2014 BMW R1200RT Review – First Ride

A sexy new sport-touring Beemer

Share this Article

2014 BMW R1200RT

Editor Score: 93%
Engine 17.5/20
Suspension/Handling 14.75/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.5/10
Brakes 9.25/10
Instruments/Controls5/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.5/10
Appearance/Quality 10/10
Desirability 9/10
Value 8.5/10
Overall Score93/100

Seems like forever we’ve been waiting for the new R1200RT. A year has passed since we rode the Honda ST1300, Kawasaki Concours 14 and Yamaha FJR1300 to Death Valley and back for our 2013 Sport-Touring Shootout. Since then we’ve been in a holding pattern to take the winner of that shootout, the FJR, and put it up against Triumph’s Trophy SE and the new RT. Well, now that we’ve ridden the new R1200RT the shootout with its contemporaries is on-deck.

A long day in the saddle of the 2014 RT riding through the stunning, red rock scenery surrounding Sedona, Arizona, provided valuable insight into BMW’s newest sport-touring Boxer. It’s too soon to say how exactly it’ll fare when ridden back-to-back against its competition, but there’s a lot to like with this new and improved version, including a basic flatlining of the 2014 models’ MSRP that effectively ups the value quotient of the upgraded RT.

Ergos

BMW managed to take a bike with an excellent all-weather reputation and improve its protective qualities. Outfitted for comfortable riding in low-60-degree weather, I was unprepared for an early-spring snowstorm. Enveloped by fat, falling snowflakes and temperatures in 30s, it was time to switch on the heated hand grips and seat, adjust the windscreen to its high position and think warm thoughts.

2014_BMW_R1200RT_Snow

We can’t heap enough praise on the RT’s excellent weather protection. One journo was wearing perforated summer gloves and still claimed his fingers remained warm in the wintry weather; he was Canadian, so take that comment with a grain of salt.

I didn’t have to think hard, though, because the RT’s wind-tunnel optimized windscreen, transparent slipstream wind deflectors and perfectly positioned mirrors managed to fend off all but the nastiest broadside winds from reaching me. Wearing only thin riding socks beneath my boots, even my toes maintained warmth due to the RT’s excellent lower fairing protection. Without the windchill effect and with the warmth provided by the heated seat and grips, I rode comfortably until returning to our resort, and could have continued riding given the option.

2012 BMW K1600GT Review

The only drawback of having the windscreen in its highest position is that the top of it cuts directly through my line of sight (I’m 5’ 11”). When the snow wasn’t falling and temps weren’t as frigid, I preferred riding with the screen about an inch from its highest position allowing an unobstructed view over its rim. At this height, any increase in wind noise or helmet buffeting is negligible. Otherwise, in the low position, I felt non-turbulent windflow from my shoulders up.

2014_BMW_R1200RT_Dash

The instrument cluster of our test unit includes both the Garmin GPS, new TFT color display and new backlit dials. The clean layout and high resolution of the TFT display makes easy work of absorbing a lot of information.

In other other ergo news, BMW managed to narrow the frame at the seat/tank juncture, which, in conjunction with the compactness of the new precision-cooled Boxer Twin (which I’ll get to momentarily), allows for a 0.8-inch lower rider triangle. Riding with the standard seat in its high position, my 32-inch inseam managed a flat-footed stance at stops, and because of this, I think the high seat in its high position will be preferable for me because it’ll afford more seat-to-footpeg leg room.

2014_BMW_R1200RT_Seat_Height

The 2014 RT’s lowest seat height is within 0.4 inches of last year’s model outfitted with the low seat and lowered suspension: 29.9 inches vs 29.5 inches, thus BMW has eliminated the lowered suspension option. Riders on the new model will also enjoy a 0.8-inch increase in seat length while its passenger seats get an 0.4-inch increase.

Power, Technology & Handling

What’s to be said about BMW’s new precision-cooled Boxer (first seen in the 2013 R1200GS) that hasn’t already been said? Well, how about the fact that the RT’s version features a two-pound increase in crankshaft journal mass, while the more powerful alternator (from 510 to 540 watts) increases its mass by 1.3 pounds. The increased mass of both combine to create more engine inertia, giving the opposed-Twin a heavier flywheel effect.

