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The BMW R1200S (25,000km review)

I purchased my used R1200S with 3,000km in 2015 and traveled 25,000km in 4 years.

It was registered in 2009, but produced in 2008. One of the last R1200S produced.

I live in Northern Italy and I have often used the motorbike to ride on the Alps, but also in the hilly areas. The longest trip I made was 5,500km in 16 days in Northern Spain. Unfortunately, since I’m living in a big city, I also spent many hours in traffic.

My R1200S is all original with the following optional: Ohlins suspension (only on the front), rear rim increased (190 instead of 180), anti-theft system, and BMW side panniers.

I’d say I’m the average biker. I alternate relax riding and fast riding, but I’m not the person that spent time on the track with the chronometer.

HISTORY OF THE BMW R1200S

The motorbike was presented at EICMA Milan 2005 and entered the market in 2006. Production was stopped in 2008, however, the motorbike remained in the list for the whole of 2009.

In 2006, it was the sportiest and lightest road BMW (with the boxer engine). At the launch, the side panniers were not available on the BMW list of accessories, they have been introduced some months later, due to that most of the journalists tried it on track and didn’t speak about this model like a sport-tourer.

Virtually the R1200S was replacing the R1100S (launched in 1998), but the R1200S is a much sportier bike. More powerful and lighter, but also more uncomfortable.

This was probably the aspect that penalized the sales of the R1200S. In 2006, BMW Motorrad was a brand that was perceived as not very sporty and had a motorcycle image devoted to quality and comfort. 

R1200S sales have been very low, and the model was withdrawn after only 4 years, without giving it an heir. The true heir of the R1200S, i.e. the R1200RS, arrived on the market only 8 years later in 2017.

Many of you will remember the HP2 Sport. The HP2 cannot be considered the heir of the R1200S, because the price was significantly higher and was not designed as a sport-touring (on the HP2 it is not possible to mount the side panniers). Although the basis of the HP2 Sport is precisely the R1200S (a wide number of components are shared).

COMFORT

I am 177 cm tall by 76kg.

The riding position is not extreme for being a motorbike with handlebars, however, it is more uncomfortable than all the naked I have tried.

I often rode the motorbike for 10-12 hours a day between highway, mixed, and mountain. It is possible to do it, but you get tired in the evening (arms, back, but also the legs suffer from the curled riding position).

The standard saddle is hard and slippery; not very comfortable, however it is very easy to move on it to ride more actively. On the R1200R, for example, I found it very difficult to move to set the curves.

A very positive aspect is the side panniers: not having to carry a backpack on the shoulders all day helps to less fatigue.

The suspensions are hard and do not absorb well the disconnections of the ground.

Absolutely uncomfortable passenger seat and position (as you can imagine).

My R1200S in Spain. It was the longest journey I had with the BMW: 5,600km in 16 days

LOAD CAPACITY

The rigid BMW side panniers have a decent capacity (25 liters each, not expanded). They are expandable, but I kept them expanded only for short stretches: when expanded the bike becomes excessively large with aerodynamic problems. From my point of view, expanding them is useful only to put the helmet when you stop for a walk. By the way, when expanded there is enough space to put inside the BMW System 6 helmet, which is quite a large full-face helmet.

My r1200s with the right bag open to the maximum, inside there is a full-face helmet

On the R1200S there is a big advantage. Those grey BMW panniers all look the same (K1300, F800, etc ), but they are not. The R1200S has a central exhaust, so both bags have exactly the same capacity (i.e. the maximum ). In the other models with a side exhaust, one of the two bags is smaller and very irregular inside.

If you are used with the BMW R1200GS panniers, you will find the ones of R1200S small. But consider that this is not a motorcycle to be used by two (with related luggage). By the way, it is not possible to mount the top case.

Panniers are not waterproof. No problem in case of light rain, but under a medium intensity rain, the water enters and settles in the lower part of them, the water does not go out itself: you should get it out. My suggestion is to stop 5 minutes after the storm and dry up the panniers. I bought BMW waterproof inner bags (recommended) to avoid getting my clothes wet.

However, the R1200S panniers are rigid bags, therefore much better than any aftermarket soft bags. They are more stable and safe, in fact, they are locked on the bike and can be removed only with the key. The BMW dealer can synchronize the key of bike and you can use the same key of the bike to open the panniers and to remove them from the bike.

To install the panniers it is necessary to mount a specific frame, not exactly with a pretty look. It is necessary to he hull must be drilled on the tail section to put the hook pins. The operation of piercing the hull is not retroactive and remove the frame of the panniers is not easy. I would say that once you install it, you won’t remove it anymore.

