Rain and the 2014 BMW F 700 GS and R 1200 RT – May 4th, 2014
Yesterday I led a customer demo ride for Ride West BMW. It rained off and on all day, at times very heavily. In a way, rain is perhaps the best for BMW demo rides, as their subtle advantages show best when the weather is foul.
I rode to Ride West on my Triumph Speed Triple, and once again noticed how much I enjoy riding in the rain. Once past the esthetic grimace of turning my beautiful bike into a rolling dirt bag, I can relax and enjoy the calm. The rain makes a fine “white noise” that shuts out the daily clatter of static noise we have all become inured to… it is just you and the bike, rolling along in relative comfort.
Comfort was compromised in this circumstance because I was wearing my BMW riding jacket (one must dress appropriately when being paid by the BMW dealership that also paid for the jacket). BMW’s thought process at the time was that the outer layer would allow water ingress, and then it would flow out over your gloves, which you tucked inside the sleeves. Alas, the jacket over time becomes sodden and heavy. Worse, when the rain stops you are clad in 15 pounds of wet fabric which is now evaporating, so now you are cold. Plus, my fabulous Rev’It boots, for the first time ever, succumbed to the weather and leaked!
Oh well. At Ride West I was greet by Roman and Jessica. Jessica had organized the customer list, and Roman would ride along as caboose and sales consultant. While I signed people in (demo forms, etc.), Roman spent time going over the features of each bike to be ridden, displaying his encyclopedic knowledge of a bewildering array of engine configurations and switchable modes, which vary between model lines. We had 7 customers and the two of us, for a total of nine bikes. We had a single, four vertical twins, two boxer twins, a four, and a six cylinder engine. Variety is the spice of the demo ride!
As is often the case, the list of riders changed up to and beyond the last minute. The weather was foul, and some choose not to ride, and/or not to ride demos, in such conditions. Others were on a waiting list, and eagerly filled the available spots. I did one of these two years ago with myself, a salesman, and the ONE customer that showed up!
In this case we had seven hardy souls, all them men with a lot of experience. I began to relax, as I was worried about the weather and inexperienced riders who may have never ridden in a group and are on bikes they’ve never ridden previously. With this group, my job for the day got much easier.
After some time spent making sure we had the preferred models of the group, which required some shuffling, we set off. I’d designed the route previously, and nobody else had a copy of it, so we’d need to try to keep the group together. I was very pleased to bring the group back three hours later still in a pack, having traversed over 100 miles and several dozen turns and a myriad of traffic lights. Some of this was due to fortuitous timing of arrival, and some due to subtle tricks of the trade developed over the years.
We stop at least twice on these rides so the customers can demo up to three different models on the same day. Roman and I would wait at each stop for the trading to take place, and then ride the two bikes “left over.” Jessica had arranged this in advance, which is a lot harder than it looks, but as usual changes took place. Sometimes customers get on a bike and love it so much they do not want to trade, and others decide after getting on a bike that it is too tall or short for them, and so on.
My first ride was on a 2014 BMW F 700 GS. This is a “naked” street and some dirt use bike. It actually has the same vertical twin engine as the F 800 GS and F 800S, but with altered compression and fuel mapping to give a “softer” engine that is easier to use. I remembered very quickly why this bike was one of my favorites. Subtle styling changes last year made it very good looking, especially (to my eyes) in the deep maroon. The riding position is extremely comfortable, and the handlebars are in exactly the right place. The power is unobtrusive but certainly adequate, especially for this sort of ride and especially in the rain. Additional benefits are the multitude of instrument displays, ABS brakes, and of course, heated grips. In a sensible world I should own either one of these or an F 800 ST, as they are both more suitable than my Speed Triple in most ways. On the other hand, motorcycle choices are not often based on being sensible, and I flat love my Speed Triple. Your results may (and probably will) vary.
After 35 miles or so of an extremely enjoyable ride on the F 800 GS, I swapped to the new R 1200 RT. Wow! What massive changes from the model I was used to. The water-cooled heads of the new 1200 GS have made their way to the RT, with more power, more leg room because the intakes are now on top of the boxer cylinders rather than behind, and a slew of other advantages. The engine change alone would open your eyes, but BMW has gone much further by transferring a lot of the electro-techno farkles from the K 1600 GTL to the R 1200RT. The dash is now similar, and offers about ten minutes of learning to master all of the choices in ride quality, handlebar and seat heat, radio and other stuff, and on and on.
Alas, I had not had the ten minute learning session with Roman, as I was doing the demo paperwork with the customers, so I struggled to get the bike the way I wanted it. Trying to work out how things work while leading 8 bikes on a tight and twisty road with a lot of potholes, in a heavy rain, is not recommended! With instruction beforehand and time to set it to my preferences many of the problems I had would have been solved. For one, I would have put the seat in the lower position, as I prefer to be sitting “in” the bike rather than “on top” of it. I also would have been able to set the suspension up to be more stiff, which needs to be done with the engine running and the bike stopped in neutral. At least I was able to turn off the radio.
I’m usually the only person in a ride group that does not like windshields. I prefer “naked” because you always know where the wind is coming from. I could not find a position for the RT windscreen that was quieter than a bike with no windshield at all, other than almost all the way up. With it all the way up, it got quiet, but then the cold air blast was directed at my back and wet shoulders – not good.
The BMW R 1200 RT is an amazing accomplishment, and definitely should be one of the few at the top of the list of considerations for anyone who wants to tour (or commute, or play on weekends, etc.) with a bit of a slant toward sport. I would like to try this one again set up more to my preferences. Fortunately, there are two of three more of these demo rides on the Ride West schedule.
If you’re seriously interested in purchasing a new BMW, you can book one of these Sunday rides by contacting Jessica at email@example.com. The schedule has them on June 8th and June 22nd and August 10th, although I am sure they would add more if demand surfaced and I was available. Although Ride West has more demos than any dealership I have ever known, seats are limited, or course.
For the last section, I rode a 2012 BMW G 650 GS. This was a used bike used for MSF classes, and is the smallest and least expensive bike in the BMW line-up. It has a low seat height, and offers very good mileage and simplicity of operation. It tends to be too small (unusual for a BMW) for many riders, and is not all that well suited to charging around on back roads. In this circumstance it was, ironically, great fun, as I did not want to hold up the guys behind me, all on bigger and more powerful bikes, including a 192hp BMW S 1000RR, so I had a good time caning the little 650 hard. The front end grip and the brakes are very good, so you can dive into a corner at immoderate speed with zest and confidence.
It was a fine day, after all. The rain is of almost no consequence to a BMW, and if you are suitably attired you can enjoy the ride, the lack of traffic, and the spectacular layers of comfort and technology on offer.
Today, of course, I have a bike that needs cleaning.
Copyright 2014 David Preston