2005 BMW R 1200ST and R 1200RT

The R 1200ST & R 1200RT represent a major shift in BMW's motorcycle philosophy. BMW has been touting the prowess of its new K-Bike for the last six months, while they quietly re-designed their bread-n-butter boxer twins. We tested their new four-cylinder, 160Hp, K 1200S three months ago and came away impressed, but couldn't help noting that the bike is aimed at a narrow cross section of the motorcycle universe. However, these new R series boxer twins are the bikes that traditional BMW buyers and smart motorcycle consumers ought to be paying attention to.

The new BMW R1200 RT and R1200 ST are loosely based on the all-new R1200GS, sharing its basic swingarm, frame and engine design. This is a good thing, because the GS felt about twenty years newer than the old R 1100/1150 series. Thankfully, the GS' "Hey, I'm actually riding a 21st century motorcycle!" feeling carries directly over to the new R1200 ST and RT. I spent a couple of days on them, blasting around Palm Springs, Palomar Mountain and beautiful SoCal farmland. When I was done riding the ST & RT, my impression of BMW boxer twins had changed completely.

2005 BMW R 1200 RT

The BMW R 1200 RT replaces the R 1150 RT as BMW's mid-line touring platform. Though the new RT makes a credible sport tourer, we shouldn't call it one because BMW's official "Sport Tourer" designation is occupied by the new R 1200 ST.

However, the RT is also an accomplished long distance luxury tourer, though the K 1200 LT is BMW's official luxo tourer. So, where exactly does this place the R 1200 RT? The best answer I can come up with is... "everywhere". After all, what can you call a bike whose dynamic performance falls within 5% of the ST and whose long-haul comfort and luggage capacity is comparable to the LT?

The new R 1200 RT's styling is significantly more refined and quite a bit more handsome than the old R 1150 RT's.

I guess we should simply call the new R 1200 RT BMW's "best choice" tourer. We just received an R 1200RT for further testing, and the first thing we did was strap it to our Dynojet. Folks, BMW wasn't lying; our new R 1200 RT just cranked out an honest 102.95Hp @ 7,300rpm and 80.95LbFt @ 6,250rpm at the tire. These are some mighty impressive numbers for an air/oil cooled boxer-twin.

The $17,490 R 1200 RT features a veritable plethora of standard features, including BMW's excellent heated grips, adjustable seat height, electrically adjustable windscreen, partially linked ABS, cruise control, well-integrated color-matched hard luggage, integrated tank-bag rails, 12V power outlet, center stand and 15 other things that I'm just too lazy to list.

In addition to those standard features, you can also get an optional Radio/CD changer, heated seat, trip computer, extra-low seat, alarm, and various combinations of seat and trim colors. Like the ST, the RT's standard toolkit has been reduced from BMW's usually comprehensive kit, to something closer to what you'd expect to find on a Japanese motorcycle.

However, the traditional BMW uber-toolkit is available as an extra-cost option. One highly interesting option available on the new RT and ST models, is BMW's new $750 ESA (Electric Suspension Adjustment) Unfortunately, our test units were not equipped with ESA, so I can't comment on its effectiveness, though on-the-fly adjustment of preload and rebound damping seems like a cool feature indeed. The R 1200 RT is powered by the same basic 1,170cc air/oil cooled boxer-twin found in the new R 1200 GS, but shares the ST's revised tuning, for improved high-rpm power.

"Also like the ST, the RT is equipped with a second oxygen sensor to provide better fuel mapping."

If RT riders were drag racers, the 04 guys would quickly look the other way when the 05 riders showed up.

Compared to the R 1150 RT that we rode last summer in our 2004 Sport Touring Comparo, the new 1200 RT is significantly quicker, feeling like it has quite a bit less flywheel effect coupled with a noticeable boost in power everywhere in the rev range.

If RT riders were drag racers, the 04 guys would quickly look the other way when the 05 riders showed up.

Not only is the bike more powerful than last year's model, it also does away with the 04 model's much despised fully linked brakes.

Though the new RT still sounds like a traditional boxer-twin, its improved chassis and power output transform the riding experience into something more like an Aprilia Futura, than a traditional BMW twin.

Unfortunately, it still gets a little buzzy above 7,000RPM and it retains a funky idle and occasional hiccup when cold. Once warmed up, this engine works wonderfully in the midrange with good thrust and a pleasant sound, as you flaunt the speed limit through endless mountain passes. Furthermore, the harmonic vibrations of a well-balanced twin are conducive to long distance comfort, with a pleasant thrum accompanying the rapidly climbing odometer.

Though the new RT still sounds like a traditional boxer-twin, its improved chassis and power output transform the riding experience into something more like an Aprilia Futura, than a traditional BMW twin.

The riding position and airflow management are supremely executed on the RT, and even though the standard seat is a bit on the soft side, the whole package ranks among the most comfortable bikes in the world for highway travel.

Speaking of airflow management, the RT's new infinitely adjustable windscreen offers almost total coverage without buffeting, and in hot weather it can be set low enough to allow significant airflow around the rider's head and upper torso. The system looks and operates much like the screen on Honda's ST 1300, but the Honda can't match the RT's lack of turbulence or abundance of fresh air. Overall, if you were to offer me any bike on the planet for an extended coast-to-coast tour, I wouldn't hesitate to pick this new R 1200 RT.

"The color matched side cases are another well-designed feature on the RT."

They are a cinch to operate, with outstanding fit between the bike and bag and between the two halves when closing the lid.

The RT's upright riding position and low center of gravity make it a deceptively competent bike in the city.

They integrate into the bike's handsome new bodywork much more cleanly than the old system and appear large enough to swallow a couple sacks of groceries or a week's worth of clothes. Both bags will easily accommodate a large full-face helmet.

My only real complaint with the RT was that even though BMW touts its new mirrors as being "huge" and designed to double as hand guards, I found them exceedingly difficult to aim and even when correctly adjusted, I didn't feel as though they offered a very effective picture of what was going on behind the bike. They do however effectively shield the rider's hands from bugs and rain, so it's not a total loss. Other than the mirrors and steep pricing, I can't find anything else to complain about on the RT. I even think the partially linked ABS brakes are appropriate for this bike.

After riding the RT over many of the same roads that I covered on the R 1200 ST, I must give the nod to the ST when it comes to outright "sportbike" handling. However, the RT is only a fraction behind it, since they both share the same basic chassis and engine.

The RT may carry an extra 50Lbs and push a larger hole through the atmosphere, but its taller/wider handlebars give more leverage, so the average rider will probably go just as fast on the RT, unless they happen to be a pro racer (in which case they'd probably be riding supersport anyway). In normal riding, you really have to pay close attention to notice the speed difference. On the flip side, the RT is significantly more comfortable than the ST, not to mention more practical, thanks to its better airflow management, roomier passenger accommodations and capacious standard luggage. For me, the choice is obvious; buy the RT if you can afford the $17,490 MSRP.

View all VideosPHOTOS & VIDEOS

Get Motorcycle.com in your Inbox