BMW has two K1200GT's at Daytona, one of which they are allowing demo rides through Friday. It wasn't available this morning, as they were doing some service on it, but I got to do the noon ride on it (According to several BMW employees, I was the first person in North America other than BMW employees to ride one). Escorted, and only 43 miles, but if you don't mind, I'll share my thoughts. Forgive my rambling, I don't communicate well in the best of times, and I'm pretty tired now, as I didn't sleep well last night worrying about whether I'd be able to schedule a ride in the short time that I had available.
Seating position: They had the handlebars adjusted all the way up. Not quite RT setting, but closer to RT than the present GT/RS. I found it very comfortable, and on the one hour ride even the seat was comfortable. It is shaped somewhat differently than the RT, and for me it was much more comfortable.
Ride: It was very comfortable, soaking up bumps with ease. It had the ESA, set to one rider and comfort. The ride wasn't challenging, so I saw no need to change it. We dealt with some high speed interstate truck traffic at one point, and it was steady as a rock, and NO helmet turbulence. I really hate helmet turbulence, the thing I hate most about my Goldwing. It beats my brain to mush at times, even blurring my vision.
Engine: Where do I start? Power? Yes, and instant! Maybe, too instant. I found it difficult to ride smoothly in "parade" mode (5-10 MPH) The engine seems to have almost no flywheel affect, and gains RPM very quickly, MUCH quicker than my current GT. The throttle seems to only go about a quarter turn, and works well for normal riding, but at super slow speeds (such as one might encounter in a traffic jam) it picks up RPM so quickly that it tends to be somewhat jerky in first gear, and second gear idling may be too fast. I suspect that once one got used to it, that quirk wouldn't bother. The group never got beyond 70 MPH, and much of the ride was slower than that, so the engine never got to unwind. However, at one point, I dropped way back, and in sixth gear at well under thirty MPH, cracked the throttle wide open. It smoothly picked up speed, and then quickly ran out of room (I wasn't allowed to pass anyone). I did see an excess of 90 MPH for an instant, and it was very smooth, except for one spot. At about 4,200 RPM, (70 MPH in sixth) on trailing throttle, it vibrated, a LOT, the whole tank, and the front of the seat, but never in the footpegs or the handlebars. At steady cruise or accelerating, the vibration never appeared.
I punched it once in second gear, and the front got a bit light as the tach passed 8,000 RPM, but again I ran out of room, so wasn't able to go beyond that. Lets just say it has ample power for passing
It is very quiet, and it picks up RPM so fast in the lower gears, it sounds like a very well muffled crotch rocket.
To me, it felt somewhat more nimble than my existing GT. It was very easy to whip around in a parking lot, and cornered well. We had one curve that was posted 15MPH, that I entered at around 50 MPH, and it went around like it was on rails. Very confidence inspiring. It's no where near as flickable as a real sport bike, but pretty good, considering how stable it is in truck traffic. That same traffic bounced my Goldwing around pretty good on the way home, until the wind died down just before sunset.
Lets get to the bottom line: I told one of the BMW people that I think they have a winner here. I see this as the street version of the GS. It doesn't do anything really great, but does almost everything pretty well.
For instance: If I were going to vacation in Western North Carolina, I'd put a tail trunk and a tank bag on it, and be able to haul lots of "necessities" along for the trip, and cruise the interstate quite nicely for many hundreds of miles, in comfort, and with superb weather protection. In this task, it should be every bit as good as an RT, and very close to an LT or a Goldwing.
Once there, pop off the trunk, and the saddlebags if you desire, and you have a very capable canyon carver. Comfortable, and VERY fast, although I doubt that true sport bikes have to worry about being humbled.
Re-Install luggage of choice, and it would be a superb commuter bike. It's very light, making it pretty easy to toss around in traffic.
Things I don't like:
That vibration spot can be very annoying. Easy to avoid though, I guess.
Abrupt throttle action just off idle in parade mode. Hardly noticeable in normal riding.
Windscreen is a bit too short for me (I'm 6' 1"), curable with the taller windscreen
Why, O why, couldn't they have given us the 7.1 gallon fuel tank from the R1200RT ?
That chin fairing hangs down a long ways, it may take a beating when going over speed bumps!
Things I like:
Seating/bar position seems perfect to me.
Both low beam headlights stay on when on high beam. MUCH better than existing GT!
Luggage is world class, like the new RT has. Way more room than the existing GT, and easier to use too.
Weather and wind protection is really great, much better than you'd expect from such a narrow fairing.
Ripping strong power for a sport tourer! Likely a near match for the Yamaha FJR1300, and much more comfortable for a broken down old fart like me to ride.
Personal - I REALLY like the Crystal Grey Metallic color, when seen in the sunshine. Sort of a light silver, rather than white like in the photo's
I've avoided commenting on style, lines, shapes, and looks. I'm no judge of that stuff, but I sure do like the way it works.
Is it better than the earlier GT/RS it replaces? I don't know. It has better range, one of my big gripes about my GT, but the current GT is smoother. The new one has better wind and weather protection, and better luggage. Many will find the new one more comfortable than the prior models, others, used to the current models, may prefer the more forward seating position, although the adjustable handlebars may work for both groups.