Earlier this year, reports emerged that BMW had filed trademark applications for “R12”, with many predicting the name would be used on a new cruiser. The logic made sense, as the naming structure was similar to the R18, and BMW lacked a cruiser model in the 1200-ish range. We were a little less bullish on that theory at the time, and we suspected there was more to the story. And now, new evidence has emerged that may justify our skepticism.
The evidence is a new trademark application BMW filed in Germany for “R12 S”, for use on “motorcycles and their parts.” The application was filed on Oct. 18 or a little more than a year after BMW filed for the name “R12”. Historically, the “S” at the end of a BMW model name is reserved for sport models, with a lineage including the R 69 S, R 90 S, and R 100 S as the earliest examples. Over time, BMW has offered a K 75 S, K 1200 S and F 800 S, while its Boxer-engined R models included the R 1100 S from 1998-2005 and the R 1200 S in 2006 and 2007.
All of these “S” models were considered sport models, with the more modern bikes coming either fully or partially faired. We expect the R12 S to follow this pattern, which then leads us to believe the R12 will not be a cruiser after all, as it’s unlikely BMW would wrap a fairing around a cruiser chassis and call it a sportbike.
No, a more likely theory is that the R12 and R12 S will be two models on a new platform that will replace the R NineT. Here’s our reasoning.
The R12 and R18 names share one thing in common: an R followed by a two-digit number. This differentiates them from the R1250 range, not to mention the rest of BMW’s lineup. The two-digit nomenclature may be a callback to earlier BMW models. The R18, for example, is a spiritual successor to the R5. Meanwhile the R12 name itself was originally used by BMW from 1935 to 1942 on a 736cc Boxer, one of the first production motorcycles to come with hydraulic telescopic forks.
It makes sense then, that the R12 will be a retro-inspired model, with a displacement around 1200cc. If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that also describes the R NineT.
The R NineT lineup was introduced in 2013 for the 2014 model year, with the name recognizing the 90th anniversary of BMW Motorrad. Next year would be the 100th anniversary, which means the NineT name would no longer be relevant. A new model name will be needed, and “R12” would be a prime candidate. We know a R NineT replacement was coming, as spy photos of Scrambler and Urban G/S variants emerged in 2021, showing a new chassis and 21-inch front wheels. The R12 S would therefore be a faired variant, perhaps a replacement for the R NineT Racer which was discontinued in 2019.
But why “R12” and not something like “R 100” for the 100th anniversary? The reason is likely related to what’s about to happen with the R 1250 line. BMW’s more modern Boxers are expected to receive a new liquid-cooled engine and a displacement bump resulting in a name change to R 1300. The air/oil-cooled NineT engine, meanwhile was last updated in 2021 to meet Euro 5 requirements, and it should be sticking around for a little longer with its current 1170cc displacement. The R12 name would then make sense to help differentiate the retro-inspired line from the R 1300 models.
If we take the original R NineT’s introduction as a blueprint, we suspect the new R12 models will be announced in 2023 for BMW’s 100th anniversary as part of its 2024 lineup.
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