2005 BMW K 1200 S "Second Time Around" - Motorcycle.com
Part One: Dirty Doesn't Like It!
San Francisco, CA ~ BMW did something completely out of character recently, by acknowledging that there are a few deficiencies in the "Dynamic Reputations" of its motorcycles. Conventional wisdom says admitting you have a problem is half the battle. What they don't say, is that fixing the problem is often a tortuous process fraught with pitfalls and set backs. Every single bike they've introduced in the past twelve months is significantly lighter and more powerful than the bike it replaces, and the resulting vehicle dynamics stand as a testament to BMW's hard work. One test ride on any of BMW's new 2005 or 2006 models makes it impossible to miss their newfound performance emphasis.
The great thing about this kind of power delivery is that you receive strong acceleration, regardless of gear selection or rpm. Indeed, the K1200S blurs scenery in the same effortless and invigorating manner as the Hayabusa and ZX-12R. According to our dyno tests, the K1200S spins the rear tire to 175mph at the top of sixth gear. I can personally verify that it will charge right up to an indicated 180mph in the real world, and I suspect that there might be a German nanny hidden away in there, preventing the bike from reaching its full top-speed potential. Honestly, the real difference in top-speeds is irrelevant, as all these bikes will spend 99.999% of their lives somewhere south of 130mph.
In normal use, we spend a much greater percentage of our time riding at smaller throttle openings. Unfortunately, this is where the K1200S presents its first major weakness. Though BMW claims to have solved last year's fuel injection woes, all three bikes that I've ridden for this story are still afflicted with a funky off/on throttle transition. It appears that BMW mapped the electronics to increase idle speed during trailing-throttle use, so that when the throttle is re-opened the engine has already covered the awkward transition. Unfortunately, not only did this not solve the issue, it seems to have created a new and much worse problem because the new idle speed is wildly inconsistent, causing the engine to hunt and surge. When decelerating into corners with the throttle closed, the hunting and surging can make it seem like the bike is starting to pull again on its own. I don't know if this is an actual pull from the engine or if it's just a sudden reduction in back-torque when the engine map starts to compensate for the closed throttle. Whatever the exact cause is, it is downright spooky, when you're hauling ass into a decreasing-radius corner in the rain and the bike decides on its own to slightly re-open the throttle.
You can eliminate the issue by decelerating with the clutch disengaged, but most people don't like to ride that way.
The optional $750 ESA (Electrically Adjustable Suspension) is quite effective in real world use, offering nine different combinations, by selecting any one of three load profiles (Rider, Rider + Gear or Rider + Passenger) while parked and then offering three dynamic presets (Sport, Normal and Comfort) which you can switch between on the fly.The system executes your suspension tuning requests, by altering front rebound damping, rear preload, rear compression damping and rear rebound damping. The changes are immediately noticeable when you switch between modes by pressing the ESA button with your left thumb. You might be thinking ESA sounds like another electronic gimmick, but when you're droning down a choppy highway the comfort setting immediately takes the edge off expansion joints, potholes and other highway unpleasantries. When you're blitzing through your favorite backroad the comfort setting wallows and grinds the footpegs in a manner reminiscent of an old Cadillac, this is when the E in ESA pays-off. All you need to do to fix the situation, is press the ESA button until Sport appears on the LCD screen and the bike immediately starts dialing-in more spring preload and increasing the damping rates to stop the wallowing and increase ground clearance. This system works quite well and is easily worth its added cost and complexity.
Another worthwhile electronic doodad is the nuclear powered grip heaters. On the low setting, they do a great job of keeping your hands and what seems like your entire upper body warm. However, on the high setting they'll cook your hands like frozen burritos in a 7-11 microwave. Not only will your hands be toasty, but your backside will love the new seat that offers a narrower front section, to help reduce the total stand-over length, making it easier to reach the ground. The new shape is mixed with an excellent foam that manages to remain comfortable far longer than most sportbikes. Another boost to comfort is provided by the K1200s' outstanding airflow management. No matter how you feel about its wide fairing and funky styling; the aerodynamics are excellent, creating a calm pocket for your chest and shoulders, while allowing enough airflow to keep you breathing fresh air.Isn't it a bit too long, you ask? Looooong! Holy Cow this thing's practically an aircraft carrier! Its 61.8" wheelbase is 4" longer than the Hayabusa & ZX-12R and fully 7" longer than sportbikes like the Yamaha R1 etc... Let's not even mention the Buells, ok? As you would expect, that long wheelbase makes the K1200S stable at high speed and outside of tight canyons, the extra length doesn't pose much of a problem. However, my first test unit suffered the indignity of a fried clutch, after one too many wheelies, since the long wheelbase means you'll be using lots of clutch to loft that front tire. Funny enough, I also noted that the hydraulic clutch's pull is quite heavy and an adjustment to the master/slave ratio seems to be in order. Then again, I might just be getting weak in my old age.
Aside from throttle and brake issues, a few other nitpicks are: Steering feel is a bit vague at times and I felt like I needed to pay close attention to what the front tire was trying to say. However, in medium to high-speed sweepers and most normal riding situations that funky Hossack front suspension feels just like normal forks. I'm just not sure that there is a real benefit to it, given the current state of development in telescopic forks. As Yossef mentioned last fall, the new K1200S produces a grating harmonic vibration at certain engine speeds. Unfortunately, top-gear cruising at 80MPH happens to fall smack-dab into the middle of one of those harmonic zones. Thankfully, the grips remain smooth, but your feet often feel like they're wearing a barber's old Wahl scalp massager.I am disappointed to note how many dislikes and nit-picks I found with the new BMW K1200S. This bike has huge potential, but really needs to go back for a Revision 2.0 However, it is still a very fast and comfortable gentlemen's express with useful technology like the new ESA system and a neat character-boosting intake rasp to reward those with the stones to whack the throttle wide-open. With normal brakes and a new FI map this bike would make an excellent choice for people who like to mix high speed with comfort and travel potential. I'm hoping the new K1200R will address some of the S' issues when it's released. In the mean time, I'd choose a new R 1200 GS/ST or RT, if I needed to have the blue & white propeller on my next motorcycle. -Sean
Coming Soon! 2006 BMW K1200R
Are you the type of guy who lusts after the Suzuki Boost King, or a naked Hayabusa Streetfighter? If you are, BMW has the ride for you! They are moving forward with the naked "R" version of the new K1200S and it will soon be available at your local dealer, starting from $14,250.
Due to a smaller airbox, this cool looking roadster is said to produce 4Hp and 2LbFt less than an S model. That would equate to 140Hp and 83LbFt at the rear tire, if you believe MO's Dynojet. Though it is slightly less powerful, it is also significantly lighter, with a claimed dry weight of 465Lbs (522 Wet) so the naked version will probably be a bit quicker than the S version. Puzzlingly, the K 1200R is going to have a 62.2 inch wheelbase, that's .4 inches longer than the already lengthy K1200S. You'd think a naked "streetfighter" would want a short wheelbase, since cut-n-thrust nimbleness is of far greater importance than high-speed stability in this category. However, the new K1200R also receives a slightly narrower 180-section rear tire and a bit less trail. This should improve overall handling and make the bike a little easier to turn. They say a press intro is imminent, so we'll know soon enough, if the adjusted trail, narrower rear tire and increased steering leverage can overcome a wheelbase in excess of 5 feet. We can't wait.