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posted not that long ago... from an '06 model....
2006 BMW K1200GT
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The number of current players in the 2006 heavyweight sport-touring segment can be counted on one hand. There’s the BMW R1200RT twin, Honda ST1300 V-4, and Kawasaki Concours and Yamaha FJR1300 in-line fours. All have shaft final drive, full fairings and windscreens and come with side cases, but maintain a penchant for curves and brisk acceleration despite their touring accoutrements. BMW likes to consider itself the patriarch of the category, having introduced the R100RT way back in 1978, and until lately has usually enjoyed the most market share with one sport tourer or another in this somewhat soft segment.
That is until Yamaha blasted our staid impression of these bikes into the weeds in 2003 with its 125-rear-wheel-horsepower FJR1300. While Honda and Kawasaki seem content to hold fast with their reliable and inexpensive offerings, BMW is intent on gaining an edge over the upstart Yamaha. Its first attempt was with a slightly modified version of the K1200RS, but the 2003 K1200GT was ponderous and uncomfortable, and looked every bit the stopgap bike it was.
Sequels are rarely better than the original, yet if the all-new 2006 K1200GT test bike I recently rode in South Africa (where they drive on the left) is any indication, the GT Take II is far superior, and Yamaha may soon be looking over its shoulder at the BMW coming up fast from behind. Based upon the new 167-crankshaft-horsepower K1200S sportbike engine and aluminum perimeter chassis with its unique Duolever front end, the 2006 K1200GT has had a few tuning tweaks to move the power more into the midrange for touring, with a generous 96 lb-ft of peak torque, 2 more than the K1200S. Yet it still belts out a claimed 152 peak horsepower at the crank on the recommened premium fuel (though it will run on lower grades). That’s a few ponies and pounds-feet better than the FJR1300, and the BMW’s claimed wet weight of 622 pounds is 14 pounds less than the wet weight of our last FJR1300 test bike. Throw in a potential load capacity of 525 pounds vs. the Yamaha’s 415, and you’ve got the makings of a world-class, heavyweight, sport-touring title fight.
In addition to its narrowness and extreme 55-degree cylinder bank angle, some of the engineering highlights of the new transverse K in-line four include a cam drive system that helps shrink the cylinder head by spinning one cam on its right end with a chain off the crank; that cam in turn drives the other via inboard gears. The solid-mounted engine has a dry sump to keep it short and the oil tank is under the seat. Compression is a mind-boggling 13:1, thanks to electronic anti-knock control, and the included valve angle in the DOHC, 16-valve head is extremely narrow. Valve lash inspections are actually conducted electronically by plugging a diagnostic computer into the bike, first at 12,000 miles and then every 6,000 miles as part of the normal service at those intervals.
As only the third model to use BMW’s new transverse in-line four from the K1200S and K1200R, the K1200GT displays considerable thought and refinement. The glitchy, abrupt throttle response that plagued the early K1200S is likewise nearly gone from the GT, with just a hint of hesitation at crawling speeds in first gear that’s easily managed by fanning the clutch. Above that, the bike has gobs of raw, seamless power on tap from just 2,500 rpm up to the engine’s 10,250-rpm redline—even two-up and fully loaded, the last thing a K1200GT owner will desire is more power. Vibration is well controlled by the twin gear-driven counterbalancers, too, with just a hint of a high-frequency buzz creeping in above 6,000 rpm. Cruising rpm is around 4,000, so the vibes aren’t really an issue. Shifting could be quieter—downshifts are clean and quiet, but dropping the bike into first at a stop produces a loud “thok” as do upshifts into second. The clutch is linear with a good engagement band, and both the clutch and brake levers are adjustable, but the clutch lever adjustment range needs to start out closer to the grip.
BMW’s relatively new Duolever front end goes its Telelever system one better by completely separating the suspension from the steering, almost eliminating changes in the bike’s wheelbase during suspension movement. Like the Telelever it’s also quite rigid, and does away with the excessive braking dive, stiction and bump steer associated with telescopic forks. In back the latest BMW Paralever shaft final-drive design also prevents throttle inputs from messing with the rear suspension. Spring struts with adjustable preload and rebound damping in the rear control both ends, with available Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) making the switch from solo or two-up preload and Comfort, Normal or Sport damping settings a pushbutton affair.
