And in those days there was a cataclysmic El Nino in SoCal, and it rained for at least forty days and forty nights. MO’s leaky roof shorted out the dyno and caused those early MOites to begin building an ark, upon which they loaded all the animals and floppy discs, two by two. But none of that is an excuse for this truncated First Impression of BMW’s first American-style cruiser, the riding of which takes place somewhere dry. There’s not even a photo of the bike. What giveths? 

First Impression: 1998 BMW R1200C

Ich bin eine BMW?

For over 70 years BMW has offered motorcyclists all manner of machines. There are the legendary RS series of sport-tourers, the long distance comfort of the LT models and even a dual-sport series in the GS and F650 models. Despite this wide variety of designs there has never been an American-style cruiser – until now.BMW formally introduced their interpretation of the species to the international motorcycling press last week in Tucson, Arizona. The German firm also brought along members of their engineering and design teams to explain the concept behind their new model.

According to BMW head designer David Robb, the man responsible for styling the 1200C, this bike was designed t o portray both a laid back cruiser stance and also showcase BMW’s technical sophistication. It accomplishes a unique cruiser look throu gh styling touches such as the open area around the rear shock and wheel, while the engineering savvy of its Telelever front end is unmistakable. As Robb so aptly pointed out, “It is the BMW of cruisers.”

BMW gave the R1200C a leather seat and handgrips. The passenger seat folds up to be used as a backrest.BMW gave the R1200C a leather seat and handgrips. The passenger seat folds up to be used as a backrest.

Few would expect BMW to compromise ride quality for styling purposes, and they certainly haven’t done so with the 1200C. Comfort is excellent, even though our ride took place in 100 degree temperatures. A clever addition to both style and comfort is the passenger seat, which folds up to be used as a driver backrest that has a range of three different angles, and can be adjusted while you’re riding.   More Action Photos Ground clearance is far greater than the current crop of boulevard cruisers, allowing respectable lean angles when the road turns twisty. Power is uninspiring however, as peak horsepower has been traded for low-end torque to fit the bike’s cruising role. Smaller exhaust and intake valves, as well as an altered intake tract combine with an increased bore and stroke to provide a flat, torquey power spread.

While some will find the 1200C’s styling awkward and unusual, there is no questioning the fact that if you like this Beemer’s looks you’ll love the way it works. 1200C owners will also have the distinction of owning BMW’s first-ever cruiser, a bike that may just have significant influences on both the company’s — and even the market’s — direction.


Manufacturer: BMW
Model: 1998 R1200C
Price: $12,990, $14,290 with ABS
Engine: Air/oil-cooled opposed twin
Bore x stroke: 101 by 73 mm
Displacement: 1170 cc
Carburetion: Motronic MA 2.4
Transmission: 5-speed
Wheelbase: 1650 mm
Seat height: 740 mm
Fuel capacity: 4.3 gallons (17 liters)
Claimed wet weight: 563 lbs (256 kg)

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  • Mad4TheCrest

    Burns, I recall you reported on a cross-country trip (for another mag) on a deluxe (and nearly final, I think) version of this Beemer. I recall you thought it was odd but OK. My personal recollection of these 1200Cs is of seeing bikes parked up at watering holes with well-scraped pegs and in some cases pipes too, being able to out-handle their ground clearance, apparently. My fave version of this was seen at a Long Beach motorcycle show in the early oughts as a sidecar rig. Very good-looking and fit for purpose in that role.

    • john burns

      I rode one back from its press launch in North Carolina when i was at the Big Magazine! I liked it okay, but the cruiser market wasn’t that evolved yet. I don’t think BMW knows how to make a motorcycle that won’t go around corners reasonably well.

  • DickRuble
    • john burns

      Much better! I knew it was all there somewhere…

  • SRMark

    It’s a better looking bike without pictures.

    • Starmag

      It’s sales numbers were a testament to it’s styling.

  • azicat

    I bought one of these because of the MO review. It was okay. A little slow perhaps, even for a cruiser. It became very uncomfortable after about two hours. Riding buddies never stopped pointing and laughing. Bits also started to fall off after about 6 months. It stranded me on the side of the road 3 or 4 times because of electrical failure. Perhaps BMW copied the USA cruiser experience too closely.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Harley still has better quality and reliability than BMW.

      The 10 Most Reliable Motorcycle Companies

      No 10 is CanAm (which is not even a motorcycle). No 9 is BMW. No 8 is Ducati. No 7 is Triumph. No 6 is HD. No 5 is Victory. 4-1 are Kawasaki, Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha. Indian is somewhere below 10.


        and i would bet the Sportster is the bike that put Harley that high,too

    • Rachel

      Gℴℴgle is giving the people $98 per/hr to do easy jobs working off of a home computer .. Do job Some few hours & enjoy more time with your own family … Any person can join online jobs community!!!on weekend I purchased a gorgeous Chrysler after just getting $19744 last six weeks .it’s certainly nicest-job however you will not forgive yourself if you don’t try it.!wx69w:➻➻➻ http://GoogleCashFreelanceInternetJobs/make/99$/perhour ♥♥v♥♥n♥♥e♥l♥♥♥e♥♥d♥♥♥l♥♥t♥♥♥m♥i♥u♥♥♥a♥♥♥o♥♥♥y♥♥s♥x♥d♥♥♥r♥♥♥j♥♥g♥♥a♥v♥y♥♥w♥♥s:::::!mx122a:lququ

      • Jon Jones

        A Chrysler K-car?

  • jeff benson

    Didn’t the Deutsche Anti-Drug Task Force investigate BMW for LSD addiction after this model was released? It looks like either an acidhead, or a committee, “styled” it. Even the Ducati Indiana was a better looking cruiser. Though the Norton HiRider gave it a run for the money. In any case it will live forever in the Pantheon of “WTF? Who in hell greenlighted this?”

  • I bought this motorcycle years ago from a Craigslist ad. My very first motorcycle and the only one I’ve owned so far. I have no regrets! Great Motorcycle! I really want the Kawasaki Z900RS now. 🙂 Of course… to add to my mc collection of one. LOL


    I have always thought this bike beautiful. I don’t know why. There it is.

  • Dan

    I remember being embarrassed for the occasional guy I saw riding on of these.

  • MARC

    Test rode the bike back in the day, ride lasted about 2 minutes, out of the BMW parking lot and back in 😂 Have owned a few boxers, which I loved, but this cruiser, not