So as far as relationships with motorcycles go, a six year long ‘attachment’ with my 2006 K1200S (since new), is, by most accounts – fairly ‘long term’. Especially since the bike’s ‘clock’ just rolled over 100,000 kms the other day.
“How has the bike performed, over all those miles and years?” you ask.
Let me begin, by explaining why I bought that particular model of bike in the first place. I had my eye on a new ’06 Yamaha R-1 Limited Edition machine, as well as a used ’05 Ducati 999R, but the K1200S won out, in the end. It won out because the K-S bike wasn’t quite as cutting edge race-replica as were the other two, true sport-bikes, so I figured it would better suit my almost 50 year age bracket, keep me further away from pushing that canyon/twisties ‘envelope’ all the way to the edge, as well as keep me out of ‘ticket-land’ or jail. Plus, it came with quick-detachable, expandable BMW panniers plus three way electronically adjustable suspension … and longer, multi-day cross country rides and true sport touring was my intended purpose anyway … so the K1200S was it.
I’m glad I bought the bike that I did, as it has fully lived up to its intended purpose, with flying colors and aplomb; but not without a glitch or two, as well (nothing is perfect).
The first problem came up early in the relationship - during the ‘honeymoon’ stage.
That incarnation of BMW K-bike, what with their early edition electric throttle control and fuel mapping programs, developed some niggly fuel-mapping issues within the first ten thousand kilometers (the engine would throttle itself up and down on its own, at times, and minor throttle change inputs came on way too abruptly, from time to time), but BMW Canada had the mapping issues sorted out in due course, all covered under the full BMW warranty, so no big deal. The problem surfaced twice in that first year, but after the second ECU re-mapping service, problem solved and glitch-free riding from then on.
It did take the bike close to thirty thousand kms of riding before it was fully and completely broken in, but that just speaks for its solid European build and tight Teutonic engineering tolerances.
The only other major mechanical issues or electrical problems that I had with the machine, were two ‘dropped’ coils in separate instances, both after somewhere between sixty and seventy thousand kilometers of use. After the second one ‘went’ I had all three of the remaining original coils replaced, as I saw that they were a ‘weak’ item and I didn’t want to stand a chance of having one go on me in the middle of nowhere.
So at 100,000 kms of use, the K1200S still runs and functions as good as it did when it was new, with no perceptible loss of either acceleration or de-acceleration performance, no visible leaks anywhere, and no perceptible increase in oil use or consumption. Everything works as it should. The front brake pads seem to be lasting me between 25k and 28k kms, but that is obviously partly dependent on a specific rider/owner’s riding and braking habits. Tires (sport compound) last me an average of about 7,000 to 8,000 kms, depending on brand and model of tire (again – rider/operator dependent).
That said, although the K-bike is a sport-tourer, it is the sportiest of all sport-touring bikes (that vintage) out there, and it certainly doesn’t give very much up on the other race-replica liter bikes going, in the handling department at all, except for perhaps at a full-on race or track performance pace, and riding like that on the street is just plain stupid (ask me how I know). Sure, the K-bike weighs a good 120 lbs more than an R-1 or a GSXR, but it masks that extra weight well and hides it almost completely, save for in the tightest of first and second gear hairpins and corners, and how often does one find oneself in places like that on public roads (ahem)? As well, the K-bike’s wheelbase is a good six inches longer than your average Gixxer, Duc, or R-1 (to accommodate the unusual front suspension linkage as well as the 70 degree inclined cylinder bank)… but again, it hides it superbly in all but the tightest of tight road conditions. As a matter of fact, that extra wheel-base lends itself nicely, in super-smooth high-speed fifth and sixth gear ‘sweepers’ – provided, of course, one could find such a place where one can safely and legally let the bike ‘run’ – offering an incredibly ‘planted’ and secure feel, even at speed.
Ya, she’s a ‘hefty’ gal as a race-replica or pure sport-bike, but she was never intended to be exactly that. And as a hyper-sport/sport-tourer, she works like a charm!
TONS of power (serious, ‘arm wrenching’ power comes on at about 7,200 rpm, and then runs smoothly through, almost to redline) throughout the rev range, with loads of useable torque right from the bottom end, and close to frightening ‘pull’ at the top, bested only by a few of the 185 hp-at-the-rear-wheel race-replica rockets; never a lack of luscious, easy-to-tap-into grunt from the get-go, and invariably more than one gear selection available through most rational corners.
The K-bike handles remarkably nicely and in spite of what has been said (about a ‘lack of feel’ from the front end), the bike lets you know what is going on at both tires at most times, with while not being quite as ‘positive’ as a standard forked front end, the feedback is clearly discernible and there to use, should you be pushing it hard enough to need to know. With a premium set of sporting skins on the hoops, the K-bike slides both tires and kicks out rear wheel power-drifts with comfort and poise, never causing one undue grief or stress for it (if one possesses the skills to comfortably ride in that ‘zone’, that is).
I will have to say, that in as much as BMW really did get the shaft drive mechanism figured out on this bike (no perceptible shaft-jacking or rear wheel movement at all, no matter how hard or abrupt the power-inputs may be), the shaft final drive does weave a wee bit of ‘play’ into the power delivery at the utmost, as compared to the more direct (but maintenance intensive) chain drive mode. But no chain oiling required, only an annual rear drive gear fluid refresh each season, and you’re ‘good to go’!
The seating position/ergonomics on the K-bike are a tiny bit less aggressive, or conversely, are a wee bit more ‘relaxed’ than are those on the race-replica machines, but again; that doesn’t compromise much in the way of handling and hard core sport-riding hanging off, yet it most palpably does extend the day’s touring range and plausible long-distance jaunts that one can endeavor, without feeling cramped, beaten and/or abused, at the end of each day.
I must admit, that though there are times when my eye drifts toward the sexier/sharper lines of a pure race-replica, few are the moments where I would seriously consider giving up the added creature comforts, long distance capabilities and overall broad-spectrum use envelope of my K-bike, for one of the sharper, hard-bodied super-models. I can still thumb that starter button on any morning, hear her throaty burble sing its tune of lust, snick the old girl into first and push off toward yet another exhilarating and completely satisfying ride, each and every time, on any sunny day. And still do I get people pulling up beside me at stoplights, from time to time, only to roll their window down in order to compliment me with a friendly “Hey – nice bike, buddy”, in the passing.
So – though not perfect in some ways; though designed with a gearbox that happens to be a teeny-tiny bit ‘notchy’ (especially third gear); though a teeny tiny bit ‘portly’ when compared to a true track-oriented sport-bike … the K1200S is a balanced, slick, dependable, happy, fast, pretty, fun, agile … and athletic ride: every time.
I love my bike. Let’s see if she goes another 100,000 kms, without any issues.
I’ll let you know in another five years, or so.