Long term update: To stop or not to stop?

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There’s been a lot of belly-aching about the R1200RS’s small, 18-litre tank. And I kind of get it. It’s a big bike with a great motor and a reasonably comfortable riding position.

I say reasonably – the seat is a bit hard over long stints and the wrists take a bit of strain too. So is 170-ish miles to the tank really too little? Or has the pain already started at this point anyway? If Rain mode was selected and national speed limits strictly adhered to, you could probably eke out 200 miles to a tank, but it’d be close.

The most I’ve dared to push it to so far is 182 miles and, by BMW’s claimed capacity, I only had a litre remaining. So, assuming a 45mpg return, I had about another 10 miles left in the tank… maybe… just!

OK, so the orange fuel light starts flashing at an annoying 130 miles, sparking concern and a search for the next fuel stop, which is early on such an accomplished sports tourer. But it will do 170 miles to the tank all day long, even after fairly spirited riding. That’s probably three hours in the saddle in most circumstances, and that’s enough for me. 

To make a 200-mile range pay (by saving a fuel stop) you’d need to do 1000 miles in a day and very few riders will manage that – certainly not me! And even then you’ll be riding so conservatively that you’d probably cover that distance in more time than the rider doing 170 miles to the tank, including the extra stop.

Some argue that the 25-litre tank from BMW’s R1200RT tourer would work well on the RS, but that’s got to be where a large chunk of the RS’s 38kg weight saving comes from. And that’s a huge part of what makes it a better sports tourer.

My fuel economy figures have taken a bit of a dive recently as I’ve taken to riding the RS in dynamic mode (engine map and suspension setting) for the last couple of weeks on my 20-mile back-lane hack to work, and that has seen figures of around 42-43mpg become the norm. The best I’ve had is 49.7mpg after a 300-mile (mainly) motorway blast in Road (normal) mode.

I rarely use Rain Mode (even in the rain) as it feels like the bike’s not running right. Everything is dulled and soft and you lack that sharpness from the throttle. The electronics are so good anyway that any slide or loss of grip is controlled instantly.

Andy Calton

By Andy Calton

Motorcycling content director and Suzuki Katana rider