2002 BMW R1150R - Motorcycle.com
Torrance, California, March 14, 2002 -- "A foolish consistency," said Ralph W. Emerson, "is the hobgoblin of little minds." One example that springs to mind is the overlookage of this particular motorcycle by the mainstream moto-press. When it came time to do the "Naked Bike" story at Motorcyclist last year, the new 1150R got left out because, er, I don't know why, really, but it was in good company as those guys didn't want to include the Triumph Speed Triple either. (Yours truly lobbied that both bikes should be in the mix, which is probably, come to think of it, precisely why they were left out.) In any case, I'd been wanting to ride this 1150R ever since the big makeover for '01, and only in the last couple of weeks finally got the chance to do so. It was worth the wait.
Count on a "Hooligan Bike Shootout" from that same publication (God am I sorry I ever applied that word to a motorcycle...), and the BMW will probably be left out of it, too, as it's hard for many people to wrap their mind around the concept of a BMW having anything to do with "Hooliganism." Well, all I can say is that the guys who used to flog their old boxer BMW's up and down Mt. Palomar when I was a lad, were--I hope still are--the dictionary definition of hooligan. Them were the days...
Ever wonder why, when gazing upon a statue of Alexander the Great astride his warhorse, or General Lee upon Traveller, why saddlemakers never thought to get a couple two-by-fours and stick the stirrups out around the horse's chin? Because it would be stupid, that's why. But that's exactly the seating position enforced by all the performance cruisers. When you ride a horse, you use your legs to absorb shocks and to control the animal; the same applies to motorcycles. No point in arguing with me on this one. One of the saddest phenomena of modern times is that millions of asses are suffering needlessly because Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda were morons 30 years ago. Stupid. (Rearsets are in the works for our V-Rod, which, apart from the stupid footpegs, I love dearly.)
Attached to the other end of the throttle cable is the same 1130cc flat twin used in the GS, producing a claimed 85 horsies. (Soon as we get our dyno up again, we'll post the chart.) Torque is claimed to be 71 foot-pounds, with 66 of them available between 3000 and 6500 rpm, all of it controlled by the latest Motronic 2.4 engine management system. At no time do you feel like you're motoring that hard, but you can't help noticing Mini's working the 118-horse, considerably lighter Speed Triple pretty hard--and not exactly drawing away quickly. The Achilles heel used to be the crunchy, five-speed gearbox. Now with the 6-speed close-ratio Getrag, the R shifts like a real-live sportbike, ye do nae need the clutch if you're in a hurry. (And when aren't you on a motorcycle?)
"How you like the suspension?" Mini asks when we stop.
"Hard to say, that road's so smooth," I say.
"Like hell," he says, "the Triumph was skittering all over the place..."
It's true. Commuting up and down the superslab, the R is a stately pleasure dome with a luxurious, some would say Cleopatraesque ride. Get rough with it in the twistiness, though, and Paralever and Telelever conspire to give excellent control. (Rebound's adjustable at each end, too, if that makes you feel better.)
About them brakes. Our test bike has the new, optional Integral ABS--which is like power-assisted ABS, sort of--but you have to really give a squeeze to feel the assist, at which point you stop really, really hard. In everyday use, the system works well, and in an emergency sitch, ABS will save your bacon and we highly recommend it, wish more bikes had it.
For backroad banzai attacks, however, the Integral system saps too much feel, and the slight delay getting to full boost makes for some hair-raising moments. So, if you ride where it rains a lot, or if you're more casual tourist than backroad maniac, maybe go on and spring for the ABS. If you're like us, save the money and the 9.6 pounds, and enjoy the standard EVO brakes--this year with bigger, 12.6-inch rotors and recalibrated hydraulics for reduced lever effort, BMW says.
Instruments are nicely legible and we like the analog clock, which belongs in an expensive car (BMW makes them, too). Whip off the tall windscreen pictured (takes five minutes),and the instrument cluster clears enough wind by itself to make 100mph cruising problem-free. BMW sells a shorter screen, too; this tall one's blustery for 5'7" persons.
Any of those "power cruisers" or "nekkid bikes" or "hooligans" offer heated grips? First time I heard of them, I figured they were strictly for the Iron Butt Rally/Chicago ride-year-round crowd, but you grow to love toasty grips even in sunny Southern California. After dark, when it's too warm for an electric vest but too cold to ride nude, those warm grips are just like standing with your hands in front of a nice campfire--a psychological lift as well as a physically comforting one.
And don't forget about...twin oil coolers hide behind those scoops on the tank three-way catalytic converter impresses women you encounter along the way who live in trees lighter five-spoke wheels are same ones used on the R1100S Integral ABS is a $2,200 option; heck, we'd pay that much to have them leave if OFF our bike, personally...
Second Opinions:Minime John's usually got some half-baked idea or another stuttering around in his head, but when he brought up a road test of the bare-bones R11, I was convinced he'd left more than just spare helmets, boots, "intellectual property" and a giant headache at his old office. Mounted on the R bike with him twisting the Speed Triple's throttle behind me up a favorite canyon of ours, I kept wondering if he hadn't left some riding skills up at Motorcyclist, too. The BMW felt so solid, so easy to ride fast, so comfortable, I couldn't be going that fast. Or could I? John says I was, and when we swapped bikes, there he was on the BMW too, giving the Speed Triple fits.
Now, I love the Speed Triple, but for a bit less cash you mean to tell me I can go nearly as fast and have enough comfort to travel the world? Maybe John actually knows what he's doing. BMW sure does.Hackfu I didn't get a lot of seat time on our tester. I did ride it during the press intro in Texas last year, though. My initial impressions of the bike remain. However, now that I got a chance to ride it around freeways and local streets that I'm familiar with, it just brings out how nice the suspension on this bike is.
The Integral ABS is neat, but I think it doesn't belong on a bike like this. No matter as they offer the bike without (thank goodness). It doesn't hurt that this is one of the few bikes that are actually worth its price. I like it.
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