The Perfect Bike for this Speedy Old Lady, a BMW R1200R

I know, I know. I'm not that old. Mentally I feel 21. However, I definitely cannot lean over on a sporty bike anymore for more than 10 minutes. That's really the only reason why I call it the Perfect Bike for this Speedy Old Lady. 

I'm not planning on upgrading or trading in Goldie anytime soon, however, it certainly made me think twice....

As you might recall, I rode the first 5 days of the Sisters' Centennial Motorcycle Ride last month to commemorate the anniversary of the Van Buren Sisters achievement 100 years ago.

I was able to borrow this bike from a very, very generous person in the Bay Area so I was able to pick this up early Friday morning on the 22nd of July. I've never ridden The Baron (my nickname for him) before. And it's been at least 5? years since I threw a leg over a Beemer too. I didn't know what to expect. The first thing that sort of blew my mind was how comfortable it felt from the get go. 

 A break from the heat on my way to Carson City. Shown with the  Givi Tanklock XS307  (I'm pretty sure) Bag and a  Kriega US-20 Tailpack  on the rear. Perfect!

A break from the heat on my way to Carson City. Shown with the Givi Tanklock XS307 (I'm pretty sure) Bag and a Kriega US-20 Tailpack on the rear. Perfect!

I don't think may non BMW riders realize that they are ergonomically quite comfortable and so well balanced that they feel a lot lighter than they are on paper. The plethora of seat and suspension options really do allow for a wide variety of men and women to ride these things (myself included at a whopping 28.5" inseam).

Unfortunately I don't have any good up close, action shots of me actually riding so you can see how well it fit me. There are a few of me riding behind my friends Sarah and Alisa (riding an F800GS in BMW jacket, wearing a Schuberth Modular helmet) here but you have to dig to find me.  

The overall ergonomics were fantastic. The reach was perfect, I felt ridiculously comfortable slabbing all the way to Nevada (Hwy 80 East to 50 East to 395 North). I would say almost a 90 Degree seated position but the bars are tapered closer to the front forks. So a modest sport touring position. My shoulders/back never felt a thing and it was too easy to ride 100 miles before pulling over for a break.  

The overall height and fit below my waist was quite perfect, and I didn't really feel any discomfort except for my right hip which I've had issues with since an accident I had back in 2009. It gets achey if my knees are bent at 90 degrees from my hip or higher. So I did have some minor discomfort due to this, but nothing that kept me from riding 250 miles in an afternoon to Carson City (11am to 4pm, with 60-75 minutes worth of breaks for lunch and gas). 

Because of my hip, I would probably opt for a slightly different seat to increase the seat height. You're probably wondering, but how tall is it?  If I had to guess, I'd say it had about a 29" seat height (before compression). It has a very narrow tankspace because the fuel is mainly below you, so the center of gravity is much lower overall. But with the combined seat shape and skinny tank, it makes for a very easy reach. Because a bike with the same seat height but with terrible ergonomics (wider, flatter seat or wider, fatter tank) can limit how your toes touch the ground. A good example of this is my husband's Speed Triple:

 Me on his 2007 Speed Triple

Me on his 2007 Speed Triple

This bike has the same exact seat height as my STreet Triple R, but I can reach much much closer to the ground because of two very important details:

  • customized rear shock, which compresses underneath my weight 
  • and skinnier tank shape, bringing my knees closer together
 Me on my 2012 Street Triple R with a custom Ohlins Rear Shock

Me on my 2012 Street Triple R with a custom Ohlins Rear Shock

I would say the R1200R is perfect for a compact body type; assuming the rider has adequate experience on smaller, lighterweight sportbikes. Just because I'm smaller and I can ride this doesn't mean that everyone at my height/weight should be. It's still a 1200cc bike that weighs 500lbs. And managing the weight, getting used to how it handles (especially slow speeds), and feeling 100% comfortable in corners only comes with the 10+ years of experience I've had to practice my braking and cornering skills to ensure I don't drop any of my bikes). 

If I were smart I would've played with the Dynamic Suspension, because changing the modes would've probably stiffened up the rear a bit and brought me up to a slightly higher point to ease this discomfort.

 The Speedo also has KM in addition to Miles so that threw me off as well. At one point I thought I was going over 100mph (which freaks me out). 

The Speedo also has KM in addition to Miles so that threw me off as well. At one point I thought I was going over 100mph (which freaks me out). 

Let's look at the Electronic Suspension Adjustment (my favorite part of this ride). 

