In Rider Magazine‘s annual People’s Choice Motorcycle of the Year award, the BMW R 1200 RT has come out on top, just edging out Indian’s new Chieftain and the KTM 1190 Adventure R. The survey, which was open for six weeks, included a wide range of new motorcycle models for 2014, nearly 50 in total. A tight contest across the board, the RT won out by less than half a percentage point.
BMW updated the R 1200 RT to make use of the new partially water-cooled boxer twin that debuted in the R 1200 GS and GS Adventure the year before. The RT also came in lighter than its predecessor, making it one of the few fully faired sport touring bikes under 600 lbs wet. For comparison, the Honda ST1300 weighs in at a wopping 730 lbs — a full 150 lbs difference.
However, the core aspects of the RT that make it such an, in my opinion, underrated motorcycle remain the same. In particular, wind shelter, handling and all-day ergonomics. Rider Magazine summed it up this way:
- It’s brilliant…a better sportbike than most STs, and a better touring bike than far heavier, less nimble, more expensive bikes. The “no ride” rear shock recall was a black eye, but it doesn’t take away from what the bike is.
- Fast enough? Yes! Can you bring stuff with you? Yes! Comfortable? Yes! Long-distance capable? Yes! Handles around corners? Yes! All around greatness? Yes, yes and YES!
- Yes, it has 20 percent less horsepower than the GTL, but it is also 20 percent lighter…plus, the ergos and wind protection are best in class. Simply a fantastic machine!
- More efficient, more powerful liquid-cooled motor, improved styling, traction control, electronic suspension and a host of BMW’s standard convenience farkles make this ultimate distance tourer even better.
- BMW has taken one of the best bikes of all time and dropped in a great new engine, bumped the horsepower up to 125, improved the ergos, surprised everyone with clutchless shifting, and put more fun into the ride. What is not to like?
- Outstanding balance. Not too big…not too small. Not too sporty…not too focused on touring. Not too heavy. Perfect balance of performance. If you can only have one bike (like most of us), this one is it.
- A supreme tourer and a very good sportbike and canyon carver.
- Styling, handling, lower center of gravity, new dynamic features like hill start control, gear shift assist, auto stability control, Dynamic ESA.
That focus on balance that Rider Magazine mentions is key to appreciating the RT, even in previous generations. It really is a remarkable blend of sporting poise and long distance capability. While the R 1200 GS and GS Adventure remain the darling of the market thanks to the still growing trend toward ADV bikes, I’d wager it’s the RT most people would actually be happier with. It’s certainly my personal preference on wind shelter alone.
Furthermore, the RT is a remarkable value in its class. At $17,350, it’s a grand less expensive than the Honda ST1300 and $2,600 cheaper than the Ducati Multistrada 1200S GT. It’s also $1,000 less expensive than the R 1200 GS Adventure. Nothing agains the GS, but if you’re buying a GS and know full well you’re not going to go Charlie Boorman on it, the RT is likely the bike you’d enjoy more.