2015 BMW R1200RS

Editor Score: 90.25%
Engine 19.0/20
Suspension/Handling 13.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 8.5/10
Brakes 9.25/10
Instruments/Controls4.25/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.25/10
Appearance/Quality 8.5/10
Desirability 9.0/10
Value 9.0/10
Overall Score90.25/100

On Day 2 of our little press junket to Ontario, the sun came out, the birds sang, and we rode the new 160-horsepower BMW S1000XR ’til hell wouldn’t have it anymore. Okay, fine, we rode only ’til cocktail hour. On Day 1, though, it rained all day, the mosquitoes made the air hum at every stop, the roads were treacherous and I was very glad to be on the new R1200RS instead.

2015 BMW S1000XR First Ride Review

If the new XR is a pair of stiletto-heeled red pumps, the new RS is way closer to being your favorite pair of trusted hiking boots. Both bikes now sport advanced electronics that make them nearly foolproof even in sloppy conditions, but for me anyway, there’s something about BMW’s classic Boxer Twin that’s as comforting and reassuring as a home-thawed meal. Maybe it’s because I remember being at the launch of the first oil-head R1100RS a mere 22 years ago.

No more Telelever. The need for a bigger radiator after the switch to liquid cooling provided the necessary excuse to switch to a conventional fork.

No more Telelever. The need for a bigger radiator after the switch to liquid cooling provided the necessary excuse to switch to a conventional fork.

Though not without their faults (most of which have been cured now that the clutch has been moved to the front of the engine), these things have served us well over the millennia as tourers, sport-tourers and sportbikes, long before we dreamed BMW would ever build anything like the K1600 or S1000RR. The beloved Boxer is what will always pop into my brain when somebody says BMW. There are motorcycles you have a fling with for a couple years who then trade you in for a better rider. Then there are motorcycles you establish a trusting, long-term relationship with. This BMW is one of the latter. The flat-Twin Boxer engine on the new R1200RS is the same DOHC unit that already powers the R1200GS, R1200RT and the new R1200R. BMW claims 125 horsepower at 7750 rpm and 92 lb-ft of torque at 6500 rpm (which worked out to 108.7 rear-wheel hp at 7800 and 77.6 lb-ft at 6600 rpm on the 2015 R1200GS Adventure we dynoed here.) Compared to the engines on the GS, GS Adventure and RT, BMW says the RT should have a bit more low-rev torque thanks to a different airbox.

And with these bikes, it’s all about the torque. If the RS doesn’t have the 160-hp, 11,000-rpm top end of the XR, BMW says the 1170cc Twin at least makes 9 more lb-ft of torque, 92 lb-ft at 6500 rpm instead of the XR’s 83 at 9250. For some reason, the RS feels considerably more substantial at first sit than the XR (must be those two cylinders jutting out), but BMW says the RS is only 18 pounds heavier – 520 to 502. So even though the XR feels way sportier and more hyperactive, the reality is that the RS can probably match it step for step right up to a speed beyond which you should never ride on the public roads anyway. Maybe even down dirt roads, too, since the RS has almost as much suspension travel as the XR – 5.5 inches versus 5.9 at both ends (under a seat whose standard height is 0.8-inch lower, at 32.3 inches).

It’s called a Boxer, kids, because the pistons move in and out together, like a boxer jabbing his fists outward to warm up. On the road, it produces the reassuring drone of a trusty aircraft engine.

It’s called a Boxer, kids, because the pistons move in and out together, like a boxer jabbing his fists outward to warm up. On the road, it produces the reassuring drone of a trusty aircraft engine.

The new RT is very much like the new R1200R I got to sample last December (when it also rained), the most obvious difference being the addition of a half fairing. Early RS drawings looked a little top-heavy/buxom, but the final design looks really proportional to my eye, and nicely downplays the downdraft intake tracts of the new Boxer that are a little too prominent on the naked, R version.

The windshield’s in low here, but snaps up a few inches into a high position. Its design, and that of the fairing and its winglets, produce nice, smooth airflow in either position.

The windshield’s in low here, but snaps up a few inches into a high position. Its design, and that of the fairing and its winglets, produce nice, smooth airflow in either position.

Instead of the naked bike’s handlebar, the RS gets a pair of clip-ons stuck into a tricky forged deal attached to the top clamp, and instead of the R’s sit-up-straight ergonomics, the RS pulls its rider an inch or two forward and lower into the cockpit, though the footpegs and delicious seat feel like they’re in the same place as before. Where the R is aimed slightly more at urban use, the RS is designed to also serve as an all-weather long-range sport-tourer, to cross over into R1200RT territory.

