R1200 RS is built around BMWs first liquid-cooled boxer twin, the 1170cc DOHC unit first seen in the GS. Picture: Dave Abrahams
R1200 RS is built around BMWs first liquid-cooled boxer twin, the 1170cc DOHC unit first seen in the GS. Picture: Dave Abrahams
Basic layout goes right back to the very first RS, the R100 RS of 1976. Picture: Dave Abrahams
Basic layout goes right back to the very first RS, the R100 RS of 1976. Picture: Dave Abrahams
Two-position screen is mounted on a four-point hinge; here it is in the lower position. Picture: Dave Abrahams
Two-position screen is mounted on a four-point hinge; here it is in the lower position. Picture: Dave Abrahams
Preload and damping adjustments are done remotely via a display on the instrument panel. Picture: Dave Abrahams
Preload and damping adjustments are done remotely via a display on the instrument panel. Picture: Dave Abrahams
Preload and damping adjustments are done remotely via a display on the instrument panel. Picture: Dave Abrahams
Preload and damping adjustments are done remotely via a display on the instrument panel. Picture: Dave Abrahams
There is more than 100Nm on tap from 2500rpm all the way to the red line at 8000. Picture: Dave Abrahams
There is more than 100Nm on tap from 2500rpm all the way to the red line at 8000. Picture: Dave Abrahams
R1200 RS sports-tourer is way more comfortable than a superbike for an all-day ride Picture: Dave Abrahams
R1200 RS sports-tourer is way more comfortable than a superbike for an all-day ride Picture: Dave Abrahams
New RS is an intriguing combination of solidly traditional and cutting-edge modern. Picture: Dave Abrahams
New RS is an intriguing combination of solidly traditional and cutting-edge modern. Picture: Dave Abrahams
New RS is an intriguing combination of solidly traditional and cutting-edge modern. Picture: Dave Abrahams
New RS is an intriguing combination of solidly traditional and cutting-edge modern. Picture: Dave Abrahams
There is more than 100Nm on tap from 2500rpm all the way to the red line at 8000. Picture: Dave Abrahams
There is more than 100Nm on tap from 2500rpm all the way to the red line at 8000. Picture: Dave Abrahams
R1200 RS wheelbase is on the long side at 1527mm, lending reassuring stability in long sweepers. Picture: Dave Abrahams
R1200 RS wheelbase is on the long side at 1527mm, lending reassuring stability in long sweepers. Picture: Dave Abrahams
Seen here is Style 1 in blue and white, at R173 750. Picture: Dave Abrahams
Seen here is Style 1 in blue and white, at R173 750. Picture: Dave Abrahams

Zimbali, KwaZulu-Natal – BMW’s R1200 RS, released in South Africa last week, is an intriguing combination of solidly traditional and cutting-edge modern.

The basic layout goes right back to the very first RS, the R100 RS of 1976 – the first production bike with a frame-mounted fairing, with which BMW claims with some justification to have invented the sports-tourer. Yet the new R1200 RS boasts some of the most advanced electronics of any bike on the road.

It’s built around BMW’s first liquid-cooled boxer twin, the 1170cc DOHC version first seen in the current GS beetle-crusher, but in a much slimmer frame (as befits a bike with sporting pretensions) and with some interesting packaging.

The most obvious is the exhaust system: the headers run forward until they’re level with the front of the engine before doubling back on themselves to meet the collector box under the transmission case.

BMW quotes the same outputs as the GS - 92kW at 7750 revs and 125Nm at 6500 – but thanks to the revised airbox, intake snorkels and exhaust, bottom-end torque is slightly stronger.

Standard kit for South Africa includes Rider Mode with selectable-on-the-fly drive modes – Road and Rain (same power, but gentler throttle response and earlier intervention from the traction control) – while the higher-spec Style 2 option features two more modes - Dynamic and (configurable) User – as well as dynamic traction control with, for the first time on a boxer twin, a lean-angle sensor that modulates the power as you come out of a corner for optimum traction.

The most radical change, however, has been the substitution of a single, central radiator for the two side-mounted ones on the GS. That makes the Telelever front suspension so beloved of BMW’s designers difficult to accommodate without an inordinately long wheelbase, so the RS has seemingly conventional 45mm Sachs upside-downies.

REMOTE ADJUSTMENT

Rear suspension is also by Sachs, on a single-sided Paralever swing-arm incorporating the familiar BMW shaft drive. Preload and damping adjustments are anything but conventional, however, as they’re done remotely via buttons on the switchgear and a display on the instrument panel.

You can set the damping to Road or Dynamic, preload to either solo, solo with luggage or two up. We were advised, however, that the Dynamic settings were a bit too harsh for the unkempt back roads of rural KwaZulu-Natal and could cause pattering under extreme conditions, so we set the power levels to Dynamic, suspension to Road and preload to solo – which took all of about 30 seconds – and away we went.

