A Tour de Force
by Gus Breiland
I have been spending most of my summer on scooters getting nowhere fast and slinging a backpack over my shoulder if I want to carry any cargo. With this month’s test I believe that I could sling the scooter across the passenger seat and still have room for groceries. I picked up the BMW K1200LT and instantly went from “guess I’ll take the long way” to “I’ll be right there…maybe I should take an extra set of shoes”.
My first learning curve was the security system. It was a 95-degree day and I was in my riding gear ready to go. I swung my leg over the bike to look over the controls. Everything seemed in order, so turn on the key, check that the kill switch is off, neutral….great! I push the magic button and “Huh?”, no magic. Controls….neutral…clutch…nothing. So I open the tank compartment and there is a key fob with 2 buttons on it. Touch the first…start button….nothing…second button…start button…Vrooooooommmmmmm!
While a security system is nice, I am not used to it. I have ridden many motorcycles that no one would want to steal. I tend to look at on-board security systems as unnecessary. With a MSRP starting at $19,940 the BMW K12LT is something to keep secure. Ok, starting is taken care of, now I have to drive this thing. With a twist of the throttle I was off and, surprisingly, the mass, all 853 wet pounds, disappears into a smooth, accelerating road yacht.
I know that road yacht is a silly term and jokingly this is a sedan with only 2 wheels. Realistically, the K12LT is a comfortable, extra large touring bike with all the county crossing amenities that one would want while winding through the alphabet roads of south west Wisconsin or bee-lining across Nebraska. The BMW designers even gave you 40 degrees of lean angle to keep up with your friends on Sunday afternoon rides. Of course your bike will be playing Bluegrass music, while theirs just turn.
116 bhp of power is delivered smoothly across the acceleration arc. With a gentle twist of the wrist, the K12LT jumps to 65/70 mph down the on ramp and you are off. The 64 inches of wheelbase provides a smooth ride down the freeway over the 300-mile fuel range (BMW suggested) on the K12LT’s 6.4-gallon tank.
The K12LT offers such amenities and options as an Anti-theft Warning System, Heated seats and heated passenger backrest, 6-CD changer (which occupies about a fifth of the right saddle bag), a GPS navigation system, communication systems and many other accessories.
Standard equipment includes the Full Integrated ABS braking system, heated hand grips, cruise control (real honest to goodness cruise, not your father’s throttle lock) and on-board computer. Other standard equipment includes the top box, adjustable windscreen, and the super cool ,push of a button, center stand.
After tossing the K12LT around a bit you begin to realize what a big machine it is. Garage maneuvering is cumbersome and even though I have made fun of the automatic center stand in the past, I am now a fan. The electo-hydraulic center stand raises the bike and rider with a simple push of the button illuminating the need to balance the bike precariously which invariably leads to the bike laying on its’ side.
The other thing that I found out about low/no speed maneuvering is how quickly a bike can be laid on its side. I had the unfortunate experience of laying the K12LT down in my neighbor’s driveway. While backing it out of her garage, I put the kickstand down and proceeded to dismount. I didn’t even get as far as swinging my leg over the seat when I noticed the bike begin to lurch forward. Granted, I was in neutral and the bike was backed up a slight incline (you know, just enough to drain rain water off a flat pad), but I had done this before with almost all of my other bikes. A 400-pound motorcycle doesn’t tend to lurch forward like this 850-pound motorcycle does\did.
With a hand full of brake I was now being introduced to the servo assist brakes. Full braking power is only available with the key in the “Run” position or while the bike is running. Limited braking power is available without the key on but I was in need of full power and under my circumstances partial was not enough. There lies a K12LT. My ego is bruised, my neighbor is concerned and my \ their bike is scratched. Crap. Luckily BMW engineers in their wisdom actually placed cheap parts in the tip over zone rather than stainless steel this and carbon fiber that.
While the ABS servo assist brakes are a wonderful thing, it also is my only real complaint about the bike. I want brakes if the engine is on or off, period. The tip-over lesson was informative in the sense that I was able to test the lifting of this massive bike from a tip-over position. While it is large, I was able to lock the bars to the left and plant my butt up against the seat. Grabbing the bars and the saddlebag handle, I walked the bike to its preferred upright position. While difficult, it is nice to know it can be done.
What I should have done, was taken advantage of the reverse assist. There is a lever next to your left boot marked F and R. Flip the lever to R and hit the starter button and the bike begins to move backwards. This guarantees that your ignition is on and your brakes are available.
The heads-up display is mapped out very nicely. The standard speedo and tach frame a LCD display that displays time, temp, fuel, mileage radio, etc. Warning lights are on either side of the LCD display. The headlight has been modified to separate the high beam adding 10% more light to the road.
The K12LT also travels wonderfully when riding two up. There is so much room that your passenger disappears into his or her own seat. Crowding is not an issue nor is their added mass. If the fact that the size of the K12LT disappears once you gain momentum, add another human to the ride and the K12LT continues to be maneuverable and smooth. With the optional communication systems available you can either choose to talk with your passenger about the scenic countryside or share your favorite songs from the CD changer.
The 2005 K12LT comes in Light Yellow Metallic, Ocean Blue Metallic and Dark Graphic Metallic. If you are looking for a full size touring bike where, the miles disappear with the comfort and luxury of a sedan, the LT fully delivers on your needs. While travel and camping out of the K12LT would not classify as roughing it, you can certainly count on room enough for your tent, sleeping bags, clothing and hiking boots. Or room for those little souvenirs that you just can’t live without.
by Victor Wanchena
You can tour on almost any motorcycle. Stories abound of couples riding two-up to California on a Honda 305 Dream or BMW R60/2. When the need or desire to travel far and wide arises you can press any bike in to service, but none do as fine a job carrying you in the utmost of safety and comfort as the BMW K1200LT. I am terribly biased as I have owned a LT for a few years now, but despite having ridden almost every touring and sport-touring motorcycle out there, I keep going back to the K1200LT. It does exactly what I need it to; get me there with ease.
