Ridden: 2005 BMW K1200S


  • Model: 2005 BMW K1200S
  • Color: Dakar Yellow / Arctic Grey
  • Miles Ridden:
  • Fuel:
  • Location: California—Laguna Woods to Ridgecrest (via Victorville). Ridgecrest to Death Valley (via Trona) and Beatty NV and return. Ridgecrest to Manzanar (via Lone Pine) and back to Laguna Woods.

I rented this bike for three days in January 2009.  I called it the “rumblebee” because of its unique yellow-and-gray stripe paint job (which was stock).

I had hoped to rent a Kawasaki Concours14 to compare with the Yamaha FJR1300 I had previously rented, but it was booked. The rental guy (who delivered his bikes in a “garage on wheels”) said I would be happy with this BMW sport-tourer, and from my notes below, I was.

My first day was short, getting from Orange County over to Ridgecrest so I could check out the Navy base where I lived for many years. The second day was long, over to Death Valley and back. (The distance wasn’t bad, but Death Valley is huge and I wanted to see as much as I could in one day.) The third day was just right, heading up to Mazanar (a WWII Japanese internment camp) then back to Orange Country. I stared the day in sub-freezing temperatures and had to peel off layers as I left the desert and back into the warmer inland empire.

2005 BMW K1200S - Quarterview

January 2009 — I enjoyed this rental quite a lot! My initial fear that this sportbike wouldn’t be comfortable for the long haul across California was quickly dispelled…once I got out of the Los Angeles morning rush hour traffic and could pay attention to the bike.

In freeway traffic, this bike hauled butt in the diamond lane at the speed limit (or a little higher) but was also easily maneuverable on surface streets. Power delivery was very smooth, and overall the engine ran very smoothly in the upper gears. Throughout my trip, I had difficulty deciding between first and second gear at low speeds–– I never felt like I was in the “right” gear.

The linked ABS braking felt very sure. I didn’t have any wet road conditions, but on some of the crumbling desert roads, the bike felt very stable in braking and cornering.

Under less-than-normal conditions, the K1200S performed just as well. Scary crosswinds at Rancho Cucamonga (look it up if you think I’m makin’ it up!) had me drifting across the freeway lanes, but I tucked under and found the bike easy to control, if not relaxing. Later in the trip, a lower saddle height and smooth low-speed grunt even made it possible to crawl through a half-mile of six-inch-deep sand without ditching the bike!

As you might expect from a BMW, this bike has a little adventure-tourer in its blood. It also has all the bells and whistles expected. I didn’t really do much with the electrically-adjusted suspension (preload and rebound/front and rear)…”set it and forget it” was my motto.

Ergonomics were a mixed bag. Despite being a sport bike, the bike had better long-term ridability than I expected. My posture didn’t put as much weight on my wrists as I anticipated, although I still experienced “numb thumb” in my throttle hand after long periods of riding at a fixed speed.

The saddle had a comfortable shape and didn’t cause me to ride up on the tank as much as some sport bikes, but the seat was very stiff and was tough on the pelvic bone. The saddle height was a little lower than I am used to, which may have helped my upper body posture but caused some discomfort with foot position. My feet were tucked a little further behind me than I prefer, making it harder to change foot position during long stretches of unbroken riding.

Still, it was nice to be able to put my feet solidly on the ground when stopped. And while the K1200S is a little heavier than my Bandit, the weight felt a little lower, and I had no problem holding the bike up with just my legs when stopped.

On the night ride home from Death Valley across unlighted desert territory, I really appreciated the bike’s very bright headlights. The high beam seemed to cast a very bright swath far down the road, allowing me to maintain pretty high speeds without fear of unseen curves or obstructions (wildlife). The instrument panel automatically lighted at dusk, which was a nice feature.

On the chilly mornings in the desert, I learned to appreciate having heated grips. I like BMW’s separated turn signals (right turn on right grip, left on left) but as with my last BMW experience, learning to hit the left turn instead of the horn was difficult, and for some reason, the signal cancel button for both indicators is on the throttle side.

Finally, I have to give BMW credit for a great idea: gusseted luggage. The semi-hard-sided bags expand to nearly double-size with waterproof fabric gussets. The bags also managed to not look too out of place on the slim bike and were easy to mount/dismount.

Overall, this bike seemed a little smaller (height and length) than el Bandido, but certainly had all the zip a reasonable person might want. It would make a great commuter, and a perfect choice for weekend trips. For the avid touring rider, it might lack a bit.

Oh, and the paint job totally rocks! This little rumblebee would certainly be welcome in my garage.