I have a confession to make, I don’t much like twin cylinder bikes!
Although I’ve ridden some rather fine ones such as Ducati’s 851, 748, 916, 996, 998 and Multistrada, the BMW HP2, an Aprilia RSV Mille, and the Guzzi Stelvio and 1100 Sport, I have to confess I’m not a fan. Of the 65 bikes I’ve ridden only 17 have been twins, so what’s the problem? Well for some reason I don’t seem to have mastered downshifting on twins, and the resulting wheel locking didn’t do my confidence much good. Combine that with some Ducati rides where the bikes stood up on the brakes when I really wanted them to turn into the upcoming bend, has meant that my overriding impressions have been less than favourable, and so, like most things in life that haven’t proven enjoyable, I’ve chosen not to revist them, hence for the past 20 years I’ve owned and ridden 4 cylinder machines, with only a three month interlude on a Laverda 750 S (parallel twin) and a VFR800 and my beloved RC45 (both V4’s) breaking up my long term multi cylinder love affair.
Other than the occasions where the BMW servicing dealer has offered a twin as a loan bike, and some very brief bike swops where I tried out Marks R1100RT and Andys GS, I’ve shied away from them, with one notable exception, the BMW HP2 which was available for a test ride on a BMW open day, and I just couldn’t turn down a chance to ride such an interesting bike.
So given my stated inability to “get on” with twins, and knowing that the subject of this post is the BMW R1200RS, a bike with only two cylinders, you might be wondering what has changed? Well, an hour or so to occupy whilst my GT has a new wheel carrier fitted at the BMW dealer is what. I’ve ridden quite a few of BMW’s range, in fact 11 different models, the most recent having been the new S1000XR, and looking at the current range I’m strangely drawn to the R1200RS which looks rather fetching in blue and white, so with the GT booked in at 14.00 and having some time to kill, I’ve taken the plunge and decided to see what’s changed in the world of half my favoured number of cylinders, and booked a test ride for the afternoon, read on for what I thought……..
Arriving just before my 14.00 appointment I spot the RS outside and it’s in my favourite blue and white colourway. After booking the GT in, I then go through the formalities of signing the test ride forms before being given a demonstration of the controls which are pretty much the same as on my GT, and my Zumo 660 even fits into the fittted GPS cradle which is useful.
With the engine running I mount the bike and immediately am struck by the fact I’m sitting in rather than perched on the seat. The cold engine is lumpy but the gear snicks in like a knife through butter, first is engaged and I’m off. The first few kms pass gently as I acclimatise myself to the bikes idiosyncrasies. Firstly the gearbox is super smooth, unlike the cliunky affair on my GT. No major clunks or bangs, and the quickshifter pro assist means that upward shifts are really smooth, although I’ll add the caveat which seems to apply to any quickshifter, it works better the higher the revs and speed. Using the clutch a couple of times to upshift at speed only disrupted the gearchanges and upset the balance of the bike.
The motor got less lumpy once warmed up and it will pull comfortably from as low as 2000rpm in 5th which surprised me. Down changing wasn’t the unsettling affair I remembered of old, but it was a little strange to find the forks dive on the brakes, nothing too dramatic but there’s no duolever front suspension here, just good old telescopic forks.
The brakes were very strong and although I adjusted the lever span all the way out I found the lever travel to still be more than I would have expected, and I’ve got small hands! Nevertheless, they worked well enough.
The seat was comfy, the riding position very natural, and the handling quick and intuitive. The Pliot Road 4’s did an excellent job and enabled effortless and confident bend swinging on the unknown roads I was riding. I do wonder though whether this was down to the tyres, the fact the bike weights a mere 231kg (which is a massive 54kgs less than my GT), because the roads were billiard table smooth with predictable bends, or because on this occasion I was riding without my better half, so the suspension was having an easier time? Normally Sue comes with me when I take test rides but today she had abstained, so if I want to try one again it’s important that she comes with me so I can get a better picture, and as I’ve ridden only and not on any height at all, I’ve got no idea how it would perform at the alpine altitudes I like to ride at.
The mirrors whilst small, are easily adjustable and give a good view of what’s behind, so can’t quibble too much on that score, and since I’m unable to recall any issues with the adjustable screen and wind noise or flow, I’m going to have to say that it worked well enough. I can’t recall too much about the exhaust noise, although it does increase nicely when the speeds increase, but it’s pretty quiet as per the euro norms these days, maybe a slightly louder pipe would add to the experience even more?
One thing I did notice was that there are a lot less revs to play with than I’m used to. It’s all too easy to hit the rev limiter if you’re not paying attention, and the clocks, whilst containing a lot of info tend to have you focusing on the massive sized gear indicator rather than the much smaller speedo which is actually slightly out of eye line and to the left of centre.
What didn’t I like? Well there is always something that doesn’t quite gell. In this case it was the quality of the plastics and the luggage which comes with it. Flicking the plastics reveals they are super light and although not flimsy, they aren’t a patch on the super quality items on my GT. The available luggage is the same quality as the fairing and appears to be much smaller in capacity than the GT with the top box looking at least half the size. This is all well and good if you don’t tour much, but I’ve not yet hung up my touring spurs and I’m sure we’d never get a weeks worth of stuff in the RS luggage, two days would be about it!
After an all too brief test ride I returned the bike and on the way home started to garner my thoughts and then put them into the words you’re reading here.
From my perspective I’ve done a massive about turn on my thoughts on twins, I loved the ride, the experience, and riding something different. The major thing here is that I’d like to ride one again as I actually had a blast riding this bike. I loved the drive out of the corners, the consumate bend swinging ability, the gearbox that didn’t clunk, and the overall experience had me grinning and thinking that light bikes must be the way to gain maximum pleasure? I also like the looks and the colour scheme, understated but smart. My only hope is that the experience is equally enjoyable two up, we’ll have to wait and see!