View Full Version : 2006 BMW R1200RT - 600 Mile Review

11-05-2006, 12:11 PM
So, after having ridden the R12RT for some 600 miles, I thought it was time to do a bit of a review on the new bike ... and at least offer a bit of a comparison between the RT and the Honda ST1300.

As some might remember, it wasn't that long ago that I did my initial review of the R12RT after having taken a test ride on a the then new '05 model. My original review from 8/25/05 can still be found at http://www.st-owners.com/forums/showthread.php?t=5629 . That test ride was the first time I'd ever ridden anything non-Japanese. Overall I gave the bike a pretty positive review, but maintained that the ST had the better motor between the two. Having just made the change over to the RT, I'm sure this review could be viewed as having some bias towards the new purchase, but I'll do my best to provide as even a review as possible between the two bikes.

For my initial 600 miles, I've been able to ride the bike in a pretty good range of conditions; lows down in the mid 40's to highs in the low 90's ... been through fairly calm wind to some pretty gusty cross winds ... a little bit of rain, a little bit of sun, and a whole lot of cloud cover along in between. At his point I'd say probably half my time has been spent on the bike in daylight, the other half after dark. About the only aspect I don't feel I can report on accurately will be highway mileage or range, as I've been in the break-in process the entire time and so haven't been able to just get out and cruise tank to tank.

First impressions ... yup, you fire that motor to life while the sales guy goes over features and operations of the bike one last time before you head off the parking lot, and yeah ... that boxer twin sure does vibrate. The windscreen is vibrating, mirrors pulsing a little, and you can feel it in the seat ... this motor definitely isn't the Honda V4. As much as the motor vibrates at idle though, she's a completely different beast once you get under way.

The second thing I noticed ... weight. The RT is a good bit lighter than the ST, by nearly 150 pounds depending on who's numbers you believe. The simple act of putting the bike up on the center stand, taking her off the center stand, or just paddling the bike uphill while in the saddle is noticably easier. One of the chief complaints I had with the ST, given the type of riding I'm inclined to doing, was with the weight. I've gotten into more trouble with the ST's weight while fatigued, either needing help pushing out of a sloped parking space that I accidently pulled into nose first, or dropping the ST while putting her up on the center stand after riding 7 days and almost 6K miles ... that I was originally looking at the K1200LT simply because it had options to help me deal with the weight issue, rather than simply solving the weight issue ... but more on that in a bit.

I'll explain how the RT is configured. For the initial 600 miles, she's been kept all stock. She did come configured with factory options such as cruise, ESA, AM/FM/CD radio, additional power sockets, heated grips, onboard computer, chrome exhaust, cylinder head guards, BMW 49L topbox, BMW tankbag, and BMW Navigator III GPS. The onboard computer provides functionality similar to the ST's standard display, but the rest of the BMW accessories replaced aftermarket components that I had added to the ST over the previous two years. The BMW cylinder head guards provide some level of protection for the engine should the bike get dropped, though they definitely don't provide the level of protection that the Honda offered with it's tip over wings.

Comfort - Overall, comfort is pretty similar between both bikes. Between my initial test ride and the new RT, the foot pegs feel a little higher on the RT than they were on the ST, but I haven't had any of the knee issues I had on my recent trip to the Northeast on the ST. The recent knee issue with the ST might have been more related to the cold and temp changes rather than the bike, as I hadn't had a similar problem in nearly 35K miles on the ST before. But on the RT, I don't have highway pegs or any other comfort mods yet, so the factory foot pegs are all I've got, and they've done well. I need to start playing with seat height a little, as I'm able to flat foot the RT better than I was the ST, so I should have some room to raise the seat and get a little more clearance around the pegs.

The RT does have a more upright riding posture ... more upright than even the ST with the Heli-bar risers added on. This seems to improve the comfort, as I've suffered no neck/upper back stiffness from riding the bike. It might also explain the improved feel in the legs/knees, as I'm not having to use my legs at all to relieve my back from supporting my weight.

Overall, the RT seems to wrap around the rider a little more. The way the tank wraps over the top of the rider's legs, I feel a bit more "IN" the RT rather than "ON" the ST ... although the ST certainly didn't have me feeling like I was riding on top of the bike like some sportbikes I've ridden. Controls are thoughtfully placed, even the radio controls. I still think the onboard computer toggle is in an odd place, but even on the right switchgear, it's easier to toggle than leaning forward to press buttons on the dash. Lastly, the stock seat is at least as good as the Honda's, and while suffering from the same "too soft" problem as the Honda, it seems to have enough extra padding that I've not come off feeling like I was sitting on the seat rails like the Honda seat had me feeling. My next test is to move the seat pad I was using on the Honda over to the RT to see if I get similar improvements there. If anything, the stock RT seat feels a bit narrow to me, and that is focusing more of my weight on the inner parts of my legs, thus causing the slight discomfort.

