The Teutonic Rocketreview87a
The BMW K1200R

by Victor Wanchena

Ride me hard. That’s what the BMW K1200R wants you to do. It begs to be revved hard, shifted fast and flung through the corners. The harder you use it, the happier it is. The performance of most bikes has a happy place. A spot where they are content to perform as you ask, but go beyond and they get grouchy. Or else they are so hard edged, that riding them is a chore and riding them fast is an exercise in torture. The K12R is so different in that respect. Big power, but easy to control. Likes it rough, but doesn’t abuse the rider. To use an old cliché, an iron fist in a velvet glove.

The K12R is the naked version of the BMW’s newest model line based around an all-new motor. This motor is typical BMW in that it is unlike anything else on the market. In fact, the only characteristic of the motor that it shares with other makers is four cylinders mounted across the frame. Displacing 1157cc, the motor is hung from the frame with the cylinders canted forward 55 degrees. This serves several purposes; the first of which is to tuck the motor up close to the frame, centering the mass of the bike nearer to the center of gravity. Without having to get out the chalkboard and explain the physics of why this is good, I’ll just say this enhances the handling. A second benefit is straighter intake; AKA more power.

And not just more power, a whole lot more. The new K bike motor boasts the most horsepower of any production BMW. This is achieved through an 11K redline and an ultra-high 13:1 compression ratio. BMW recommends high-octane fuel, but the smart engine brain and sensors allow the use of lower grades when the primo stuff can’t be found. I had been warned that the fuel injection mapping wasn’t perfect, but could only find the typical lean idle stumble that is practically mandated by the EPA.

The use of twin balance shafts make the motor so smooth that it is solidly mounted to the chassis. No rubber isolators. Smooth as glass. Only at high revs do any vibrations start to sneak through the bars and pegs.

The transmission is a six-speed in a stacked shaft style. By stacking the shafts in the area behind the cylinders, the motor / transmission assembly is made even more compact, bringing the center of mass / gravity even closer together. The first two gears are rather tall, with the rest being closely spaced. The power is then fed to rear wheel via BMW’s revised version of the venerable Paralever shaft drive. Words cannot express how nice it was not to have chain adjustments or roadside lubing. Finally,a sport bike that isn’t too fussy.

The front suspension is BMW’s new Duolever design. Based on the Hossack front end designed by Norman Hossack, the Duolever is a clever design that provides fine handling. Describing the geometry of the Duolever would require a boring dissertation so I’ll skip that, but for those interested you can learn all about it online at On smooth, straight roads you don’t notice any differences over a conventional front end. But when the road gets rough, the Duolever shines. The front wheel stays planted, even on the bumpiest corners. The level feedback through the bars was tremendous. I always felt like I knew what the front wheel was doing.

The front brakes were wonderful, providing tons of stopping power. The rear brake was another story. It was weak and wooden feeling, requiring a lot of force on the pedal.

review87bThe K12R sports minimalist bodywork in keeping with its naked bike design. There’s no disguising what lies underneath, as it’s all there for the world to see. As would be expected, the fit and finish of the bike is top notch. A fully featured cockpit has all the necessary gauges, and a couple nice extras, like the dual trip meters.

I would be lying if I said the K12R wasn’t tall. Shorter riders may find the overall height a little tough to handle, but because the engineers centralized the weight so well, if you can touch the ground, you can ride it. The other side of this coin is that the ergonomics of the bike were great. Even at 6’8” I didn’t feel cramped on the K12R. The reach to the bars felt natural and unstrained. Only when pushing the bike hard did I fell pressure on my wrists.

The comfortable riding position, combined with the smooth power delivery makes the K12R very easy to ride. The engine delivers the power in a very linear way all the way to redline. There is a little rush over 7000rpm, but it was still much smoother than most of the other liter class sport bikes. It was so easy that I really got lazy after awhile and stopped downshifting as much; the mounds of torque on tap did all the work.

In a word, this bike is just plain fun. It is easy and comfortable to ride, with performance that will keep you happy for years. A sporting ride that doesn’t require you to be a gymnast or frequent visits to the chiropractor. A combination of performance and technology screams to be ridden.                       

by Sev Pearman

I am well into my third tank of gas today and in a paradox. I am delighted to be running on new roads and happy that I’ve avoided three rain clouds. The Publisher pulled me, with short-notice, out of the basement this morning and set me upon BMW’s new K1200-R. My dilemma is that I need a hook, and I need it fast. I have to return this bike to the dealer this very afternoon.

After years of predictable engineering and, um…”curious” styling BMW has successfully ditched its corporate lederhosen. BMW is re-igniting the sales floor with fresh engineering, distinct styling, and a renewed commitment to performance.

Styling is a matter of taste. The naked K1200-R is derived from the faired K1200-S and GT versions. One common trait of all so-called naked bikes is once you remove the plastic, you see all the necessary parts; plumbing and hardware that are part of current high-performance motors.
The BMW K1200-R and other naked bikes are to my eyes visually cluttered. Stylists try to camouflage the many shapes by using different finishes and color. People either like the raw, unrefined aspect of these machines or feel that they look…well, raw and unrefined.

People have three reactions to naked bikes. Either they can’t get past the look no matter the performance (pity); they buy the bike because of the look and fall in love with the performance; or they grow to love the look after being seduced by the performance. Before I rode the K1200-R, I’ll admit I was in the first group. After our test, I am solidly in the third camp. Who cares about styling when your boots are scraping?

