Best Sport-Touring Motorcycle of the Year Winner: BMW R1200RT


Okay, this makes it three years in a row for BMW’s venerable RT, which actually isn’t all that venerable since it got the 1170cc oilhead Boxer just two years ago. Venerable, though, in that BMW just continues to build amazing motorcycles atop the shoulders of all the great ones that came before.

2014 BMW R1200RT First Ride Review

Packed with more power, more comfort, more electronics and more performance… it’s hard to figure out how they wedge this much uber-comfortable motorcycle into a package that weighs just 617 pounds gassed up (6.6 gallons); 110 horsepower’s not that much anymore, but a flat torque curve with 80 pound-feet at only 5400 rpm means the BMW behaves like something much sportier than it looks. Something about the longitudinal crank Boxer means these bikes have always been phenomenal, sure-footed handlers. Add to that optional ESA (Electronic Suspension Assistant) that lets you choose Sport, Road or Normal with the push of a button. (And don’t forget Shift Assist Pro, Hill Start Control and about 10 other things that make life better and safer). Also don’t forget the best bags in the business. A super aero fairing with an electrically adjustable windscreen. A seat you don’t mind sitting on all day…

At the end of our 2014 comparison test in which the RT handily beat a Guzzi Norge and an Yamaha FJR1300ES, I wrote: Lucky me drew the BMW straw for the ride home. With heated grips and seat set to two bars of five, suspension set Hard and throttle to Road, it was a delicious descent down the dark, winding mountain road through the pines, back into the city lights, back to I-10. Set suspension to Soft, engage cruise control, raise windshield, turn up the Pandora. We’d gassed up in Idyllwild, and the tripmeter clicked over 100 miles as I pulled up to my humble abode. The clock said 10:30. I felt fresh as the proverbial daisy. There is no other land-bound vehicle I would rather have been on or in. Yup, it’s as good as Tom said, and we did the right thing naming the RT Sport-Tourer of the Year.


Honorable Mention: BMW S 1000XR


If the BMW RT leans toward the tour half of the sport-tour continuum, the S1000XR definitely tips the scale in the sport direction. While it’s really classified as an Adventure bike, this new BMW has such a broad mission statement we had to squeeze the bike that finished on top of our Nine-Bike Adventure Shootout last year someplace in these awards.

BMW did its best to tame the S1000RR 999cc Four-banger for more sedate use, but it still cranks out over 150 hp and a shedload of torque from very low rpm, enough to give the 550-pound XR (with bags!) the sort of power-to-weight ratio frontline superbikes had half a decade ago. Wait, some of them still do.

2015 BMW S1000XR First Ride Review

Throw in adventure-bike ergonomics, Dynamic ESA suspension, and a bunch of ride modes that allow the XR to comport itself on dirt roads when venturing off pavement… it’s a very tough act to keep up with.

The only fly is a bit of engine vibration that creeps through the XR’s bars and pegs at various rpm, a thing which bothers some more than others and which can be mitigated by hitting the cruise control button. This is the bike for riders who want to go anywhere and do anything – but have a deep-seated need to get there first.

  • JMDonald

    I love my RT.

  • Old MOron

    “This is the bike for riders who want to go anywhere and do anything – but have a deep-seated need to get there first.”

    Ha! Well stated. See, at MO “honorable mention” really does get an honorable mention.

    • Ian Parkes

      Oh I get it now. I was puzzled. I thought if they were that paranoid about getting there, they’d probably prefer a tank to a motorbike – but he means “…get there first“.

  • Billlllyyyyy

    No love for the superduke gt?

    • Kevin Duke

      Much love for it! But since it’s not yet available in America, it didn’t make the cut.

      • Gabriel Owens

        Hey Duke, they are filtering in to dealers slowly but surely. I think cycle trader has a few posted.

  • Starmag

    An RT is what I always end up renting for trips and it’s a great bike but I wish I liked the engine more. I just don’t dig the clunky charmlessness of the boxer thing. The hugeness of the tank/fairing from the saddle isn’t inspiring either. Great ergos, heaters, cornering clearance,brakes, bags etc though.

    • Max Wellian

      I rent the same way, but I love the engine. Not really too many engines I’m not fond of as long as they’re fueled properly.
      Big thing I found about the RTs is that they’re proper right outta the box. No need to buy a thing for them. My FJR OTOH, cost a small fortune to make acceptable.
      Big problem for me with BMWs is the dealers are too far away and I don’t want to have to buy a new toolset to work on the damn things. Can’t even add oil without some cockamamy tool!

    • Kevin Duke

      I don’t consider the wasser-Boxer clunky or charmless. Have you ridden the latest RT?

      • Starmag

        Well, you’ve got me there. I think the last one I rented was a 2009 or 10 so maybe I was remiss in commenting. It had plenty of power. I don’t know how wasser cooling would change it’s outboard motor type sound and feel though. In a twin I’d rather have a vee of some type or a vee imitator parallel twin with a 270 degree crank. Just personal preference.

        Also, the fairing looks like it got even larger and more ungainly and that’s what I already though of the last one. Of course my frame of reference is my ZRX and CB900F with Plexi 3 and not a Gold Wing so maybe that explains my preference some.