Beemer traditionalists may find the engine takes some getting used to, as its character and sound will be unfamiliar from what they’re accustomed. BMW claims, however, the result is a smoother engine, which is true at freeway cruising speeds and below, but the nearer to redline you venture, the more vibration tends to creep in through the handlebars.

2014_BMW_R1200RT_Rear

Even with a 0.8-inch reduction in rider triangle height, cornering clearance remains ample. The top box is an accessory, but the saddlebags are stock equipment.

But high-revolution riding isn’t what the RT is about. Staying lower in the rev range and using engine torque to squirt out of corners is the RT’s strong point, and to help with this practice are longer secondary transmission ratios. Otherwise, the RT enjoys improved engine performance to the tune of 15 horsepower and three ft-lbs of torque over the previous air/oil-cooled model.

2013 Triumph Trophy SE Review

Elevating the sportiness of the RT’s engine most of all has got to be the Shift Assist Pro. BMW lingo for quick shifter, the Pro version on the 2014 RT adds clutchless downshifting to the recipe, giving the RT a more advanced quick-shifting technology than most top-shelf sportbikes.

Coming fast into a 20-mph corner, simply close the throttle, tap down on the shift lever and the Shift Assist Pro instantly matches engine revs and seamlessly grabs a lower gear. Upshifts are met with the same fluidity. Just don’t expect it to work at around-town speeds or half-throttle inputs where clutch operation is needed to maintain smooth transmission engagement. The Shift Assist Pro is a sporting technology meant to be used as such, emphasizing the sport in the sport-touring equation.

2014_BMW_R1200RT_Front

Headlight Pro sounds impressive, but the term means that you’ve opted to include LED Corona Rings around the headlights, not the adaptive headlights of the K1600.

My only complaint is that, when using the clutch, I found its very narrow friction zone at the end of the lever’s throw difficult to manipulate. Slow speed maneuvering was met with a herky-jerkiness I hadn’t mastered by the end of our ride.

2014_BMW_R1200RT_Side2

The new Dynamic riding mode on Premium Package models provides a more sportbike-like experience with some rear-wheel spinning and a direct connection from the rider’s hand to go power. BMW says it’s for “experienced riders.”

Another new addition on the RT is Hill Start Control – a technology that helps to get a fully loaded RT underway from a dead stop on a steep incline. To actuate, a rider applies a firm pull on the front brake lever to engage the rear brake, after which the rear brake’s caliper maintains pressure on the disc, holding the bike in place. With the rear brake engaged, a rider can maintain a stable, two-footed stance while manipulating throttle and clutch operation, easing the transition from standstill to forward motion. The process demands more throttle input than a normal launch requires, but Hill Start Control is a technology any touring rider who’s struggled with a weighted motorcycle at a graded stop will immediately recognize as beneficial.

In the handling department, a new continuous tubular-steel bridge-type frame was designed to increase rigidity and road feel. This new frame, says BMW, in combination with the more compact Boxer engine, lowers the bike’s center of gravity. The in-motion result is the illusion of the RT being more petite than its actual size.

As one of the lighter sport-touring bikes available today, (604 pounds with its 6.6-gallon tank full), the RT navigates long sweepers and tight switchbacks with equal aplomb. The RT is both nimble and stable, making for a great companion on twisty mountain roads or long, deserted straightaways.

Electronics

BMW is a leader in the use of modern electronic rider aids, and the 2014 RT comes with a host of new electronic highlights. Having mentioned the new Shift Assist Pro and Hill Start Control, BMW also brings to the game Dynamic ESA, Ride Mode Pro, On-Board Computer Pro, GPS Preparation, and a large TFT color display.

Dynamic ESA electronically adjusts suspension damping to one of three settings, Soft, Normal, Hard, depending on the Riding Mode selected. The setting can, however, be changed to your personal preference. For example, if you’re in Dynamic riding mode which automatically sets suspension to Hard, you can choose to change this to either Normal or Soft while keeping the riding mode in Dynamic.

