K1200LT as a retirement bike... in India? - BMW Luxury Touring Community
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post #1 of 13 Old Feb 9th, 2011, 11:35 am Thread Starter
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K1200LT as a retirement bike... in India?

Hi, all,

I received an inquiry from a fellow ADVrider member on usefulness of the K1200LT as a retirement bike in India.
My reply and the original questions are below.

What say ye, BMWLT members, in your great collective wisdom?

Originally Posted by rdwalker
Hi rdwalker,

I am ... from India, but I presently work in Saudi Arabia. Taking the liberty to put a small query to you.

Having extensively used an R1100RT for almost 9 years with very little maintenance and now riding a R1200GS, which is the absolutely best bike I have ever owned & ridden and will be keeping with me for some more years in Saudi Arabia I am hooked on BMW bikes purely for their functional qualities.

I now may be able to get an unused fully loaded 2007 K1200LT for almost half it original price (the old dealer had some financial issues & closed down liquidating his stock). If I were to buy this as a bike for use in India when I go there once every 2-3 months, I had the following queries since I saw you own an LT.

-I want to keep it with me for atleast 15-20 years as my retirement bike. Will it do that without giving me headaches for such a long time? I know the R series bikes well but not much knowledge on K bikes. I also know the old K75s and R100s can stay on the road for 50 years with their simple technology, but does all the new technology add more trouble on this particular K series bikes.

-How easy would it be to repair this bike (things like valve timing adjustments etc) by a good street smart mechanic in India not trained by BMW. There may only be about 5-6 of these K1200LT bikes in the whole of India.

-Since I will disconnect the battery & put it on a trickle charger everytime I leave the bike unused in India for 2-3 months, will this particular kind of bike start to have other mechanical problems due to non-usage.

-What has your experience been with maintenance/usage of this bike.

Thanks in advance for sparing your time and I shall await to hear from you at your convenience.

Regards, Haroon

Thanks for your note. I am flattered by being considered an expert - I am not. I suggest you post this also on BMWLT.com, in the BMW Bikes / K1200LT section (http://www.bmwlt.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=11) - you will get a lot of replies, possibly too many...

Let me try to answer some questions, starting from the easy ones. Mind you, this is a personal opinion, based on my ownership of 2 consecutive LT's for something like 8 years.

I sold the first one with high 50k miles on the odometer, the current one has mid-40k miles. I bought both of them used; in recent years I solo almost excusively on the GS and only use the LT for two-up with my wife, therefore nowadays it gets less than 5k miles a year.

1. Non-usage: no problem. My LT is sleeping right now, as it is every winter season (last used sometime in October). It fires almost instantly as long as the battery is charged.

During the season, it also gets little use, maybe once a month - no problem starting. (Except for the usual cloud of smoke: K-bike engines have cylinder heads on the left side; when parked on a sidestand, oil leaks in and burns off on start).

2. Maintenance: in general, very little beyond oil and fluids change. Every 3-4k miles, I change engine oil and final drive fluid. Every two seasons, I change trans oil, coolant and brake fluid as well as air filter - that's involved, as it is under the tank.
Beyond that, I changed the 10-year-old brake lines - no big issue to a mechanic that follows directions (see point 3). That is it.

The design is fairly mature. Prior to the LT's, I had several other K-bikes, the oldest a '91 K100 - and they soldiered on for a long time, relatively trouble-free. K1200 in many respects evolved from the earlier generations. In summary - I consider the bike very reliable.

There are some peculiarities: early LT's suffered many final drive failures (as did my previous '00 LT). That, I believe, is now under control - I do not see complaints on forums for recent models. By the way, repairs to the drives by BMW mechanics were incorrect; some members of the BMWLT forum developed correct techniques. I would not worry - I am convinced that on a 2007, likelihood of failure is low.

3. Repairs. Well, here is a bit of a problem. The machine requires either someone that knows it, or someone with patience. There are repair manuals and the BMWLT forum is an incredible resource of pictorial guides and general help. Still, you'd have to do a lot yourself or find a mechanic who is organized and willing to concentrate just on your bike and spend the time to do a repair. It's a fully faired machine and just to get the tank off takes several hours and removal of many different fasteners. I keep dozens of little paper envelopes where I scribble where each group of bolts came from - otherwise it is hard to put back together.

In other words, you cannot have a mechanic that jumps in to do the work for a couple of hours, then works elsewhere, then returns - that's prescription for trouble. You'd need to either have the mechanic read the instructions in great detail or do that yourself and supervise the work.