        • james lagnese

          On the road, I found the RT’s pulses aren’t annoying. I’ve had vtwins, Kawasaki’s, and I always felt more tired after a give time/distance in the saddle than the RT. I imagine the K bike is even better in that regard.

      • james lagnese

        Isn’t clunky part of the charm? I have a 2009 and I like the little hula vibe it does when I first crank it over.

    • james lagnese

      That hugeness keeps the wind off you. I know on mine that if I am going over 60 in the rain, I don’t get water on me except my feet and lower shin area. Can’t say that for all bikes. As for saddle, all stock saddles suck.

  • SteveSweetz

    I’d agree the S1000XR is (quite) sporty and designed to be used for touring, but at the same time, it seems weird to compare it to traditional sport tourers like the RT or Yamaha FJR (which I think are disappearing as people go for the more adventure-y bikes).

    As the delineation between touring and adventure bikes is getting messy, do you think the categories could do with some re-arranging or some hard rules for what’s adventure and what isn’t?

    I mean it is a little weird that the S1000XR fits in this category, yet the KTM Super Adventure fits in the other when seemingly the biggest thing that separates them in terms of off-road capability is that one has wire-spoke wheels with a 19″ front and the other doesn’t.

    Perhaps there should be an “Adventure/Tourer” category and “Dual Sport/Off Road Aventure” category. I’d say that only bikes that very clearly setup from the factory for off road use (like the Africa Twin) should go in the latte, while everything else competes in the former.

  • Gabriel Owens

    The 1000r is 3-4k cheaper. Imo it’s the better deal.

  • AZgman

    I loved my RTs too (1150 and 1200) but I now ride a Triumph Trophy with a wonderful 3 jug motor. I also had lots of recalls and components failures on my R1200RT over 50k+ miles. None so far with the Trumpet. The FJR is also very reliable compared to the BMW. If you took the sport touring bikes under consideration on a cross country trip with a wide variety of roads and weather conditions, you might not like the boxer quite so much.

    • Alexander Pityuk

      What kind of problems did you have with RT?

      • AZgman

        Brake recall (twice) abs sensor fuel assembly cracked (twice) fuel controller (twice) abs motor failure stick coil connector failures due to weather exposure

    • james lagnese

      The Trophy had a lot of teething problems too. With the RT, depends on the year. The later, the better. That said, the Trophy is a fair comparison to the hexhead/camhead, but the wethead is another generation ahead in features and electronics. The FJR is a ST with the emphasis on S, whereas the Trophy and RT the emphasis is on T. Anyway, thanks for the RepROM and JVB DVD. :)

      • Dirk Lehew

        I agree with AZgman-I have 30K mi on my 2014 Trophy and it’s the finest bike I have owned in 45 years of riding. No teething problems-and it handles better with a smoother engine and more power than the RT(and I’ve ridden multiple years of the RT, as well as the K bike, which is a pig compared to the Trophy). When you compare reliability and cost of ownership, and read/talk with owners of both, IMHO the Trophy wins. For me the Trophy has a great combination of tech and simplicity-I have no trouble using every feature and it seems like BMW employs high tech where it’s not necessary-just because they can. For some reason the Trophy doesn’t get a fair shake in the MC press, and I wonder how many writers/critics actually own the BMWs they salivate over. My previous ride was a 08 Concours14, and the Trophy beats it for me in every way except the top end, and I just don’t need to go 140 anymore. The Trophy has almost every meaningful feature that the RT does, and it beats the RT with the most comprehensive display of any bike I’ve ridden.

        • james lagnese

          Have you ridden the new RT? The Trophy is a better value than the RT, but I have a question: How is maintenance? Like removing body panels when doing a valve adjustment/check? AZgman and I know each other, we belong to AZBeemers. We both had silver 2009 RTs before he got the Trophy. I’ve heard nothing but good things from him, but I haven’t heard about maintenance and also heat. The RT doesn’t throw off much heat at all and it matters here as we live in hell.

          • Dirk Lehew

            Yes I have a friend with the new RT that I’ve ridden, as well as a demo. Don’t get me wrong-it is a very nice and beautifully made bike. But his previous GS had the infamous final drive failure, and speaking to a great mechanic I trust he has major issues with BMW reliability, parts cost, and less than ideal corporate support. To answer your questions: 1. No heat issues at all with the Trophy, and I live in AZ and often take 300-400mi day rides in 110+ heat. In fact the Trophy has great weather protection in general. 2. The main expense with maintenance on the Trophy is labor-you have to pull off body panels for about everything. The RT is easier to work on for DIY’s. However, the Trophy has a 10,000 mi service interval for oil changes and minor service, and a 20,000mi major(valve) service. I believe the RT is 6000/12000. So after 60K I’ve done 6 oil changes and 3 valve jobs, and you’ve done 10 oil changes and 5 major services.
            I would ask if you’ve ridden the Trophy? Because of their lackluster sales(Triumph doesn’t promote them for some reason) you can usually find one at a great price. I paid 16,500 for mine(new 2014). And it’s hard to beat that great Triumph triple howl when you crack the throttle…

          • james lagnese

            Haven’t ridden one. I live in AZ too. East Valley.

