The 2015 R 1200 RS – Back With a Vengeance


“The Editor’s personal RS. Photo by Mike Waldie.

Article by Will Guyan

Photos by Kevin Wing, Jon Beck, and Will Guyan

In 1976, the R100RS became the first mass-produced motorcycle in the world to come with a full fairing developed in a wind tunnel (the same one used by NATO to develop the Tornado fighter-bomber.) The RS established the sports touring segment, which BMW has dominated ever since, yet we haven’t had a Boxer RS in the line-up since the short-lived R1150RS a decade ago. Well, with the new R1200RS, BMW restores this tradition with a sports tourer powered by the latest liquid cooled flat-twin boxer engine with more horsepower than any previous Boxer.

“The Art of Speed.  Indeed.”

The engine on the RS is the same DOHC unit that powers the R1200 GS, GS Adventure, the R1200RT and the new R. It produces 125 crankshaft hp at 7,750 rpm and makes 92 lb‑ft of torque at 6,500 rpm. Torque has been increased slightly at lower revs. The exhaust is routed through a 2-in-1 system with a rear silencer that has a pleasant throaty growl. This is a beautifully designed motorcycle, and it rides as well as it looks.  Maybe even better.

The new RS comes standard with two riding modes “Rain” and “Road.” Besides ABS, the standard specs include Automatic Stability Control (ASC) for increased handling safety when accelerating.  With optional Riding Mode Pro, the RS adds Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) with banking detection as well as two extra riding modes – “Dynamic” and “User.”

“Your choice of two great color schemes.

The seemingly magical Gear Shift Assistant Pro for fast, clutch-less shifting is also optional, but I promise you, this is a must-have!  Finally, your at-speed downshifts are fluid and perfectly executed, as the machine automatically selected optimal rpm for the lower gear.  Just close the throttle and toe the shifter!  Upshifts are done with throttle open, but for slow riding, we recommend you use the clutch for a smoother, more placid transition.  A new tubular steel frame was developed for the RS, with the engine a stressed member of course. With an inverted telescopic fork at the front and EVO Paralever at the rear, the wheel suspension adopts the classic chassis technology of dynamic sports tourers, but updated in typical BMW high tech fashion. Steering precision, neutral handling and braking rigidity were all a top priority with the chassis creation, making an exceptionally dynamic RS model for the keen sporting rider.  This machine flows through the twisties.

“You could easily take this steed on a track day.”

The latest generation of the electronic suspension Dynamic ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) has two damping settings, “Road” and “Dynamic.” Dynamic lets the rider to enjoy elevated levels of handling safety, performance and comfort, as the damping is automatically adapted to the prevailing riding conditions and the riding situation.  Even the instrumentation takes a quantum leap into a new sports touring era. The speed is displayed traditionally by an analog speedometer, but there is also a TFT display for showing a very wide array of information. The aerodynamic half fairing with twin headlights and dynamic proportions, low-set front and slender tail gives the bike a wedge shape. Another nice touch – the Keyless Ride option.  This is one gorgeous machine.

“The sculpted panels are perfectly shaped.  No doubt the wind tunnel was involved.  Beauty meets function.”

What’s it like to ride?  This is my choice of the current crop of superlative motorraden coming from BMW.  The machine is beautiful, leaving no area that meets the eye less than stylish, and that for a purpose.  The RS is iconic, and this one is the space shuttle of the line.  The clutch is there for you at take offs and at stops; all other times the upshifts and down are as if by pure magic, as already mentioned.  This rocket bike accelerates like a drag bike, uninterrupted by our clumsy attempts to get shift, clutch, and throttle just right.  Like ABS, Shift Assist Pro is seamless and addictive; it’s reason enough to want an RS.

“Bags are roomy, painted, and typically BMW good.”

