2005 BMW 1200 RT

​​Update March 2018-  In early March I traded this 2005 in for a new 2018 1200 RT.  It was a great bike and I enjoyed owning and riding it.  It served me well for 13 years and 85,000 miles.

Update Dec. 2017-  It has been 12 yeas since I recorded this review of the RT, so I thought I would come in and add a few more thoughts after 12 years and over 80k with the bike.

Of my 3 bikes, the RT is the most comfortable.  It has the best seat, the best wind mgt, most detailed touring accroutments.  It is well thought out.  My 2005 is showing its age, but even a 2005 will make the top of most lists of current bikes.   The early model RTs had final drive problems.  Maybe 1 out of 10?  I don't have the numbers but that would be my guess based on my experience in the circles I run with on the road and online.  My bike has not had that issue as it closes in on 100k miles.

Handling is markedly better than the ST, but too close to call with the FJR.  BMWs of this era take getting use to if you come from a Asian bike.  The transmission is more "clunky," more notchy.  The motor is different, at idle it seems to shake, but smooths out nicely once the clutch is out.  Although plenty fast for most of us, it is not in the league with the ST or even close to the linear FJR.  But what it does do is knock down miles so comfortably, they seem to float by.  I came to grips with that on my recent Southwest ride on the FJR.  I basically did that same ride back in 2009 on the RT, and that trip seemed to be much easier.   In 2009 I rode West, and continued on East to spend 3 more days riding in the Blue Ridge, before going home.  In 2016 I wanted no part of that.  I came home to Alabama and parked.  Not that it was a bad tour, but the seat on the FJR punished me to the point I wanted no more.

I rode the RT on the recent tour out West.  It was the first real long ride in a few years for the RT as most of my attention recently has been on the FJR, riding it to the Badlands in 2014, and Monument Valley in 2016.  But in 2017 I wanted to take the RT on tour, I had missed it.  The 5,000 mile ride confirmed why I keep the bike around.  The comfort level of the RT is just better than the ST or FJR.  The seat, cockpit and  extras on the bike are hard to beat.  I enjoyed riding it on that tour.

While in Wyoming, the bike began to stall out at idle.  The last 3 days on the ride back East I had to blip the throttle in traffice to keep it idling.  It was quite annoying.  I chalked it up to some kind of issue with the FI mapping.   Upon returning to Alabama the issue seemed to resolve itself.  I took the bike in for routine maintenance and advised about the idling issue.  Although not a dealer, the mechanic worked many years for the local BMW dealership.  He advised the issue had something to do with a part used for idling.  I don't recall what he called it.  Since then the bike has returned to stalling when the throttle is twisted to off.  Before returning the bike to the mechanic I'll see if it resolves itself.  It was one of those cases if not broke don't mess with it.

Also the left flasher died.  The unit needs a new switch, the part costs 400 dollars plus whatever to put on.  The mechanic is looking for a used switch, but no luck so far.  It could be I'll just have to pony up, because I need my left flasher.  Outside of the fuel pump that was replaced on a recall, these are the first items to give me problems in 85,000 miles.

As of Dec. 2017 the RT shows 84,456 miles.

 Background- After riding Hondas all my life, how did it come to pass that I would purchase and ride a BMW?  Good question.  In 2004 I started thinking about adding a second bike to my garage.  Some say, " Why? You can only ride one at a time?"  True, but I can put more miles on any 2 bikes, then most with just one.  At this stage of my life I have the time and the means to indulge myself with the things I love most.

I came to the RT because I wanted a bike that would do the same things as the Honda, but in a different way, and that is exactly what the RT does.  Sport bikes, dual sports, cruisers would for sure give me a different "ride," and that was why I dismissed them.  I'm not going to ride one of them to California.  No, I wanted a sport touring bike, a bike I would take on a long tour.

I shopped the Asian sport touring bikes, most notably the FJR, but in the end it was slanted a little too much to the sport side of the equation.  But make no mistake, it is an excellent sport touring bike, and it was on the short list.  But the more I thought about it, the more I said, "it is really not that big a difference then what I have currently, but I won't rule it out."

About that time the new and improved RT began arriving in dealer showrooms.  I rode up to Birmingham to check it out.  I was hearing a lot of great things about it.

I always liked the looks of the RT.  I shopped it late in 2000 when I entered the sport touring world, and in fact it had come down to the RT or ST 1100.  My bias was with the Honda, and after riding the RT I knew why.  It looked good and had a excellent cockpit, but I couldn't past the transmission, and rumble motor of the boxer twin, so without much internal debate I went with the Honda.

The new 2005 RT was an evolution in every way above the 1100 series.  The transmission was a vast improvement, it still didn't/doesn't shift like a Honda, (nothing does) but acceptable.  The vibey motor had been tamed to the point it felt good at cruising speeds, and I think the bike is stunningly designed.  It draws positive comments everywhere I park it.  When non riders take time out to praise your mount, you know you're riding a nice looking bike.

Over a 2 month period I took 3 test rides, then filled out the paperwork and brought the bike home.  I have been pleased ever since.
Now, 3 years later, and 45k miles, I can say I still love the bike.  It does exactly what I want it to do.  Like taking me places, and showing me a different experience than the Honda.  The RT has a unique feel, and look, and people are drawn to it from all walks.