As an example: the motor is basically a high performance car engine, nothing really bike-specific (it actually started life as a Peugeot in late 1970's). Valves are overhead, adjusted by shims in "buckets". This means that it is easy to check (just a feeler gauge), but to adjust them, one needs to pull the camshaft off, measure existing shims and order new ones. Not difficult, but not something done casually. On the flip side, the valves are very stable and should need no adjustment in at least 40-50k miles.

What this means to you is that either you need to be mechanically inclined, or at least be able to understand and supervise the work - and be able to afford services of a better mechanic that does not consider you a nuisance.

My understanding, from reading ride reports here on ADV, is that you may be able to find a gifted mechanic in India for the LT, but that you may have trouble acquainting him with the required procedures or convincing him to spend exclusive time with your bike.

4. Keeping it for long. Well, that is a tough issue to address. The LT is a fairly modern (= reliable) bike and a lot of 1999 models are around, discussed on the forums. With proper maintenance, it should last - but issues can crop up. What you will need to decide is whether you are be able and willing to face a big, expensive failure. For example, clutch work is very labor-intensive (tens of hours). ABS failure may be expensive. If you go with an attitude that your expectations are for a trouble-free ownership but you accept a chance of trouble, you may be OK.

However: I do not know if the is the right bike for long-distance riding in India
. It loves both cruising open roads and sweeping the twisties - and is unbelievably comfortable for the pillion rider (that is exactly why I keep mine). But, it really likes good pavement.
It's very heavy and does not take well to bad pavement (easy to damage on potholes) - and, you cannot venture off-pavement: it gets too squirrely on dirt and gravel. That may close off a lot of great destinations in the area.

Did I say it is heavy? It weighs in at over 350kg. I am about 75kg and 168cm - and handling the beast is taking a lot of effort. It is tough to maneuver at slow speed and in narrow situations. Practice of riding will help a lot, but the heft of the machine is always a concern.

To summarize: it's all a personal decision. Mechanically, you should be OK in my opinion - even though, as with any performance vehicle, you cannot guarantee long-term health. Whether it is the appropriate bike for the type of riding and for the traffic and road conditions, that is your call.

I think that if I were you, I'd get the LT if the deal is really, really good. You can always resell and minimize losses.
Otherwise, I'd think about either an R'GS or and F'GS - of course, these are just as complex as the K-bike.

Good luck! Robert.

Robert in Northern NJ

'09 R12GS, '08 R12RT, '03 R1150RT, '01 F650GS - time to thin the herd?

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Last edited by rdwalker; Feb 9th, 2011 at 3:56 pm.
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post #2 of 13 Old Feb 9th, 2011, 3:50 pm
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Re: K1200LT as a retirement bike... in India?

I'll approach this from a non-mechanical side...

1. LT's have review mirrors... that stick out. Cars in India do not have anything that sticks out... and if it does, it's wiped clean at the first congested intersection. At a congested intersection, if you have to get out of the car, the sun/moon roof is the only way.

2. Roads are not consistent tarmac or concrete. You ride one of these things on some of the non asphalt roads in India and your asking for a get-off... especially if you have to panic stop for a cow... on a dirt road... on a gravel and dirt road... on a rocky gravelly dirt road.

3. Gas there is not like gas here. Don't know what it is or isn't, but what it isn't is excellent grade gasoline. In fact, most of those folks living there use perfume, kerosene, light oil, turpentine and whatever else they can find that's combustible to augment the fuel that makes their vehicles go. Oil for the LT (or any other BMW specific lubrication brand type) that will work in the crankcase may not be readily available and if it is, it will be very very expensive.

4. Folks in cages have no respect for anyone on two wheels. NONE. Three wheels? You're OK. But two wheels... You either drive two wheels with your head on a swivel or those in glass and steel "wrap-arounds" move over on you, collide and send apologies a few miles down the road. Stopping to see if anyone is hurt is an after thought. That makes the LT an awfully big two -wheeled target.

5. About the only advantage to an LT there is the fact, that it would take more then three big guys to hoist the beast into a truck departing for parts unknown.

You hit all the points about the mechanical side... and spot on at that. But after having to work there for a bit, and having to move in and around some of the largest cities as well as waysides "just down the road", I wouldn't want to take my LT there.... not for any reason. A GT? perhaps... Older model BMW, I might... but not an LT... But then again, your friend may already know all of this...

just sayin'...

Uncle Mark

BMW '06' 1200LT "Wild Blue"
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post #3 of 13 Old Feb 9th, 2011, 6:19 pm
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Re: K1200LT as a retirement bike... in India?

I saw that show about the truck drivers in India. I would get the cheapest POS I could find to drive around

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post #4 of 13 Old Feb 9th, 2011, 7:27 pm Thread Starter
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Re: K1200LT as a retirement bike... in India?

