Test ride: BMW R1200 RS

By thoriq, 08 January 2019
BMW R1200 RS

Like you, we aren’t strangers to BMW Motorrad’s acclaimed boxer-powered R1200 range. While the star here is the R1200 GS dual-sport, things like the R1200 RS sport tourer  stands as a reminder that the German firm’s boxer-powered magic isn’t just exclusive to the dual-sport offering.

Having sampled it over a weekend recently, we’re certain that BMW’s boxer package isn’t just made to munch miles and cross continents. It’s also one that’s ready to hit superbike-like speeds when you want it to. Yes, it probably sounds similar to what the off road-ready GS has got, but the difference of course is the RS’s heavy preference to stay on the road than off it, which isn’t a bad thing entirely.

On the surface, it’s easy to see how many are confused with the R1200 RS. Though presented as a ‘Sports’ machine in BMW Motorrad’s line-up alongside the manic S1000RR superbike, the touring-friendly features, namely the large windscreen plus top-box and side pannier mounts, have led many into dismissing this as yet another fat and ungainly sport tourer.


The confusion continues even when we legged over into the surprisingly low and welcoming 820mm hot seat. Largely based off the R1200 R roadster, the RS boasts a similar upright riding position and standard ergonomics too. Though comfortable with intuitively laid out controls, there’s no hint of its claimed ‘sportiness’ here.

All that changed once we thumbed keyless ignition button and got it going. Even when set in its default ‘Road’ riding mode – one of four available besides ‘Rain’, ‘Dynamic’ and a customisable ‘User’ – you don’t need to twist the throttle hard to get the RS’s near 236kg laden bulk going at a rapid pace.

Much of this comes courtesy of the RS’s brilliant air and liquid-cooled 1,170cc boxer twin heart. There’s a lot of grunt in the low- and mid-rev ranges, making point-to-point squirts a cinch.

In the RS, this motor shines when you let it rip out on the open road with ‘Dynamic’ ride mode switched on. There’s a surprising amount of top-end power to match the rich low-end grunt, and we have no doubts of this motor’s claimed 125hp and 125Nm output figures.


Sweetening the affair further are the slick six-speed transmission and shaft-drive paired with the motor, and finished off by the raspy soundtrack from an optional Akrapovič slip-on end can our tested came fitted with.

It didn’t take long for us to see just how easy it was for us to keep up with something as manic as the S1000RR during a regular Sunday morning jaunt up to Genting Highlands through the Karak Highway.

Here, the RS’s only limitation lies in certain fast corners where the boxer motor’s cylinder heads jutting out on each side limits its lean angle, but not too much to impede some knee-sliding action.

Of course, hitting high speeds with the RS does have its price, namely with fuel economy and the need to crouch low and hug its large tank. Despite the windscreen’s size, there’s still a limit as to how much it can deflect when going really fast, depending on your height and riding position of course.

But unlike the S1000RR we were keeping up with, the R1200 RS grants riders greater comfort when needed. All it takes is just a quick toggle of the switch from ‘Dynamic’ into ‘Road’, with both the throttle mapping and response, as well as ABS and traction control intervention levels adjusted accordingly too.

What’s sublime is this sport tourer’s ride, and this comes courtesy of the clever electronic suspension. Easily adjustable on the fly via dedicated controls on the left side of the bars and the digital display panel, it offers a variety of modes based on your ride scenario too – single rider, rider with pillion, rider with or without panniers.

...but the fact that it leans heavily on the sporty side of things makes this almost the perfect all-rounder indeed.

Truth be told, we found the R1200 RS to be a much pleasant ride at moderate speeds more than anything else. In fact, it proved to be a very capable mile-muncher thanks to its large 18-litre fuel tank, as well as the presence of things such as cruise control and heated grips – the latter being very useful when you suddenly find yourself riding in unusually cold weather.

Yes, in terms of all out speed and agility, things like the S1000RR will outmatch this sport tourer, but the fact that it leans heavily on the sporty side of things makes this almost the perfect all-rounder indeed. One just needs to spend extra ringgit for some of the tasty options like the aforementioned exhaust kit, engine crash bars, and perhaps a top box and some panniers to make this a more complete package.

For us though, the R1200 RS sits as yet another testament to just how brilliant BMW’s boxer-twin is as an engine. At the time of writing, BMW Motorrad has already revealed the R1250 range to replace the current R1200 model, all packing a myriad of new and improved features plus a larger new and more powerful boxer motor primed with ‘ShiftCam’ variable valve timing.

However, we reckon it will still take some time for the R1250 series to reach our shores, and the current R1200 models – RS included – are still brilliant to ride. We’re also certain there’s still a handful of these bikes in stock locally, but perhaps not for long, so you’d best hurry and book one before having to wait for the replacement to land.

Yes, at RM103,900, we agree that the R1200 RS is definitely no bargain, but we’re certain its ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ effect will convince many of you otherwise. Could you think of any other road-focused bike that is fast, comfortable or equally as versatile?  No? Neither did we…


A sport tourer that’s more sport than tourer. One of the most underrated offerings in the R1200 range indeed.


  Engine   Air & liquid-cooled 1,170cc

flat twin cylinder (boxer),

125hp, 125Nm

  Price   RM104,900
  Transmission   6-speed manual, shaft-drive
  Weight   236kg (wet)