In the photo you can clearly see the frame for the side panniers and the screw for the upper attachment

The under saddle is very small: there is only the space for a few tools and documents.

BMW has created a tank bag specific for the R1200S, however, I’ve never tried it.

ENGINE

The engine is the classic BMW 1200 air-cooled single camshaft boxer. In the R1200S, it has been upgraded to touch 122hp/8,250 rpm, the torque is 112Nm/6,800 rpm. I remember that at that time the R1200GS had 100hp/7.000rpm in 2006, before moving on to 105hp/7.500rpm in 2008.

The engine was modified to turn a bit higher than the ones mounted on R1200R/GS/RT/ST. However, it is possible to ride quietly at 2,500/3,000 rpm in the sixth gear. Despite the sporty appearance, it is a good motorbike even to move quietly looking at the landscape (as I wrote not very comfortable).

The engine is very regular in delivery. It is a peaceful engine up to 5,000rpm, while from 5,000 to 8,500rpm it begins to push hard. It seems like having 2 different bikes from this point of view.

The beauty of such a regular power and torque delivery is that it is very exploitable and pleasant to use across all the range: from 2,500rpm to 8,500rpm. Moreover, it is never unpredictable and this is a nice to have considering that electronic traction controls are missing.

The sound is pleasant, but in my opinion not exciting. Like all air-cooled BMWs, the Akrapovic is needed for a more immersive sound.

Just a note, since I have often been asked about it. Despite, the max power between the R1200S and the new 1200 BMW boxer liquid-cooled is similar (122hp vs 125hp), the new liquid-cooled boxer engine has very different behavior in the delivery. In particular, the torque of the new 1200 liquid-cooled is significantly higher and can be felt. The perception is that the new 1200 engine is significantly more powerful.

SUSPENSIONS AND TRANSMISSION

Like most of BMW at that time, the R1200S has the Telelever and Paralever suspension systems.

It is full of topics about this on the internet. The main difference in that the anterior fork do does not compress when braking and cornering but maintains the neutral set-up. In the beginning, it is a bit strange, but you get used to it quickly.

Speaking about the cardan (another topic that you can find thousands of discussion on the web), personally, I prefer it to the traditional chain because:

  1. It does not require maintenance
  2. There is no risk of getting the pants dirty with the chain too greased

If you are a stuntman the R1200S is not for you. The bike tends less to wheelie, thanks to the solutions described above.

HOW IT GOES

HOW IT GOES: CITY

The city is not its environment. As long as the traffic is light the R1200S can move well. However, in heavy traffic it is little maneuverable: the low steering angle does not help in overtaking the cars in the column. Moreover, the weight in the running condition is still over 200kg.

Also, the width of the rear cases is greater than that of the handlebar (usually is not on most of the bikes), so you must always remember the rear dimensions when you travel with side panniers.

Finally, the cobblestones of the historic centers put the suspensions in difficulty.

A positive aspect is that the engine does not warm up too much.

Keep in mind that I’m living in Milan and I lived in Turin, so like many cities in Italy the streets are narrow, the traffic intense and a wide part of the city center is made with cobblestones. If you lived in a small city, you won’t feel the problems I described earlier.

My R1200S without the side panniers.
Much better to use in heavy traffic.

HOW IT GOES: MIXED

It is the environment in which the R1200S gives its best. Especially on hilly sections with wide and fast curves. You can drive by pulling gears, or even changing at 4,000-5,000 rpm and letting the bike slide. You can go very fast and the bike is very stable. It does not require a very physical guide in this context. It’s easy to go fast and you almost don’t notice the high average speed.

In general, it is a bike that runs well between 80km/h and 130km/h.

HOW IT GOES: MOTORWAY

The highway is boring by definition. On the R1200S, you are not having fun for sure, having to maintain the same riding position for a long time.

In my opinion, it is more comfortable to travel at 110km/h than at 130km/h. The engine runs lower and is less annoying in the vibrations that transmit. Moreover, the windshield over 110km/h protects less from the air and makes the neck a little tired after hours. However, I would say that up to 150km/h aerodynamic protection is good. Aftermarket it is possible to buy taller windshields, I’ve never tried it, but surely the situation improves.

With the side panniers mounted, BMW recommends going at a maximum of 160km/h. 

HOW IT GOES: MOUNTAIN

It goes very well and is a lot of fun, especially on more gentle streets.

The tight hairpins are not its ideal environment (like the Passo Stelvio, to give you an idea). In this situation, the bike seems heavier than what it is. It requires a very physical guide because it is not very agile to go downhill at low speed.