Originally Posted by mwnahas
I saw that show about the truck drivers in India. I would get the cheapest POS I could find to drive around
I agree, for tourists like us it is probably a good choice - although the road conditions and traffic are so intense that a really cheap POS may not work out. For your amusement, check out this ride report posted on ADVrider. It includes great descriptions of fighting failures on Royal Enfields.

Still, the person who posted the original question is Indian himself and his outlook on riding there may be very different than ours, as is his knowledge of the country. Nevertheless, I do agree with Uncle Mark: I do not see the LT as appropriate for the Subcontinent.

The LT is really geared for the US environment. It is not even commonly considered appropriate in Europe: I still remember the smirk I got when asking about it in a Swiss rental agency.

There are quite a few LT's in the EU, of course - but I would expect the bulk of sales to happen stateside.

Therefore, my answer to the original question included a comment that I'd buy an LT for India only if it was an unusually great deal. Probably, not even then.

Robert in Northern NJ

'09 R12GS, '08 R12RT, '03 R1150RT, '01 F650GS - time to thin the herd?

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Last edited by rdwalker; Feb 9th, 2011 at 7:36 pm.
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post #5 of 13 Old Feb 10th, 2011, 9:02 am
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Re: K1200LT as a retirement bike... in India?

Best retirement bike for India? Royal Enfield Bullet. Everyone plus all of their third cousins can fix them and find parts. Also, fun to ride and good in traffic. When in India, do as the Indians do.
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post #6 of 13 Old Feb 10th, 2011, 12:38 pm
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Re: K1200LT as a retirement bike... in India?

I've only recently bought an LT and I have never been to India or ridden or owned a GS series bike. But from what I read about both, if you are intent to have a BMW that can tour around India, I would think one of the GS series of bikes would be a better choice.


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1999 K1200LT (recently sold, 6/11)
1992 Harley FXR
1982 Honda Sabre (long gone)
1978 Honda CB750K (long gone)
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post #7 of 13 Old Feb 11th, 2011, 7:17 am
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Re: K1200LT as a retirement bike... in India?

If he's sold on BMW's I can't imagine any thing better than an F650GS, either a one-lunger or the new twin.

Any sign of wealth and he'll be a target.

I think I'd consider a disposable m/c.
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post #8 of 13 Old Feb 12th, 2011, 12:06 pm
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Re: K1200LT as a retirement bike... in India?

Agree with all posts on this topic so far. The words "retirement" and "1200LT" don't match for me. I am retired, on my 2nd LT, but can't wait for the 1600GLT to replace it because of the weight and balance of the LT at low/no speed. I have never had my new one over, but my 1st one was over four or five times, all at or near rest. Came close last year in N.C. when my wife jumped off and saved it. Bottom line, this is a BIG, TOP HEAVY bike. That's great on an interstate where no one, I mean no one, blows you off the road. But in crawling traffic in India? Better train those leg muscles for a lot of work in stop/start driving, IMHO.

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post #9 of 13 Old Feb 14th, 2011, 6:44 am
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Thumbs up Re: K1200LT as a retirement bike... in India?

I am orignally from India. Was there in Dec. India's changed a lot, and yes an LT would be awesome. but not as a commuter bike.due to traffic. But if u are able to ride in on the new interstates it would be fun, plus I am sure u can sell it for a very high premium there, as nowdays seems everyone is wealthy there, with the economy booming. I think u can easily get Rs.1 million for it. equvalent to $20k. don't know about customs. Also getting it serviced should be no problem, people are creative there.
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post #10 of 13 Old Feb 17th, 2011, 9:08 pm Thread Starter
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Re: K1200LT as a retirement bike... in India?

For those who did not bother to read through the original post:

The question was NOT what bike to select as a vehicle in India, but rather if the LT is appropriate for a long-term use there. The rider posting the question is Indian himself, knowing the circumstances, apparently affluent, who was considering a good $$$ deal on an LT in Saudi Arabia.

The question posted was, in a nutshell, whether LT owners would consider an LT appropriate for long-term ownership in a country where BMW service is not available.

For those who condescendingly recommended Royal Enfields instead, below is summary posted in a ride report by two couples from Utah, who actually rode on these bikes and declared them to be P.O.S. I Highly recommend reading the ride report - it is a great story, even if mostly devoted to fixing the damned Enfields.

Originally Posted by Joe Motocross
I'm going to give you my opinion on the Enfields so remember it's only my opinion and everyone is entitled to their own. I apologize to all the Indians that I may offend who are loyal to the Enfields.

The Royal Enfield is a dinosaur which should be let go extinct. They are built for "hipsters" to putt down to cafes and sip Latte. They are not built to ride like an enduro on those routes that can hardly be called roads in India.