The RT is supremely comfortable and agile.  BMW has been in the sport touring business a long time, and knows the stuff such bikes need.  Like heated seats and grips, cruise control, quiet cockpits, class leading wind management, large gas tanks with excellent mpg motors.  Other items like on the fly suspension adjustment, and great load capacity round out this well thought out bike.  I thoroughly enjoy riding the bike and really have no complaints other then you have to service it every 6k miles.

Is the RT worth the few thousands more they are asking for over the Honda?  I really don't know.  It does offer more things for the money, that do make up the difference, but you have to give up a few things also, so that pretty much makes it a wash.  In the end, if your bias is with the BMW you won't be disappointed.

Motor- The boxer twin makes good power, and gives ample passing prowess.   The bike still feels like a boxer twin at low speeds, and shudders at low rpm till the clutch is fully out.  At cruising speed, the bike is smooth and quiet.  In the 60-100 mph range, it feels just like any 4 cylinder bike.  The motor will never have the linear power and high rev of a 4 cylinder, but it has all the power and speed you need.  If you like the ST 1100s power and torque, you will like the RTs, feels much the same.

The air cooled motor is noticeably cool, and I have NO heat from anywhere on a hot day.

Brakes- The brakes are servo assisted, ABS, and partially linked.  Meaning the pedal is independent, but the lever is linked to the rear.  They are powerful, smooth, and predictable.

Handling-  If there is ONE area the RT is the best, it is how it handles in the twisties.   It has a very light feel, and the steering takes less effort of any bike I've been on in a long time.  It does not feel top heavy, and it inspires confidence over any road surface.  Finding yourself in a curve with a rough surface does not upset the RT.  It has the best suspension in the business, and smoothes out whatever you come into.  At 571 pounds, the bike is close to the VFR.  The RT has enormous ground clearance, more than I'd ever use.

It offers excellent feedback from the road, more than any bike I've ever ridden, and is a pleasure to push in tight curves.  It is a lot fun to ride.
This is how well balanced and stable the bike is- At 90 mph I can set the cruise and take both hands from the bars, and the bike doesn't flinch, no pull to either side, just straight and true.

Comfort-  Wind management on the RT is arguably the finest on 2 wheels.  Bring the adjustable screen up just a little, and you can take your ear plugs out.  Nothing but still air covers you.  The screen and fairing, are well designed.  The fairing is a little bigger than the 1300s, and as a result makes a very quiet cockpit.  The 1300 has a effective wind screen, but it doesn't reduce the wind noise to the level of the RT.  The Germans have always been good at aerodynamics.

The screen does appear to be a little cheesy but it is effective.  It will shake and move around, but has never caused a problem over the miles.
The electric suspension on the RT will do for shocks, what BMW did for windscreens when it introduced the adjustable back in the 90s.  The ability to adjust settings on the fly is great, and something I do all the time on the RT.  I can set pre load and dampening from the saddle to match changing conditions.  When I have the settings in the sport position, the bike feels like its on rails when you lean it.

My RT has cruise control, something I'll never do without again, and I'm going to have to install a unit on the 1300.  The heated seats and grips work great.  The bike has a gear indicator, something sorely needed on the 1300.  The RT has all kinds of computer readouts and trip meters.  The readout is easy to see, but you have to toggle the displays, something I'd rather not do.  I prefer the Honda's display.

My bike has the low seat, and I find it comfortable.

Little things- I love the luggage on the RT.  Simple to work, and lots of room.  The adjustable seat is good, allowing a rider a range of options.  Headlights are excellent, but I still plan to add PIAAs, as soon as a bracket is made available.

I like how I sit IN the RT's cockpit, and not ON it.  It envelopes the rider, protecting him, but still keeps you in contact with the environment.
The 6 speed transmission is nice, and really helps the bike at freeway speeds.
The RT has self canceling turn signals!  What makes those hard to come by?  Thank YOU BMW.

Looks are a personal thing, and with that in mind I like the RTs lines and 2 piece fairing, like a modern motorcycle all set to go.  The fit and finish are first rate.

What do I like best about the bike?  It is really 2 bikes in one.  An excellent mountain carver, it can hold its on with bikes outside its realm of expertise.  No, it can not make the power of a Hayabusa, or Blackbird, but it is just as much fun to lean, and gives up nothing on a 1000 mile day in the saddle.  I can carve up the Blue Ridge Parkway, go to I-40, hit a few buttons to bring the suspension back to comfort setting, set the cruise, raise the screen, and watch the scenery roll by.

Stuff I don't like- Not really much to put here.  The mirrors look good but you can't see much out of them, and the bike demands more maintenance them I am use to, and the dealer is 80 miles away.  The warranty is only 3 year, 36k miles (going for the extended, and they are expensive).  The spare key was junk, but Bogarts secured a better one for me.  And thats about it.  I will keep a record of how the RT performs, and compare cost of ownership.

I love the RT.  A very functional and well thought out bike.  If it can hold together as well as the Honda, then BMW has tilted the balance of power, and it will be interesting to see how Honda responds.