The BMW R1200S on the Alps (Passo San Marco)

HOW IT GOES: UNDER THE RAIN

I have ridden 1/5 of the km under the water (around 5,000km). I can say that the protection was not exactly good. The legs are not protected, so you will get your pants wet after a few minutes. The windshield is not high enough to protect the upper body from the rain.

The side panniers, as I previously wrote, are not waterproof. They are fine under light rain, but in medium rain, the water enters within 20 minutes. 

On the other side, the R1200S is very stable under the rain, I felt very safe despite the lack of modern traction control and ABS. However, I would recommend buying one with the ABS.

My BMW R1200S in a temporary wet set up

CONSUMPTION

Fuel consumption is low. In general, it is difficult to go below 15 km/l (6.6 l/100km). On average, the fuel consumption was around 17-18km/l (5.5-5.9 l/100km).

The above values ​​refer to road use mixing city/suburban/highway.

The tank is 17 liters for which the autonomy is approximately 300km.

BMW recommends the use of 98 RON petrol, but the 95 RON is also fine.

MAINTENANCE

My R1200S never had a problem.

I report only 2 dipped beams burned in 4 years.

Only one thing: you have to be careful with the engine oil level. All air-cooled boxer BMWs consume oil, my R1200S consumes was roughly 1 liter per 10,000km. Reading in the various forums, it is an average value. To check the oil level there is a porthole on the engine. If the level drops below the minimum, a warning light on the instrument panel lights up, but it is better to notice it first. Fill the oil is very easy: in the tool kit (under the saddle), there is the tool to unscrew the cap and add the oil. Otherwise, go to a BMW dealer and he will ask you for € 15 to top up.

The service is every 10,000km. The first 1,000km service is free (at least in Italy). I purchased the bike with 3,000km in a BMW dealer and before delivering it, he replaced the oil and the battery (the bike was 6 years old).

I made the third service at 13.000km and I spent 220 € for an oil change, filters, and brake pads. I did it by taking advantage of the BMW Log LifeCare promotion for which there is a discount for the old bikes that make the service in the winter months (it is a BMW Italy promotion).

The tire consumption depends on the way to ride and the type tires. I have tried 3 tires:

  • First setup Metzeler: I purchased it used in 2015 with 3,000km. The tread was almost new, but the tires were now 7 years old (on the tires it is written the date they were produced and mine were from 2008 ). I used them for another 1,000km and then I changed them because they didn’t hold well in corners.
  • Dunlop Roadsmart II: they are sport-touring tires. With mine, I have done 14.000km. I have to say that I should have changed before, but I waited for the new season. I would say they maintain good performance up to 10,000-12,000km. They were very good on the wet. I had also evaluated the Dunlop Sportsmart, but the duration is about half (5,000-6,000km) and it is more difficult to warm them up.
  • Dunlop Roadsmart III: I was comfortable with the previous ones and I took these. Compared to the Roadsmart II they seemed much better to me, the bike had become much faster to go banking. I don’t know to what extent it is thanks to the new model, in the sense that my previous tires had become too worn and flattened in the central part, so as soon as they were fitted the new tires seemed fantastic.

I point out that I am not a professional or high- level amateur driver, so I am not able to appreciate marginal improvements in the tires.

ELECTRONICS

In 2006, R1200S was launched on the market, the electronics were not yet widespread on motorcycles. The only electronic help available was optional ABS (€ 1,000 in Italy). I didn’t have it on my one.

In the European Union, it has become mandatory on all new motorcycles since 2016. Personally, I think it was a good choice to make it mandatory. I’ve never fallen, but it happened to do some emergency braking on slippery terrain. So if you buy a used R1200S, I recommend buy it with ABS. By the way, on this model, it is possible to deactivate it (there is a button on the knob).

Another note: I had on my R1200S the standard onboard computer that indicates: time, oil temperature, trip I, trip II, and autonomy in reserve (the countdown of the remaining kilometers starts when you arrive in reserve). With € 150, it was possible to buy the advanced on-board computer which in my opinion was a nice purchase because it also indicates the fuel level (not just the reserve level) and the oil level.

It is difficult to install the on-board computer aftermarket. The LCD screen remains the same, but BMW fitted the bike with extra sensors: an additional float was mounted in the tank to measure the petrol level and another oil sensor.

OPTIONAL and ACCESSORIES

The list of options was short compared to BMW Motorrad standards. The price reported refers to the Italian price list.

Ohlins suspension: theycost € 650. My motorbike only mounts the front one as the previous owner had purchased it with the Ohlins option, but finding it too rigid he had put the standard shock absorber behind it for greater comfort. I can’t tell you if it is worthwhile or not from a technical point of view because I have not tried the bike with/without to make a comparison. From the reviews I’ve read, it seems that everyone is satisfied with the behavior of the Ohlins. The question as always is: “am I a rider able to appreciate a difference between an excellent suspension and a good one?”. This is up to you. Definitely worth it from an aesthetic point of view: seeing Ohlins is always beautiful. 

