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Old 01-05-2016, 08:40 PM   #1
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2016 BMW R 1200 Ride Smart First Ride | Boxer Resurrection

Flashback to 15 years ago, when the sport-touring market was vibrant and healthy and every manufacturer offered at least one model that combined twisty-road performance with long-haul comfort and convenience. There was plenty of variety to choose from, and it seemed there was a bike for every kind of rider.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the present day—the sport-touring market started shrinking, largely because of the growing popularity of the adventure-tour genre of bikes. Apparently many of those sport-touring riders liked the more upright ergos of the ADV machines to go along with that long-haul competence, plus the added bonus of some minor off-road capability. BMW was one manufacturer that generated a lot of sales catering to this burgeoning segment with its GS series of boxer twins, so it was a bit of a pleasant surprise to see the company bringing back the sport-touring boxer twin after a decade of dormancy with the new R 1200 Ride Smart for 2016.

Brembo radial-mount calipers and 320mm discs provide excellent stopping power, and the ABS is fairly transparent. The Dynamic ESA-equipped inverted fork worked well, resisting dive on the brakes but allowing just enough for proper weight transfer and tire grip.

Utilizing the same new-generation 1,170cc boxer twin with liquid-cooled cylinder heads producing a claimed 125 hp and 92 foot-pounds of torque as the rest of the R 1200 series, the Ride Smart model also gets the new inverted conventional telescopic fork as the R model instead of the Telelever front end found on the GS and RT variants. The Ride Smart also retains the Paralever single-sided swingarm/shaft drive unit found on all the boxer twin models, with the two-part, tubular steel bridge-type frame sporting nearly identical numbers to the R (same rake angle with a smidgen more trail, plus a half-inch longer wheelbase at 60.2 inches).

Rolling stock is also the same as the R model, with 3.5 x 17-inch front and 5.5 x 17-inch rear cast-aluminum hoops shod with Metzeler’s Roadtec Z8 Interact tires in 120/70ZR-17 and 180/55ZR-17 sizes, respectively. Ditto for the brakes, with dual 320mm discs and radial-mount Brembo four-piston calipers up front and a single 276mm disc gripped by a two-piston sliding caliper in the rear.

A nicely sculpted half-fairing with two-position manually adjustable windshield directs the airflow around the rider, with a “poised yet relaxed riding position” courtesy of a forged aluminum plate with stubby clip-on-style bars bolted to the top of the upper triple clamp via risers. As with most of the latest BMWs, the Ride Smart’s 32.3-inch seat height can be adjusted lower or higher via different accessory seats; besides two “low” options of 29.9 inches and 31.1 inches, there is also a higher 33.1-inch “sport” seat available.

A nicely sculpted half-fairing sports the asymmetrical headlight styling of the S 1000 series; a two-way manually adjustable windscreen (simply pull up or push down with two hands) provides decent wind protection.

Also in keeping with the new-generation BMWs, the Ride Smart comes standard with the company’s ASC (Automatic Stability Control) electronics using both traction control and ABS for safety nets, along with a plethora of optional upgrades to further expand the bike’s capabilities. These include the Ride Modes Pro option that adds Dynamic and customizable User modes to the standard Road and Rain ride modes, as well as adding lean-angle-sensitive Dynamic Traction Control to the mix. Dynamic ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) is also available and provides a semi-active suspension feature, similar to the R model.

The Ride Smart’s riding position feels much more natural than the R’s, with just enough forward cant to your torso to make use of the good wind protection from the fairing without putting excess pressure on your wrists. The two-way-adjustable windscreen works pretty well in the upper position, keeping the windblast off your helmet and chest. While the majority of the Ride Smart’s cockpit is nicely laid out and easy to work with, we’re not big fans of the R 1200 series analog speedometer/LCD info panel combo; the tachometer is the usual LCD bar graph that is hard to discern at a glance, and the same could be said for the analog speedometer with small numbers grouped close together. Curiously, the info panel can be switched to several displays, one of which includes a digital speedometer…

Power from the new-generation boxer engine is smooth and amiable off the bottom, as it progresses in a linear fashion up into a surprisingly strong midrange that gets the Ride Smart scooting along quite nicely. Our bike was equipped with the Ride Modes Pro option that unlocks the Dynamic mode to provide the most aggressive throttle response and the least amount of DTC intervention, and these features came in handy during a spirited ride along an undulating country road loaded with imperfect and sometimes dirty pavement. As part of our bike’s Premium Package option, the Gear Shift Assistant Pro that allows clutchless upshifts and downshifts is included, and as with the similarly equipped R 1200 R we tested a while back, it worked well at automatically blipping the throttle on downshifts, permitting us to concentrate on more important cornering tasks.

We’re not big fans of the R 1200 series’ instrument panel layout of analog speedometer with the LCD info panel. Strangely enough, one of the three individualized LCD displays available with the OnBoard Computer Pro option has a digital speedometer…

That Premium Package also includes the Dynamic ESA option, and on a bike like the Ride Smart with its sportier intent, you can definitely feel the difference it makes during all aspects of cornering compared to the standard Road setting. The semi-active damping is especially apparent during hard braking, where it stiffens up the front end enough to prevent excessive dive while still allowing good compliance. Steering habits were fairly quick yet neutral, with a smidgen more effort required for turn-in compared to the R (likely due to the R’s better leverage with its higher and wider handlebars), and overall stability was excellent. Our only gripe with the D-ESA would be a little bit of harshness over sharp-edged bumps, something we also found on the similarly equipped R model.

Overall braking performance at both ends with the standard ABS package was very good, handling aggressive braking in both wet and dry conditions with equal aplomb. Feel and feedback from the front brakes was more than adequate, even when ABS intervention commenced. And the Metzeler Roadtec Z8 Interact tires provided good grip (on both wet and dry pavement) and decent bump-absorption qualities.

Although we’re glad to see that BMW has brought back the midsize sport-tourer R 1200 Ride Smart, we’re also hoping there’s a big enough market for it to help resurrect the class. We like the versatility and all-day comfort of an adventure-tour bike as much as anyone, but you just can’t attack a good twisty road like you can on a good sport-tourer like the Ride Smart. Here’s hoping that BMW’s reason for bringing the Ride Smart back pays off.


2016 BMW R 1200 Ride Smart MSRP $14,950 base model; $18,919 as testedENGINE Type Liquid-/air-cooled, DOHC horizontal opposed twin, 4 valves/cyl.Displacement 1170ccBore x stroke 101.0 x 73.0mmCompression ratio 12.5:1Induction MS-X EFI, 52mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl.CHASSIS Front tire 120/70ZR-17 Metzeler Roadtec Z8 Interact MRear tire 180/55ZR-17 Metzeler Roadtec Z8 Interact CRake/trail 28°/4.8 in. (122mm)Wheelbase 60.1 in. (1527mm)Seat height 2.3 in. (820mm)Fuel capacity 4.7 gal. (18L)Claimed wet weight 519 lb. (235kg)

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