First introduced in 1999, the K1200LT was a serious shot across the bow of reigning touring king, the Honda Goldwing. Incorporating several innovations the K12 set some new standards for touring comfort and convenience.
The chassis of the LT is a large aluminum backbone that uses the engine as a stressed member. This frame is shared with other members of the K-bike family, namely the RS and GT. The concept of a shared platform design means that the LT benefits from the sporting intentions of its siblings. In fact, the only appreciable difference between the RS / GT frame and the LT is that the longer swing-arm of the LT.
Revised for ‘05, the LT’s power plant is the venerable flat-four lovingly called the “flying brick”. Displacing 1172cc, it can trace its lineage back 20 years, but is far from outdated. The newest version puts out a healthy 116 horsepower and 88 foot-pounds of torque. These numbers are a significant gain over the first generation K1200LTs. The motor has retained broad powerband and has not given up low pull in the name of high horsepower.
The engine management system has been updated eliminating an annoying flat spot at low rpms in warm weather. The fuel injection felt spot on, as I could not make the bike spit or cough, despite my best efforts. Fuel economy is nothing short of a miracle. Average fuel usage will vary between 40-45 mph depending on speed and riding style. I have actually seen fuel mileage as high as 58 mpg while on a trip and that was two-up and loaded down like a pickup. With 6 gallons and change on board doing 250 miles between stops is not an issue.The longevity of the motor is legendary and there are many examples of K1200LTs with over 100K on them and a few with 200K plus. No massive overhauls needed, just routine service. My personal machine never needed anything other than a couple seals replaced over 80K.
The power is fed to ground through a five-speed gearbox to a shaft. The overall gearing of the LT has been lowered to keep the motor in the power. The design of the BWM’s single-sided swing arm is called the Paralever. Using fancy geometry, the Paralever all but eliminates the effects of throttle input on the shaft. Rolling hard on the gas mid-corner doesn’t upset the LT at all. The final drive on the early LTs has been accused of having a high failure rate; this has been addressed for the most part on the newer LTs (2002 and later) with an updated bearing, etc.
The brakes on the BMWs flagship tourer are a love/hate affair for me. The standard brake package is a fully integrated ABS system with a power servo assist. My love is for the strong power of the brakes. Speaking from first hand experience, when you need to stop on a dime the brakes are up to the job. The servo-assist acts like power brakes on a car. Very little lever pressure is needed to achieve full stopping power. The ABS system works wonderfully giving braking confidence on loose surfaces. Now the hate. I am not a big fan of integrated brake systems. There are times when I don’t want to use the front brakes at all. For instance when trail braking into corners or working my way up an ugly gravel road. My other gripe is the power-assist. The boost it delivers is smooth in delivery. It is very easy to go from light braking to panic stop with very little change in lever pressure. These are really personal preferences, but buyers will have to learn to adapt to a braking system that is rather foreign, pun intended.
The LT is replete with enough gadgets to satisfy even Batman. The list of standard and optional equipment is tremendous. Standard equipment includes: electronic cruise control, a driving computer, heated grips, a full gauge package, a stereo with weather band and CD player, a hydraulically deployed center stand, reverse gear and the list goes on. The optional equipment list is just full with a six-disc CD changer, a GPS navigation system, heated seats and an intercom to name a few. The gauge and radio display were redesigned for 05 and integrated together in a very attractive package. I only wish the speedo was marked more precisely. BMW seems to think we only travel in multiples of 20 mph.The intercom system adds the capability to pipe in all other devices to the bike, including: cell phone, CB, FRS or Ham radio, for the uber geeks in the crowd.
The riding manners of the LT are quite nice for a bike of this size. Weighing in at 850 pounds ready to ride, it is not a small bike. The center of gravity is rather high and that is felt at slow speeds. Once up to speed, any ponderous feelings disappear. Nimble is not a word usually used in the same sentence as touring but it applies here. The nickname “Light Truck” is very un-deserved. The LT is not a sport bike by any stretch of the imagination, but it will satisfy the sporting urges of all but the hard-edged road racers. The suspension is fantastic with the patented Tele-Lever front end and more fancy geometry giving a very stable ride. It has a natural anti-dive characteristic that is really appreciated under hard braking.
The steering is neutral and light. Point the bike in the direction you want to go and its there. The only limiting factor is the ground clearance. Ride hard enough and you will scrape hard parts. In spite of having good handling, the LT has a comfortable, almost plush ride. The long wheelbase and top quality shocks soak up all but the sharpest bumps. The front shock is not adjustable, while the rear has a preload adjustment via a convenient knob under the seat. The weather protection is very good on the LT. The full fairing diverts all but the heaviest rain, and with the help of the electrically adjustable windshield and two air wings under the mirrors you can let as much or as little air as you like into the cockpit. BMW has now started shipping the LTs with a short windshield installed but a taller shield is available. A good buy if you’re over 6-feet. Shorter riders will really appreciate the reshaped seat. It is narrower and lower, as the LT was rather foreboding to those with a 30-inch inseam.
For me, the K1200LT is my do everything bike. I commute, tour, rally and explore on it. It does what I need, filling the many roles I have for it. The highest compliment I can pay the LT is that last year when I did a bad thing to my first LT, the only replacement I considered was another LT. It combines touring performance and function into one package.
Thank you to Moon Motorsports of Monticello Minnesota. You can find them online at www.moonmotorsports.com or just scoot up 94 and take exit 193 to 414 South Highway 25 Monticello MN 55362. They can also be reached at 763-295-2920.