Trip computer: see the “electronics” section. Recommended. It cost € 150.

ABS: See the “electronics” section. Highly recommended. The weight increase is about 1,5kg. It cost € 1,000

Computer with tire pressure control: Mine doesn’t have. Not many have installed it and it is very rare to find used bikes with this option. It cost € 200.

Heated grips: classic optional of BMW. Highly recommended. If desired, it can be mounted aftermarket at reasonable costs.

Side cases: I have already mentioned it in the “load capacity” section. The R1200S is one of the few sport-tourers with decent side bags (translated: rigid, lockable, and with a regular internal shape). The bags themselves cost € 900, however, frames and pins must be added (about € 200). The assembly of the frame and pins is not easy and a dealer will ask you for it at least 150-200 €.

Navigator support: at the time there wasn’t a satellite navigator made by BMW. Due to the dumbbells, it is difficult to mount it on the R1200S. There are various solutions designed by external companies, I opted for the support made by Hornig, which created a screw with RAM connection, very easy to assemble (€ 40, I link here the product). I did not put the charging cable: I have a TomTom 400 and the battery lasts 3-4 hours (here my review of TomTom 400), I load it with a battery pack during the lunch break.

Colors: the available colors were black, yellow, silver, and red/grey (the last one mentioned was optional: € 500). If you see a R1200S with other colors, be aware that they have been repainted. By the way, BMW has never been made any in the “Motorsport” or ” Replika ” scheme color.

BMW tank bag: the tank of R1200S is made of plastic and not metal, so pay attention if you buy an aftermarket one because the magnets do not work on it. The original BMW one has some specific hooks. It is roomy, but I didn’t have it.

Akrapovic exhaust: I thinkit’s beautiful. Compared to the standard exhaust is also 2.5 kg lighter. The sound improves a lot. In terms of power, I read that the increase is marginal, although it should improve torque delivery at medium revs. From my very personal point of view, I would not take it for the performance (if you want a more performing bike, it full of alternatives at the same price), but rather for the sound and aesthetics. Unfortunately, the price is really exaggerated € 1,800 for the complete exhaust and € 800-900 for the terminal only. A note: 2.5 kg saving on weight is quite a lot, however, I believe that the average motorcyclist hardly notices the difference on the road.

The beautiful Akrapovic exhaust system.
I took the image from the Akrapovic website. I link here the website.

Antitheft alarm: I have it. It cost € 200. The alarm starts if someone moves the motorbikes or if sits on it and starts moves it left and right.

I write here this note because I do not have a proper section for it. The side stand is very thin and the ground support surface is very small. Pay attention if you park the R1200S on soft ground because at the begining it seems fine, but slowly the side stand starts to enter the terrain and there is the risk that in 10-15 minutes you will find the bike on the ground. I took the risk several times, but I always noticed it in time. You could buy support like the one in the pictures.

Expanded ground support for the side stand of the R1200S.
I took the picture from the Horning website.

Due to the low sales of the BMW R1200S, there are not many third party aftermarket solutions. So the choice of extra accessories is very limited compared to those available for R1200GS, but also R1200R and R1200RT.

VALUE

The price list of the R1200S was € 13,500 in Italy. € 1,000 more than the R1200R, and € 1,000 less than the R1200GS (yes, BMW has raised prices in the past 10 years). It was a premium bike. Now on the used market, it is easy to find one for € 4,000-6,000 depending on conditions. Only a few were produced and there are not many on sale (I’ve never found the number of units produced).

Most of the models on sale have 20,000-30,000km, which confirms what I said earlier. The R1200S is uncomfortable according to the typical BMW rider. If you look for a used R1200GS, R1200R, or R1200RT for sale registered in 2006-2007-2008, you will see that most of them have made more than 50,000 km.

The R1200S has lost a lot of value, for example, a used R1200R of the same year cost around € 1,000 more than an R1200S. Despite the R1200R was a cheaper bike than R1200S in 2006.

If you bought it new, you won’t be happy, but for those who want to buy a used one is a great opportunity. Keep in mind that it is a little requested model and reselling it is not easy, maybe you will have to keep it in the garage for a few months before finding a buyer.

Right now if you want a BMW 1200 boxer, the cheapest solution is to buy a R1200S. 

Pay attention to the optional. As I said very few motorbikes have been produced and therefore finding used spare parts is very difficult (I looked for a used Akrapovic but without success).

