BMW R1150R

Text: Christian Neuhauser, Christa Neuhauser • Photography: Christian Neuhauser, Christa Neuhauser

There are only a few bikes out there that deserve the title "Roadster," but if one fits this category like a glove it's definitely BMW's R1150R. This standard sports many improvements and some cool new features when compared to its predecessor, the R1100R.

Standard bikes are becoming quite popular. The reason: They are less expensive, universal to use, and they still can be equipped with the accessories the owner prefers. But there is one very unique form of the standards that is built primarily with the essentials of motorcycle riding in mind. The main purpose is fun on twisting back roads, but they also have to look special. And although the automotive industry latched onto this expression much earlier, what we're talking about are roadsters. Just think of the British MGs, Triumph's TRs, and Austin Healys, but don't forget thoroughbreds like the Alfa Romeo Spider or Porsche's 356 Speedster.

Definition & Design
The motorcycle business took over this category much later, but there is actually only one brand using it in their model name, Bavaria's BMW, and their R1150R ('R' for Roadster) stands for purism and performance. The R1150R is the successor to the R1100R and features some radical improvements. First of all, the new design has a more aesthetically pleasing cross linkage for the telelever suspension in the front, a more aerodynamic front fender, and a different tank and tail section. BMW goes its own progressive way and still leads when it comes to design. Anyway, that was my thinking when I laid eyes on the bike we picked up from Jonas Musson, Fleet Motorcycle Specialist, at BMW headquarters in Westwood, New Jersey.

Engine & Transmission
The 1130cc engine, from the R1150GS, has a six-speed gearbox. This setup gives the bike more top-end power (85hp vs. 80hp) and more torque (10.0mkp/74ft.lbs. vs. 9.9mkp/73ft.lbs.) compared to the R1100R. Out on the road the bike feels more relaxed now when you try to push it hard. The gearbox is easier to shift than its predecessor's (surprisingly, it's even a lot better than the R1150GS we tested for the last issue) and offers better transitions between the gears. There are always some vibrations present but they're not bad at all and they give the Beemer its special character. Between 2500 rpm and 6500 rpm there is always enough power available to pull strong out of narrow turns. This is a wide range of usable power output that makes riding easy and enjoyable.

Chassis & Brakes
With the new chassis (necessary because of the different gearbox), the Roadster supplies a big bag of fun on winding back roads. We consider it a comfortable touring bike with just the right amount of sporty performance. Heading out on the interstate toward Albany, the BMW is stable as a train, even on those spots marred with tar snakes and grooves. And the Roadster isn't any less convincing when we take the snaking road up to White Face Mountain some days later. This is definitely a piece of asphalt that tells you something about the quality of a bike and its suspension because of the road's abundance of holes and bumps. Thanks to the Paralever linkage on the rear suspension you don't struggle with any up-and-down lifting usually typical of shaft-driven bikes.

Also available as an option is the combining brake system with antilock feature and brake servo. The Evo brake, with new calipers developed by BMW, Brembo and Tokico, is probably one of the strongest brakes available on the market. But that's also its downside. Less experienced riders will have their troubles adjusting to these strong stoppers and measuring out their braking power, particularly in busy traffic situations, in town at slow speeds when the brakes grab hard. On the other side it is a joy to slow down from higher speeds. BMW chose wisely, putting a wide 120/70 tire on the bike, to provide enough rubber on the asphalt for transferring these forces.

If it's your first time on a Beemer, you also have to get used to the telelever suspension in the front because it doesn't give you as much feel for the front wheel as upside-down and conventional forks do. That counts for heading through turns as well as for using the brakes without any diving of the front section. But after some riding time you will find a way to deal with it and will enjoy the advantage of this system, the great comfort.

Accessories & Arrangements
The seating position is perfect for rider and passenger even on longer trips. The available side cases offer enough space for luggage. Personally, we would have preferred another windshield from BMW, one that gives at least a little bit of protection from wind and rain. It would also have kept away all those nasty mosquitoes that pestered us in the Adirondacks and covered our riding suits.

Another really unusual thing for us was having to check the oil level every 300 to 500 miles. The bike seemed to inhale the viscous stuff like a starving vampire. The Roadster needed up to 1.5 quarts per 600 miles (about 1.5 liters per 1000 kilometers). That's too much, for sure! On the other hand, the 1150cc engine provided an impressive 41-mpg average with a passenger on the back (5.8 liters per 100 kilometers, solo: 43 mpg/5.5l/100 kilometers). This is a great feature depending on fuel consumption and emissions. Additionally, the R comes with a catalytic converter.

Test Summary
At the end of our Adirondack tour, we came to the conclusion that the R1150R is a very universal bike that performs as well on long tours as on back-road fun rides. It also reflects the high technology and quality standards of the Bavarian company. For higher speeds on stretched highways, we would mount a windshield. BMW offers two different versions. In addition, there are tons of other accessories available from the German manufacturer like heated grips, cylinder guards, luggage rack, side cases (mounted on our test bike), tank bag, and a rear-seat cover. These items will turn this already highly-rated standard into a perfect touring bike.