Gone is the formerly magic anti-dive Telelever, easily made almost perfect by the addition of an aftermarket high tech shock absorber.  The liquid cooling radiator needed space and the Telelever simply wouldn’t fit.  The Dynamic setting seemed perfect to this rider, and on many varied, crumbling, muddy and warped road surfaces we rode on during the Canadian launch.  BavarianMotorradWorld gives the stamp of approval to the return of the telescopic, inverted, electro-enhanced ‘superbike’ fork.  I was not prepared to love the fork, buy it disappeared as the machine ate the twisted, unsteady, ruinous roads.  That’s what good suspension should do, smooth out the ride, keep the tires always on the road, in turns, over bumps, during panic braking when the 200 pound antlered meat missiles fly at you from the forest.  The RS gets an A.  The hyper-critical among us and the elite track riders who sweat at night from suspension nightmares may disagree, as I disagree with riding pain-inducing sport bikes on the street, with handlebars below the triple clamp. Odin meant for clip-ons to accompany track machines, truth be told.  Good for sprint races and 20 minute track sessions, or if you’re as fit as Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri.

“The frame is very well shaped, welded and has covers everywhere needed.  Do you see the radiator?  Good.”

The ride was satisfying, sporting, and the speeds were enough to mandate immediate impound on the strict Ottawa-policed Canadian roads, all of which have far too conservative speed limits.  But that didn’t stop us! Try not to speed while following the expert BMW ride leaders; it’s their job to show us what the machines can do, after all.  We rode the RS at such a pace over ‘Baghdad’ roads amply peppered with gravel in the turns, while the DTC and ASC ironed out the slips handily.  You feel them but are not upset, because the bike is smarter and thinks faster than you do.  Not miraculously, but with engineered precision, by electro synapse.  This new wave of high-tech electronics just might be addictive.  The RS is the first BMW I’ve coveted since the 1200GS fell from out of the Bavarian blue sky a decade ago.  And, I loved the incredible Cruise Control as well, a first for me.  Lovely.

“Good bars, reservoirs, Keyless ignition, start/stop button without keyhole, GPS and the magic wheel on the left grip.  Adjustable levers and windscreen.

The fairing is sweet; it does its job on and off the bike (it’s gorgeous to behold.)  The dash has more info than you need, is slightly opaque when you’re focused on the road ahead, and you’ll have to familiarize yourself with the options while at rest, not while riding.  The controls are intuitive but require an initial half hour in the garage for a pre-ride.  How cool!  The brakes are simply BMW.  100% eye-balls-to-the-face-shield strong, imparting one finger confidence.  Gone are the days of four finger pulls to make the pucks bite the rusty rotor, thankfully.  The exhaust note imparts the suggestion of the well-over 100 horses at your instantaneous beck and call, although we would prefer a nice, complimentary aftermarket pipe in lieu of the chrome stock number. Two color schemes are offered, classic Bavarian Blau mit weiss or sporty “Style 2” variant, dark gray and stealthy; this one’s awesome!  Of course, an extensive range of optional extras and special accessories will be available from your dealer.  And, the best dealer network and warranty on the market!

“Love the clear coated thickly painted black out scheme, that goes so well with the frame.  The injectors are well-hidden and protected.”

The blacked-out engine and drive train, and the tubular steel frame coupled with the lower pipe guard, with a few tasty items from your BMW dealer offered for all their motorraden, make this one beautiful, svelte, comfortable, luggage-assisted, windshield-adjustable, electronically-assisted, long term pleasurable ride. Take a ealer-provided close look at the four decades later RS; it’s a beauty of a faithful adventure companion.  That’s right – adventure is definitely not exclusive to off-road machinery.  Thanks again, BMW!

“My two favorite photographers, Jon Beck and Kevin Wing, doing their thing.  Artists as well as superb riders, and boon companions.”

Lastly, this rider bit the magic bullet and acquired a new RS.  It’s now festooned with all the goodies older riders can finally afford, including the Akrapovic titanium and carbon fiber canister.  Oh, the sound!

 “The list of options is huge, and this dark screen looks so right with the ‘Style 2 variant’ color treatment, the alternative to Blau Mit Weiss.”

BMW gear worn for this two-day, inclement weather launch: BMW Boulder jacket with its nice included Gore Tex lining, which also adds considerable warmth.  BMW City Denim pants with full armor and a cotton/Cordura blend.  BMW Thermal underwear.  BMW Ride long sleeve shirt. Gore Tex BMW ProSummer gloves. And my old favorite and still bone-dry Gore Tex BMW All Round boots.  Helmet was the excellent Schuberth C3 Pro.