ADVICE FOR THE PURCHASE OF A USED ONE

The usual: check the service story (if made in BMW is better) and understand if it has been damaged.

As far as I know, there were no particular problems for the model. Technical recalls have been made by BMW in the past few years, so if a motorcycle has made service in BMW it should be all right.

Personally, I would not buy a motorcycle with colors other than the originals. A motorcycle usually is repainted when has been damaged. It’s not always like that, but…

DO YOU RECOMMEND IT?

I would say that at the price that is now € 4,000-6,000 it is an excellent purchase. You have a 1200 boxer with a really low figure.

Be aware that you are not buying a pure sportbike. If you are looking for higher performance, you should focus on a more recent Japanese sports bike at the same price. Alternatively, you could buy a Ducati 999 in you want 2 cylinders. Speaking about pure performance the R1200S will remain lower despite all possible (expensive) upgrades compare to Japanese/Italian superbikes.

The BMW R1200S is a great choice if you want a motorcycle for the weekend trips, but also for traveling (alone). If you think about there are not a lot of sport-oriented bikes with rigid side panniers. Even today, most sport naked motorbikes offer only soft bags.

WHY DID I SELL IT?

I like to change bikes after a while. I think I will end up buying a liquid-cooled R1200R.

I was absolutely satisfied with my R1200S.

I left the orange turn signals, but they are also available in white color, that give a more modern look

WHY IT WAS A COMMERCIAL FAILURE? (IN MY OPINION)

From my point of view, the R1200S is an excellent bike and the price at the launch was in line with the other BMW boxers. Why BMW decided to withdraw it so early? 

In 2006 BMW was not perceived as a sports motorbike brand. BMWs were comfortable to travel bikes with bags, heated knobs, etc . The brand has been relaunched in those years with the launch of more aggressive bikes both in the look and in the engines (HP2 Enduro, R1200S, K1300R, etc). To date, BMW is reputed as a more dynamic and youthful brand.

The R1200S was one of the first motorcycles with sporty DNA (in BMW sauce), however, at that time there was a limited number of BMW customers, who want to buy a sporty BMW bike.

Most of the buyers of the R1100S thought that the new R1200S was too uncomfortable.

BMW has made also marketing mistakes: before buying it, I read the various tests of the time of the launch of the R1200S. Journalists tested it on the track and everyone made articles about the behavior on the track. It was an error. The R1200S should have been presented like “the sportbike with bags and heated knobs”, and not like a pure sportbike. I didn’t see any test ride of a journalist with side panniers. One of the reasons is that at the launch, the side bags were not available.

Another reason for the failure of R1200S is that the sportbike segment was in decline: sports bike sales have been hight in the 90s and early 2000s, but it began to decrease in favor of the maxi enduro segment.

In summary, from my point of view, the causes are several. But perhaps the main none was the positioning at launch by the BMW marketing department. Knowing that you cannot compete with a Ducati 999 on track, BMW should have exalted and emphasized the sport-touring aspect of R1200S.

I’m pretty sure this is the longest review of the BMW R1200S. I hope you enjoyed it.

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3 Comments
  1. Reply
    Normunds. Mierins 29/08/2022 at 20:53

    This is a fabulous review and I think you hit on the key aspects of owning this bike. I own a silver 2007 R1200S and share many of your observations. This is a very unique and very beautiful machine. The seat is terrible. I replaced the stock seat with a Corbin seat and long trips became possible. The “hunched” seating position can be tiring, especially for a person in his mid sixties. I live in southern Ontario in Canada and travel often into the US.
    It is a wonderful bike on high speed trips benefiting from the low center of gravity. It has two power bands – one between 0 and 5000 and another from 6,000 to 8,000 rpm. It is terrible in city traffic because of the tall gearing. I have a Honda CBF 1000 for urban commuting. I am looking for a replacement that is easier to drive on long trips.

    I would be interested in hearing about the bike you bought to replace this one.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing you’re experience, you just saved me some weeks of research.
    Thank you

  3. I have owned my R1200S for the past 7 years and have put over 40,000 miles on it. I have never felt like the bike was heavy and not good in town. Definitely not what BMW designed it for, but still okay. I do have HeliBars on mine, and that helps. Last year I purchased a R1200GSW. The extra 100 lbs and taller seating height really bother me. I wish BMW still made a traditional sport touring machine that was under 500 lbs. I have ridden both the R and the RS and like them both, just wish they were lighter. I have considered the Ducati Multistrada 950S (or V2), but prefer the 17″ wheels and don’t intend on any off road riding that I wouldn’t do on the R12S.

    Good review. Ride safe.

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