The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

SPEED MACHINES: BMW 1200S and Honda 1000RR Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
Honda 1000RR and BMW 1200S

We ride two of the fastest and most capable sports bikes the world has ever seen.

Does comfort win over outright performance?

By Nicholas Frankl Senior Editor

BMW hits gold with new sports GT

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
BMW 1200S
"WOW, that thing is really fast! Let's go again", was the comment from the grinning driver of a ‘tweaked’ 2006 M5 as he pulled up next to me at the traffic lights out in the California desert, him and his 504bhp V10 having just been roundly pulverized by the best sports GT to emerge from BMW’s factory in its history.

I was excited to pick up the ‘S’, as I had heard good things about it and remembered how impressive it looked at the sneak peek we got at the launch of the RT and ST a while back. There it was, in traditional Bavarian blue and white; long, masculine and intimidating.
PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
BMW 1200S
Climbing onto the machine, you find all the familiar BMW controls (eeeRRRRR!!) and an easy riding position, not too easy, but definitely not too extreme sports bike either. The straight four fires up quickly and smoothly, none of that funny wiggle you get when starting a boxer twin, and initial throttle response is quick and responsive. Out in traffic the rider has a good clear view, with a tall seating position and excellent all round visibility with large side mirrors, that also house the front indicators and look very cool, although I dread to think how much a dealer would charge you to replace one after an off! The 6-speed gearbox isn’t the smoothest in the business, but makes a fairly good effort at it, and the rear shaft drive, which needs barely any maintenance, communicates the power quite precisely and is probably the best of the breed.

The 405 traffic welcomed us onto it’s baking asphalt and SUV blind spots, but the BMW was quick to run up to 90mph on the car pool lane and easy to maneuver.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
BMW 1200S
The wind deflector wasn’t as high as I would have liked, in fact I thought that maybe it was one that adjusted, but after some fuddling around I couldn’t locate a button, so it stayed where it was. Turns out it isn’t adjustable, so if I owned one I would make the windshield a little bigger or add a Gurney flat. Once in the high-speed cruise, an act that the K 1200 was specifically designed to excel at, the bike is solid as a rock, highly stable, the result of good aerodynamics and not a few too many hours spent in the wind tunnel I’d bet. Naturally, 90mph is the least of this machine’s abilities and I saw 165mph on more than one occasion, with regular and comfortable runs at 130mph+. At those speeds your main effort is concentration, but the bike does all the work and is tremendously confidence inspiring. Having German technology under one’s behind at high speed, does imbue a certain level of mechanical confidence that no other can. That said I really must gripe once again about the ‘BMW controls’. I wrote at length about them when I previously tested the GS, ST and RT. I thought that as I would be living with this model for two weeks, it really would allow me to get comfortable with the nuances of their colorful but clumsy design. I didn’t, and colleagues of mine who also rode the machine didn’t enjoy them either. It’s only when I got off the Beemer and onto the latest rocket ship Honda, did I realize just how clumsy they are. But, like I-Drive, BMW are prevailing. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an alternative option and they could charge a fee for the privilege, too! It’s so perverse, since BMW design in California is routinely hired by everyone from Nokia to Embraer private jets to transfer some of their masterly ‘knowledge’ to other engineering tasks.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
BMW 1200S
Up in the hills of Malibu, the ‘S’ excelled - not too big, not too heavy, it nonetheless clearly gives away and must doff its Bavarian cap to the lighter 600’s & 900, but to make such a comparison isn’t really fair or accurate. This bike is fast, responsive and can cope with anything you throw at it, including the tightest of hairpins and 1st gear descents. The brakes are very good and fade little under heavy use. I didn’t get to a track but I suspect that the results would be very similar. The 1200 S has a number of key advantages, with the ability to consume large pieces of asphalt with consummate ease, two-up with fitted luggage. I even persuaded Charlotte (it wasn’t easy) a particularly long legged Belgian catwalk model to come down to the Long Beach GP with me, and even she (who at first refused to go on any motorbike – what is one to do with these girls??) was impressed at the comfort and quality ride.