"Dynamic ESA enables you to adjust your motorcycle's suspension to suit the load and the road conditions." - BMW Owners Manual

You can actually adjust the spring preload and the dampening all in the dashboard. But you cannot adjust preload while riding. There are two modes: Road and Dynamic. I had it set to Dynamic the whole time, and I didn't even realize I could adjust preload. But since this was a borrowed bike I really didn't want to touch the settings so I left them alone. 

I could tell that it was definitely set too cushy in the corners, because it felt far too 'floaty' going through sweepers. Otherwise it felt smooth, stable and easy to push through the corners. 

In addition to various suspension modes, the Baron also had additional features including but not limited to: 

  • ABS
  • tire pressure monitoring
  • heated grips (multi level)
  • cruise control (which I never used)
  • electronic suspension adjustment (!!!! :D)
  • keyless ignition (so strange not needing a key, but so damn handy)
    • all you have to do is have the fancy keyfob in your pocket when you're ready to press the ignition button and voila! it starts right up. 
  • digital gear indicators
  • automatic turn signal cancellation (above ~15mph)
  • digital readouts of almost everything
    • the only readout not digital was the Speedometer. Which seems silly at this point, with everything digital why not add the Speedo as well? Even Goldie has a digital readout. 

Overall, such a ridiculously fancy bike. So much technology. By far, the most advanced bike I've ever thrown a leg over. 

One of the main features I used were the heated grips. Wheeee! I didn't anticipate chilly temperatures, but the morning of Saturday, July 23rd it was Mid to High 40s in Lake Tahoe on the north side. Luckily the heated grips saved me because I didn't expect that at all. 

Oh and I can't forget to mention the Power. I forgot how easy it is to cruise at freeway speeds on a Liter Bike. It comes to easy to this one, if I'm going 60-65mph, with just a light flick on the throttle and it easily kicks up another 10-20mph without a hiccup. The tiny windscreen seems useless but it definitely made a difference. I think I have to revisit a small windscreen with Goldie, getting out of Philadelphia requires slab sometimes to I may have to add this to my farkle list soon.

The increase in power and comfort certainly made the long distance ride feel like a much shorter one. But cruising right now for me, is a low priority. I'd rather have a nimble, lightweight bike with the type of riding I'm doing. But who knows? A lot can happen in a year :D

Besides the pricepoint (which I'm just not ready for) the way the 2 cylinders stick out right by my legs are in my way when I'm trying to park. I had to get off the bike to park only because it was so heavy. I actually had two firm balls of my feet on the ground, so stability was fine but it weighs 508lbs (curb weight, fully filled with liquids). Another 100lbs over Goldie. But honestly, other than parking lots and 3 point turns, I really couldn't tell. Something that I really really appreciate with BMW. The distribution of weight is very well balanced. BMW offers variable seat heights between seats and suspension options (from 29" - 33").

 Sturdy footpegs! Just in my way a little bit. I actually felt really stable standing up on the pegs a couple times to stretch out. It almost felt as if I  were riding a GS instead  :D

Sturdy footpegs! Just in my way a little bit. I actually felt really stable standing up on the pegs a couple times to stretch out. It almost felt as if I were riding a GS instead :D

The only other issue I had were the footpegs. Being of shorter stature, almost every bike I ride, the footpegs are right where my feet want to go when I come to a stop. So it just took a little more effort to be conscious of where my foot went down. 

 Not bad from this view, eh? 

Not bad from this view, eh? 

Luckily the owner of this steed had a Ram Mount set up already just to the left of the mirror. So all I needed was my Universal Cell Phone Holder for my trusty iPhone 6. And as you can see my Kriega US-20 Pack was all I needed for 2 days. 

  Kriega US-20 pack  securely mounted on the backseat, no problemo.

Kriega US-20 pack securely mounted on the backseat, no problemo.

Besides price point, I really can't say anything truly negative about this bike. Things like the cylinders sticking out and the footpegs are minor, in my opinion. 

And if you're still worried about seat height, please dont look at the numbers and think "Oh no, there's no way". Because sitting on the bike gives you a completely different feel and perception of what you think you might be able to ride. And of course, if you're considering a bike like this as a first and you're of shorter stature you sure as hell will need to flat foot it because you have NO experience riding. And I truly believe that riding taller bikes when you're shorter is only possible with substantial riding experience.  

Overall I'm a huge fan of this bike and would recommend it heartily to anyone who wants a rock solid sport tourer, that offers sportbike like performance in a comfortable riding position, technology and more speed. :D

 Parked next to a Suzuki Vstrom. Size wise, the R1200R doesn't seem like it's that much smaller than the Vstrom. And it really didn't feel that 'big' to me.  

Parked next to a Suzuki Vstrom. Size wise, the R1200R doesn't seem like it's that much smaller than the Vstrom. And it really didn't feel that 'big' to me.