R1200RT_Riding_Modes

Like other motorcycles with electronically adjustable suspension, I find that while ESA takes away some of the fine-tuning capabilities of twisty knobs, the convenience factor is worth the tradeoff. For those unconvinced, base model RTs still come equipped with unplugged shocks.

The TFT color display is new to all 2014 versions of the RT. The 5.7-inch window displays information from the RT’s onboard computer and audio controls. Using the multi-controller and various fairing-mounted buttons, the TFT color display provides the rider with all the current settings such as Ride Mode, suspension setting, ambient temperature, tire pressure, radio channel selection, etc. While I noticed an occasional reflection made viewing difficult, the screen is adjustable to two positions.

R1200RT_Pricing

For the US market, BMW is focusing on R1200RTs outfitted with the Premium Package, because that’s how (we’re told) us Americans roll – go big or go home. Our test bike was outfitted not only with the Premium Package but also with these options: Central Locking ($400) and Gear Shift Assist Pro ($475). There’s also an Anti-Theft Alarm ($395), or get all three for the package price of $850, bringing the total MSRP to $21,700. Oh wait, the Garmin GPS unit is also sold separately for around $850, increasing the price to $22,550.

As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the 2014 RT represents a good value, at least when compared to the outgoing model. While pricing for the Base model did increase $300, it actually fell $100 for the Standard model and remained the same for the Premium model. Considering the increase in standard componentry, the new R1200RT gives you more motorcycle for less, the same and not much more money.

At $15,890 for the new FJR1300A, also with electronic suspension (reviewed here), we’ll soon see how much of a value the new RT is when compared to competing models from other OEMs. Look for our Sport-Touring Shootout 2.0 coming soon!

Free Insurance Quote

Enter your ZIP code below to get a free insurance quote.

BMW Dealer Price Quote

Get price quotes for BMW R 1200 from local motorcycle dealers.

BMW Communities

Get Motorcycle.com in your Inbox
  • JMDonald

    I look forward to a like bike comparison. This bike us in my top three.

    • http://norimek.com/blog Robert C. Barth

      Ditto. Trying to decide between the RT, the GS Adv, and the FJR. I’m leaning heavily toward the GS, though.

      • Tom Brown

        Robert:

        Know that the GS Adventure is an entirely different deal from the RT and FJR: It’s really TALL. If the inseam on pants you normally wear is less than about 32, I suggest you RIDE one before you buy it. I know some short guys that ride them, but I really don’t know how. I’m a 30 and I really don’t like riding them. I have no problems with the standard GS though…but then you get a smaller gas tank, slightly different engine and less of the other little things that come standard on the Adv.

        Good luck deciding!

    • Kevin

      I’ve narrowed it down to the RT and the FJR, and have been hoping that the long awaited comparison would shed some light on the fuel economy of the two. On my annual fall trip to the west coast and back I have played out the heavy wet snowfall scene pictured above too many times not to be leaning toward the RT.

  • VeganLondonMan

    I hope my ’08 FJR1300 buddy trades up to one o’ these so I can test it out…

  • Kevin

    I believe, and I suspect Mr. Burns will agree, that making the previously optional traction control standard equipment on the new bike more than offsets the $300 price increase. That the previously optional heated hand grips are also included gives the bike about a $300 price advantage over the previous R1200RT.

    • http://norimek.com/blog Robert C. Barth

      According to BMW, the value prop for the new bike is actually $1,100:
      $250 – Heated Grips
      $400 – ASC (Automatic Stability Control)
      $100 – 2 Riding Modes (Rain, Road)
      $100 – Steering Damper
      $350 – On Board Computer Pro
      $100 – Multi Controller
      $100 – LED White Turn Signals
      $300 lower base MSRP (-$300)
      You can decide for yourself the worth of things like the riding modes, on board computer pro, and LED white turn signals.

  • Send Margaritas

    They’re nice bikes, but everybody I know who had a BMW seemed to have expensive issues with the ‘farkles’. Awesome when working, expensive to maintain. The real winner looks to be the ’14 FJR1300 with the electronically adjustable suspension.