This handling package, the bike’s high-performance radial tires, stiff chassis and low-mounted, dry-sump engine (the cylinder bank is angled forward almost horizontally) give the GT simply marvelous handling. Steering is neutral and light, the bike’s lean angles are huge and it goes right where you point it without any fuss. Stability is superb at any speed, and the GT is a rock until you aim for an apex, which it responds to quickly but without twitchiness. Midcorner corrections are cake, too. I felt the rear suspension on our ESA-equipped test bike could be a little more compliant over sharp-edged bumps, but most riders will find this a nitpick, and suspension compliance is otherwise cushy but well-controlled.
Stopping the K1200GT is quick and confidence inspiring, with what are essentially the triple-disc brakes from the K1200S. Massive floating rotors with opposed four-piston calipers up front (BMW’s EVO setup) and a two-piston caliper in the rear stop the bike hard and fast. Our test bike had BMW’s partial Integral ABS, which links the front and rear brakes at the lever—the pedal only actuates the rear. The anti-lock function works well, and the linked aspect just makes quick stops that much easier without intruding. Feel at the lever is pretty good on the GT, though it could still be more linear, and the pedal feels strong and sure.
Comfort is a huge part of a package like this, and BMW has just about nailed it. That large fairing may appear a bit slab-sided, but it looks better in person, and protects your legs quite well (though longer-legged riders may find that their knees hit it). Some thought the electric windscreen could be wider, but I found it a good size for sport touring, not too isolating as well as optically clear and with a good 4-inch range of height adjustment—a 2.5-inch taller one is also available. Ergonomically the bike offers handlebar and seat height adjustments within a range that is upright and comfortable. I left the seat in the highest position for more legroom and found that I could easily plant my feet (on a 29-inch inseam), thanks to the narrow front of the seat, and saw no reason to lower the bars (easily done with the included Torx wrench) from the highest position, either. The rider’s seat itself is the bike’s weak spot, as most of the riders in South Africa including myself felt it is too hard and didn’t provide enough thigh support. I didn’t try the passenger accommodations on this trip, but we’ll have a complete follow-up test with dyna--mometer results and comparisons in a future issue.
My only real disappointment is in the three color choices. Although the seat and side covers are in a contrasting gray, slate or black color and the paint is metallic, the dark graphite color of our test bike and the other light tan (BMW calls it Crystal Gray) and blue colors are pretty bland in my opinion. How about a sporty red, or yellow, or some daring two-tones?
Long-distance riders will find the K1200GT’s standard features pretty comparable, such as the electric windscreen, luggage rack, enormous (and symmetrical, yay!) side cases, twin halogen headlights, large 6.3-gallon fuel tank and locking fairing pocket. The central Info Display has the usual stuff as well as gear and fuel-level indicators, the flanking analog clocks are bright and clear, and instrument illumination is controlled by an ambient light sensor. The bike also has good alternator output of 945 watts, a big 19AH battery and comes with one accessory power socket. Non-ESA bikes will get a remote rear-spring preload adjuster, too.
But it’s the long list of options—some of which may be standard on U.S. models—that is truly staggering and innovative. Most significant among them are ESA, cruise control, GPS navigation, heated seats and grips, a top trunk, lower 31.5-inch seat, trip computer and a xenon headlight. Later in 2006, BMW says you will even be able to get a tire-pressure monitoring system.
Of course, before you begin bolting on some of the optional trickery, the K1200GT is priced at $18,800 (with ABS). That’s quite the premium over the competition for what seems essentially to be a bit more power and load capacity—though you can’t get things like ESA, cruise and heated seats on those other bikes if it’s not available, right? More important than the economics, though, is how the awesome BMW K1200GT works compared to the competition. Right now I’d have to say better, even on the wrong side of the road. Stay tuned for a full test and comparison.