BMW's K1200R - a radical new direction for the once conservative Motorrad brand

BMW's K1200R - a radical new direction for the once conservative Motorrad brand
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March 20, 2005 This was the first the world saw of BMW’s new K1200R roadster muscle bike when the machine made its world debut at the Intermot motorcycle show late last year – almost certainly the first time the image-savvy BMW brand managers have ever condoned one of their roadgoing vehicles to be displayed in such vulgar hoon-like behaviour. When the smoke cleared, we could see why. Using the same donk built for the K1200S ultra high performance sports machine, the K1200R is quite unlike anything we’ve ever seen from the normally understated German marque. The aggressively-styled unfaired street bike has163 bhp and an uncompromising “street fighter” attitude.

The new K1200R roadster is a radical departure in many ways for the conservative BMW name. Following on from the K1200S muscle bike that has upped BMW’s sporting image, the angular and aggressive K1200R is a motorcycle of the “street fighter” ilk - yet another ‘new generation’ model in the BMW range to change people’s perception of the brand.

Equipped with the same engine (and digital motor electronics) as the formidable K 1200 S superbike, the new roadster delivers corresponding levels of comfort, ride quality, safety, and environmental consideration.

Visually, the K 1200 R copies nothing and leads everything. The roadster’s aggressive aesthetics are a synthesis of world-leading aerodynamics and original thinking. But they are practical too. The level of performance achieved by the K 1200 R would be pointless without the capability to sustain it.

A motorcycle that delivers such outstanding performance must also be safe, and the K 1200 R is one of the safest machines available. A low centre of gravity ensures remarkable low speed manoeuvrability, and secure handling at high speeds. Optional Sports Integral ABS and Electronic Suspension Adjustment ensure that the roadster requires less rider input than its contemporaries.

The innovative roadster’s all-round capabilities have also inspired an exciting new one-make race series – the BMW Motorrad Power-Cup – which will replace the hugely successful BoxerCup on this year’s European tracks in support of MotoGP.

The K1200 R is a road bike without compromise, and is destined to attract considerable conquest sales. It will be in BMW Motorrad dealerships from June 2005. In technical terms the K 1200 R is derived from the K 1200 S high-performance machine. The drivetrain, running gear, the brakes and the on-board network have all been carried over from the K 1200 S, modified only in a few features. The new body and equipment, as well as the truly exceptional, extroverted design, however, make the K 1200 R a brand-new and quite different motorcycle. Weighing just 237 kilos or 523 lb (DIN unladen weight on a full tank, without ABS), the K 1200 R keeps its pledge of offering superior handling and light manoeuvrability especially at low speeds on country roads and in town.


Slender and compact, the straight-four power unit displaces 1,157 cc, the same as the engine of the K 1200 S. The other engine data is also similar, the new Roadster developing its somewhat lower peak output of 120 kW (163 bhp) at the same speed of 10,250 rpm, with maximum torque of 127 Nm (94 lb-ft) coming 8,250 rpm.

In mechanical terms the engine of the K 1200 R is identical to that of the K 1200 S, with the same configuration of the camshafts and the same valve timing. The flow of intake air, on the other hand, has been modified for the new machine, the K 1200 R featuring just one snorkel leading to the airbox on the right-hand side. This modified flow of intake air is the reason for the somewhat lower level of maximum power and torque. The silencer and exhaust manifold systems both come from the K 1200 S.

The transmission has also been carried over unchanged from the K 1200 S. At 2.91:1 (instead of 2.82:1 on the K 1200 S), the final drive ratio on the drivetrain is adjusted to the lower top speed of this “naked” motorcycle with its higher drag coefficient.

Suspension and running gear

The suspension and running gear only had to be modified slightly for the new model: The Duolever is slightly steeper (0.4°), changing the steering head angle to 61°, with camber 11 mm or 0.43´´ shorter at 101 millimetres or 3.98´´. This change in suspension geometry is achieved by a minor modification in machining the bearing points for the joints in the Duolever.

The positive effect of this modified suspension geometry is even better handling particularly at low speeds. Any theoretical repercussions on directional stability at high speeds versus the K 1200 S are barely noticeable in practice and are irrelevant, anyway, on a motorcycle without a fairing and, accordingly, with somewhat lower top speed.

The K 1200 R comes as standard with different wheels in the same basic design as the wheels on the new R 1200 ST. Wheel dimensions are 3.5´´ x 17 at the front and 5.5´´ x 17 at the rear, with tyres measuring 120/70-ZR17 and, respectively, 180/55-ZR17. As an option, the customer also has the choice of the K 1200 S sports wheels measuring 3.5´´ x 17 at the front and 6.0´´ x 17 at the rear, in which case the rear tyre measures 190/50-ZR17.

BMW Motorrad’s Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) is also available as an option at extra cost. Introduced for the first time on the K 1200 S, this world-first achievement enables the rider to set spring tension and damping from the handlebar with utmost convenience merely at the touch of a button – an operation he can perform even while riding.

ESA varies inbound damping on the front wheel and both inbound and rebound damping on the rear wheel. The rider also has the option to adjust the rear-wheel spring base electro hydraulically while the motorcycle is at a standstill as a function of load conditions.

An exact description of ESA with all its technical features is to be found in the press release on the K 1200 S. Spring travel on the K 1200 R is the same as on the K 1200 S sports machine, measuring 115 millimetres or 4.52´´ up front and 135 millimetres or 5.31´´ at the rear.

High-performance EVO brakes with ABS option

The K 1200 R comes with BMW’s EVO brake system also featured in all other K-Series and Boxer models. In its configuration and dimensions, the brake system with disc brake diameter of 320 millimetres or 12.60´´ at the front and 265 millimetres or 10.43´´ at the rear is the same as on the K 1200 S. The brake hoses, in turn, are steel-clad for extra safety and reliability.

