by Troy Johnson
Many of our readers and staff have been wondering when the grill at the Cruiser Cafe is going to cool down. Not for a while. There are so many new cooks heading for the kitchen that someone must still be in there shoveling coals onto the fire.
The menu there is amazingly varied. Starting with the 250 Virago, you can work your way through the Japanese manufacturers’ tasty treats up to the full-sized meal of a Valkyrie or Royal Star. Some folks live a faster paced life-style and just swing by for a quick V-Max or Magna. A large percentage of diners skip the appetizers and go for
the Harley-Davidson platter, while a few patient souls sit at the bar quietly sipping drinks until a Victory or Super X emerge from the slow-cooker.
Today’s plat du jour is a brand new recipe, the BMW R1200C, served to M.M.M. by Leo’s South.
The R1200C is BMWs first foray into the cruiser kitchen. That they are stirring these pots at all is a surprise to many, but any manufacturer looking at the business cruisers are doing is apt to start digging out the “Americana Classics” recipe book.
This bike is a solid design exercise in cruiser styling, yet the engineering is uncompromisingly modern. It points to the future of cruisers with its telelever front end and R1100-type “oilhead” engine. (Oil is circulated around the exhaust valves and through an oil cooler reducing cylinder head temperature by a claimed 158û. The Polaris Victory will circulate oil through “water” jackets in the cylinder heads. Both elegantly get around the “water cooled cruiser?” dilemma).
The engine is basically a bored and stroked R1100 power plant displacing 1170cc and with a completely new intake system, which provides more torque and less horsepower than the R1100 mill. It utilizes fuel injection and an automatic choke. Just turn the key, push the button and ride away.
The front frame is a unique cast aluminum unit that includes air passages for the dual oil-coolers that are nestled inside. The front suspension is a telelever unit kicked out farther than that on the rest of the beemers to stay with cruiser tradition. For cosmetic reasons BMW ditched the paralever rear end and went back to the monolever. They lengthened it quite a bit for shaft-drive engineering reasons and it now behaves similarly to the paralever.
The seat and hand-grips are leather. The rear seat doubles as an adjustable back rest. The R1200C has none of the plastic bolt-on doo-dads commonly found on off-shore cruisers. The list of plastic parts reads like this; rear-light support, instrument cover, mirrors.
Everything on the R1200C serves a function. Everything is at or near the front of motorcycle technology. Everything blends together seamlessly. This is one good-looking motorcycle. When idling at stop lights in south Minneapolis, people stopped in cross-walks to take a look and ask about it. Car drivers hollered out their windows “how much is it?”. This happens every time this bike stops.
The BMW cruiser has excellent handling manners to go along with its good looks. You do not have to wrestle it into or out of a full lean. During “spirited” rides on some twisty river roads it stayed firmly
planted on course and never got a case of the jitters. The cruiser version of BMW’s telelever front end works just as marvelously as its sportier relatives.
The engine makes gobs and gobs of torque. My guess is that first gear is designed for pulling U-Haul trailers so R1200 owners do not have to park their bikes on moving day. (At one point early in the ride I was under the impression that this five-speed transmission was a four-speed. I must have been using second as first.) The power starts way down low in the revs and doesn’t seem to quit. The engine pulls hard all the way up the gear box and smoothly propels the bike forward with more than a hint of authority.
The riding position is of course feet forward, back straight, arms stretched out chest-high. The leather hand-grips are a little slippery when mated with my well-worn favorite gloves. Putting the back-rest up removes the fear of twisting the throttle open and getting blown off the back of the bike. The foot-pegs and handlebars are
positioned well and the saddle is wide and firm making the R1200C a comfortable place to spend an afternoon.
The R1200C is a well thought out, well engineered and stunningly good looking machine. The money it takes to get your hands on one is no more than what it takes for any other top-shelf cruiser. It is a welcome addition to the chrome-plated corner of the motorcycling world.