After Harley Davidson’s 45 degree V-twin, there is probably no other engine as iconic as the BMW “Boxer”. I have recognized the engine for years, even before I was riding motorcycles; until recently, I never saw the allure. BMW’s flat twin has been through many iterations, and now the “water-head”; I admit, the new engine appears a little space age, but still, it’s growing on me. Aside from aesthetics, Germans are often associated with precisions engineering; for me BMW is associated with quality. In the U.S. others may agree with my comment on quality, but I’m betting the copious amounts of plastic probably turn off some prospective buyers; especially after they read the price tag. In the search for the better “touring” machine, I have repeatedly come back to BMW, the 1200 RT still seems like the best bang for the buck when looking to chew up the miles, but beyond comparing it against other sport touring models, I’m honestly not all that familiar with everything BMW has to offer; mostly just the “legends” surrounding the GS models.
As we moved over to the BMW booth, the crowd finally thinned out (Perhaps something to do with the mandatory credit check?). This worked out well for me, I wanted to get the wife’s input on more Adventure Bike pillion seats. This year BMW brought the standard GS and the loaded “Adventure” models to the show. I’ve been concerned that side cases might make long road trips cramped for my dedicated passenger, so the hard panniers on these demo models finally offered an opportunity to put that issue to bed. Until just this moment, she had only sat on one Adventure bike, the Triumph Tiger 1050 (very little emphasis on the word “Adventure”); the 1050 has an extremely steep pillion seat, and a harsh transition that prevents her from scooting in close to me when the ride gets twisty. The 800 GS didn’t disappoint, I felt that the center of gravity made the bike feel light, and the parallel twin also made the bike seem narrow; I’m hoping that translates to the nimble on-road, and reasonable off-road manners as the reviews suggest. The wife was happy with the pillion seat and unaffected by the position of the panniers, a nice win. Despite the raving reviews of the GS models, I had pretty much dismissed the idea of riding a BMW Adventure bike, assuming BMW meant Bring More Wallet. Apparently the 800 GS Adventure retails for $13,699, which really isn’t that much more than the new Tiger 800 I’ve been lusting after. The 800 GS Adventure also has a 6 gallon gas tank, 9″ front & 8.5″ rear suspension travel, 85 HP & 61 Ft-lbs. of torque; all very similar to the new tiger (the game’s afoot…). This will probably leave me with having to choose between dealer network, the amazing sound of the triple, and hopefully a test ride to prove the bike for my taste.
The standard 1200 GS was another story, the 1200 is an odd amalgamation of engineering beauty and utilitarian simplicity (and plastic); nonetheless the 1200 feels like a water buffalo compared to the 800. Mind you, the bike wasn’t moving, most of the adventure bike reviews talk about how the pounds just fade once these big adventure bikes start moving, but I can’t help think about how technical any off-roading would have to be with how heavy the bike feels standing still. At any rate, I’m still intrigued by the boxer twin and the lengthy resume the 1200 GS already has. That aside, the boss’s opinion is in: the pillion seat sits up another 1-2 inches from the rider seat, creating a similar harsh transition to the Tiger 1050; she was not a fan. Moving from the standard GS to the Adventure, which was fitted with what I would describe as a “beaver-tail” seat, the pillion seat was virtually flush with the rider seat (one-piece in this case). While this offered more flexibility than the standard GS pillion, the seat padding was anorexic, and left her with the stunning view of the back of my head. No issues with the panniers, but the general consensus was that she preferred the 800 GS; probably for the better, the 1200 GS Adventure comes with a hefty price tag ($18,340, I can buy a new Jeep for that price). The 1200 was obviously heavier than the 800; while I admit I actually like the looks, and the thought of the classic boxer engine is alluring, the heavy price tag coincidental to the heavy load make me shy away a bit from the 1200. Still, the “dirty” resume combined with shaft drive and all the creature comforts, I’ll always wonder what it would be like.
I have casually been watching the BMW R NineT since it came out a few years back. If it’s not apparent yet, I love every scrambler and Café racer I see; the R NineT is no exception. The NineT is more of a space age Café Racer, but sitting next to the Triumph Thruxton, the stats are impressive. The R NineT is an 1170 cc flat twin, has 110 HP, 88 ft-lbs. of torque, shaft drive, and weighs 489 pounds road ready. The Thruxton, at 865 cc weighs 506 pounds wet and you can pretty much do the math and discover it doesn’t have anywhere near the performance. Of course, the Thruxton is $9,499 versus the $14,995 you’re going to shell out for the beemer, but… wow…
Moving on, I snapped a few photos of the new R NineT, the sweet roadster I would love to have parked out front, but it’s probably not the next motorcycle. For the record, the BMW booth staff was very friendly, not something I can say for everyone we met that Saturday. Ultimately the time in the BMW booth has forced me to consider the value of quality; probably time to start surfing through message boards and looking at how difficult doing your own service is, and how much parts are (I’m betting… a lot).