Honda 1000RR

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
Honda 1000RR
Dropping off the Beemer and collecting the Honda 1000RR was a bit like dropping off your M6 and climbing into a F430. Where the Beemer was sports, but comfortable, the Honda was sports and, er, well, sports. First thing you notice is your knees, which are about 10inches closer to your ears on the Japanese machine. The next thing is the brakes, as you come to a sudden and jerky halt, the hair trigger agility reacting to your subconscious ‘heavy’ input. Once you have acclimatized to the RR’s rakish riding position, tinglingly light controls and inputs you realize that it just might be the fastest and most wicked sports bike you’ve ever had the thrill and fear of commanding. ‘Commanding’ is subjective, as the fact is both the RR and S are both massively more capable than 98% of riders who own them. Having said all that, the Honda is still bloody fast! This will be apparent to all the excited new owners when they open up the gas for a full speed acceleration run from the traffic lights for the first time. WHHOOOOOOOAA a wheelie at 60mph! As the power band comes on, your world suddenly goes into a new hyper-drive (remember the Millennium Falcon?) dimension. This is no joke, the RR really does require some very careful handling if you don’t want to end up in the bushes or worse, and changing into second gear does little to abate the feeling of what you get when catapulted off a nuclear powered aircraft carrier. Trust me, I’ve done it!

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
Honda 1000RR
So, we’ve established that this new, lighter, more powerful, more insane and more finely tuned track athlete is very fast and quite scary for the uninitiated. I could bore you with all the reams of technical data, but if you think of the old model and then reduce the weight of almost every component, improve handling, lower center of gravity and add a healthy dose of horsepower, then you are almost getting the idea. It’s just better in every way, which with the quality of armory at Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki, not to mention the Italians, it quite frankly has to be.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
Honda 1000RR
But the Honda is also so much more. For an ultimate sports machine, it’s also pretty comfortable, and relaxing to ride, the pressure on the wrists not too tiring, even over longer journeys. Buffeting is kept to a minimum and the integrated rear single swing arm is very compliant, stable and comfortable with all the fit and finish and excellent build quality that are trademarks of the brand. On the highway, it’s just too easy to run through the traffic, the nimbleness and narrowness allowing you to take advantage of very small gaps indeed, and the ample power thrusting you into the tightest holes.

On the same mountain and canyon hills the RR is faster than the S. This doesn’t really come as any surprise. But what does surprise is that the margin is finer then one might expect. Balls out on the track, you’ll be faster into, around and back on the gas on the red bike, but then there is more to ownership than track days. Living with a bike day to day, using it in poor weather – the BMW has ABS – and riding two-up for touring distances is, I would suggest, more a part of the ‘ownership’ strategy then Willow Springs or Brands Hatch every Wednesday.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
Honda 1000RR
Ultimately, both these machines are the results of hundreds of thousands of man hours and millions of Euros and Yen invested over the last quarter century to produce the pinnacle of each category’s abilities – the ultimate riding machines that you see here today. There is no loser. If you spend a day a month at a track day, buy the Honda and put some semi slick tires on it - you’ll get more out of it. If you don’t and the not- inconsequential 50% price premium isn’t an issue, then the slippery S is where your money should go. Either way, enjoy! You’ve just bought a work of art.

K-Series Motorcycles 2006 K 1200 S MSRP $15,800
Standard Equipment:

    Hazard Warning Flashers
    Single Key Locks
    Closed Loop 3 Way Catalytic Converter
    Prob Stand with Starter Inhibition
    Adjustable Handbrake and Clutch Levers
    Sport Wheels
    Diagnostic Interface
    Electronic Immobilizer
    Info Flat Screen
    Power Socket
    Tool Kit

HONDA 1000RR MSRP $11,299
Engine Type 998cc liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder
Bore and Stroke 75.0mm x 56.5mm
Compression Ratio 12.2:1
Valve Train DOHC; four valves per cylinder
Carburetion Dual Stage Fuel Injection (DSFI)
Ignition Computer-controlled digital transistorized with three-dimensional mapping

Transmission Cassette-type, close-ratio six-speed
Final Drive #530 O-ring-sealed chain

Front Suspension
43.0mm inverted HMAS cartridge fork with spring-preload, rebound and compression-damping adjustability; 4.7-inch travel

Rear Suspension
HMAS Pro-Link single shock with spring-preload, rebound and compression-damping adjustability; 5.3-inch travel

Front Brakes
Dual full-floating 320.0mm discs with four-piston radial-mounted calipers

Rear Brake
Single 220.0mm disc with single-piston caliper

Front Tire 120/70ZR-17 radial

Rear Tire 190/50ZR-17 radial

Rake 23.45 degrees
Trail 100.0mm (3.9 inches)
Wheelbase 55.2 inches
Seat Height 32.3 inches
Dry Weight 388.0 pounds
Fuel Capacity 4.8 gallons, including 1.06-gallon reserve/p

Emissions Meets current CARB and EPA standards. California version differs slightly due to emissions standards.

Available Colors Black, Candy Blue/Yellow, Red/Black, Silver/Metallic Silver

1 year Transferable, unlimited-mileage limited warranty; extended coverage available with a Honda Protection Plan