  • SRMark

    For the really long haul I’d take the ST1300. No flash and long in the tooth but plenty fast, handles well and runs forever.

    • james lagnese

      I don’t think Honda makes it anymore. It’s a basic bike. Doesn’t even have cruise control, Honda reliability though, but at over 100 lbs heavier. If I wanted something that big, I’d get the K1600GT.

      • SRMark

        You are right. I had assumed that the ctx1300 was an augmentation to the 1300 line, not a replacement. Time flies when you’re getting old. Looks like i wait until the new ST shows up. Might have cruise control then. But that isn’t a deal breaker for me.

        • james lagnese

          I was hoping they would refresh it, but the CTX 1300 was considered it. I don’t know why. May be they will reconsider, but Honda has become parsimonious. The GW is very long in tooth and while it has nice accommodations for the pillion, the riding position for the rider is a little funky. Not cruiser, not UJM and the bike weighs over 900lbs. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what Honda does.


    My Motus will get you there in more comfort and get you there first.

    • james lagnese

      More comfort? I don’t know about that. Interesting bike, but not as refined.


        I do. I have been on both bikes. Have you? By refined do you mean more electronic bullshit?

        • james lagnese

          More of a lot of stuff. We probably have different ergonomic requirements. As it is, I have to put peg lowering kit and bar risers on the RT to make it work for me. The Motus costs a lot for what it is…and more than I would spend on any bike anyway and if I was going to spend that kind of scarole, I’d want certain things. ABS and cruise is a must. I don’t care for chain drive anymore, so that’s out and I like a UJM seating position. I do like a power adjustable windscreen and when I lived in Iowa, the heated seat and grips were a nice thing. The new beemers have ABS Pro, which works when leaned over and the clutchless shifting option is pretty cool. The bluetooth integration is something I’d like as well as the central locking. So yeah, the electronic BS as you call it.

    • Craig Hoffman

      Sweet bike! Would love to hear a real world owner’s full review on it.

  • Tomslick

    Were the Motus bikes considered for this category?

  • blueson2wheels

    MV Agusta Turismo Veloce will probably never be sold in large numbers and so will never get the recognition it deserves, which is too bad because it’s an amazing mix of practicality, comfort, and sportbike-like fun.

  • Mark

    High levels of vibration in the handlbars above 4500RPM, which is not an issue with the 1200GS for some reason. There’s no way I could manage sustained freeway speeds on the RT. My hands would be numb after 30 minutes. After 6hrs of back to back demos on the RT and the GS, I went with the GS. Lacks the amenities of the full-dress bike, but much more comfortable for me. YMMV.

  • Bob Dragich

    Sorry. The best sport-touring bike is the Aprilia Caponard.


      Puleez…if you are gonna nominate the Aprilia, be able to spell it correctly.
      Aprilia Caponord.
      C’mon Bob, you’re better than this…

  • Aurora

    Just opinion – BMW K1300GT leading a race…I think

  • james lagnese

    I have a 2009 RT. The only things I think it needs is a better seat and about 20-30 more HP, BUT, I like that my RT is paid for and the new ones are several thousand more than I paid for mine comparing OTD and that’s the rub. Is it worth spending the scarole or having payments? 23K+ buys a lot of other stuff at this point. As much as I like the wethead, it just isn’t compelling enough to acquire more debt or drain the bank.

    • Andrew Capone

      I just need to give you props for using ‘scarole’ in your post. Common in my youth, it’s a word that must come back into widespread use.

      • james lagnese

        I am from NY and dad was napolitano.

  • DeadArmadillo

    As an ex RT owner, if that’s the best sports tourer, the ST’s are in big trouble. I suggest you go out, buy one, and come back in a couple of years to tell us how great they are

    • james lagnese

      So far they’ve been better than the RT that came out in 2005. The only sort of common problem has been weeping water pumps.


    No love for the turn-key Yamaha FJR..? You are missing a terrific piece of iron that is bulletproof and can do anything (*and more*) than the Beemer.
    You guys need to get out more.

    • james lagnese

      Doesn’t work for me ergonomically and it’s biased towards sport, RT is biased towards tour. If I was shorter, lighter and didn’t have a fused neck and bad knees, I’d look at one.

  • Carmelo Santini

    I’m surprised you didn’t pick the RS instead of the RT… I thought the RT was more of just a tourer and the RS was the sport tourer. What is the comparison between the RS and the RT?

    • Jim L

      Again, one is biased towards touring, the other sport, both are sport tourers. The big K bikes are the touring rigs.

      • Carmelo Santini

        I figured one vote for the RT was one for the RS as well. When you mentioned the S1000 instead of the RS though I had to ask. That’s impressive they’ve won 3 years in a row.

        • Jim L

          I don’t recall mentioning the S1000. Unless it’s the XR, I wouldn’t ride one.

          • Carmelo Santini

            Ah I thought you were the author. The honorable mention on this page is the S1000.