2014 BMW R1200RT – LONG-TERM TEST WRAP-UP
Way, way more than merely the best sport-tourer.
I’m not looking to start an argument, but I’m pretty sure my next statement will light one off in, oh, about three milliseconds: The BMW R1200RT is the best all-around motorcycle on the road today.
That’s my opinion, anyway, and you’re certainly not obliged to agree. But after living with Cycle World’s long-term RT for the lion’s share of the 10,353 miles displayed on its LCD odometer, I’m hard-pressed to think of any other bike that can do so many things so remarkably well so ridiculously easily.
For starters, we already named the R1200RT the Best Sport-Tourer in our 2014 Ten Best Bikes awards. But when you take into account all the qualities any motorcycle could offer—power, handling, comfort, stability, versatility, adjustability, weather protection, passenger accommodations, baggage capacity, fuel economy, entertainment, information, and utter ease of operation—the RT is outstanding in every category.
On the open road, I found the RT to be a legitimate competitor for any of today’s luxo-tourers, including the Gold Wing. And on a back road, its willingness to charge into and through corners with so little effort makes it almost as much fun as a genuine sportbike. Toss in the conga line of features on our testbike—Electronic Suspension Adjustment, three-position power delivery modes, ABS, traction control, cruise control, tire-pressure monitor, GPS receiver, heated grips and seats, 29-liter top trunk, electrically adjustable tall windscreen, Shift Assistant Pro, AM/FM/MP3/Sirius XM/Bluetooth sound system, hill start control, central locking—and you have a magical machine that does everything but make coffee in the morning and tuck you in at night.
Many of those features are optional, of course, but good luck finding a “stripper.” Virtually all R1200RTs (as well as a few other BMW models) are fitted with accessory packages at the factory, which means most of that equipment is, for all intents and purposes, “stock.”
This explains why I didn’t feel the need to lash any aftermarket hardware onto a highly efficient motorcycle its maker had already accessorized eight ways from Tuesday. Call me lazy, but I was more interested in riding the RT than working on it.
Not that it’s perfect. Soon after the bike was delivered, its Dynamic ESA suspension was subject to a no-ride recall for shock-piston shafts that could fail. The RT was off the road for five months, but BMW offered impressive support for owners up to buying the bike back, if desired.
Beyond that, the RT earned a couple of A-minuses on its report card, including the rider’s seat, which falls a tick short of being an all-day sitting place. It’s more like a fifteenths- to sixteenths-day seat that sometimes had me squirming a little during the last half hour or so of a day-long ride. On the plus side, the seat never inflicted anything more than minor displeasure on my keister, so I always was able to start the next morning’s ride without a trace of the dreaded monkey butt. My wife, Rosanne, ranked the passenger portion of the seat as one of the best she had ever experienced in more than 25 years of pillion riding.
The second demerit was caused by the rear brake pads, which had to be replaced at just 6,085 miles, though I accept the blame for some of that rapid wear. When aggressively diving into corners on back roads, I trail the rear brake just a skosh to help keep the chassis settled. According to numerous RT owners on BMW forums, however, comparatively short rear pad life is common. Some claim improved pad mileage with EBC HH sintered pads but at the cost of increased rotor wear. I instead chose to slip new OE pads into the rear caliper and use a little more discretion on the pedal.
Our RT went through two sets of tires and finished the long-term test on a third, again largely the result of my riding choices. As with other big sport-tourers, the front tire on the RT has to perform a Herculean task when a 600-plus-pound motorcycle is pushed hard through the turns at deep lean angles. That scuffs the sides of the tire much more quickly than it would with, say, a 200-pound-lighter sportbike. Plus, the hard-hitting torque hammered out by the boxer’s pair of 585cc cylinders gives the rear tire, the middle in particular, a workout during brisk acceleration.
I live in an area jam-packed with fun back roads, and I know them so well that I was able to attack them aboard the RT more aggressively than I would have on roads less familiar. And when not threading along the twisties, other staffers and I logged many a mile in vertical mode on the freeways and interstates. That combination resulted in exceptionally high wear on the sides of the front tires and the middle of the rears.
RTs roll off the assembly line on any of three brands of rubber: Metzeler, Michelin, or Continental. Our bike’s original Metzeler Roadtec Z8 Interacts gave up the ghost in 4,672 miles. The worn front tire transformed the RT’s steering, which normally is wonderfully neutral, into a sluggish affair demanding heavy pressure on the handgrips, and the rear exposed its steel cords all around in the middle. The Continental ContiRoadAttack GT 2 replacements did likewise at 8,553. The long-term test concluded with Michelin Pilot Road 4 GTs at both ends, and after 1,800 miles of more-conservative riding, they still had excellent tread remaining all the way around.
Mechanically, we had no issues with the 1200. Nothing quit working or fell off, and the engine never missed a beat. It originally had a small oil leak, which was traced to the oil filter gasket at the 6,000-mile check. The bike averaged 47 mpg over the course of the test (with a high of 51) and refused to get less than 42 mpg no matter how it was ridden. So, with its 6.6-gallon gas tank, the RT can range somewhere between 275 and 335 miles between fill-ups.
We hate to see this long-term test come to an end. The RT has raised the bar for pure riding pleasure to new heights—not just for me but also for other members of the CW staff. It’s an expensive piece of machinery, to be sure, but supreme excellence rarely comes cheaply. For riders who love to travel, enjoy having a little fun on the back roads, and often do both with a passenger, the R1200RT could very well be the perfect motorcycle.
SPECIFICATIONSTOTAL MILES 10,353
NEXT SERVICE 12,000 mi.
MAINTENANCE COSTS $1,429.53
AVERAGE FUEL MILEAGE 47 mpg
PRICE AS TESTED (2014) $23,496
CURRENT BLUE BOOK VALUE $20,330
RELATED CONTENT BMW R1200RT – Test Intro
BMW R1200RT – Test Update #2
FROM THE LOGBOOKMark Hoyer: I’m a big fan of the BMW K1600, but I would spend my money on the wonderfully balanced R1200RT. Boosted power means I don’t miss that inline-six and do enjoy the RT’s lighter weight and smaller size. This is the bike I want to disappear with my wife on for a long two-up tour through the Rockies or down the Mississippi from Minneapolis to Memphis. I also love the fuel range from that 6.6-gallon tank.
Andrew Bornhop: I think highly of the versatile R1200RT, and I appreciate the serenity behind that electrically adjustable barn-door windscreen. But is it the perfect moto? Close, but I’d rather have an R1200GS as an everyday bike: It’s about 75 pounds lighter than the RT, it’s better ergonomically for taller riders, and I can use that dirt road if needed. On the other hand, I like the added crankshaft mass of the R1200RT, which effectively smooths engine response to make an already civilized machine feel that much more refined.