My, how time flies. Our last full test of a BMW R 1200 RT was back in August 2005, when you could still get money for nothin’ and mortgages for free. And an RT hasn’t ridden through the pages of Rider since July 2008, when we compared it to the Moto Guzzi Norge 1200—right about the time gas prices went through the roof and our economy came tumbling down.
Where has the RT been? Certainly not letting grass grow under its tires, that’s for sure. The R 1200 RT underwent a major update for 2010, including the same engine changes found on all Bavarian boxers: the HP2 Sport-derived radial four-valve, DOHC cylinder head, larger valves and throttle bodies, new pistons, a higher redline (8,500 rpm, up from 8,000) and a servo-controlled valve in the 2-into-1 exhaust. As we’ve reported in tests of the R 1200 R (October 2011) and R 1200 GS (August 2010), the result is a smoother-revving engine with a broader torque spread and friskier exhaust note. We weren’t able to dyno the 2012 RT, but Jett Tuning’s dynamometer recorded rear-wheel figures on the R 1200 R of 99.6 horsepower at 7,700 rpm and 76.2 lb-ft of torque at 6,300 rpm.
BMW didn’t host a 2010 press launch for the new RT, nor has it since, and RTs have been notably absent from BMW’s press fleet, with all bikes rolling off the assembly line going straight to dealers. BMW spent the last few years focused on its all-new S 1000 RR superbike and K 1600 GT/GTL sport/luxury tourers. Recently I visited BMW’s North American headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, to present Hans Blesse, newly appointed Vice President of BMW Motorrad USA, with Rider’s 2012 Motorcycle of the Year award for the K 1600 GTL. After handing over the crystal trophy, I sprinkled pixie dust around and walked out with the keys to a brand-new, well-appointed 2012 R 1200 RT in Fluid Grey Metallic!
With Rider’s Eastern Sales Manager Joe Salluzzo leading the way, we headed north, clutching our way through rush-hour traffic as New York City emptied out on a Friday afternoon, slowly but surely making our way to Springfield, Massachusetts. We had planned a couple days of scenic riding through Vermont and Upstate New York on our way to the Americade rally, in Lake George. Heavy rain and thunderstorms forced us to shorten our route, but the inclement weather and unseasonably cold temperatures provided the perfect opportunity to test the RT’s adjustable windscreen and optional heated grips and seat. They passed with flying colors, as did the user-friendly, watertight saddlebags and accessory top trunk, which can be locked and unlocked with the ignition key.
In addition to the engine upgrades, the 2010 R 1200 RT was the debut platform for BMW’s Multi-Controller, a thumbwheel between the left handgrip and switchgear that controls the optional audio system. (On the K 1600 GT/GTL, the Multi-Controller controls a whole lot more, from ESA II to navigation.) The RT’s styling and bike-to-rider interface were also updated. The side fairing panels were made smaller and sleeker, the front fender more aerodynamic. The windscreen was reshaped for less turbulence and coated to reduce glare, and its mounting points were braced to minimize vibration. And the RT’s integrated mirror housings were enlarged for more wind protection. Inside the cockpit, the instrument panel displays more information and reflects less sunlight, there’s a new quick adjustment knob for the headlight position, and the triple clamp and handlebars are new. The list of refinements goes on, from the larger clutch and brake fluid reservoirs to the enhanced air inlet for the oil cooler to the reshaped engine spoiler.
The optional Electronic Suspension Adjustment was upgraded from ESA I to ESA II, which adjusts spring rate in addition to damping rates and preload, and we’ve covered the details of ESA II in previous BMW road tests. The pushbutton convenience of setting suspension mode (Comfort, Normal, Sport) and load (rider, rider plus luggage, rider plus passenger) certainly makes life easier, but the $900 option adds weight and complexity. No one around here can remember the last time we rode an RT without ESA I or II, so how suspension performance differs from a standard RT remains an open question. Our ESA II-equipped test bike, however, was well-composed in a wide range of riding conditions, aided by the Telelever front end that separates suspension and steering, all but eliminating bump steer and fork dive during braking, though at the expense of some front-end feedback. The R 1200 RT has a balanced nimbleness shared with other R-bikes that results from years of refinement and the opposed boxer twin’s low center of gravity. It’s no wonder that the fleets of many Alps tour operators and municipal police departments are heavily stocked with the R 1200 RT.
