A TALE OF TWO TOURERS
BMW BIKES COMPETE
After 12+ years of riding K 1100 LTs (I have had 3) and many many European touring trips, I finally had a hard decision to make: did I replace the alternator, fix the water pump and bypass the faulty ABS system on my current bike, or bite the bullet and buy a more current BMW touring machine?
All these faults came at once. Had they come one at a time, I no doubt would have fixed them (myself) and soldiered on – as I have with many running repairs I've made on these venerable machines over the years.
I knew in my heart of hearts that the K 1100 LT was the best touring machine available and that, although there had been many advances in technology over the years (my last K 1100 was a 1999 - registered late), the K 1100 LT was so advanced when introduced, that it was still very capable and not worth spending the – not inconsiderable sum of money – needed to buy a different bike. Plus, I had tons of spare parts that would not fit the next bike I chose.
|Note: I consider my last K1100LT to be the best in the country if I say so myself.
It was ex-Lancashire Police in glorious Police white when I bought it (42,000 miles, fully documented history). During its time with me I fully converted it from Police single saddle spec to civilian spec with OE parts, amongst other modifications:
- I Fitted the wider wheels from a K1100RS and had them powder coated satin black.(straight bolt-on)
- Sony car radio unit with matching wired remote control
- Garmin Street Pilot 3 (Old skool slow to navigate, but waterproof)
- Autocom intercom wired to accept radio and sat nav audio (wired to the lights for quick turn off at toll booths)
- Corbin saddle with fold down pillion backrest ( passengers loved it)
- Heated seat ( recovered the Corbin with a heated element, wiring and switchgear)
- Oxford heated grips ( warmer than the BMW originals)
- Front additional lights (fairing mounted wired with high beam)
- Rear led fog light (handy on those misty northern European motorways, with the standard BMW single bulb only rear light)
All this is in addition to regular servicing and repairs.
Well I may have been kidding myself because it didn't take long before I was seduced by a younger model: the R 1200 RT .
After some months of using my new bike for the daily commute, as well as going on a couple of tours, I can safely say I think I've chosen well. It lives up to, and exceeds, all expectations. But how does it compare to my older model, my trusted long-serving K 1100? Did I make the right decision?
The R 1200 RT certainly does look good and it's more modern. The downside is that it seems to corrode more (see my previous story: Wheelie Good, as an example). Whilst a lot of this is hidden under the fairings, I still know it's there.
My K 1100 fairing was a little more protective in cold and wet weather. It also had great road presence: being an ex-police bike, and had good gearing at low speeds, the bike benefited me greatly on busy roads, where people would quite regularly assume I was a cop and move over.
That wasn't the only good thing about riding the K 1100; it could also take a lot of weight – very handy during my many tours – and was fantastic in just about any weather, thanks to it superb fairings. Plus the mirrors gave a clearer rear view than the R 1200 RT.
The R 1200 RT, on the other hand, is not quite so good in the rain. It's not as protective (my arms seem a little more in the breeze) and, despite using all the right riding gear, I do tend to get a little more wet and colder than I was on the K 1100. That said, I can't fault the handling of the R 1200. It's lighter, faster and the saddle is comfier. The K 1100 was top heavy and I don't miss wobbling on it at junctions if the road surface was loose.
Another point to make about the cold: The K 1100 blew a lot of hot air out from the engine, which was probably why I felt warmer riding it in winter than I do the R 1200. But, what would benefit me in the winter, would certainly disadvantage my summer riding – I spent much time in Spain sitting in traffic in what us British people would call a heatwave, with lovely hot air blasting out onto me. The R 1200 doesn't do this, so it makes summer riding more of a pleasure. Winter, on the other hand...
The R 1200 is more economical and can do 48-55 mile to the gallon, compared with 38-45 MPG that the K 1100 used to offer me. It also vibrates less, which was a common problem with K 1100s, especially at cruising speeds.
One of the main reasons I held onto the K 1100 for so long was because of its storage capacity – very handy for touring fanatics such as myself. The R 1200 RT doesn't rate so highly on this. It only has one pocket (the K 1100 had two) which is maxed out with a radio. There's also less space under the seat. The panniers are slightly wider on it as well (3cm wider on either side, to be exact), which makes it a little more difficult to filter through traffic.
Oh but the kit! The kit is where the R 1200 RT really holds its own. I used to think that I didn't need accessories such as a trip computer with temperature, miles to the gallon, radio, traction control, ABS, heated grips, heated seats and tyre pressure information. How wrong I was! Having gotten used to the bountiful accessories of the R 1200, I can no longer imagine riding without them.
My R 1200 also came with a factory fitted Sat Nav – although I bought the bike second hand for around £3,000 (they are £15,000 new with an additional £1,500 for satellite navigation), I'm very lucky that the previous owner, and original purchaser of it, chose to pay the extra. The K 1100, being an older bike, did not have this luxury, and I had to buy and fit my own. Both bikes have an autocom intercom fitted - great for hearing the radio and intercom.
Despite being fully kitted I am aware that, being a more sophisticated bike, the R 1200 is going to be more expensive to repair, whereas there is a ready supply of (very reasonably priced) aftermarket parts for the K 1100 LT. After doing a few jobs on the R 1200, I can tell you it's also much less DIY friendly, and I feel already like I'm going to be spending more than I did before on occasional professional help. The only parts that were more expensive on the K 1100 were the tyres, as they were rarer than the ones on the R 1200 – and also less sophisticated. But then again, the R 1200 is more sophisticated in most ways.
There's no doubt that I will always have a soft spot for K 1100 LTs – they were a huge part of my life and I had many years of countless experiences and unforgettable memories out of them. But, despite my reluctance to buy a newer bike, and despite the possible increased repair costs and minor storage disadvantage, I'm very glad I bought the R 1200. It looks great, it handles great, it's cheaper to run; it's brought me into the 21st century of motorcycling, in a nutshell, and I love it!
The era of modern motorcycling has finally reached me – and there's no going back now!
Have you ever been torn between two bikes? Which ones were they and what was your verdict? Share your stories with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
09/12/15 Great story of love of machines!
10/11/12 Got best of both world CBR1100XX and a BMW K1200LT
10/12/15 Versys 650 and V-Strom 650. Versys Bonneville and W650. Bonneville
11/12/15 Only 2? Jeez, if that was the case, I,d be a wealthy man today! Lol Ps, would,nt change a thing if I could go back in time!
11/12/15 Gl1100 wing or 550 /4k .chose the wing
11/12/15 Get both now iv got 4
12/12/15 got Kawasaki LTD 1000 for cruising, Honda CBR 1000 F-M for keeping up with the lads and Yamaha FJ 1200 as a daily hack, all as good as each other when used right
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