First Ride: BMW R 1200 C Montauk Motorcycle

The latest evolution of BMW's unique cruiser family improves slightly on the breed while retaining the features that make BMWs a great option for riders who want to break from the thundering herd.

BMW's newest cruiser is called the R 1200 C Montauk. It combines BMW's basic cruiser style with some of the functional enhancements introduced last year with the full-dress R 1200 CL machines and may best be regarded as a stripped-down version of the CL.

The Montauk disposes with the CL's batwing fairing, lowers and luggage, but keeps the fat 16 x 350 front wheel with its 150/80-16 tubeless tire. The wheels (a 15 x 4.00 in back with a 170/80-15 tire) are the same five-spoke cast-alloy hoops used on the CL.

The Montauk gets its own handlebar (slightly wider than the CL's), Telelever fork, front fender, small windshield and unique stacked dual headlights, a larger beam over a smaller one. The seat has a more sculpted profile, with a small passenger pad. BMW's latest EVO/Integral Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) is standard, with two 12-inch rotors up front squeezed by four-piston calipers.

The engine is the same 1170cc, air/oil-cooled fuel-injected opposed twin used in other 1200 C models. It uses chain-driven "high" camshafts to operate four valves per cylinder through short pushrods. It makes a claimed 61 horspower. Unlike the CL with its overdrive sixth gear, the Montauk has five speeds like other Beemer cruisers. Per the practice of all other R 1200 Cs, the Montauk uses the engine as a major chassis component, which the front and rear suspension plug into with help from a very brief aluminum framework. Rear suspension is the same configuration as other Cs. A singled-sided swingarm on the right connects the rear axle to the rest of the bike, leaving the left side of the rear wheel uncluttered, which BMW exploits with a hubcap. The single damper may be adjusted via a handwheel.

About the only components left unchanged from the original R 1200 C (now called the Classic) are the fuel tank and rear fender. Standard equipment on the Montauk includes heated grips, a tachometer, and a clock. And, yeah, you get that annoyiong three-button turn-signal arrangement too. It is available in three metallic colors -- champagne, black or blue.

To introduce its new bike, BMW of North America invited us on a ride from its New Jersey headquarters to -- where else? -- Montauk, out on Long Island, New York.

I wasn't expecting anything earth-shattering on the bike, because it does not deviate radically from the BMW cruisers were are used to. I did wonder if adopting the components from the CL, which did not impress us too much in our 2003 touring comparison, might make it a bit unwieldy.

BMW stressed the Montauk's "more powerful, masculine stance" in pre-ride discussions, but I was concerned that the fat front tire would make steering balky. Not to worry. Maybe it's the wider handlebar, or the lesser weight (684 pounds claimed wet versus 709 for the CL) or its lower placement, but the fat tire turns surprisingly well, even at slow speeds.

The Montauk rides much better than the heavier CL, and it also seems a little bit more stable than the jerkier R1200C standard. I would wish for a bit more rebound damping, however. The saddle was satisfactory for the modest stints we rode, and the riding position fit me as well. The short windshield provides a modicum of wind protection that keeps the wide handlebar from tiring you at highway speeds.

Otherwise, it is very much a BMW cruiser, with a good spread of power, a solid drivetrain, and the security of ABS brakes, something we think that more cruiser makers should offer. The Telelever reduces decleration dive to further ease stopping excitement.

At $14,990, the Montauk is $1000 less than the CL dresser and $500 more than the Phoenix. It is an evolutionary model, not a radical departure, but it doesn't need to be. BMWs are in themselves radical departures from the cruiser herd, with unique features that offer real benefits for those buyers who dare to be different.

You can identify the Montauk by its dual stacked headlights.