Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 8th March 2017

BMW made its name in touring bikes. The 1976 R100RS sits in the history books as the first production motorcycle to be fitted with a full fairing and it was followed two years later by the R100RT, which featured panniers and a bigger screen for even more touring capability.


Over the years the RT has evolved. It has been a firm favourite with police forces worldwide and new technology has seen newer RTs come with an options list that wouldn’t be out of place on a luxury car.


The latest incarnation of the RT, the R1200RT, was introduced in 2014 and features the 125bhp 1170cc water cooled version of BMW’s iconic boxer twin. At £13,880 before you even start looking at the optional extras, the RT is not cheap, but as pure touring bikes go there are few better.


BMW R1200RT on the road


The R1200RT and its ilk have fallen out of fashion in recent years, something that can be attributed in no small part to BMW’s own GS series. Where once it was the only choice for riders looking for a full-on touring bike, the arrival of the big adventure bike phenomenon has diluted the market. For many riders, the RT still represents a better option.


It’s an image thing really. In four wheeled circles, the RT would be a luxury estate car to the GS’s Chelsea tractor. The GS is the bike that propelled Ewan and Charley around the world, the RT the bike your local traffic cop goes to work on. In many ways the pure road focussed bike is a far better proposition when it comes to munching up the miles but it doesn’t have the round-the-world kudos of the adventure-styled Geländesport.


At first glance the R1200RT looks elegant, if a little big and bulky. At 276kg, it’s not exactly light but step aboard and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how manageable this bike is. Those big cylinders may look unwieldy sticking out the side, but they help keep that weight down nice and low. Compared to something like the three-cylinder Triumph Trophy, which carries its weight high in the chassis, the BMW feels like a positive featherweight.


BMW R1200RT pillion


The seat is low too, or at least it can be. As standard, the BMW R1200RT has a two way adjustable seat that can be set at to give a seat height of 805 or 825mm. It’s interesting to note that TV presenter Richard Hammond, a man not famed for his towering height, is a big RT fan and regularly commutes into London on his own bike. At its lowest setting, the ‘big’ Beemer is accessible to all but the very shortest riders, and the factory even offers a low seat option that takes the distance between saddle and terrafirma down to 760mm, which is lower than many 125s. There’s also a high seat option for taller riders, taking it up to 850mm for those looking to stretch their longer legs.


So that perception of bulk is no reason not to try the RT. Settle in to the saddle and you’re presented with a car style dash board that it full of information. Some riders may be put off by the vast array of options, buttons and dials on modern touring bikes like this and while it can be bewildering to start off with, once you’re used to it and have everything set how you want, it ‘s not half as intimidating as it looks.


That boxer design engine may look positively geriatric but it’s design is thoroughly modern. Pull away and it is as smooth as you like. Most buyers spec up their RTs and with the optional hill start assist and gear shift pro, which allows semi-automatic style clutchless gear changes, the bike is even easier to ride.


Show it some twisties and the R1200RT is far more capable than you would expect, particularly with the (also optional) dynamic electronic semi-active suspension. This can be adjusted on the fly through the switchgear and you can really feel the system stiffen the bike up as you go through the options.


Hit the motorway and the RT is pure bliss. The screen is adjustable electronically and will eliminate wind blast on riders of pretty much all shapes and sizes and you can set the (optional) cruise control and crank up the tunes on the radio. With heated seat, heated grips and a comfy pillion pad, there are few more luxurious ways to eat up the miles.


The BMW R1200RT isn’t a bike for everyone but for serious tourers or those who don’t want an adventure bike but are looking for a highly-specced machine on which to attack the daily commute, there are few better.


Alternatives: Triumph’s Trophy SE is the closest direct rival, offering more power and a higher basic specification, but it feels unwieldy and is unlikely to hold its value as well as the BMW. Indeed, most of the competition comes from within the German company’s own range, with the cheaper RS, adventure-styled GS and bigger K1600GT all providing viable alternatives to the RT.





Two cylinder, liquid-cooled, four-stroke, eight-valves






92kW (125bhp) @7750rpm


125Nm @ 6500rpm


37mm Paralever forks






25 litres




3*Based on our average customer 52 year old, 9 years NCB, garaged, WA14 postcode, no claims/convictions, 4000 miles Comp cover is £384.07 with a 50xs. Get your BMW Motorbike Insured with Carole Nash