Like a favorite pair of blue jeans, the RT is comfortable and unpretentious. It doesn’t warp time like the K 1600 GT or conquer the world like the R 1200 GS. Instead, it exemplifies the classic definition of “sport tourer,” balancing performance and excitement with practicality and reliability. The RT has been in BMW’s lineup since 1979, and it has benefited from methodical improvement over its 33-year history. Both rider and passenger enjoy neutral seating positions with supportive seats and generous legroom. There are large passenger grab handles, and the optional top trunk doubles as a comfortable back rest for your companion. In an effort to accommodate as many body types as possible, the rider portion of the standard seat can be raised from 32.3 to 33.1 inches, and a no-cost optional low seat can be set at 30.7 or 31.5 inches. Or you can buy a one-piece extra low seat (30.1 inches) and a lower suspension kit (29.5 inches with extra low seat). The reach to the handlebars and the distance between the grips felt very natural, allowing me to keep my back straight and my arms relaxed. Transitioning from laidback touring mode to apex-strafing attack mode required only minor adjustments: balls of feet on the pegs, windscreen in the lowest position and more lean. Cornering clearance was never a limitation.
With its wide, integrated mirrors and spacious cockpit, the R 1200 RT appears bulky from the saddle, a small price to pay for the generous wind protection it provides. Depending on whether it was raining lightly or apocalyptically, the sun was shining or it was cold and overcast, I fiddled with the adjustable windscreen constantly, always finding just the right amount of refreshing wind blast or reassuring coverage. Adjustments to the optional heated grips and seat (both with high/low/off settings) were done quickly with my right thumb, while my left thumb commanded the cruise control, windscreen, turn signal, audio system, ESA II, horn and info display. Everything made sense.
The R 1200 RT tested here was equipped with the RT Premium Equipment package, a $2,195 upgrade that includes the chrome exhaust, ESA II, heated seat and grips, cruise control, onboard computer (fuel consumption, tripmeters, etc.) and accessory socket, plus the $1,295 Audio/Communications Package that includes the Multi-Controller, audio system with tuner and Sirius XM satellite radio, Bluetooth, as well as interfaces for iPod and BMW Navigator IV GPS (sold separately). The locking compartment on the right side of the upper fairing includes a foam-padded pocket for an MP3 player, plus 3.5mm and USB ports (BMW adapter cable is an optional extra). Attach the accessory top trunk ($923, in White Aluminum only) to the standard luggage rack, and the as-tested price ramps up to $21,763, $4,413 more than the $17,350 base price. But for serious sport touring, that’s money well spent. In fact, I’d go a couple steps further and pony up for ASC (Anti Spin Control, $400) and the tire pressure monitor ($250).
But all that is just icing on the cake. What the R 1200 RT possesses, what it has always had but now has even more of, is a self-assured composure on the road. The counterbalanced 1,170cc boxer lopes along comfortably at low rpm, delivering tractor-like torque for climbing up tight, neck-straining switchbacks, but it also revs out strongly, delivering a potent blend of power, sound and feel, good for high-speed blasts whenever your heart and throttle hand desire. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more versatile engine, one that is as smooth without being dull. The RT has good throttle response, it clutches and shifts smoothly, and its single-sided Paralever swingarm eliminates shaft jacking and puts power to the ground with minimal driveline lash. And the RT’s front-to-rear-linked, triple-disc Brembo brakes with standard ABS are some of the best you’ll find among sport tourers, offering precise modulation and stop-on-a-dime power.
Prior to my week-long romp through New England, I hadn’t spent much time on the R 1200 RT, just a few hours here and there. But it proved to be the ideal two-wheeled companion. We became fast friends while exploring Vermont’s scenic Route 100, skirting along the edge of the Green Mountain National Forest and wandering down back roads in search of covered bridges. The RT’s Metzeler Roadtec Z8 tires hugged the road tightly and provided reassuring grip in the rain. Though fuel capacity has been reduced to 6.6 gallons from the previous 7.1, I averaged over 41 mpg (271 miles per tank) on the recommended midgrade. The optional audio system and cruise control worked well, but I found myself not using either very much, instead enjoying the quiet disconnectedness from the rest of the world and the natural cadence of blue highways.