Engine - So I commented on the engine vibes at idle, so it seems that after the Comfort section is a good place to mention vibrations from the engine while under way. So far, I'd have to say I'm extremely surprised with the smoothness of the boxer twin once you're moving down the road. At steady speed, she's almost as smooth as the Honda. The only time I really feel any engine vibrations while moving is when I'm hard on positive throttle, but even then it's not as bad as when sitting at idle.

While still working on break-in, I've done a good bit of working through the gearbox as well. One of the impressive things for me has been riding at about 80, and switching between 4th, 5th, and 6th gears. The bike reacts and feels just as naturally at that speed in either gear, while 4th gear does give an immediate response to cracking the throttle open for an immediate burst of speed. The boxer might be down on power from the ST's lump when you put them both up on the dyno, but I suspect I never used 100% of the Honda's power so I don't notice a lag here in that regard either. Along with that, the weight difference should imply that the RT doesn't *need* as much power to be as effective. What I do notice is that the boxer doesn't have the torque off the line that the Honda V4 has, but once you're moving and in the right gear, she'll give it to you when you twist the grip. I have learned since my initial test ride that where I was trying to keep the engine RPMs on the boxer between 2500-3000 rpm, I was actually borderline lugging the motor. Keeping the revs a bit higher (though definitely not as high as you would with an inline motor) helps with power delivery.

The gearbox has also been consistently smooth. I hadn't commented on the gearbox at all in my initial ride review, but since then had heard several claims that the BMW gear box is clunky and not as smooth. This hasn't been my experience in 600 miles so far, but I'll keep an eye on that for future reviews. The gear indicator is nice, though I think I've finally gotten a feel for where engine RPMs should be at a given speed. It's still nice to see at a glance what gear I'm in if I think I've forgotten to upshift or what not.

Wind protection - Straight off, I have not noticed any backpressure from the stock windshield on the RT. It doesn't appear that the RT screen has the same range of movement as the Honda screen, or if so, it's starting at a more horizontal angle and so doesn't come up as high at the end of it's travel. For where I'm sitting on the bike, I can't get the screen to where I'm looking through it instead of over it. That's not a problem, as I prefer to look over the screen, but after riding behind a CeeBailey and now an Aeroflow screen for the past 13K miles, the stock screen on the RT still seems to be a bit "loud" for me. I don't notice any wind turbulence per se, but there's still enough wind noise that I feel obligated to wear ear plugs. I generally wear ear plugs all the time anyway, but as my review on the Aeroflow mentioned ... I had finally found a shield that I was comfortable riding without ear plugs behind.

Handling/weight - I mentioned the weight factor earlier, because of the ease when man handling the bike around the parking lot, or getting her up/off the center stand. The side effect here, however, is when you encounter some stiff crosswinds. On the day I picked up the bike, we had some pretty gusty winds ... 25mph or so coming from the North. The lighter weight of the RT made me aware of the gusts, and their direction of travel. It wasn't so much that the bike became instable ... but you felt the bike work through the wind a little more than the Honda did. The Honda rode like a tank in crosswinds. On my first 50CC, we ran into some stiff crosswinds out in West Texas (40-45mph kinds of winds). While others were complaining about being blows clear across the Interstate, the ST held it's line with only minor deviations. The RT doesn't seem to be holding as tight a line as the ST would under these conditions, but also isn't swayed enough to cause concern.

Overall handling on the RT is significantly improved. I'll make more comments on the ESA system in the next section, but between the weight difference between the bikes, and the improved suspension components used on the RT, the improved agility is known immediately. The RT comes stock with the same Bridgestone BT020's that my ST originally came with. While I haven't typically been a huge fan of these tires on previous bikes (ran them briefly on the GSX-R750, ran them a few times on the Hayabusa, and went through a couple sets on the ST), the bike is easy to lean into a turn, and effortless in holding a line. The tires and lower center of gravity give more confidence in grip and stability in the turn, including mid turn line corrections or other potential "mid-turn events". Even loaded down or with a passenger, the RT hasn't failed to impress with her road manners.

