New Town bike for me: BMW R1200S

The compleat rider has two vehicles (three if any hard core off road riding is in the works).

A road vehicle should have some weight, high speed safety features and creature comforts for long hauls. My BMW R1200GS is about 550 pounds wet and has tubular crash bars, high intensity lighting, aftermarket wide (Corbin) seat for increased comfort, front foot pegs to intermittently shift weight on the road, high tech radial tires, anti-lock brakes, throttle stop (functions as a cruise control more or less). Computerized engine management system. GPS and “Spot” satellite locator that doesn’t rely on cell towers. Those following me can pinpoint me in real time on-line. Sends a signal when I am done for the day and can send an emergency locator if I crash. t gets 50 miles per gallon on the road at 80 mph.  But it’s too ponderous and bulky for in-town riding. The very qualities that make it a stable road bike are a detriment in town traffic.

So I have (now) a perfect town bike as well. A BMW R1200S.  (BTW, BMW is the most ably constructed motorcycle in the world. Safety is an omnipresent hallmark of the markee. If you want well thought out engineering and safety built in, think BMW.)

What happened was that in 2006, BMW decided they wanted to compete with the hot rod Japanese sport bikes. Incredible beasts weighing under 400 pounds and over 180 horsepower. Maybe ten riders in the world capable of riding one anywhere near it’s capability (but any idiot with a checkbook can buy one). So they took a standard GS and stripped weight off it. took off center stand, put aluminum frames and struts, plastic cowl instead of metal. Ran the muffler up under the seat and out the back of the rear fender.  They got the weight down to 418 pounds dry (460 with full gas tank).  Then they hopped up the venerable 1200cc boxer engine to 122 horsepower (the stock GS, same engine, is 100 horsepower). Problem was that most BMW riders are not super bike types and so there was little interest in this version and they stopped making it in 2007.  But it’s the perfect town bike. It’s light and quick and has enormous brakes (check them out on Photo 2).

The most important safety factor in a town bike is brakes. Virtually every potential city riding emergency involves stopping quickly or at least getting down to a much slower speed to limit trauma.   The ability to maneuver quickly enters into it too. In Pittsburgh, hitting a deer is a very real and deadly potential. The quicker you can stop or slow after you identify a problem situation, the better chance you have for decreasing injury. Small increments in slowing matter.  The brakes on the R1200S are simply enormous, power assisted and anti-lock with very expertly designed radial tires. Panic stops are incredible. So much so that avoiding the rear wheel coming off the ground requires some skill. Pulling the front brake lever also applies the rear brake in a 60% – 40% distribution so one panic pull fits all.

After some searching on Cycle Trader, I found one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and grabbed it.  Only 20,000 miles, mint condition.  I put on a Corbin aftermarket seat for some more support and dropped the foot pegs two inches for less leg cramp from leg folding. The bike also has aftermarket handlebar risers that bring the riding position up a bit for more ergonomics and a very high tech, race bred Ohlin shock absorber on the rear that is so incredibly efficient you can feel the difference in every riding situation. This came with my bike and is expensive if you want it installed aftermarket (US$1200.00) not including installation.

The stock muffler system is fine but the bike sounds like a sewing machine, so many 1200S riders (including me) upgrade to a dual, low restriction muffler system. Mine is the “Laser” tuned exhaust system with headers, running out under the rear fender.  This adds about 4 horsepower, drops about 20 pounds of weight and has a really cool exhaust note, not “too” loud.

Check it out on another guy’s R1200S: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_P15XyUGmyc

So here it is (photo one and photo two).

Very maneuverable, VERY quick and very cool. A logical blending of safety and performance. As good as it gets on two wheels.

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