1997-2011 BMW R1100/1150/1200RT-P

BMW motorcycles have long served European police forces including Germany's federal polizei. Since 1997, the California Highway Patrol has deployed hundreds of BMW RTs. Not long after, Beemers with lights a' blazin' began appearing in the rear-view mirrors of traffic offenders all across the USA. As the R1100RT-P gained displacement and morphed into the R1150RT-P for 2002 and then the greatly refined R1200RT-P for '05, these "Oilheads" continuously demonstrated their utility as service vehicles. They out-handle, out-accelerate and out-brake more pedestrian Harley-Davidson and Kawasaki police mounts. Good wind protection and safety features such as ABS further qualified RTs as suitable service bikes. BMW further supported police use by offering special side and hazard lights, radar mounts, a high-output alternator, functional cargo space and other tactical equipment.

Service vehicles have a finite lifespan, so a steady supply of ex-police bikes trickles out to the public via government-surplus auctions. So why buy an ex-cop RT? Many still have significant touring life left in them. They are set up with rider comfort and utility in mind. Small touches like the broad solo seat make a big difference when you spend long hours in the saddle. They’re exceptional as funeral or parade escort bikes. Some folks simply like the mystique of riding a motorcycle that previously chased bad guys.

BMWs have a reputation for long life and reliability. The CHP keeps its Boxers for an impressive 100,000 miles before retirement. Like their home country’s obsession with David Hasselhoff, these Germans also have their peculiarities. The ’05-’06 1200s had finicky, servo-activated brakes. Sealed rear drives on 1150s and 1200s supposedly had lifetime gear oil, but leakage and some failures eventually surfaced. Magically, an oil drain plug appeared on ’08 and later bikes. Emissions-obsessed fueling algorithms caused annoying flat spots and surging in the earliest 1100s and 1150s. The updated BMW K-EMS FI system in the 1200 remedied this. Rumor is The Hoff himself redesigned it. If your budget allows, go for a later R1200RT-P—it’slighter, smoother, more powerful, and clearly the best of the bunch.

Service vehicles lead a life as tough as the officers who ride them. Clutches can die quickly from low-speed maneuvering during police training. Transmissions, rear drives and brake rotors can become severely worn from hard acceleration and braking during traffic enforcement. Get a pre-purchase inspection from a BMW dealer before you head out to patrol your favorite stretch of autobahn.

A legendary Bavarian workhorse put out to pasture
Not exactly light in its lederhosen, sewing machine-like exhaust note.
Rear drive failures, worn brake rotors, EFI system surging, obvious flogging.
If it's good enough for the authorities, it's good enough for us citizens.
1997 | $3000
2002 | $6000
2005 | $9000

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Kawasaki KZ1000 Police
2000 | $2800

A ubiquitous part of the SoCal landscape for decades, air-cooled KZ1000 cop bikes are slowly disappearing in favor of more modern service vehicles. Find a good runner and you'll have a sturdy mount with a unique aura of authority. Now go kill John Connor
Honda ST1100 Police
2003 | $3000

As seen deployed in L.A. suburbs all around American Honda HQ, the ST makes an excellent police mount. Honda's legendary quality and a huge dealer network may increase deployment in the future. New motto: You nab the nastiest perps on a Honda.
Harley-Davidson Servi-Car
1936 | $13,000

It's a Harley, so it's automatically bad-ass, right? Right? Be the only guy in the funeral procession with a Big Twin trike, or draft it into service for your burgeoning ice cream sales venture. At least you won't fall over at stoplights.