2-up - This is the one area I've gotten to play with the ESA system since my initial test ride. After unknowingly convincing Cass to head to the shop to test ride the RT with me, I got the chance to toggle through the ESA settings for single rider, rider and luggage, and 2-up. The nice thing here is that when you start off with the bike set for a single rider, add the passenger to the rear, then set the ESA for 2-up riding ... you can literally feel the bike balance out for the extra rider. As soon as you get out on the road, it like you have the bike all to yourself. Granted, Cass has always been a fantastic passenger, I think that comes from her being a rider as well, but the responsiveness and feedback from the bike is not altered at all by having a second passenger on the bike. With the ST, handling seemed to be slowed down even with just having my normal luggage on the bike, as it seemed to lighten the already fairly lightly loaded front wheel. Cass also commented that the back seat on the RT was more comfortable for her than riding on back of the ST. The stock seat felt better for her ... and this was before I got the topbox put on.

Features - As I mentioned opening up this post, the BMW already comes with the majority of the aftermarket accessories I had added to the ST over time. The nice touches like auto-cancelling turn signals, a more readible display, and the onboard oil level check just add to the overall experience on the RT. The radio, while not something I originally wanted or intended to get, has been a nice to have. Control layout is well thought out, as the essential radio controls are available on the left switchgear, while greater control is still done from the left hand panel. The only thing the RT is really missing is an intercom and bike-to-bike comms, yet I can easily move over my existing intercom from the ST. The only gotcha to all the feature tinkering I had done with the ST is that the RT has Canbus for managing the bike's electrical load. The most common solution to that is to add a switched fuse block that pulls power directly from the battery. It was really convienent to pull power directly off the Honda Quartet Harness for my forward mounted gadgets, where as now there's more wire to run as well as a little more forward planning before getting an electrical gadget installed.

Lights - So far, these have been exceptional. With the ST, I had replaced the original bulbs with brighter bulbs almost immediately. The RT reflector assemble seems more like how I've heard the ST's Euro assembly to be, only reserved for left hand drive. The right reflector seems to be aimed to light more of the shoulder and further down the road for signage, while the left bulb is aimed down a little so as to not blind oncoming traffic. I still need to get out on those 1-lane Texas county roads to see if I can spot deer as easily, but initial night riding has been positive. I'll likely still add some aux lighting, if for no other reason than to improve my visibility towards the other cars on the road.

Likewise, the brake and marker lighting seems to work quite well. I can see around me at night the impact my turn signals and brake lights are having. There is enough illumination around the bike at night, I don't need to look at my gauges to see if my turn signal is still on ... I'll see the street glowing ... that is, until it auto cancels. :)

Luggage - And finally, the luggage on the RT seems to be a bit more useable to me. The shape of the saddle bags seems to be a bit deeper, and more consistent, which makes loading/unloading a tad easier. More importantly, I like that the bags can be left unlocked if needed, and still have the key removed ... instead of needing to buy all the spare Honda keys and creating your own knobs. I also find myself riding without the bags more often ... something I would never do with the ST. Just in general, the bike looks better to me without the bags than the ST did similarly configured.

Wrap-up - For me, there were a few reasons that drove my decision to look at switching bikes. Issues related to weight and handling, as well as the general service issue that I haven't mentioned here. Since I just have my initial 600 miles on the bike, I've not yet encountered the service aspect of the experience, but I will definitely update as I put the miles on.

While the RT is looking to be a fantastic bike for my needs, that's not to discourage the ST in any way. The majority of the benefits that I see with this bike, come down to my specific use of the bike, as well as my fit on the bike. While the RT has more features and options, many riders either don't want or simply don't need those features. I had added the majority of these features over time to the bike, and so feel that having them as factory equipment (and thus supported by the dealer) makes the support decision easier.

The ST has been a reliable, dependable ride for the past ~40K miles. In that regard, I'm jumping from a known quanitity into an unknown. That said, and being fully aware of the discussions and history around BMW failures in various long distance riders, I can't say whether the RT will prove to be the same.

Regardless of whether you agree with my views and review, the important thing is that you find the bike that speaks to you most, and that you enjoy that ride. Regardless of what you ride, I hope to see you out on the road.

11-05-2006, 01:46 PM
I rode the new st1300 recently, last month, some 800 miles. In the past I had put 30,000 miles on a 95 st1100. I was impressed by all the improvements except the nervousness above 70 to 80MPH. The new bike is buffetted by the wind at speed while the old was never fazed even up above 110mph. However, the felt weight difference at low speeds and the brakes that actually worke were worth the lost feeling of stability. Loved the electric windscreen especially in changing temperatures and intermittent rain. I have not ridden the RT but have ridden the GS1200. I am considering trying the new R1200R. But, the ST1300 was a real road eater- I can not imagine a better one on the interstate. However, I still prefer my much lighter, 470 lb, ducati St4s, and enjoyed returning the ST1300 to its owner and picking up my bike in Ft. Worth even though the maintenance cost is beyond belief of any Honda owner. Enjoyed your ride evaluation. Regards, John

11-05-2006, 02:24 PM
Interesting comments regarding stability at highway speeds John. I never had that kind of instability with my ST, even in the heavy crosswinds out in West Texas. There have been several reports of instability with the ST13 when running over 110mph, but this is the first I've heard of instability at reasonable speed.