    • Glenn59

      BMW as a company have gone through a revolution in the breadth and depth of their model range and in the number of bikes produced over the last few years. They are also highly innovative with most of their bikes featuring the latest technology and also topping comparison tests. In that context you do have to expect that the new technology will occasionally misbehave at least until BMW ‘beds it in’.
      Despite this, BMW owner satisfaction is top of the market and Yamaha’s below average according to the very comprehensive British ‘Rider Power’ survey. My advice: Buy the BMW but just don’t buy a new model in its first year of production.

      • Send Margaritas

        BMW? Yamaha?You’ve got it reversed. Check the latest consumer reports on motorcycles by brand. rideapart.com/2014/02/most-reliable-motorcycles/
        Yamaha has the best rating, and BMW the worst for reliability.I’ve seen multiple people go from BMWs to Yamaha FJRs, because the BMW’s were always in the $hop. They’re nice when they work, but all that stuff they’re adding doesn’t work.In contrast, Yamaha FJRs are pretty well worked out, in comparison. Dunno on other models, but Consumer Reports pretty much handed BMW their hats.

        • Glenn59

          Well I never said that BMW is more reliable? I said that the owners are more satisfied with their bikes. Maybe that is self delusion but the fact is that BMW’s dominate comparison tests which tends to suggest that the bikes actually do things better?
          I am not knocking Yamaha, I have ridden the previous model FJR1300 extensively and it is a fine bike BUT is SHOULD be very reliable with minimum changes in 10 years. And don’t forget that for 2 to 3 years of that span they had extensive reliablity problems with the wiring loom. I still agree with you that the Yamaha would tend to be more reliable but you will not get that edge in overall ability that BMW usually offer. Both bikes have something to offer that the other one doesn’t, you just need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your choice.

          • Send Margaritas

            “Both bikes have something to offer that the other one doesn’t, you just need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your choice. “They are indeed both good bikes. I have a soft spot in my heart for the GS(es). But don’t understate the rabid support for the FJR. You’re spot on with the wire loom issue, I think they solved that ground issue in the Gen II’s. I have a Gen III now, and it is even a tad more refined.Thanks for the objective reply, I can’t argue with it.

  • Max Wellian

    Is the Shift Assist Pro standard across all the accessory packages or like the Hill Start Control, is that only in an upgrade package?

    Personally, I like the touring package setup, but aside from ABS, I’d prefer not to have electronic controls that override my inputs.

    • Kevin

      According to the sales person I spoke to the shift assistant pro is only available as a stand alone option on bikes with the premium package. Sales people don’t always have it right, and sometimes misrepresent the info in order to move an existing unit. That may have been the case when I spoke with them as the only two bikes with GSAP they had were premium package bikes. All I really wanted was the base bike with cruise control and maybe GSAP. He tells me it cannot be had.

      • Max Wellian

        Thanks.

      • http://norimek.com/blog Robert C. Barth

        According to BMW, you can buy just about all of the options a-la-carte, so you can get the base model with 538 Crusie Control ($350) and 222 GSAP ($475) (or, at least, BMW corporate would be happy to build it for you that way, AFAIK). Now, whether a dealer will let you order it that way or not is another discussion entirely as their allotment is precious and they are sometimes reluctant to custom order a bike that costs less (in total) for a customer knowing they can sell a fully-optioned bike to someone else for hundreds more in profit (i.e. they’re usually gonna make a bit more on a $23k sale than on an $18k sale due to the margin on those options)

        This here link has the entire options and packages matrix for the RT (BMW’s options are always really confusing and for some reason, they don’t list them on their corporate site):
        http://www.bmwmotorcycle.com/2014_bmw_r1200rt_info.htm

  • Craig Hoffman

    Heated and adjustable seat and grips. I love it already. Gotta get through the next few years, get the kids gone. Then I am gone, on something like this if there is any money left that is.

    This bike and the new energized FJR put that new CTX in some perspective. Underpowered and overpriced.

    • Kevin

      I would have inserted “feature and capability deficient” between underpowered and overpriced.

      • http://norimek.com/blog Robert C. Barth

        Why on Earth did Honda kill the ST1300? They could easily be competing in this class with an re-designed ST. Ugh.

        • VeganLondonMan

          Because Honda has sadly lost their way.

        • Kevin

          They have not killed it completely. There is a 2014 ST1300P (police variant). Honda has skipped model year production before, but as you point out the bike needs updating to be competitive.

