EBass' BMW K1200RS Walkabout
The BMW K1200RS goes alpine in Lake Tahoe.
"Hey, EBass, BMW just called. They want to know if you feel like cruising up to Lake Tahoe for the 80th Motorrad celebration. They said they'll put you up in a honeymoon suite at the Squaw Creek Resort, wine you, dine you, and give you a K1200RS for the trip."
"Yeah, fine, whatever, I'll call 'em back as soon as I ... huh?! Tahoe? Resort? K1200RS? Gimme that post-it!"
For those who have never been, Lake Tahoe is a beautiful mountain area renowned for its year-round bevy of outdoor games and indoor gaming. The lake itself straddles the California and Nevada borders 6223 feet above sea level, and if you ever find yourself a contestant on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" and are asked, "If Lake Tahoe were tipped over, how many inches of water would the state of California be covered in?" The correct answer would be "14.5". Now you owe me one. I just saved you a lifeline.
I've visited the region several times during previous winters for the terrific skiing and snowboarding, and in fact at one time the alpine vistas of Squaw Creek served as the scenic backdrop as I rang in the New Millenium by making wild primordial love in front of a fireplace to Satan himself... back when she was my wife. And yet, I had never been to Tahoe during the Spring, nor by motorcycle, and so this was an opportunity not to be missed.
The K1200RS is the sportiest of three editions, which also include the fully dressed LT and the far more lightly encumbered GT. The K 1200GT was reviewed on this site back in January by resident go fast man, Sean Alexander with a sidebar by the Leisure World retiree formerly known as Motojournalism Legend, John Burns.
So I will refer you to said feature for basic technical info and primary riding impressions, as the GT differs from the RS in relatively insignificant ways. Those being that the GT is standard equipped with a power windscreen, color-matched saddlebags, handguards and fairing extensions for greater wind protection, a slightly wider rear tire, and handlebars and seat that put the rider in a more upright posture. The RS weighs in at 655 lbs wet, which is 24 lbs leaner than the GT. So by tacking an extra grand onto the K1200RS base price of $16,990, you get yourself the fancified GT version. The K1200 RS that I rode for the trip was stock, except for the hard luggage. The cases run about $850.00 for the set. Thus having excused myself from the draconian tech spec requirements of those who consider Clymer manuals to be light reading, I shall continue on with my touring tale aboard the K1200RS.
BMW wunderkind, Jonas Musson, had gathered three other journalists for the group ride set to leave L.A. at 10:00 AM Thursday morning: Bert Swift, Jimmy McCraw and John Aronson. Bert is art director for Road & Track, John does TV production stuff and Jimmy's a freelancer. At first glance, I was really impressed with the sportier look of the Alpine White RS with Orient Blue striping as compared to the more conservative all-blue GT we tested back in January. The paint scheme of the RS reminded me of a very stylish, futuristic police bike, kind of a next generation ChiPs pursuit vehicle. The chunky vertical stripes on the tail section executed far more successfully than those on the Rockster, which in all their rust/orange glory came off like a safety vest on a construction worker.
While the tantalizing prospect of Tahoe's picturesque byways was dancing in the backs of our minds, the front of our minds were occupied by how much it was gonna suck having to endure the 100 degree plus temperatures of the bullet-straight 5 freeway as it climbed out of the Grapevine and then droned on past about 200 miles worth of cow country. As fate would have it, when we passed a bank along the way, the bad news was 112 degrees. Dry heat, thank goodness, but still hot enough to fry an egg on the gas tank. Under the conditions, minor ergonomic complaints could have become major nuisances, but with the exception of some buzziness in the handgrips, the RS was a real pleasure to ride.
The GT's power windscreen would have been a nice touch, but the dual-position manual version kept me clear of undue buffeting when in the upper position. The pegs, seat, and bars provided a fairly neutral posture for my 5'9" frame without any undue pressure points. Arm and hand fatigue could be easily managed by either resting my abdomen on the tank, which sloped comfortably to meet it, or more conveniently by taking advantage of the cruise control, letting go of the bars entirely, and sitting up straight. I actually got so comfortable with the Beemer's excellent stability that as the trip wore on, I probably spent virtually all of my highway time letting the gyroscopic forces do their thing, not even bothering to reach down for gentle bends, as the bike steered just as well with a little lean and downward pressure on the same-side peg. Probably not something the kraftsmen back in Bavaria spent a lot of time thinking about, but a nice bonus nonetheless.
The 5 freeway had given way to the 99 and eventually, the fuel gauges began to spell "E" as the 5.5 gallon fuel tanks reached their limit, as did we, so we pulled off to refresh both the bikes and riders near Fresno.
Capricious whim drew us to a windowless bar/restaurant advertising steak specials and cold beer. More special still was the welcoming blast of supercooled air conditioning that greeted us as we opened the door.
The 60-ish Armenian waiter seemed a little taken aback when I ripped off my shirt, my boots, my jeans, collapsed onto the carpet in my Fruit of the Looms, went into convulsions, and began speaking in tongues as the ecstasy of AC salvation washed over my body, but afterwards he said it was no big deal, they get that from time to time, and that as long as I tipped big, the security camera footage would never see the light of day. Fair dinkum, I suppose.
We were seated in a jumbo sized horseshoe booth and convincingly informed by our host that the best thing on the menu was the New York Steak. "How are the hamburgers?" "Not as good, you order steak." "I'm thinking maybe a chef salad. Do you put chopped egg in ..." "You like steak better". Now it just so happened that Jimmy was in the mood for steak, and so was I, and so was John, and Jonas (being a carnivore of legendary proportions) followed suit. The pressure had been mounting like a big stakes poker hand being revealed as the eyes of the world (or at least the table) awaited Bert's decision. And he ordered ... chicken! The waiter's eyes began to glow, and slowly began searing a small red spot on Bert's forehead like an ant being tortured with a magnifying glass. "You don't like steak?" "No, I'll have the chicken". "Dammit Bert, your eyebrows are starting to smolder, save yourself and order the friggin' steak, man!" "You try my steak, you like." "I had steak last night. Actually I'll stick with the chicken, thanks". Our waiter slowly turned and stalked off and I could have sworn I heard a phlegmatic, "thhhhhwckckckck" sound as he reached the kitchen. Thanks Bert, I owe ya' one brutha.