I would suggest that there might be some sort of issue with the ST13 you borrowed. The ST1300 is notorious for eating rear drive flange bearings, and the factory OEM tires tend to cup pretty easy. The stock windscreen on the ST tends to cause a good bit of backpressure on the rider, which can cause some inadvertant steering inputs as well.

Still ... can't fault the Ducati. I'm sure jumping from the ST1300 to the ST4 probably feels about like jumping from the ST1300 to the R1200RT. :)

11-05-2006, 07:33 PM
The ST1300 was not unstable but the front end was nervous. For the most part i just ignored it. The tires were fairly new, 2000 miles or so, and the bike had only 6000 miles. But, you are right to mention that the problem could be mechanical or setup. And I did not change any of the settings except for the easy to get to pre-load which I could set back to the owners position. I do not think I went much past 80 or 90 as the owner forgot to include the insurance card and I did not want to risk a ticket stop. I had the bags mounted but did not pack too much weight as I was not camping. My old ST1100 had a Works Performance shock that made a dramatic change when I had it installed. Regards, John

11-05-2006, 10:22 PM
Very much have enjoyed the report and comparison.
I have never bin on a ST, but have thought it to be one of Honda's best mile maker. It is great to have some insight into it and the RT.
I look forward to more reports on the RT as the miles increase.

11-06-2006, 07:20 AM
Just a note regarding gas mileage and tank range.

I found that I got dismal gas mileage during my first few thousand miles on my R1200st. I was actually doing worse than on my previous bike and started to resign myself to it.

Then as the bike broke in, it improved drastically. I was getting high 30s/ low 40s at first. At around 6-8k, I started getting high 40s/ low 50s.

11-06-2006, 08:11 AM
Thanks Becca!

So far, I'm getting abour 42-43mpg, which compared to the Honda is pretty dang good. I've heard the RT/STs are good for low 50's on the highway, which I'm definitely looking forward to.

11-06-2006, 08:58 AM
Thanks Becca!

So far, I'm getting about 42-43mpg, which compared to the Honda is pretty dang good. I've heard the RT/STs are good for low 50's on the highway, which I'm definitely looking forward to.

I enjoyed your bike review. I have the 2005 R1200RT. I get 43-46 mpg but I tend to keep the RPM up pretty high. The motor seems to like it like that. The bike is still using a little oil, they do that until about 10-12K miles. At least my last boxer was like that. Be careful to not over fill, it just takes a very little to top it off.

I found the seat too soft and have since added a Russel Day Long saddle and really like it. I also added a Cee Bailey windshileld, and like that too.

One of my projects is to get the sterio wired into my helmet speakers, since I find the sterio pretty useless above 60 mph. I haven't figured this one out yet.

Also, like you, I would like to find a lower and more forward foot peg. I did spring for the "elf pegs" for foot forward comfort, and they really work, but are pretty expensive.

Thanks again for the review of your bike.

11-06-2006, 09:04 AM
Nice writeup Charlie. The boxer engine doesn't mind the higher revs, I learned that from my previous 'S' to get a little more punch from the twin.

ps. A little hint about oil level. The boxer, at least mine and others I read about, can put a lot of pressure on seals if filled to the top line in the glass. Mine would even blow it into the airbox. What is best from some forums, and what I subscribed to for getting the leve right was:
* ride till the oil is warm enough to circulate in the cooler
* then stop and place on sidestand. Oil should be no higher than halfway in the glass after a few minutes.

My oil loss seemed to go away after I followed this practice. But yours may be different since it is a new motor design.

11-06-2006, 03:57 PM

Thanks for the review and comparison. Having most of my experience on an ST it's good to hear your comparison.

02-09-2007, 01:45 PM
For my initial 600 miles, I've been able to ride the bike in a pretty good range of conditions; lows down in the mid 40's to highs in the low 90's ... been through fairly calm wind to some pretty gusty cross winds ... a little bit of rain, a little bit of sun, and a whole lot of cloud cover along in between. .

Sounds like a typical day in Texas! :lol2:

03-12-2007, 11:48 PM
My sewing machine is faster than your farm tractor! :rider:

Nice write up.