          • http://norimek.com/blog Robert C. Barth

            I’m aware of the ST1300P, and that Honda skipped model years before, but Honda has only had the ST1300 for sale in two of the past five model years, with this being the second year in a row that it’s not available. Gives one pause.

  • Vrooom

    BMW continues to find solutions to problems I never had with a bike. The problem is when they fail the bike doesn’t work nearly as well as less technologically adapted bike does. The “power” brakes on the 1150 GS is a perfect example, along with their “maintenance free” final drive.

    • Glenn59

      I tend to agree with you Vrooom.

      I reckon it comes down to the differing approach between the German way of doing things and the Japanese? The Germans will try to use the most clever technology possible to achieve the best possible overall performance but they will often do this with little regard for the future reliability or ease of service for the bike. The Japanese by way of contrast will build a very reliable bike that is built for the real world but will not achieve quite the performance level of the Germans.

      I do feel that the Germans get rather autocratic about these things sometimes – witness the imposition of the power brakes on their motorcycles and runflats on their cars despite their customers wishes. Despite this we should also acknowledge that they often lead the market with innovation such as adding ABS to their bikes in the 80′s and stability and traction controls today.

      • Send Margaritas

        I think it is the kind of thing that Vrooom mentioned, and the ala-carte options that lend themselves to BMW reliability issues. I know a guy who had a BMW car, and swapped the battery. However, the beemer was sophisticated, it sensed the battery was failing, and raised the charging voltage. The trouble was, when the new battery was installed, it overcharged/ruined the new battery, and he had to take it to a BMW dealer to reset the computer and buy another battery from BMW. I forgot what he said that cost, but it was jaw-dropping.Another point…look at that boxer. You’re limited on frame slider options. I bet BMW has a solution, but you have a multitude of options for an FJR….there are a gazillion of them out there, and the aftermarket is pretty developed. I mean, there must be a half dozen FJR forums on the internet. Then again, maybe I just haven’t done my research.I have to say, the BMW’s are nice, but there is a whole lot that goes with it…you’re options are a bit limited, and you need to be prepared to pay for service and setting it up like you want.

  • ducatirdr

    Had a 09 RT. Did 965 miles in 15 hours one day on way home to MA from SC. I then chose it to commute into Boston the next day. Superb machine at eating miles. But it left me wondering why I never bonded with the bike. Now I’m on a Triumph Tiger 800 XC and know the BMW is far superior a road machine but the Tiger has character and that engine has soul. The lack of those qualities had me sell the RT. I tend to pick women using the same methods. Ya I’ve got issues. :)

    • Tom Brown

      drider:

      My ’05 is still going strong for me. I’ve got 78K on it. I’m getting it painted and getting a few new little bits for it and will be enjoying it again. Yeah, it doesn’t make the right noises, but it will not only eat miles but scrap pretty well on back roads. It’s light for a touring or even sport-touring bike. When you get wailing on it on back roads, you really don’t care much about the sound. BTW, I got Wilbers suspension, bar risers and a Sargent seat for mine right away and it really gave the bike a lot sweeter disposition. I’m getting my investment back for sure.

  • Thenotsoclever

    Don’t think I will be able to let go of my BMW.

  • mitch c

    Beautiful bike and I think I’ll keep riding my ’94 K75 for a couple more years until they get all the bug worked out of this R1200 then MAYBE trade up!

  • kpax

    Just bought a 2014 RT. This is my 3rd RT, so there’s a little history here. It runs like the proverbial scalded dog and has lots of electronic controls. This one hasn’t been to the twisties yet, but the Metzlers don’t seem as responsive as my last 11 sets of Pilot Road 2,3 and 4. Time will tell. Saddles from BMW are obviously designed by ex gestapo torture specialists for the American market. It sits lower than my 2012 did, even though it’s a standard height moto. Clutch friction point is way out and makes slow manuvers contentious. Maybe they can adjust it during 600 mile service, I hope.
    My RT experience has been great, very reliable, and covers all 49 continental states, a lot of Canada and many Iron Butt rides. The 2014 still has to be sorted out to make it a useful machine.