79mm x 59mm and a compression ratio of 13 to 1. The power plant is mounted transversally at 55 degrees in a composite aluminum frame. A six speed transmission helps translate the power from the four-valve, inline four. To reel in all that new found horsepower, the K 1200 GT has integral ABS (partial system) that uses two four-piston calipers to mercilessly clamp down on 320 mm dual, floating rotors up front and a single two-piston caliper to bind the 294 mm rotor for the rear.

Also standard is a set of trouble free and voluminous saddle bags matched to the bike's paint and, of all things, a brake pad replacement warning displayed on the "Info-Flat-Screen" that's conveniently placed between the analog speedo and tach. Suspension is handled by the now familiar and much esteemed Duolever up front and the EVO Paralever for the rear.The whole package weighs 549 lbs. dry or 622 lbs. wet. (The weights and horsepower/torque figures are of course, claimed figures from BMW.)

You're in control on the GT, especially if you purchase most of the options. Decision making is optional.

More standard items include the electronically-adjustable windshield that was designed to complement aerodynamic bodywork, an adjustable seat (from 32.3" to 33") and most interesting of all the standard features is the adjustable handlebar height. With a grand total of 1.6 inches of travel upward from its lowest position, the bars require nothing more than a simple Allen wrench to loosen two bolts. One journalist in attendance lowered the bars from their highest to lowest setting in a matter of minutes and reported it to have made a dramatic difference for his riding style. The newest K bike comes in three colors for '06: Dark Graphite Metallic, Crystal Gray Metallic and Deep Blue Metallic.

BMW automobiles are replete with options; the K 1200 GT motorbike is no different. Some familiar goodies, such as heated seats, heated hand grips, cruise control and BMW's ESA (push button electronic suspension adjustment) are just a few of the available options. They have also created two equipment packages; the top tier option package includes ESA,(covered in last year's K1200S intro) as well as an on board computer.

To help create a memorable riding impression, a variety of U.S. motor-journalists were summoned to Sedona, Arizona. Certainly BMW Motorrad USA didn't expect us to concentrate on the nuances of their latest sport-touring weapon while surrounded by some of the most incredible desert landscapes in the world, did they? Nevertheless, virtually all in attendance were left with impressions of the bike, rivaled only by those left by the stunning scenery. After over 200 miles of flat freeway droning, sharing city streets with cages (at a painfully slow pace) and a short but twisted mountain road, one question kept coming to mind, "Can a sport touring motorcycle get any better?" I had  decided relatively early on in the test ride that this would be one of the easiest bikes I may ever review, due largely to the fact the GT left little to complain about.

Can a sport touring motorcycle get any better? Perhaps not. Can Pete's riding get any better? Most definitely.

"A brake set that is very powerful with more than enough feel to allow one-finger modulation."

The particular bike that I rode was, naturally, outfitted with most of the options offered, save for a taller windscreen and the anti-theft alarm. The bike starts easily and gets up to operating temperature quickly. The fuel injection works flawlessly from the slightest twist of the throttle all the way up to redline, which is around 10,200 rpm. Despite the claim of class-leading 152 horsepower at the crank, the GT never develops any top-end smack of acceleration. What it does exhibit (and I suspect dyno testing will prove) is a very linear but nonetheless powerful motor. A very minimal amount of engine vibration works its way through the foot pegs around the 4,000 rpm range but then quickly dissipates somewhere just north of the 5,000 rpm mark. Of equal note is just how quiet the whole operation is. No loud intake snort or cammy clatter worked its way into my memory.

Although no blistering paces were set during most of the day, I could still appreciate the force and sensitivity offered by the partial integral ABS; like other Beemers with this system, little servo motors work to assist in boosting braking power. The end result is a brake set that is very powerful with more than enough feel to allow one-finger modulation, even at speeds well beyond legal. The transmission is virtually transparent, just as exceptional as the rest of the engine, although a slight thud occurs when shifting into first from neutral. Not only is the tranny super slick, it shifted even more effortlessly while doing clutchless up shifts. Once again, there's little to say because it simply works so well.

