Rain in Spain puts BMW to the test

Tim Luckhurst looks for more of an adrenaline kick than this bike provides
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Indy Lifestyle Online



Engine: 1,170cc air cooled flat-twin (boxer), 110bhp at 7,500rpm, 85lb ft at 6,000rpm
Tank capacity: 21 litres
Price: £9,060 on the road
Transmission: five-speed gearbox and driveshaft
Top speed: more than 125 mph
Colours: silver, blue, grey and red

Launching a motorcycle in Europe in winter is not a risk-free operation, even in Andalucia. The plump oranges that dangled precariously from laden boughs told one story. The sky told another. It was going to rain, hard.

At sea level in Puerto de Santa Maria, this meant a sudden surfeit of surface water to mingle with the mud and diesel fuel already plastered across the road surface. The BMW coped with predictable surefootedness. Climbing into the Sierra de Grazalema, the engine felt taut and responsive as the rain started to freeze.

At this, the highest point in Cadiz Province, a keen-eyed visitor can hope to spot griffon vultures, eagles, and ospreys. I could just about see the road. Without the R1200ST's heated handgrips and adjustable front screen, I would have stopped immediately. Instead, I pulled over when a lorry descending the hill towards me dumped a load of slush on the tarmac.

Not for the first time, I was grateful to BMW's partially integrated ABS and 180/55 rear tyre. Road holding was not a problem. Even when the mountain pass was closed by snowfall, it felt as if it would make it through.

BMW describe the new R1200ST as a long-distance sprinter. It is designed to corner precisely at speed while maintaining high levels of rider comfort. Each is deemed possible while carrying a pillion passenger and luggage.

The caveat is that the R1150RS, which this machine replaces, did all of that with class-leading panache. This new sports tourer is not a revolutionary advance. It is just a little lighter, marginally smoother and a bit more powerful. The R1200ST is as sporty as European public roads will tolerate and it has the ergonomics for distance, too. It maintains BMW Motorrad's reputation for beautifully engineered, high-specification touring motorcycles. If I had to carry a passenger fast over long distances, I would be content to ride this machine. But it is not perfect.

The pure touring BMW R1200RT, on which this design is based, is a consummate motorcycle. It handles delightfully and benefits from the added protection afforded by a full fairing. The ST is more aggressive looking, but the difference is skin deep. It is a compromise on the pure touring pedigree of the RT that lacks the adrenaline-kick to be truly exciting.

One external competitor emphasises the performance gap: the Triumph Sprint ST. The British bike is faster, more powerful than, and as comfortable as the R1200ST. In standard form, the Triumph is also £1,260 cheaper. This does not in any way make BMW's R1200ST a poor motorcycle. It is dynamic, agile and safe and it comes with standard equipment that its competitors from Japan, Italy and the UK lack. But while its BMW counterpart, the R1200RT, is a class-leading design, the ST is a niche product.

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