2012 BMW R 1200 RT
Base Price: $17,350
Price as Tested: $21,763 (RT Premium Equipment, Audio/Communications Package, top trunk)
Warranty: 3 yrs., 36,000 miles
Type: Air/oil-cooled, longitudinal
opposed flat twin
Bore x Stroke: 101.0 x 73.0mm
Compression Ratio: 12.0:1
Valve Train: DOHC, 4 valves per cyl., radial layout
Valve Adj. Interval: 6,000 miles
Fuel Delivery: Fully sequential EFI, 50mm throttle bodies x 2
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 4.2-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated dry clutch
Final Drive: Shaft, 2.62:1
Ignition: Electronic (BMS-K+ w/ twin spark plugs)
Charging Output: 720 watts max.
Battery: 12V 19AH
Frame: Tubular-steel space frame w/ engine as stressed member; Paralever single-sided cast aluminum swingarm
Wheelbase: 58.5 in.
Rake/Trail: 26.2 degrees/4.3 in.
Seat Height: 32.3/33.1 in. (no-cost low seat: 30.7/31.5 in.)
Suspension, Front: BMW Telelever w/ 41mm stanchions & single shock, 4.7-in. travel, w/ ESA-II (as tested)
Rear: BMW Paralever w/ single shock, 5.3-in. travel, w/ ESA-II (as tested)
Brakes, Front: Dual discs w/ 4-piston opposed calipers & semi-Integral ABS
Rear: Single disc w/ 2-piston pin-slide caliper & semi-Integral ABS
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 17 in.
Rear: Cast, 5.50 x 17 in.
Tires, Front: 120/70-ZR17
Claimed Wet Weight: 580 lbs. (no options/accessories)
Load Capacity: 511 lbs. (no options/accessories)
GVWR: 1,091 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 6.6 gals., last 1.0 gal. warning light on
MPG: 89 PON min. (high/avg/low) 43.1/41.1/38.1
Estimated Range: 271 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 3,200
(This Faithful Companion article was published in the September 2012 issue of Rider magazine.)
I traded my 2007 R1200 RT for a 2012 RT. I detest the multi-controller and new turn signals. The multi controller is too wide and has too large a diameter to allow a size 9.5 hand to easily engage the turn signals. On the rare occasion the radio is on, it’s uncommon for the radio to stay on the same station when I return from a ride. The new turn signal seems to be a cheapened system to replace the perfectly functional paddle switches located on the RH and LH grip on my old 2007 R1200 RT. They worked perfectly. Everytime. The new system may or may not engage, especially on the LH turn signal. BMW has sacrificed rider safety for a communication system.
🤣 You should just gotten a Vespa. Wah wah wah.
Having owned and ridden a number of the older /2 and later/7 boxers; I’ve yet to straddle or ride any of these new cam-in-head 4-valvers .
Although BMW has always engineered their machines to provide a balance between performance and weight~their styling has become rather generic and bloated. Like todays cars and trucks~when compared to vehicles of the 50’s,60’s & 70’s most of todays equipment is getting more and more dependent upon the dealerships to provide the maintenance and tune-ups which used to be within the capabilities of the common man? Dependence upon computers, shim under bucket valve trains and the complexity of these new machines have all but eliminated the average guy from “wrenching” on his own ride;
making that generous tool kit that used to be furnished with BMW’s
about as useful as wet matches to a campfire.
Personally: I think that Motoguzzi has the right idea~providing modern
performance Sport-touring and neo-classic machines whilst maintaining
simple threaded locknut & screw valve adjustments that are owner friendly and well within the mechanical capabilities of your average rider.
The Japanese machines too while employing the “shim-under-bucket” valve adjustments~ while every bit as good as their European counterparts~ have at least stretched out the valve adjustment intervals
provided by the dealers to the 20,000+ mile range rather than the 6,000 mile adjustments required by BMW.
BMW seems intent on separating as much money from it’s rider/owners as possible while maintaining the pretense of offering good “value” for their products? Nothing could be farther from the truth!
In Conclusion, although BMW’s are great machines, very well engineered and a quality product that enjoys a degree of exclusivity and “snob appeal” ~they do so at a cost. Requiring a well-heeled clientel who because of their high costs going-in and maintaining them~will remain limited in their appeal and market share compared to their European or Asian competitors. Machines which offer just as good or superior performance with better value and as good or better durability.
