My trusty 1986 R80RT was just about on its last legs having served me well since new and had taken my wife and me all over Europe in its life. And although we hadn’t been on two wheels for a few years the yearning was building.
So, last year we had decided to buy another touring bike and I spent a great deal of time testing all of the machines currently on the market.
The FJ was ….OK. The Pan was predictable. And the Kawasaki frightened the pants off of me and I was sure that I would lose my licence within weeks of owning it. And the Moto Guzzi? – don’t go there!
I knew that BMW were about the launch a new tourer, the K1300GT, and hopefully they would put right the short falls of the above, so I held off.
It was launched and in my local dealership in late February and if looks were to go by I would have married it there and then. As it had just been launched it was “look only and do not touch” but I was able to book a test ride the following weekend.
The day could not come quickly enough. A friend and I turned up early at Balderstone’s of Peterborough and after the usual formalities set of for the afternoon.
I was convinced. It was smooth, comfortable and powerful. Without trying I was getting 50 mpg, according to the computer, and everything about the machine was what I wanted. Sadly the cost was prohibitive and the waiting list was quoted as 8 weeks and so after an afternoon of great riding I had to give it back.
A week later whilst browsing though the internet I came across the exact bike for sale. I rang the dealer who told be that BMW had given him 2 test bikes and as he only needed 1 he was selling the other. It was the SE model, and in the blue that I wanted. After some negotiation on the price for this second hand bike, it had 800 miles on it, in order not to miss out; my credit card was hit – hard.
I arranged to collect the machine the following weekend from Bath Street Motors in Bristol and, as promised, the guys there had it waiting for me as described.
I now have 8000 miles on the clock and still I smile each time I open the garage door. It still looks great, the engine is loosing up now and so smooth and although initially no matter how I drove, around town, cross country or on the motorways I always returned 47.5 mpg, at 1500 miles just as though someone had flicked a switch it loosen up I easily achieve in excess of 55+ mpg, 2 up with luggage. The engine is smooth and vibration free and the power delivery does not jerk your head off but is in full force when needed. The luggage is a little smaller than I am used to but a cavernous top box makes up for it. (Although expensive, £400.00 plus £100 to spray it the same colour the rest of the bike and panniers).
One negative point is the fact that it is very top heavy and whilst turning around on my drive at less than walking pace the front wheel tucked in and I laid it down, scratching the fairing and the right pannier. Normally I am strong enough to stop it going down, but not this time, it’s weight got the better of me.
I had to raise the seat to get a more comfortable position, but still find the pegs a little too high for me, (I am 6’ 0” tall), and on a recent long haul to Cornwall it became apparent that although the seat was firm, it is a little too narrow and I found myself having to stop regularly to get feeling back into my bum after the first 150 miles. I am now investing in an Air Hawk cushion for out next trip. Wife had no such problem. I don’t know if that was as a result of the width of the seat or the width of her ……… :-)!
The handle bar lay out is very good with everything easily to hand although I question how long the indicator and cruise control selector switches will last as they are very small on equally small stalks and do get abuse from my thick gloved fingers. And on que following a recent hot spell when I had motored the screen to its lowest position for more air relief I was unable to get it back up again when the rain started. The following day the indicators gave up also and so did the suspension adjustment facility. BMW Northampton quickly identified a faulty left hand switch cluster and changed it straight away, although it took over an hour as the new switch gear had to be programmed on their computer before it worked. No DIY job then!
I have purchased the Garmin Sat Nav mounting bracket and power feed for by Zumo 550 and via my Nolan blue tooth helmet both my phone and the Garmin talk to my helmet. Giving me an office on 2 wheels. Not every body’s choice, but in my line of work a must.
BMW have gone back to the traditional indicator lay out opting for a one switch does all rather than a switch on each side. I am sure BMW traditionalists will take some time to switch back to this lay out but I prefer it.
I wish the screen was taller and a little wider, my wife especially complains about being buffeted above 75 mph, but I think that is combination of age and her being used to the bucket fairing of the R80 RT.
The cruise control is the best and a god sent on long trips and works very well.
Another negative point is that I have the high current Xenon headlamp fitted that is the best at night, but if you stall the bike at traffic lights and don’t hit the starter button within 5 seconds, the battery goes flat.
In summary this model is expensive, compared with the deals that the other big three are doing during the credit crunch, but if you want a powerful, comfortable, economic, smooth, good looking touring machine then my advice is bite the bullet – you won’t be disappointed.