Big, refined and classy: BMW’s GT range unmatchable on the open road
BMW’s mission statement in 2003 for the K 1200 GT was to blur the lines of sports touring, to come up with a mount that offered all the trappings of a luxo-tourer and one that also possessed a good degree of sporting agility.
That’s a pretty tall order and whether that first offering exactly hit the mark is open for debate, with many suggesting the front-end was way too remote to be called sporting. The bike certainly offered Grand Touring, and the moniker was pretty well on the mark on that front.
Using the K 1200 RS as a strong starting point, the bike was beautifully appointed, as it should have been for the price. For $26,750, you got: heated grips and seat; higher bars than the RS; luggage rack with hard panniers as standard equipment; an electric screen and ABS “partly integrated” brakes. This means that the brakes are activated on the front and rear wheel when the rider pulls the lever. The footbrake, in turn, acts only on the rear wheel. Cruise control was also standard.
The drivetrain and chassis componentry was carried over in full from the RS, using BMW’s stock-in-trade Telelever front and Paralever rear suspension.
There was a claimed 97kW at 8750rpm and 117Nm (86.3ft-lb) at 6750rpm on offer from the 1171cc, 16-valve liquid-cooled flat four-cylinder. While the engine – on paper at least – looked like it should make good power, it was all a little lacklustre. The bike weighed in at a massive 281kg dry and sprinters aren’t built like hammer throwers, it’s as simple as that.
On the open road, the bike’s size was a plus. In typical BMW fashion, the fairing had more wind co-efficient testing than the Space Shuttle, and the bells and whistles designed to enhance the experience did just that. The engine built a decent, if unhurried, head of steam and there was time to look around and become immersed in the ride in total comfort. The 20.5-litre tank allowed for reasonable stints, and for those looking to ride long distances in Euro-style, this thing offers a lot of bike.
CONFIDENCE WITH A CAPITAL B
In town, things turned a little dark.
The GT just needed an apple in its mouth and you’d swear it was a fatted pig, such was its bulk. Bung in the width of the lovely hard BMW luggage and lane-splitting very quickly became a mirror-collecting exercise.
So, the first of the breed could best be described as a reasonable first-up effort. A fair marker would come up with a ‘B’. One thing is certain, the bike offered little to the sports rider, but the comfort-seekers were pretty well catered for.
In 2006, the bike came in for significant revisions. Compared with the first version, the 2006 K 1200 GT provided a higher level of touring comfort with a substantially lower weight of 249kg. It also handled far better, thanks to a massively superior frame and suspension arrangement.
The big change was to be found in the suspension setup. BMW’s Duolever at the front and EVO-Paralever at the rear. The front was a Hossack-style set-up, while the rear offered a single-side, double-jointed swingarm.
The K 1200 GT from 2006-09 got the 1157cc four-cylinder engine that made its debut in the 123kW K 1200 S. It developed 112kW in its GT specification, which made it the most powerful machine in its segment by some margin.
The bike came with an electrically adjustable windscreen, adjustable rider’s seat and handlebars, as well as panniers as standard. Apart from a fully controlled three-way catalytic converter, the high-performance EVO brake system with semi-integral ABS brakes and an electronic immobiliser were among the features offered as standard equipment.
The standard seat could be set to a height of 820 or 840mm and a lower seat option was available with minimum height of 800mm.
An electronically adjustable wind screen, heated everything, cruise control, a big tank and a wind tunnel-tested fairing are just some of the GT’s standard features…
As usual, BMW offered a wide range of optional extras and special equipment, including Electronic Suspension Adjustment. ESA allows the rider, apart from the damping on the two spring struts, to also adjust the spring base (spring pre-tension) on the rear spring strut as well as its spring rate and spring hardness, at the touch of a button. Also optional were an on-board computer, a Xenon headlight, cruise control, and the new Motorrad Navigator III GPS.
Three models were available: the K 1200 GT which had as standard equipment: heated grips, on-board computer and cruise control. Then there was the K 1200 GT Komfort with heated grips, on-board computer, seat heating, ESA and cruise control, and the flagship K 1200 GT SE, which added a Xenon headlight on top of the Komfort’s equipment list.
In 2009, the K 1300 GT replaced the 1200. Power was upped to an impressive 118kW at 9000rpm and 135Nm at 8000rpm. Interestingly, fuel economy was far better on the 1300, although the bike demanded 98-octane. Tank capacity was now 24 litres, offering a good touring range.
Standard equipment included ABS, heated grips, cruise control and on-board computer. SE options included ESA, traction control, tyre pressure monitor, heated seats and a Xenon headlight. Redesigned switchgear included a clever combined starter/kill switch and an all-in-one indicator switch, rather than the triple-switch setup that no one liked.
The GT underwent steady improvement, and the smart buyer will take that into account. It’s fair to say the 1300 is a substantially better animal, but prices clearly reflect this. Of course, that’s influenced by the relative ages of the bikes, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Those on a budget will get a lot of bike with the earlier incarnations, but used prices have held up well, which is the story with most BMW models. Put that down to the quality of build for which BMW is famous, coupled with the badge’s prestige factor.
The K 1200 GT was recalled due to a small number of units that experienced leaky front fuel lines, while some K 1300 GT units were recalled because the directional indicator and/or the emergency engine-off/start functions could be rendered inoperative, which could result in the engine stalling and increase the risk of a crash.
The GT range offers stable, comfortable and beautifully finished, reliable motorcycles. It was loaded with cutting-edge technology (for the time) and there’s a lot to like about the GT. Fact is, if you like your bikes big, refined and classy, then the GT range is well worth a look.
This article by Greg Leech appears in Motorcycle Trader Issue #298