"One of the handiest features a sport touring motorcycle in today's age can have is an electronically adjustable windscreen."

The smartly designed unit on the GT works exceptionally well. Due to the high daytime temperatures, I would often lower the screen all the way to allow myself to cool off, but eventually I raised it to its highest setting once under way to get the most wind protection.

Here's one of the few places a passenger can control the ride experience.

Buffeting was never troublesome at any speed--or any position for that matter--and I never felt that annoying pressure on my back forcing me into the handlebars that many bikes with taller screens can generate. It does an excellent job of deflecting wind blast without impairing vision. If you're so inclined to tuck in, what you'll experience is an ultra-quiet, windless, little void.

Two things stand out about BMW motorcycles: refinement of the bike as a whole and superb handling. The K 1200 GT continues in this vein. With a steering angle of 61 degrees, 4.5 inches of trail and a wheelbase of 61.8 inches you might expect something more touring than sport. Yet, with the low center of gravity, thanks to the 55 degree angle position that the engine sits in the frame, the GT changes direction with ease and the chassis never protests in the slightest, even while trail braking or during mid-corner line changes. The motorcycle carries its claimed 622 lbs. of wet weight deceptively well, making the rider think the bike is lighter than it is. The low center of gravity and Paralever/Duolever combine to provide an unbelievably stable and well-mannered corner carver that changes direction with aplomb. It responded eagerly to steering inputs, both from the bars and subtle body English. Once the bike is set for a corner, it continues on its trajectory as if it were a laser-guided bullet train. A key factor that furthers this sensation is the surprising amount of ground clearance.

This is the new, adjustable handlebar. With over one and a half inches of adjustment, most riders will find a suitable setting to call their own.

While tailing behind other riders during the day, I observed what I thought were modest lean angles that wouldn't lend to a truly sporting ride. Imagine my surprise once our ride took us up the mountain. Not only does the ground clearance coincide with stellar cornering abilities which  inspire rider confidence, it began to make me think that perhaps there were no foot pegs at all.

The ESA system may be optional on the GT but you shouldn't give yourself any option other than to have it, should you purchase BMW's latest. I can't say unequivocally that it will make you corner like a demon while on the Sport setting but it most definitely will smooth out the road ahead when set to "Comfort." This feature will be appreciated the most while covering decaying roadways, where the surface is uneven from repairs, damage and generally rough pavement. Switching from either Sport or Normal to Comfort (all of which can be chosen on the fly), I noticed a marked difference in how the road surface was translated--or not--through the bike to me. It was quite amazing to suddenly have a somewhat bumpy ride turn into what felt like a perfect roadway, as if someone had swapped the road out from underneath me. With a total of nine different settings when multiplying the three riding style choices by the three load settings (solo, solo with luggage and passenger with luggage), ESA becomes less of an option and more of a requirement.

Page2Although the standard seat height is 32.3 inches, which I found to be a tad on the tall side for my 30 inch inseam when mounting the bike, an optional low seat that starts at 31.5 inches is available. Seat adjustment is quick and simple. Removing the passenger seat then the rider's seat, you merely rotate the front mounting point backward to give the added height. I used the highest position to create some room between the saddle and foot pegs, which did in fact increase my riding comfort. But then getting on and off the bike was more difficult.

BMW Motorcycles: Refined and superb.Considering this bike will probably be heavily loaded with gear, many people may chose the low seat which is listed as a no-charge option.

I found the seat to be comfortable, but one or two other journalists commented that they thought the seat was too soft and eventually became uncomfortable. I countered that sentiment with the logic that any motorcycle manufacturer has to design something like the saddle to accommodate a huge array of rider physiques and that there has to be a point at which someone will be unhappy.

