Arguably the most BMW of all BMWs, the R1200R Classic is the model that can most directly trace a lineage back to the first land-travel machine from the Bavarian Motor Works.
That connection to history has been reinforced by giving the Classic wire-spoked wheels (with the spokes cleverly sealed so that tubeless tyres can still be fitted) with alloy rims polished to a brilliant hue for extra "magpie" appeal. While there aren't any of the hand-applied white pin-stripes that used to define a black BMW two-wheeler back in the 20th Century, the thick white 'racing stripe' stuck to the top of the tank is a cheaper, but still welcome, substitute.
Further finishing touches can be found in the polished front wishbone of the Telelever front suspension and the chrome plating applied to the exhaust system and mirrors. The result is arguably the best-looking BMW R-series model, the lines of the Classic enhanced by the bike's low stance and racy deep-cut of its stepped seat. Hopefully the hordes that currently visit BMW bike dealers to plonk their money down on a R1200GS adventure tourer will pause long enough to notice the Classic. For it will be a better choice for many punters if they have little need of the all- surface capabilities of the GS.
While the design of the Classic cloaks the bike with retrospective looks, the engineering is now as contemporary as boxer twins currently come. For in comes the "twin-cam" engine BMW first debuted on the limited-production HP2 Sport super-twin three years ago, then passed on in a slightly detuned form to the best-selling GS and the RT fully-dressed tourer models in 2010. The simplest R-bike may be the last bike in the series to receive the twin-cammer but it was definitely worth the wait even if the extra horsepower and torque outputs appear modest increases on paper. The 109bhp power peak of the new engine (up 5 per cent) certainly won't cause any Ducati engineers to lose sleep, nor will their lambrusco-swilling counterparts at Moto Guzzi feel too concerned about the 119Nm torque peak of the newest Bavarian twin. However, the biggest gain of the new twin is its increased refinement.
Not only is there better access to torque at basement engine speeds, the double-cammer likes to rev much harder and even sounds better when doing so. With the old single-cam engine, a dramatic increase in vibration discouraged revving it beyond 7000rpm. The new just gets smoother the harder it runs, and the R1200R is more inspiring to ride because of it. The clever design of the new friction- reducing valvetrain has not only allowed BMW to raise the redline of the boxer twin by a further 500rpm, it has improved the response of the bike to throttle input throughout the engine's entire range of operating speeds.
The traditional gentility of the boxer twin with fuel has been retained, the bike consuming 6.0 litres/100km (47mpg) during a test. The R1200R's 18-litre fuel tank is smaller than those on the GS and RT models, but still permits a cruising range of 300km when the bike is ridden to the boundaries of social responsibility.
New Zealand gets a fully- equipped R1200R Classic, which includes servo-assisted ABS brakes, traction control, and electronic suspension adjustment. All come well-calibrated and sorted, and embellish and enhance the riding enjoyment of what is the finest-handling R-series model. Metzeler's new R8 Roadtec tyres are as inspiring as the bike's chassis, a perfect choice for a near- perfect bike.
Near-perfect? I just wish you could buy an R-series with conventional telescopic forks. Whenever BMW builds a limited- edition HP2 boxer twin, it comes with front suspension generic to any sports-oriented Ducati, KTM, or Triumph, a corporate confession, perhaps, that such systems offer better performance. Discarding the heavy Telelever front end in favour of a lighter system would complete the dynamics of the $28,302 BMW R1200R nicely.
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 1170cc air-cooled dohc 8v boxer twin stoked by fuel injection to develop 81kW (109bhp) at 7750rpm and 119Nm of torque at 6000rpm.
Transmission: six-speed sequential gearbox, shaft final drive.
Frame: What frame? Engine used to connect alloy telelever and steel-tube rear monoshock sub-frames together, both of which feature sophisticated air-adjustable suspension on this model.
Hot: For the price of the base GS, you get a punchier engine and the electronic trickery of the fully-equipped GS.
Not: Please, please BMW, give the Telelever the elbow.
- The Press
Do you agree with research that claims Skodas have the most satisfied drivers in New Zealand?Related story: Skoda satisfies most Kiwi drivers
Gear up for that big holiday drive
Tips on how to do a safe river crossing
On the road and prepared for the cold snap