New LT Rider
I am new to this forum, and despite having seen the mauling dished out to another new member for sharing his experiences during the first six months of his K1200LT ownership, I decided to jump in with my own experiences after only one month.
“We” currently own both a R1100S twin-spark and a R1100S single-spark, both with ABS. I initially bought the single spark for myself so my son could accompany me on a Triumph Thruxton 900 I already had, but then he decided the Thruxton was underpowered which meant I didn’t get to ride the BMW. The last chain driven bike I owned before the Triumph was a 1981 Ducati 900SS, after which I decided never again to buy anything without a shaft drive (unless it was a good-looking bike like the Thruxton). I did violate this rule shortly with a F650GS though, only to realize as I got older and a little sturdier that less than a 100hp was not really sufficient. So we sold the Thruxton and I bought another R1100S , a later model with the twin spark engine. This proved to be a great bike even though the single-spark feels a little smoother. However, my wife decided after more than 20 years of married life that is it now safe again to start riding pillion. We learned the hard way that anything more than 100 miles with a passenger on a R1100S becomes less enjoyable. So I started looking out for a tourer, either a Goldwing, or an Electraglide Ultra Classic, or a K1200LT.
My first requirement was that it had to have ABS. The K1200LT has ABS fitted standard, while the GW and the HD offered it as an added cost option. ABS somehow didn’t catch on with these makes which meant ABS are not widely fitted to used GW’s and HD’s. My experience with the BMW servo braking system on the R-series has all been positive, and the choice was fairly clear.
I should also say that I am biased towards two-cylinder engines in motorcycles, having started my riding with the V-twins offered by Moto Guzzi and Ducati in the ‘80’s. But somehow I could never get myself to favorably consider HD’s V-twin. The GW’s six is naturally something to aspire to, but for the money I decided I could be happy with BMW’s brick. I have never owned a motorcycle with more than two cylinders, on top of which I refused to own anything that was liquid cooled. I could live with the R1100S oil-head because there was no coolant to mess with. However, the four-cylinder seemed to be a nice step-up even though it violated my coolant rule.
The most important consideration however was that the pillion seat had to be comfortable. After having read many reviews and rider experiences, it became clear that the final choice would be between the GW and the K1200LT as far as passenger comfort goes. I briefly considered the R1200RT, the K1300GT and the Kawasaki Concours, but neither of these offered the integrated passenger seat and backrest of the real tourers.
As has been stated on this forum in other discussions, it appears that the K1200LT does not maintain its value to the same extent that the GW and HD offerings does. Since I cannot resist a bargain (read cheap), this was another advantage of opting for the BMW. Especially when all the goodies such as ABS, adjustable windshield, shaft drive, electro-hydraulic centerstand and reverse are included in the price.
After a couple of weeks of searching I found a 2006 K1200LT in Phoenix AZ with only 1,990 miles. I bought the motorcycle without having seen it or even having ridden a K1200LT before. I would never recommend this to anyone else, but I guess as I get older I get a little more daring, and it did work out well for me. The bike must have suffered a tipover though, because the left side trimmings show some battle scars. Since I paid in advance it was too late to back out, and the damage is fortunately limited to scratches on the belly pan and side case, and a cracked protective molding around the engine “crash bar”.
My wife and I flew to Phoenix where we mounted up and rode back to Kansas City over Labor Day weekend. This was a great way to learn the K1200LT in an expedited fashion. We started out in 110F heat, rode through a thunderstorm that very same night with the temperature plummeting to 54F, and crossed the prairie with gusty 35mph crosswinds. My wife appreciated the seat warmers, I dislike them but appreciated the heated grips. The brakes are excellent and in fact the foot brake is much more effective than on the R1100S even though the rear brake squeals like a wounded pig. I found the short windshield a little too short, and having been spoiled would have liked a sixth gear. However, the engine is amazingly flexible and pulls strongly from 2000rpm to the redline. In fairness, it would probably be perfectly rideable with only two gears, one to pull away with and the other for everything above walking speed!
Expecting a behemoth after reading all the negative comments, I was pleasantly surprised by the handling. If anything the K1200LT feels nimbler than the R1100S at low speed, although it is not as stable in crosswinds probably due to the larger projected area. The feel may also have to do with the riding position. Of course the bike is heavy and with a passenger care should be taken when stopping and being stationary, but that goes for all motorcycles when a passenger is present. I found though that I could execute a U-turn with more confidence than on the R1100S. I cannot explain the reason for this, perhaps it is just a subjective feeling brought about by the size of the beast.
On the way home I noticed the BC button didn’t do anything, and after reading the manual realized it was supposed to control the on-board computer display. My first project during the very first week of ownership was to fix this button. During the process of undoing the screws holding the handlebar covers together, I first dropped a screw down the steering head, only to be followed minutes later by my one and only 3mm allen key. That seemingly innocent project ended up with me removing the mirrors and both side covers, the tank cover and radio unit, the seat and the fuel tank in search of the allen key. I forgot to trace the wiring harness from the BC button to the on-board computer, but managed to retrieve the allen key. The screw is still missing and the BC button still doesn’t work. My next project will be to remove all the covers and the fuel tank once again to fix the BC button problem, and to install the VOICE II system.
I have also replaced the short “sport” BMW windshield with the Vstream unit from Z-Technik, and am pleased with the results. Wind gusts are more noticeable with the Vstream, but not to the extent that it becomes scary. The Vstream does however offer a more usable adjustment range due to being taller to begin with. In the fully raised position it creates a strong backdraft which is not comfortable, but I found that at highway speeds the screen works well raised about halfway. And the customer service experience from Z-Technik is outstanding. I required a spare key for a helmet lock and had a locksmith attempt cutting a key, but that was a disaster. Upon inquiring about sourcing such a key Z-Technik mailed me two keys free of charge. I now need to save up for the Z-Technick passenger armrests and luggage rack!
The motorcycle is shod with Bridgestone BT020’s, and the front tire has developed a strange wear pattern. The attached photos show these bumps that are appearing on every tread block either side of the center right around the circumference. The tire has only covered 3,700 miles, the last 1,800 miles of which I rode it inflated to 42psi. I suppose it could have been ridden underinflated by the previous owner for the first 1,900 miles, but even so the extent of wear for a touring tire at such low mileage is not expected. By comparison the rear tire still looks new, which makes me doubt that my riding style has anything to do with it. The bumps on the front tire thus far do not seem to affect handling. Safety is a concern though.
The electro-hydraulic centerstand is a clever device that I use before my passenger or I disembark. It also keeps the bike stable while the passenger gets onto the bike, but if the bike was parked on a slight incline it is very difficult to push it off the centerstand with a passenger onboard. I did find an elegant solution for this though – just lean back and ride it off!
In summary, the K1200LT is a great motorcycle for two-up touring. The only regret I have is that I didn’t spend more time in New Mexico on the ride east. My wife loved Albuquerque!
BMW MOA #140995
"And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."