The weather has been unseasonably warm recently and on a recent commute into Lincoln, I took the back country route. I was surprised and pleased to see a pickup truck parked up, and behind it a young man in a deck chair playing the Banjo in the sun.
It was such a surprising thing to see in the countryside of Lincolnshire.
We had this Monday free so I spoke to my local BMW dealer and asked to borrow a BMW R1200RT. This is a boxer twin cylinder, my favourite BMW engine with lots of character as denoted by the first R in the name, so a more recent and more powerful version of the boxer twin in my current R1200GS. The last two letters denote tourer.
The loan bike in question was a special addition RT with all the toys, including different engine profiles, handling and suspension profiles as well as the ability to ignore the clutch when riding in a spirited manner and cruise control.
This is the second time we have tried out the RT, as a tourer its hard to beat, but we need more than that from a bike.
The primary use for us for a motorcycle is commuting, which is a mix of minor country roads, dual carriageways and city roads and traffic with extra potholes thrown in for free.
The secondary use is for holidaying. Being able to cover big distances in comfort for the two of us, plus carry luggage. But once at the destination we tend to leave the comforts of the main roads and head out of very minor roads to remote locations around the British Isles and Europe.
Lastly I want a bike we can both easily ride.
Our current GS is great for commuting, is OK for long distances and luggage and brilliant at minor roads; it is a poor bike for Caroline, its sheer size and height makes it a challenging ride in some situations.
This ride was to test out some of the more challenging Lincolnshire roads but first we set the seat from high to low and Caroline gave it a quick try.
It felt light and very well balanced with the weight being low, easy to handle. The big plus was the seat was plush and very comfortable.
We then loaded our day sack into the left pannier after first learning how to use the central locking for the luggage and off we went.
The first section was fast dual carriageway, the front screen was electrically adjustable as we rode, so I put it all the way down then slowly brought it back up until the buffeting and wind noise disappeared, Caroline immediately commented on the extra comfort this brought.
We took a scenic route through Lincolnshire testing out the bike on fast to medium slow roads a first, playing with the cruise control and other toys. In this situation the bike was outstanding and very good, the GS is just as good but possibly not quite as comfortable. I would say the GS was quicker but then I have been riding GS’s for over seven years now and RT’s for a total of about two days so not a fair comparison. I could certainly see the RT at being great at covering the miles getting us to the remote holiday destinations we love.
We arrived at the little seaside resort of Sutton on Sea and stopped for lunch. It was an easy matter to pull the bike up onto the bike parking area (possibly meant for bicycles) but it meant we were not using up a car space thus did not need a ticket ;).
Next surprise was when we tried to store the helmets. Caroline’s crash helmet does fit in my GS top box but mine is a struggle. Both our helmets easily fitted into the panniers, the luggage capacity of the RT is simply immense.
Being at the seaside and despite us both being on diets at the moment we indulged in a lovely fish and chip lunch. Once refreshed we headed up the coast road picking more challenging and twisty routes to take us back to the BMW garage.
As a bit of an experiment I took a number of corners in a gear too high. Many bikes run wide but the GS is unusual in that it can be pulled round corners no matter how tight, extremely quickly and easily. While the RT was no GS I was happily surprised at how well it handled, you noticed its a bigger bike and while slower through the tight bends it could handle them well, it certainly would not put you off tackling some of the more tricky rural roads the UK has to offer.
Before heading back we took in a local town to see what the RT was like in slow town traffic and as expected, no issues; the low centre of gravity and easy riding position made it all quite easy. While the view ahead was not in the GS league that was less of an issue. If I was to do a lot of commuting on an RT then I think the side panniers would get left at home and I would manage with just the top box and a tank bag.
While in town I had a quick fiddle with some of the information screen options. The instantaneous fuel reading was very interesting. On average during the ride so far I had managed 57 mpg, not bad for such a big bike, in town with a mostly closed throttle the instantaneous reading was hitting 80 mpg and only dropping to 60 mpg when I opened up to pull out and hit the gaps in the traffic.
Back at the garage it was with a certain degree of sadness I handed over the keys, but while there I took the opportunity to pick up another pair of BMW gloves, my last set lasted me over five years before needing slight repair and considering I ride over 250 days a year in all weathers that is very good.
We certainly will not be buying a new bike this year but the RT has given me a lot to think about.
Thanks to Marshall BMW at Grimsby for the loan.
Oh and on a photography note, I spotted a number of possible landscape scenes on the trip and also the RT has a locking glove compartment, next time I’ll have to check if something like a Ricoh GR or Leica Q can fit in there.
If you don’t like motorcycles or motorcyclists then once again, this weekend was not the time to be in Lincoln. This weekend was the Lincoln Bike Fest, and annual event where hundreds of bikers turn up and park up on the Brayford Wharf. Its worth a visit to see the sites and there are some nice restaurants and bars also on the Wharf so plenty to do.
Its service time for the BMW this week so I get to ride a loaner, this time a BMW F800R. It’s a fun naked sporty number that can be easily rode or you can get your head down and push on.
Being a naked bike it’s more a sunny day ride and the riding position does put a lot more weight on your arms then I am used to with the GS.
A fun bike but not one I would choose for a long term bike. I like my creature comforts as I ride every day.
Jumping back on the GS a few days later made the big GS seem absolutely huge. At 40,000 miles now the 1200cc boxer engine is nicely run in and with the major service, new tires and brake pads it certainly feels like a new bike.
I’ll be taking it easy over the next few days while I scrub in the tires, and also bed in the brakes but then, well; Summer is coming!
I am not a Harley rider but a BMW rider, but it was great to see over the last few days all the Harley Davidsons arriving this week for the Super Rally. Harley riders from all over Europe are this weekend descending on Lincoln for a great weekends Rally. One of the great biker rallys at one of the worlds great cities.
Last night while riding the BMW home in the late afternoon sun, I saw a view that really made me appreciate living in the English countryside. There was a hint of rain in the distance so black dark clouds were in the distance but in the foreground was the brightly lit rapeseed fields and fresh green of the up coming crops. The colours and contrast against the dark sky with the sun streaming through gaps in the cloud to form columns of light against the dark was simply stunning.
If I had stopped to take a photograph and submitted it for criticism then photo editors and critics would have complained about my heavy handed and unrealistic use of Photoshop and HDR techniques, but this was real and in front of me. Inspiring stuff.
Today was our first day back at work for 2015, as is usual we commuted on the motorcycle and as is traditional I made a note of the milage, as I like to keep a track of my yearly motorcycle milage.
This year saw the GS hit 36946 miles so that was 4894 for 2014. It seems every year we do less. We have not done a big bike holiday for a couple of years now and its likely to be at least another year before we do another one as we have too much to do at home, still I am sure we will find time for the odd day trip to Whitby.
BMW announced today a new BMW R1200RS. The old RS from pre 2010 was a much loved bike. Called a sports tourer, it was less sport and more sensible, comfortable commuter/tourer, with all day comfort for two and luggage. It was not the prettiest bike in the world but owners loved them.
Well we finally have a new model, much more a sports tourer then the old model, I look forward to testing one next year.