BMW’s EVO brake system – with EVO standing for evolution – is one of the safest and most effective brake systems in the world.

As another option at extra cost, the EVO brake system is available with BMW Integral ABS anti-lock brakes in the sporting, partly integrated version. “Partly integrated” means that both brakes (front and rear wheel) are activated by the handbrake lever, while the footbrake lever acts only on the rear wheel.

Even when applying the brakes all-out, the rider of the K 1200 R runs virtually no risk of taking a fall or tumbling forward thanks to the motorcycle’s low centre of gravity and the special suspension geometry interacting with the kinematic configuration of the Duolever. In other words, the rider benefits under virtually all conditions from maximum tyre friction when applying the brakes all-out with ABS control, enjoying optimum safety even in an extreme situation.

Controls and instruments

The handlebar and handlebar bridge on the K 1200 R are both new. Compared with the K 1200 S, the handlebar is both wider and higher. As befits a motorcycle of this type, the rider’s seating position is more upright and moved further to the front. Oval rear-view mirrors fastened to the handlebar appropriately reflect the concept of reducing all features to the essential.

In terms of both its technical features and looks, the instrument cluster with its speedometer and rev counter is based on the same concept as the instrument cluster of the R 1200 GS, while the instrument faces are new. As on the K 1200 S, the displays in the info-flat screen provide ongoing information on coolant temperature, the fuel level, the time, as well as the gear currently in mesh. On machines equipped with ESA as an option, the info-flat screen provides additional information on the current set-up of the suspension. Total mileage, trip mileage, and the range remaining on the fuel in the tank are all available on demand.

Electrics and electronics

Boasting a wide range of innovations, the on-board network in CAN-bus technology (Controller Area Network) has been carried over directly from the K 1200 S sports motorcycle without any modifications. Inter alia, the big advantages of this technology are the far wider range of functions compared with a conventional on-board network coming with far simpler and more straightforward cable connections, the absence of any conventional melt-down fuses, as well as full-scale diagnostic management and examination options. The fully integrated electronic immobiliser comes as standard, consistently exchanging coded and constantly changing data between the key to the motorcycle (by means of a transponder) and the on-board electronic system. In technical terms this is the best and safest immobiliser currently available, ensuring that only the authorised rider really gets to experience this unique machine with all its sheer riding pleasure.

Design and body

In its design, the K 1200 R is both athletic and extroverted. The underlying philosophy in creating this machine was to reduce all features to the essential and achieve high emotional value. Such minimalist design places the focus on the visible technical features and components of both the drivetrain and the suspension, highlighting BMW’s claim to leadership in technology and innovation. With its muscular and, indeed, masculine look, the K 1200 R clearly bears testimony even at a standstill to the performance and dynamics of what is currently the most powerful Roadster in the world.

It is no surprise that this design evokes contradictory discussions and opinions, especially as it would not have been appropriate, given the demanding standards of BMW Motorrad, to give a motorcycle of this calibre anything but classically beautiful and really attractive looks.

While the heritage of the K 1200 R with its close ties to the K 1200 S is obvious – both motorcycles, for example, sharing the same exciting contour lines on the fuel tank and seat – the K 1200 R goes much further in its styling features: The machine’s contours and shapes are even more distinctive and, indeed, organic, making the K 1200 R truly striking, unmistakable and, in fact, quite unique. This design language is continued in the side covers at the front of the fuel tank, taking up and extending the consistent line to the front end with the oil cooler fairing beneath the striking double headlight.

The small windshield above the headlight, despite its compact dimensions, significantly reduces wind pressure at high speeds.

The reflectors in the dual headlight system (2 x H7) come in free form surface technology and are housed beneath extra-clear, impact- and scratch-proof, lightweight polycarbonate covers. Finished in matt chrome, the headlight housing made of a special synthetic material accentuates the straight-forward technical character of the motorcycle through its colour alone.

The Duolever comes with plastic covers at the side emulating the basic design of the wheel bearings. At the same time these covers serve to guide the flow of cool air to the radiator with its minimalist fairing.

The K 1200 R comes in a range of powerful-looking colours full of character and style. Dark Graphite metallic, for example, forms a strong contrast to the drivetrain and running gear finished in silver, highlighting the technical and aesthetic qualities of the new machine. White Aluminium metallic, on the other hand, comes together with the drivetrain and running gear in black and therefore turns around the contrasts to be admired on the K 1200 R, giving greater emphasis to the contours of the motorcycle and its muscular shape. With this combination of colours, the wheels come in Slate Grey metallic matt. A particularly striking colour scheme is Sun Yellow non-metallic together with the drivetrain and running gear in black and the wheels in Slate Grey metallic matt.

Fuel tank and seat

The fuel tank of the K 1200 R is made of an extra-light, impact-resistant synthetic material and offers a capacity of 19 litres or almost 4.2 Imp gals (including 4 litres reserve). The overall package of the K 1200 R, just like the package on BMW Motorrad’s other machines, serves to keep the tank particularly slender beneath and in front of the rider, thus ensuring optimum knee contact. Production of the tank in a rotational process ensures maximum freedom in the exterior design of the tank and allows the distinctive contours on the tank fairing so characteristic of this special machine.

Similar in its basic design at the front, the seat is even more slender than on the K 1200 S in the interest of an even more forward-oriented, active riding position. The rider’s absolute geometric seat height is 820 millimetres or 32.3´´ (with step arch length of 1,810 mm or 71.3´´). The low-level seat available as a no-cost option measures 790 millimetres or 31.1´´ in height, with 1,750 mm or 68.9´´ step arch length. Clearly, the lower seat may also be retrofitted as special equipment.

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