The first thing you notice is how sweet the take-up of the new multiplate wet clutch is – previous boxers had a two-plate dry clutch that could be a bit sudden – and how slick the six-speed box. Within a few kilometres clutchless upshifts were the order of the day, although out of deference to the bike’s potent engine braking we continued to use it for changing down.

Then you notice how smoothly the engine revs; the power delivery is almost mathematically linear - the dynamometer trace is practically a straight line up to about 6500rpm and tapers off very gently after that.

There’s also more than 100Nm on tap from 2500rpm all the way to the red line at 8000, which translates to effortless acceleration up to about 200km/h, with at least another 20 to come if you have enough room.

STAY ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE PLOD

You can feel a muted thrum of secondary vibration through the handlebars above 5000rpm, just to remind you there are some large bits of metal thrashing about down there. It’s also a useful shift-point reference, for those occasions when you want to stay on the right side of the Plod and/or stretch your tank range – particularly as the bar-graph rev counter isn’t easy to read at the best of times.

The separate handlebars look a little odd, mounted as they are on a plate that seems to float above the upper triple clamp, but the standard seating position is well-nigh perfect for my 1.78 metres – and fairly widely adjustable for those either taller or shorter.

I found myself leaning gently on the bars when riding in a straight line, and bending my elbows to tilt my torso forward when diving into corners – almost like an intricate dance step that becomes second nature after a while.

Conventional front suspension or no, the RS’ wheelbase is still on the long side at 1527mm, lending reassuring stability in long sweepers but the steering, though a little slow, is unexpectedly light. When pushing on through a series of tight corners, I found it all too easy to oversteer the bike; the RS, more than most BMWs, repays being ridden with finesse.

The ride, even on the Road settings, was firm and occasionally harsh but the bike held its line tenaciously over the worst sections of narrow, rural roads – as long as I did my part.

The two-position screen is mounted on a four-point over-centre hinge arrangement; just grab the top edge and pull it up or push it down to change its position. The lower setting is fine for most purposes, while the upper, more upright position offers more protection for when it’s raining or unpleasantly cold.

CHOICES

The R1200 RS is available in two variants, Style 1 in BMW’s familiar blue and pearl white with black plastic fuel-tank cover at R173 750, and Style 2 in shades of semi-matt and metallic grey, with a stainless-steel tank cover and dynamic traction control, including additional rider modes, at R178 250.

Either way, what you get is an accomplished express tourer that’s unexpectedly agile in the tight stuff; it’s way more comfortable than a superbike for an all-day ride and more chuckable than its geometry would have you believe, more than making up for its lack of sheer grunt when compared to the big fours.

Sports-tourers are sometimes accused of being neither fish nor fowl; this one, however, really “does it all in one, Mum”.

FACTS

BMW R1200 RS Style 1 (Style 2 in Brackets)

Engine: 1170cc liquid-cooled horizontally-opposed four-stroke twin.

Bore x stroke: 101 x 73mm.

Compression ratio: 12.5:1.

Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.

Power: 92kW at 7750rpm.

Torque: 125Nm at 6500rpm.

Induction: BMS-X digital electronic fuel-injection with two 52mm throttle bodies.

Ignition: BMS-K digital electronic.

Starting: Electric.

Clutch: Hydraulically actuated multiplate wet clutch.

Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by shaft.

Front Suspension: 45mm Sachs inverted cartridge forks with electronic adjustment.

Rear Suspension: Single-sided swing-arm and gas-charged Sachs monoshock with electronic adjustment and separate remote preload adjustment.

Front brakes: Dual 320mm floating discs with Brembo four-piston radial-mount monobloc callipers and ABS.

Rear brake: 276mm disc with Brembo dual-piston floating calliper and ABS.

Front tyre: 120/70 - 17 tubeless.

Rear tyre: 180/55 - 17 tubeless.

Wheelbase: 1527mm.

Seat height: 820mm (Low seat: 760mm, high seat: 840mm).

Kerb weight: 236kg.

Fuel tank: 18 litres.

Top speed (claimed): More than 200km/h.

Price: R173 750 (R178 250).

R1200 RS Style 1 includes:

Comfort Package: Chrome Plated Silencer, Heated Grips, TPC.

Touring Package:Dynamic ESA, On-Board Computer Pro, GPS preparation, Cruise Control, Centre-stand, Luggage Grid, Case Holders.

Dynamic Package: Daytime Riding Lights, Riding Mode Pro, LED Indicators.

R1200 RS Style 2 includes:

Comfort Package: Chrome Plated Silencer, Heated Grips, TPC.

Touring Package: Dynamic ESA, Onboard Computer Pro, GPS preparation, Cruise Control, Centre-stand, Luggage Rack, Pannier Brackets.

Dynamic Package: Daytime Riding Lights, Riding Mode Pro, LED Indicators.

Dynamic Traction Control.

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