First Ride: 2007 BMW R1200R

Bavaria's latest boxer does Old School cool

It was a surprise when BMW's design chief David Robb yanked the covers off the new R1200R, revealing a neatly detailed but otherwise restrained roadster. In its optional black with white pinstripes, the bike needed only an Earles fork to resemble its'50s and '60s predecessors. Where was the squint-eyed stare of recent models, or the lurid lime-green or orange of the R1150 Rockster?

It seems that after several years of pushing the design envelope in every direction, BMW has chosen to edge back toward its existing customers with Old School boxer charm. As Robb explains, it's because the firm has such outrageously styled, powerful models as the K1200R that the R1200R was developed in this more conservative direction.

Mechanically, however, this latest R-model takes a thoroughly contemporary approach, inheriting the more powerful high-cam, four-valve-per-cylinder, 1170cc opposed-twin from the R1200RT, plus a lighter, more sophisticated chassis. Despite a slightly different exhaust system than the RT's, the R has an identical peak output of 109 bhp at 7500 rpm. A tubular steel front frame section, also borrowed from the RT, combines with a new, lighter rear subframe to reduce weight (44 pounds less than the R1150R, BMW says) and provide a slimmer look. The new bike retains its predecessor's 31.5-inch saddle height, but it can be ordered with a no-cost optional 1.2-inch-higher--or lower--saddle.

After firing up the 1200R's motor, accompanied by a familiar hint of torque-rock, one brief burst of acceleration confirmed the claimed 40 percent jump in power-to-weight ratio has given the boxer a welcome performance boost. There's plenty of punch through the midrange, as you'd expect of an engine whose 85 lb.-ft. torque peak arrives at 6000 rpm.

The 1200R handles notably better than the 1150R, beginning at slow speeds. The new bike's narrow seat helps riders get both feet on the ground, while the reduced weight and revised Telelever front suspension assist walking-speed maneuvers. In fast curves the bike is admirably stable, but it's agile enough to steer effortlessly through tighter bends. The new-generation ABS system was also thoroughly impressive, lacking the previous version's servo assistance-a change most riders will welcome. In the near future this model will also be available with Automatic Stability Control (ASC, which retards the ignition when it senses the rear tire losing traction), Tire Pressure Control (TPC) and Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA).

In a way it's ironic such complex new electronic systems would be introduced on the R1200R. One characteristic many of the best naked twin-cylinder roadsters share is their simplicity: a responsive engine in a basic, unfaired chassis. An absence of complex gizmos is elemental to that appeal. But that's the great thing about the R1200R: Unlike some previous BMWs, the electronics never get in the way.

The R1200R is faster, more responsive, lighter, sweeter-handling and more enjoyable to ride than the R1150R it replaces. Instead of becoming a bruiser like its naked cousin the K1200R, it's a more laid-back machine that majors in nostalgic boxer charm and practicality. Now that's progress.

2007 BMW R1200R


Type: a/o-c opposed-twin
Valves: SIHC, 8v
Displacement: 1170cc
Transmission: 6-speed

Weight: 437 lb., claimed dry (198kg)
Fuel capacity: 4.75 gal. (18.0L)
Wheelbase: 58.9 in. (1495mm)
Seat height: 31.5 in. (800mm)