Noel’s points about modern machinery and engineering are well taken. I’m one of those people that had no qualms about adjusting the valves on my old 850 Norton Commando, re timing it when needed (often) and pulling other fairly simple maintenance. Today I limit myself to oil and filter changes and other fluids. I personally am better off paying the price and having a pro work on my bike since I’m just not that good a wrench. For me it’s worth it. My last BMW a R1150RS required only scheduled maintenance over the 47,000 miles I owned it and I’m hoping for similar results on my new R1200RT. Weather it’s modern cars or motorcycles or other machinery I and most others are probably better off just enjoying the ride, drive etc. and leaving the hard work to others. If I was a little more capable with a wrench I would be in Noel’s corner because he is right that you are better off if you are skilled enough to do your own work.
While I do agree with Noel on most part of his post, I cannot support his statement on Moto Guzzi providing the right solutions to modern motorcycle. I have sold my 2006 R1200GS last year and purchased a brand new 2012 Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX hoping to get a bike equal to GS.
Well, what a disappointment. You cannot compare these two bikes in terms of the engine/transmission refinement, suspension and handling. There were so many irritating things on the Guzzi that I gave up on it after 9500 kms, sold the bike and bought another BMW. Being close to 67, I figured I need a bit more comfort, so I bought a 2009 RT, almost like new with less than 6000 kms on the clock. This is my motorcycle #14 (the previous ones sold), I tried pretty much all types of bikes except sport bikes. I can state without hesitation that RT is the best bike I ever had. Yes, expensive if purchased new, but worth of every penny.
Today’s bikes are no doubt far more complicated than older ones. They are also far more reliable and less likely to require roadside repairs. Most companies are in the business of making as much money as is possible from customers. Having ridden since the late sixties I too was dubious of a lot of the new tech, so much so I continued to own and ride older bike bikes exclusively until about 20 years ago when it dawned on me that modern vehicles were being used and abused hundreds of thousands of miles with little or no maintenance. Since then I have been “all in” when it comes to modern tech and don’t miss the greasy fingernails and busted knuckles one bit. Performance of modern machinery is also light years ahead of what came before so in short don’t fret the new tech just enjoy the ride whatever you choose to ride.
Having just now read and viewed the “Ridden & Rated” article on the new 2012 BMW 1200 RT: I can truly see why Mr. Spears’ is amored by these new BMW machines! Simply elegant and beautifully designed with a nod towards performance and handling without the bulk and weight that often go hand-in-hand with many of todays Sport Tourers.
One poignant and often over-looked factor that is seldom mentioned when people choose one particular style or brand of bike over another; is the number of cylinders of said machine’s engine. Have you ever wondered why the simpler two-cylinder offerings from various manufacturers often cost more than the multi-cylinder designes which have more parts ? Doesn’t seem logical to charge less for machines that have twice the number of cylinders, valves, crankshaft journals, rods, pistons etc.?
It would seem there is an issue of “character” and “personality” that twins have that offer the discerning rider increased levels of appreciation and riding enjoyment; a quality that the liquid-cooled multi’s seem to lack.
Perhaps therein lies the appeal and “beauty” of these famous boxer twins from Germany?
I am a little late to this party. Bought a used 2012 R1200RT in May 2016 after having been away from riding for about 15 years. Had 2 other RT’s in the past, an ’84 boxer and ’88 K100RT. I tried a few other bikes last year but came back to the RT due to good experience with BMW’s in the past, good weather protection, comfortable seating position, and light weight for a full-size touring machine.
The technical advancements made in the gap from 2000 to present are pretty amazing to me. The power of this bike is very impressive compared to my old ’84 R100RT. Like another commenter, I do not like the turn signal switchgear but was told the change was mandated by U.S. govt. regulations. Don’t know if this is true, but I also liked the old separate switch paddle on each handlebar arrangement, like my ’88 K-bike had.
Likes- power, smooth at highway speeds, good fairing protection, light weight, good brakes and handling
Dislikes- nowhere near the finish quality of older boxers, exhaust sound (too loud), weak horn
I have to confess I like the look of some Harley’s but had one back in the 80’s. It was the only bike out of 11 street machines I have owned (including 3 English) that just quit running and left me stranded. I put over 200K on BMW’s without ever being stranded. Reliability is important to me.