Ride Report: 2003 BMW K 1200GT

BMW's K series has earned a respectable following

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Like your rides fast, comfy and reasonably nimble? Lately, the choices for you have been pretty darn good. The Honda VFR has carried the torch at the head of this segment for over 10 years but recent additions have stepped up the pressure. Other notables in this segment now include the Aprilia Futura, Ducati ST4s, Triumph Sprint ST, Yamaha FJR 1300, Honda ST1300, Kawasaki ZZ-R 1200 and Concours, and of course both the BMW R and K series.

BMW's K series has earned a respectable following, by adding large doses of horsepower to the legendary BMW sport touring family. For 2003, BMW added a third member to the K bike line. Positioned between the more sporting K 1200RS and the heavier and more luxurious K 1200LT, the K 1200GT is more like a very well equipped RS than a lightened LT, all share the same basic chassis and 1171cc inline-four engine, first introduced five years ago, on the 1998 K 1200RS.

According to BMW, many of the people who buy the $16,990 K 1200RS, also spring for the black BMW accessory cases, which cost around $1,000. At $17,990, the K 1200GT costs the same as an RS w/cases but adds:

Too many Unacceptable Things, or are they just quirks?

Second Opinion by John Burns

In My Humble Opinion...

The K1200GT makes more sense as "GT" than it ever did as "RS," but that's not really saying much, as I always thought the RS was a pretty compromised package from birth. The engine BMW says was new five years ago was, in fact, a stroked version of the original inline-four flying brick that I'm sure you'll correct me if I'm wrong, originated in the late 80's (R.I.P. Maurice Gibb). It was buzzy and heavy then.

When it came time for the K1200RS, then, rather than build a new engine with internal counterbalancers (like Honda or Yamaha or Aprilia or ???), BMW instead devised a big old aluminum frame from which to hang the engine so as to isolate vibration. It works, sort of, but it strikes me as a band-aid fix you'd expect to find on a K-car or something. It adds weight (at 680 pounds all gassed up, we're 50 pounds heavier than an FJR1300 Yamaha).

Something just tells me the K-bike line is overdue for a major makeover.

It introduces a little monkey motion, enough that the GT doesn't feel as stuck to the road as a new FJR1300 Yamaha or Honda ST1300. And on the GT, those coarse vibes come through the grips in spite of it all anyway, loud and clear, beginning at an indicated 85 mph and 4700 rpm in top gear. If you've never ridden a really smooth sport-tourer, it might not bother you.

Another Unacceptable Thing would be fuel range; at 170 miles, you are seriously looking for a gas station. And the fact that the front tire is offset, like an inch, to the left of the rear, doesn't really cause any problems as much as it just offends my notion that a motorcycle should be a single-track vehicle. If the BMW made up for all that weirdness by being a lot less expensive than the competition, it would be one thing.

The heated seat, as I learned on a recent transcontinental ride on a new R1200CL, is a fantastic thing and worth the price by itself if you ride a lot in cold weather. But on our bike it's not working. If I were you I would hold off on this K-bike. Do yourself a favor and have a ride on an FJR1300 if it's a powerful four-cylinder touring bike you want.If you need a BMW, try on an R1150RT. Sample an Aprilia Futura; I lobbied for it to be Motorcycle of the Year when I was at Motorcyclist a few years ago, and my opinion of that bike hasn't changed. Something just tells me the K-bike line is overdue for a major makeover.



Type: 1171cc water-cooled Inline-four
Bore x stroke: 2.78 x 2.95 in. (70.5 x 75.0 mm)
Valvetrain: DOHC 4v/cyl
Fuel delivery: closed loop fuel injection
Engine management: Bosch Motronic MA 2.4
Ignition: electronic, digital
Valve adjustment: hydraulic, self-adjusting
Transmission: 6-speed, single dry-plate clutch
Final drive: shaft


Frame: cast aluminum alloy with horizontal, longitudinal engine position and rubber engine mounts
Subframe: tubular steel


Front: BMW Telelever fork; 4.53-in. travel
Rear: BMW Paralever single coil-over shock; 5.91-in. travel with adjustable compression dampning and spring preload.


Front: dual 320mm discs, dual 4-piston calipers w/ABS
Rear: single disc, 2-piston caliper w/ABS


Front: 3.50 x 17 cast aluminum / 120/70ZR-17 Metzeler MEZ4
Rear: 5.50 x 17 cast aluminum / 180/55ZR-17 Metzeler MEZ4


MO Measured Wet Weight: 680 lb
Wheelbase: 61.22 in. (1555mm)
Width: 36.18 in. (over mirrors) 40.6 in. (over side cases)
Seat height: adjustable 31.1 or 32.3 in.
Thumb height: 42 in.
Thumb-to-thumb: 20.2 in.
Fuel capacity: 5.4 gallon
MO observed Fuel Mileage: 36 mpg
Claimed Top Speed: 150 mph
Colors: Orient Blue Metallic, Grey Green Metallic
Suggested retail price: $17,990

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