2005 Motorcycle Of The Year

BMW K1200R
Attitude, aptitude and fortitude, dude

It's not a sportbike or a tourer, and even a casual glance tells you there's nothing standard about BMW's 2006-spec K1200R. Most of the glances it gets aren't casual at all. And although it does battle in the naked wrestling match featured elsewhere in this issue, there's more to BMW's thumb in the eye-socket of conformity than a scarcity of plastic bodywork. Unlike the average exercise in engineering nonconformity, this one really works. It's not above giving disciples of the Committed Riding Position a look at its taillight on track days. But unlike the average 150-horse racer-replica, the K1200R shines where 90 percent of us spend 90 percent of our riding time--on the street.

The look pays homage to '06, not '46. Racing pretensions are neither expressed nor implied. And yet our test bike draws admirers whether it's parked at the grocery store or the Rock Store. Even Vons shoppers recognize das berdog. Although BMW's relatively orthodox K1200S is equally adept at most tasks and better at some, it disappears in the same parking lot. From the R-model's saddle you're looking at the Terminator with a Stanford Ph.D and an NCAA Championship ring.

Give BMW credit for doing what Japan wouldn't or couldn't do: bolt serious horsepower into a big, comfortable naked bike. This German translation leaves its contemporaries looking relatively underdressed when it comes to technological accoutrements. The Fior/Hossack-derived Duolever front suspension uses the same technology as John Britten's iconic V1000. BMW's new Paralever is still the world's only truly neutral shaft drive, and those anti-lock-powered brakes take some of the pucker from everyday life without messing up a fast Saturday scrape through the twisty bits. The 1157cc inline-four serves up astonishing thrust at 3500 rpm. It's not quite a Hayabusa, but you'd best be hanging on when the tach strikes 8000.

As racing technology shrinks the modern sportbike, the BMW is unashamedly big--big enough to accommodate full-sized humans tired of fetal riding positions. That Duolever takes some getting used to, but once you do, its advantages outdistance the few drawbacks. Weight disappears with speed, and with a remarkably low center of mass, both the R and S feel smaller and lighter than they are.

After reinventing the heart and soul of its motorcycle lineup in little more than a year, BMW clearly isn't afraid of thinking outside the box. In fact, we're pretty sure it scrapped the box entirely. Here's an 82-year-old company that doesn't think like one. It's clearly going after buyers who've never considered darkening the door of a BMW dealership before. Buyers who want everything--power, comfort, technology and attitude--in one package. No concessions. No apologies. No kidding.

That's what makes BMW's K1200R our 2005 Motorcycle of the Year.