Originally, the R and RS were supposed to be the same bike, one faired and one not – but BMW can’t ever seem to take the easy route. Specs indicate the RS is 0.5 inch longer of wheelbase, with 0.4-inch less trail than the R, which should give it plenty of high-speed stability along with slightly quicker steering than the R if you’re a he-man willing to leverage its narrower handlebars. (All the manufacturers worry about your body becoming a high-speed source of instability on their naked bikes.) I can vouch for the stability of both of them at medium speeds anyway. Most Boxers feel like they could ghost ride the length of I-70 if you set the cruise control and jumped off.

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The base version, which is slated to sell for $14,950, comes with BMW’s Automatic Stability Control, and Rain and Road modes. You’ll need to step up to the Standard package ($16,025) to get the heated grips and cruise control (where I could probably stop). If you want the Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA), you’ll be signing a $17,770 check. It’s hard to say if the ESA is worth it on this bike, since nobody’s ever seen or ridden the non-ESA one (which is supposed to have a remote preload adjuster and rebound-adjustable shock out back). Shift Assist Pro is a thing I could easily do without on a bike like this one; it’s kind of jerky at low rpm, and low- and mid-rpm is where you ride these bikes most of the time. The six-speed gearbox on every one of these I’ve ridden shifts perfectly without the clutch, up or down, if you roll out of the throttle just the tiniest bit, as God intended, and nudge the lever.

Something in a nice gray and black, perhaps? I could pop the screen to high (it’s low here) if I set the cruise control and used both hands. That seat’s nice and thick; higher and lower options are available.

Something in a nice gray and black, perhaps? I could pop the screen to high (it’s low here) if I set the cruise control and used both hands. That seat’s nice and thick; higher and lower options are available.

Ride Modes Pro is the other big deal with the Premium package, which gets you Dynamic and customizable User ride modes in addition to Rain and Road, along with Onboard Computer Pro, which allows you to configure the TFT instrument display in various ways to suit your mood. Ho hum … You’re supposed to be able to get Ride Modes Pro as a $350 option on any RS, which is definitely the way to go since with it comes Dynamic Traction Control – a great thing to have in the rain. All RS’s come with switch-offable integral ABS brakes.

Anyway, I wanted all the electronic help I could get in the Canadian slop, and the RS was there for me, complete with two-position heated grips to keep my hands warm (with their own dedicated button), even as the water was making its way up my sleeves by the end of the day (other than that, my Gore-Tex-lined Dainese ensemble proved watertight yet again. Miraculous!).

Grabbing big handfuls of torque in the wet while leaned over results in nothing more alarming than a flashing light on the customizable dashboard, and on the new bike, a quick-turn throttle lets you get to full power with less wristation. Otherwise you just hunker down behind the reasonably generous windshield and get on with it; another advantage of RS over XR for the cheap at heart is that BMW says it’ll get 57 mpg (at a steady 55 mph) versus 44 for the XR. That’ll add up at $4 a gallon for premium.

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Okay, yeah, the new S1000XR was the star of the show up there in the Great White North, and as I wrote last week it may be my favorite new BMW. But if I’d had to pick it or the RS to ride back to SoCal from up there in the rain, and live with for the next year or two, I’d have a hard time not climbing aboard the deep-dish, low-stress RS. Something about the old Boxer soothes the soul; it’s probably no coincidence Pirsig’s classic (and interminable) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance discusses the Boxer.

+ Highs

  • Yo, it’s the Harley-Davidson of Deutschland (but besser)
  • One of motorcycling’s all-time great engines; maintain it yourself
  • No-stress, smooth operator
– Sighs

  • Not the prettiest RS ever
  • Instrumentation is a bit busy and small of digit
  • The new S1000XR is calling our name…
It doesn’t get the lean-sensitive ABS Pro brakes of the new XR, but BMW’s Integral ABS, complete with 320mm discs up front and radial calipers, stops the RS with great power and confidence.

It doesn’t get the lean-sensitive ABS Pro brakes of the new XR, but BMW’s Integral ABS, complete with 320mm discs up front and radial calipers, stops the RS with great power and confidence.

For a solo rider, the RS (with bags) will do everything the R1200RT will do. For most of us, it’ll do everything we’d reasonably ask of the R1200GS (while being five pounds lighter) – and it’s not at all far removed from the basic standard R1200R, which is one of the best motorcycles for doing absolutely everything else, ever devised. In our profession here at MO, it’s sort of our job to fall for pretty new faces. But the older we get, the more we appreciate true love. Sniff.

