Honda Gold Wing vs. BMW K1200 LT

They're Fat with Long Legs and Cruise Control!


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BMW Electrical Problems

We experienced electrical problems on our BMW K1200 LT-I when something; in the electronics package started bleeding power even when the bike was shut off. This left us with a dead battery every morning. Short term fixes included jumper cables and the Gold Wing's battery, a bottle of super-acid and more than a handful of four-letter words, although the choice-words didn't seem to be as effective as jumper cables.

We ended up having to disconnect the battery's negative lead whenever the bike was to sit for more than a few hours with the motor not running. This made for some high temperatures in the slow going of photo shoots, but the BMW never hinted at boiling over or melting anything due to an electrical short. BMW's have had electric gremlins in the past, and the ghosts are still haunting the house of our test bike.

"An interesting note is the fact that both the K-LT and the Gold Wing are equipped with lead-acid batteries. While this wouldn't be such a problem on the BMW, with its easy-to-access seat release, the Gold Wing requires the seat to be removed via four allen-head bolts -- not exactly user friendly."

An interesting note is the fact that both the K-LT and the Gold Wing are equipped with lead-acid batteries. While this wouldn't be such a problem on the BMW, with its easy-to-access seat release, the Gold Wing requires the seat to be removed via four allen-head bolts -- not exactly user friendly. Our suggestion? Either the manufacturers should equip these bikes with a sealed type battery, or, for the Gold Wing, make the seat easier to remove. Also, adding a remote battery cut-off switch will fix the problem just as easily while increasing security.

To slow this behemoth down, BMW fit the LT with their ABS-II anti-lock brake system. We're generally opposed to ABS, but the system works so non-intrusively that it's a genuine comfort in inclement weather or on the many ill-maintained roads you're likely to find throughout America's back counties. The dual 305 mm floating front disks and single, solid 285 mm disk in the rear do a wonderful job of hauling the bike down from speed, even without the help of ABS. These brakes possess power and feel that far surpass that of the Honda. Our only gripe is the noisy rear brake that sounded like nails dragging over a chalkboard.

Unlike the Honda's hard bag system, the K1200 LT's bags have a lever on each individual bag. Some staffers actually preferred this to the Gold Wing's arrangement. The top case will swallow two full-face helmets easily and there's plenty of room in either side bag for clothes, although the right-side case contains the CD player. The bags are typical top-notch BMW items that make the Honda's units seem flimsy and antiquated by comparison. Other conveniences include a built-in vanity-mirror as well as a small light underneath the lid of the top bag.

What Should You Ride?

Though aimed at basically the same demographic, these two bikes are about as different as Jennifer Love Hewitt and Janeane Garofalo. Each bike willingly dances across state lines, but each moves to its own beat demands a different type of rider straddling it.

Just by sitting on the Gold Wing and feeling the bike settle under your weight, it's easy to decipher this bike's intentions. The suspension has a soft, couch-like feel that clues you in on how the upcoming ride is going to be. When you perch upon the BMW and feel how the Telelever suspension keeps things comparatively firm, you know that this bike is more than able to burn through tanks of gas in complete comfort while retaining the solidity that reminds you of the K-series' sporty lineage.

Neither motorcycle was pleasant at low speeds, but the edge here went to the Gold Wing for the slow-as-you-go, parking lot/stop light dance. The BMW isn't bad, but the comparatively low center of gravity on the Wing made tip-toeing around less of a liability.

Once speeds increased beyond the average walking pace of a human, both bikes hid their weight extremely well, though, at the lower end of the speed spectrum, the Gold Wing's heft was more easily managed.

This was no doubt helped by the lower seat hight of the Honda, since riders with less than a 32-inch inseam complained about how tall and unwieldy the BMW felt at times. On the other side of the speedometer, the K-LT won hands-down for the catch-me-if-you-can, mountain road sprint section of our test.

Even with a passenger, the K-LT remained planted and was comparatively unfazed by any sort of road irregularity. We were able to scrape under-pinnings without a trace of chassis flex or suspension abnormalities.

The same actions on the Honda resulted in a few scary moments for rider and passenger alike. Although large portion of this is due to the different theories in suspension set-up, it is also least a result of the difference in chassis rigidity. Granted, neither machine is well-suited to back road travel at elevated speeds and severe cornering loads, but the BMW feels much more solid.

As for long distance highway droning at or near the speed-limit, which is where most tourers spend their time, the nod goes to the Gold Wing; its seat allows both rider and passenger to move around and the height-adjustable passenger floorboards help make long-hauls less of a chore. The motor is in its element here and the chassis and suspension shortcomings that hinder the Honda elsewhere aren't as much of a concern when the road is long and straight. The K-LT will comfortably keep pace with the Wing all day long, but for some riders the comfort afforded the BMW rider falls a bit short of the long-haul Honda.

"While there's no absolute winner here, the choice of which bike we'd purchase is an easy one."

Either you have the need for a bike that will tour on the highways and conquer the twisties with aplomb, or you just need something to go from point-A to point-B as comfortably and with as little fuss as possible.

For those of us at MO who like a little spice in our dish, the BMW serves up the portions just right while the Honda looks a little too pre-packaged for our taste and leaves us begging Honda's brass to build the X-Wing. The staff fought over the BMW when it came time to chose which bike to swing a leg over, so the K1200 LT is our new Long-Haul touring champion. Your tastes may require something different, but at MO, the Wing is no longer King.


Manufacturer: BMW Model: K1200LT Price: $16,900 USD (Standard), $17,900 USD (Icon), $18,900 USD (Custom) Engine: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, in-line 4 Compression ratio: 10.8:1 Bore and Stroke: 70.5 mm x 75 mm Displacement: 1171cc Carburetion: Fuel-injection Bosch Motronic MA 2.4 Transmission: Five-speed, dry clutch Tires/Front: 120/70 ZR 17 tubeless Tires/Rear: 160/70 ZR 17 tubeless Wheelbase: 64.3 in Seat Height: 30.3 / 31.5 in Fuel Capacity: 6.18 US gal
Manufacturer: Honda Model: 2000 GL[tm]1500SE -- 25th Anniversary Edition Price: $18.099 USD $17,899 USD $17,599 USD Engine: 1520cc liquid-cooled horizontally opposed 6-cylinder Bore and Stroke: 71mm x 64mm Compression Ratio: 9.8:1 Carburetion: Two 36mm diaphragm-type CV Transmission: 5-speed including overdrive and reverse Tires/Front: 130/70H-18 Tires/Rear: 160/80H-16 Seat Height: 29.1 inches Wheelbase: 66.5 inches Fuel Capacity: 6.3 US gal

Dyno Charts

Max HP: 82.3 hp @ 5300 RPM
Max Torque: 92.4 ft/lb @ 4400 RPM

Max HP: 84.9 hp @ 6500 RPM
Max Torque: 76 ft/lb @ 4800 RPM

Thanks to Dynojet Research for supplying us with our very own Dynojet Model 250.

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