As I mentioned above, the 2006 K 1200 GT made reviewing a motorcycle just about as easy as it gets. With few, if any trouble spots, this latest sport touring machine to hit the market will certainly have BMW loyalists as happy as ever and much of the competition scrambling in the future. With a base price of $18,800 the GT doesn't come cheap and the price may prove to be a hindrance to total market domination as long as the FJR remains under $16,000 and continues to build a following. Nevertheless, this K bike offers refinement and quality yet to be rivaled in the sport touring world. And that's something that has made BMW motorcycles a favorite the world over.

Notes and observations

A separate control switch for the passenger's heated seat is located between it and the rear top case/luggage rack. This should undoubtedly give passengers a greater sense of independence and help them to enjoy the ride even more. Many wives and girlfriends would appreciate that feature.

For 2007, the GT will have the TPM or Tire Pressure Control system as an option. Pressure and temperature data will be monitored "via battery-powered radio sensors on the wheel", according to press materials. A warning light will be displayed on the "Info-Flat-Screen" should the pressure be well below normal

BMW uses a single-wire system (SWS) with CAN-bus technology. As they say, "It is only natural for a modern BMW motorcycle to feature a modern data bus network connecting the machine's electrical and electronic components with digital information now being transmitted through one, single wire."

Perhaps sedate by some standards, the bodywork is simple and yet exudes quality. No vibrations or rattles were present.

Although listed as an option, a gray seat is available as well as two side-cover color options in either Granite Gray Metallic or Dark Slate Metallic. All are available at no extra charge.

** Specifications Courtesy of BMW **
BMW K 1200 GT - MSRP: $18,800

Includes freight and PDI (Pre Delivery Inspection).
Displacement cc 1157
Bore/Stroke mm 79/59
*Claimed* Output bhp at 152 at 9,500 rpm
*Claimed* Torque lb-ft at 96 at 7,750 rpm
Configuration Inline
No of cylinders 4
Compression ratio/fuel grade 13:1, Premium
Valves/Charge Management DOHC
Valves per Cylinder 4
Intake/Exhaust mm 32/27.5
Engine Management System BMS-K
Electrical system
Alternator W 945
Battery V/AH 12/19 maintenance free
Headlights W Low 1xH7 (55), High 2xH7 (55)
Starter kW 0.7
Clutch Multi-plate oil bath clutch / Hydraulic
Speeds 6 speed
Primary Transmission 1.56:1
Gear ratios I - 2.52:1
II - 1.84:1
III - 1.46:1
IV - 1.29:1
V - 1.14:1
VI - 1.02:1
Rear wheel Drive Driveshaft
Final Drive 2.82:1
Suspension and Running Gear
Frame Composite aluminum frame
Front wheel suspension BMW Duolever
Rear wheel suspension BMW EVO Paralever
Spring Travel front/rear mm 115/135
Camber mm 112
Wheel Base mm 1.571
Handlebar centre point angle 60.6°
Brakes Front / Rear Double disc floating 12.6 inch dia, Single disc fixed 11.6 inch dia.
Wheels Cast aluminum wheels
Tires Front / Rear 120/70 ZR 17, 180/55 ZR 17
Length, overall mm/inch 2.318/91.3
Width, overall mm/inch 968/38
Handlebar width mm/inch 795/31.3
Seat height mm/inch 820/840 or 800/820 (32.3/33 or 31.5/32.3)
*Claimed* Weight, empty, with full tank kg/lbs 282/622
Max permissible weight kg/lbs 520/1147
Fuel tank l/gal 24/6.3
Performance Data
Fuel consumption 90 km/h (56 mph) in l/(m/gal) 4.8/48
Fuel consumption 120 km/h (75 mph) in l/(m/gal) 5.8/40
*Claimed* Acc.: 0-100 km/h/0-62(mph) s 3.1
*Claimed* Top speed km/h (mph) 200 (125) plus
Dark Graphite Metallic (946), black seat
Crystal Gray Metallic (989), black seat
Deep Blue Metallic (997), black seat

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