2015 BMW R1200RS Specifications
MSRP base: $14,950, Standard: $16,025, Premium: $17,770
Type 1170 cc liquid-cooled Boxer Twin
Fuel System EFI
Ignition Electronic
Valve Train DOHC, 4v/ cyl.
Horsepower (claimed) 125 @ 7750 rpm
Torque (claimed) 92 lb-ft @ 6500 rpm
Transmission/ Final drive 6-speed/ shaft
Front Suspension 45mm inverted fork; 5.5-in travel; Dynamic ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) optional
Rear Suspension Single shock; adjustable rebound damping and remote preload adjustment; 5.5-in travel; Dynamic ESA optional
Front Brake Dual 320mm discs; 4-piston calipers, part-integral ABS (can be switched off)
Rear Brake 276mm disc; 2-piston caliper, ABS
Front Tire 120/70ZR-17 radial
Rear Tire 180/55ZR-17 radial
Wheelbase 60.2 in.
Rake/trail 27.7 deg./ 4.5 in. (114mm)
Seat Height 32. in., Standard.
Curb Weight (per BMW) 520 lb.
Fuel Capacity 4.7 gal.
Tested Fuel Economy NA (BMW claims 57 mpg @ 56 mph)
Available Colors Racing Red, Light White
Warranty 24 months

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  • 12er

    The only BMW I never see on the road. I even see a few Tarantula’s now and then (R1200CL) but almost never an RS. Someone somewhere I guess buys these since they keep making them.

    • Ducati Kid

      Guys,

      As commented to Berlin previously …

      A ‘BOXER’ engined motorcycle denote’s the BMW ‘brand’ to Global passerby’s!

      This despite a revised ‘F’ Series BMW Concept motorcycle sporting a larger 900cc BMW-ROTAX Parallel Twin Engine, it ‘Stall Free’ with numerous functional improvements.

      FAST, FRUGAL, FUN from BMW!

  • Old MOron

    Was in the Netherlands and in Italy recently. Saw more BMW’s than any other bike. Mostly boxers. Yes, there is something about that engine.

  • Mad4TheCrest

    Hmm… the ride qualities sound great, but I’m put off a bit by the silly instrument panel design – why an analog speedo instead of a tach? Also the smallish tank: who goes 56 mph? At normal superslab speeds you’ll be stopping to fill up every 150 miles. Lastly, you need a computer program to figure your way through the options to what you want. Why does it have to be so tied to packages – a centerstand should be standard! Oh well, I’ll wait and see if sales are slow enough to pick up a year-end bargain – one that blunts my objections just enough :)

  • Jimmy Cloak

    One quibble: Pirsig gives no love to the BMW in his book, arguing that its technical sophistication shields the rider from having to get his/her hands dirty and is therefore inimical to true Quality (being a characteristic called forth from the rider-mechanic and not a property of the machine, no matter how marvellous). Pirsig himself supposedly rode, and raptured about, his old CB77 Superhawk.

    Zen aside, I still think BMW makes beautiful bikes.

    • john burns

      yeah, thanks, sorry. I never got all the way through it. Or even close.

      • Tod Rafferty

        Don’t recall Pirsig saying anything about the boxer’s technical sophistication, which would lie, if anywhere, in its simplicity. Gotta admit I’ve owned only one, a ’77 R100S, and compared to the Ducati Sport it was a truck. (With a Pridmore-built engine, and thus a very fast truck.) BMW deserves much credit for civilizing the package over the years, and the new 1200 is indeed comfortable and fast, and no annoying carbs as shin smackers. The salient quote from Zen and the Art abides, “The real cycle you are working on is the cycle called yourself.” Not an original thought, but always worth remembering.

  • DickRuble

    Almost perfect. The only thing this bike lacks is a diesel engine.

  • JMDonald

    I was always a Honda guy. In 2004 I sold off my VFR and bought a R1150R that is still in my garage. I was due a new bike this year and after much deliberation I bought a RT1200 in April after being seconds away from buying a Multistrada. The RS was on the short list but I decided on the more purpose built version of the R1200. The R bikes are the best fit for me in my old age. The RS is beautiful. Shaft drive is the way to go. IMHO. At this point I would like to have one each of the current R models. Motorcycles are like fine wine and women. All you need to know is what you like. I like the R bikes.

  • Gary

    Your eloquent words say yes, yes, yes … but your lack of video say no, no, no.

  • michael franklin

    Why do you continually mention the price of a “base” BMW, has anyone EVER seen one?