You sit in a sculpted sportbike seat. The seat narrows and tapers toward the front. This allows riders with shorter inseams and/or larger thighs to get their feet on the ground. I was able to get both boots flat on the ground with my 32-inch inseam. The seat shape also permits the rider to hang off in corners.

Northeast of McGregor, MN, I rocket past a herd of Jersey cows on one side of the road and a lonely Jersey bull on the other. The bull is a perfect metaphor for the K1200-R. While normally docile, it can get riled up when among a herd of Ninjas or Hayabusas, and only a fool taunts a bull on his home turf.

review87cAll three new K1200 models (the S, GT and our R tester) feature the new transverse inline-four motor. (The K1200-LT tourer soldiers on with the previous-generation longitudinal four.) Bore and stroke of 79mm x 59mm yields 1,157cc displacement. A DOHC head bumps 4-valves per cylinder.

BMW claims a blistering 163 bhp @ 10,250 rpm and peak torque of 94 ft-lbs @ 8,250 rpm (measured at the crank.) Even after deducting 15% for driveline losses you still have something like 139 bhp and 80 ft-lbs of torque melting the rear wheel.

The short stroke and little flywheel make this motor rev. Throttle response is instantaneous and feels closer to that of a 600 sportbike. Despite the super-short stroke, the motor is torque-y. Whunk open the throttle in any gear and you churn ahead. Note that 80% of peak torque is available between 3,500 rpm and the electronically neutered 11,000 rpm redline. Regular readers know that displacement is always welcome at MMM.

The downside to all this power is that it can be a handful at slow speeds. With over 135 rear-wheel bhp, it is ridiculously easy to break the rear into a spinning smoker. Does this mean we will soon see “Stunta Boyz” on blinged K12-Rs sporting chrome pickelhaubes?

I’m not going to try to describe the Hossack front end other than to say it vaguely resembles a girder fork. The two “legs” that hold the wheel connect to a parallelogram that scissors with suspension movement. The design also incorporates an adjustable shock. There are three main advantages: it separates suspension action from steering so the front end feels lighter; the front end geometry remains constant under suspension compression for superior handling; and the design has inherent anti-dive properties.

During my time on the K12, I never felt the front-end hop, chatter or flex. I’d like to take one to a track day and push it a little harder. Words fail me. My best advice is to contact your dealer, arrange a test ride and feel it for yourself.

The Duolever® front end forces the stubby bars onto what would be the top triple clamp. They mount into cast bosses and are angled rearward. They have the feel of high clip-ons. The fixed bosses prevent adjustment. You can’t reposition them as you do with traditional clip-ons, nor can you swap bars as you can with tubular handlebars. Undoubtedly, BMW and/or the aftermarket will offer options.

Our tester wore the optional BMW cockpit fairing. This integrated into the gauge cluster with typical excellent BMW fit and finish. At freeway speeds, it directed the airstream to my upper chest and reduced fatigue. Our tester also had BMW heated grips ($200); an excellent waterproof tankbag ($?) and tail luggage rack ($125) Anti-lock brakes are a $995 option. If you want the very trick Electronic Suspension Adjustment, prepare to shell out an additional $775.

The gauges are simply excellent. The speedometer and tach feature sweep needles on whitefaces. A LCD information screen displays fuel, coolant temp, time and odometer readings. A quarter-sized button on the left switch cluster permits you to cycle between the odometer and two resettable trip meters while on the fly. There is no need to take your hand off the bar and fumble for a tiny button buried between the gauges.

Fuel capacity is 5.0 gallons, including a 1-gallon reserve. When reaching reserve, the bike illuminates a yellow warning light, flashes “low fuel” in the LCD screen and counts down remaining miles. The computer actually compensated for different riding styles; the miles remaining counted down faster when I was flogging the bike and slower when I was just riding. Amazing.

Our two fuel stops showed 37.4 mpg and 37.6 mpg. We saw 170.6 miles on one tankfull with 0.45 gals remaining. The performance-built K1200 mill has a 13:1 compression ratio and requires 92-octane fuel. The bike features the BMS-K engine brain. This automatically sniffs the exhaust and alters combustion parameters to prevent knock, permitting you to safely run lower-octane fuel without risking engine damage. Very nice.

MMM would like to thank Moon Motors in Monticello for their help with this review. BMW agents since 1977, they can be reached at 763.295.2920 or

The distinct styling sets the K1200-R apart from the rest of the herd. If you should be so foolish to provoke it, it has both the power and handling to run you down. This bull may be fenced in but treat it with respect. Olé! Our all-too-brief time with the K1200-R left me wanting for more: more seat time, more miles, and deeper exploration of its capabilities. The K1200-R is a motorcycle that keeps on surprising.

Wife’s First Reaction®: “It looks like something out of The Matrix.”

Who says BMW can’t learn new tricks?
Hossack front end delivers.
“…Pa-a-ss de ‘Bu-sa on de left-hand side…”

Sensitive throttle at low speeds.
More range, please.
“Explain to me again why we don’t have an autobahn?”

By the numbers
Rider: Editor Pearman
Height/Weight/Inseam: 5’-10”/250 lbs/32”
Total miles driven: 344
Fuel consumption: 37.6/37.4/n.a.

Selected Competition:
Aprilia Tuono; Buell XB-12S Lightning; Kawasaki Z-1000; KTM 990 Super Duke; Moto Guzzi Griso 1100; MV Agusta Brutale; Triumph Speed Triple; Yamaha FZ-1.


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