The models we got were a 500cc machine, carbureted with an ignition that uses points. The bike gets awful gas mileage. It has a gear box that is separate from the crankcase driven by a chain. The shift lever is on the right, rear brake is on the left. This takes some getting used to. It wouldn't be a big deal if they actually shifted smoothly, which they don't. The rear drum and single front disc are just barely adequate. The bikes frame is prone to flexing which you feel if you get the chance to actually take a corner with any speed. For me being 6'1" tall, they feel cramped.

My buddy that did a trip to India warned me about the Enfields saying they constantly were breaking down, spewing oil and were pigs to ride. I concur. I have not met many people since who have much good to say about the Enfield.

What I will give them is they do have kind of a cool classic look. I do applaud their simple engine design, it makes it easy since you have to constantly work on them.
Thanks, Robert.

Robert in Northern NJ

'09 R12GS, '08 R12RT, '03 R1150RT, '01 F650GS - time to thin the herd?

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post #11 of 13 Old May 30th, 2011, 11:05 am
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Re: K1200LT as a retirement bike... in India?

Hi,.. as far as the question as to whether or not the K1200 is a good long distance-long term bike in India... Hell no! is my opinion.

I would stay as far away from technology-filled bikes as possible.

For starters,.. the suspension will NOT last long. I have been to India several times,.. Mumbai, Delhi, Kalimpong (near Himalayas-Gorgeous), Darjeeling, Kolkata and Chennai... the roads there work out as tertiary here in the states at best. Rutted,.. pot-holed, crowded, off-camber,.. I actually saw a taxi in Mumbai snap its frame in half on one of the, if not THE most modern city in India.

Secondly,.. where are you going to get it repaired? or get replacement parts? I know BMW is starting (or has already started) sales of the GS and R series bikes,.. but I would not even recommend these due to the gadgetry on them. If I break down, I would rather not have to wait on Indian Post to deliver a part (or not as theft is rampant here) from possible a thousand miles away.

What would I recommend?.. something simple,.. as free of electronics as possible,.. an XL650? or any of the Japanese - dual purpose bikes that are made for non-assisted touring... Carburetors,.. big heavy duty shocks,.. big gas tank,.. and a frame that can be welded on in the field (for some reason I see a lot of villages where anyone with a welder is a,.. well,.. a professional welder).

I could not in any way recommend a bike that might break at the frame,.. lose electronics,.. or in any other hundreds of ways leave someone stranded in a country where Cobras, Tigers and other nasties live in the wild (depending on where you are riding)... and where you may be days from water... food etc. This can leave you dead.

It's nice to have the most modern,.. too,.. as I would assume all BMW owners are,.. and a gadget freak but sometimes,.. projecting american viewpoints and ideals (how many times have I heard people bitch overseas about the roads,.. traffic etc???) is a massive no-no.

As far as Enfields,.. I've ridden them,.. and yes, they are unreliable, clunky etc., as the westerners note in their complaints,.. but you know what?... haven't been anywhere where basic mechanics couldn't fix them! no crazy alloys,.. no crazy multiple computers,.. no irreplaceable hydraulics to rip... just simple bikes.

Take it with a grain of salt but,.. havening been there as many times as I have been,.. a technologically advanced bike like a BMW (or any other brand like it) is the worst thing to have if you are actually going to ride and not just show off.

'03 K1200LTC
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post #12 of 13 Old May 30th, 2011, 4:39 pm
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Re: K1200LT as a retirement bike... in India?

I'd get a good, used Ural with sidecar, Medjet, and befriend a Harvard or Johns Hopkins trained ER doc. Preferably young, female and willing to ride shotgun.

...wait a minute, that's really stoopid - all the ER docs are here already.

An LT, mebee for Indiana, but for India?

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post #13 of 13 Old Nov 7th, 2011, 9:14 am
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Re: K1200LT as a retirement bike... in India?

I would be happy to know what Haroon thinks of driving the 1200 GS he owns and drives today in Saudi Arabia, and what makes him think he would be better off with an LT. Or is it just the opportunity to buy an LT at half price?

Some guy from my town here went on very long trip from here to Mongolia via Russia and then back via Kazaksthan and so on. When choosing the bike to do this, his first thoughts were: a robust bike, no technology, no electronics. This excludes all bikes nowadays, so he came up with a 20 year old GS and make the trip successfully. He had some problems on the way, but was always able to fix them because they were purely mechanic.

I would also consider the percentage of roads an LT can drive on without being stressed, and then compare with the percentage you could drive on with a recent GS, which , I have been told, are not that spartan.

Maybe some of us have still some 'colonial' images on India, especially when naming Royal Enfields and Urals, but I would feel pity for the sufferings an LT would have to endure in India.

Have a nice day!
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