    • BDan75

      I’ve wondered about this myself (not only with MO). I guess you must be able to special order one from the factory, else they wouldn’t be able to list the price…

    • se123

      this is pretty much how they all work. My wife thought about a mini cooper. They advertised this great lease deal. Turns out they don’t carry any of the cars for that deal as it’s for a base model no options. Salesperson said technically they could do it but he’d have to special order one

  • Speedwayrn@yahoo.com

    Some people love the Boxer engine. I just never did connect with the R1150R. It just seemed to tractor like, disconnected from the bike. Your experience may vary.

    • Kevin Duke

      Try out the wasser-Boxer and you might change your mind.

  • Craig Hoffman

    This bike looks so much better with the normal inverted forks on it. Love the fairing and windshield too. Distance oriented bikes are simply getting to be too much. This one strikes me as just right. It still looks like a motorcycle and yet comfy and sporty for the long haul. A bike to consider, once the kids are gone and if there is any damn money left. Was thinking about a bagger when I get to that life stage for awhile, but came to my senses and realized that would just be stupid…

  • motonut_1

    John, were you being a little vague on purpose or was it just me and I didn’t “get” you this time. I’m not sure after reading this review if the R1200RS has any merits of it’s own or if it’s just a poor stepsister to the S1000XR? I haven’t seen the RS but did have a chance to examine the XR. I thought it might be the perfect bike looking at the pics but immediately didn’t like it when I sat on it. Too tall for the length of suspension travel, tank is huge (I guess that’s good if you want the largest tank bag known to man, and you’ll need it for the relatively poor gas mileage), top heavy feel, questionable seat comfort, etc. Just my opinion of course.

    So, did you like the RS and would you recommend it based on own merits.

    • john burns

      I loved the XR but I only rode it one day. A lot of people just love the relaxed feel of big Twin-cylinder motorcycles. There’s a reason why H-D sells so many of them, and to me, the BMW is what?, the BMW couple to Harley’s Impala. I think the subhead says, or did when I wrote it, there’s a very good reason why BMW has been building these things since 1921. I’ve been a huge fan ever since the first R1100RS in 1993.

      • vastickel@gmail.com

        Yep! They work for me also. Been on Boxer twins since 1976. Had many other machines in the garage alongside whatever boxerbike was in the garage-and they all came and went. The boxers have been the only constant. They seem to “speak” to me. And the latest waterhead yells the loudest! (though I miss my R90S).

  • haggis95

    Robert Pirsig rode a 1964 Honda SuperHawk – a CB77, although there is no explicit mention of the bike’s make and model in the book. His buddy rode a BMW

  • Allen Hutton

    Its a fantastic bike. Brakes are great. Speedshifter gives the best downshifts that are better than human every time especially coming up to lights. Wife is happy on it and it is so comfortable and smooth she is overjoyed at the purchase. When solo without the bags it is actually better than my ZX10R for 95% of riding. A perfect multipurpose bike. Top speed is substantially above 125 listed.

  • EdinMiami

    It’s over 19 grand once you put the BMW hard bags on. Can anyone say RT?
    The R1200R with BMW bags and an aftermarket windscreen or fairing is probably a better deal.

  • Michael Mccormick

    Too bad you can never buy a Beemer at the base price. Not all of us want or need the expensive option packages. Only reasonable one I ever bought was a 2011 G650GS in 2012 thanks to a rebate. Had to drive to Cleveland to buy it. Go figure as I can walk into a BMW car dealership and they offer ten percent off right away.
    Guess I’m too ignorant to buy a new BMW bike. Ducati or Triumph will be happy to sell me a bike, as are the big 4. BMW and HD think you’ll pay just to join the club

  • Gary

    There is no great mystery to why the boxer appeals. You can see how it works. You can adjust valve lash. Sync the injectors. It is a very engaging piece of engineering, unlike so many vacuum-sealed engines these days. And to top it off, unlike past beemers, this one performs. What’s not to like? Well, the price …

  • Alexander Pityuk

    Mistake: 2015 BMW R1000RS Specifications

    • denchung

      Oops! Thanks!

  • http://www.youtube.com/oscarreport TheOscarReport

    Bloody awesome bike. Makes good sense if one rides out into the country on sealed roads a lot. Could ride around the world on sealed roads in this bike I reckon.

  • Rico Randall

    Pirsig rode a Honda CB77, his friend that’s with him in the first half of the book was on the boxer

  • mugwump

    I think I’m the demographic that you’re looking for. I I’m in love.