First Ride: BMW R1200 C Montauk

It's not just a town on Long Island

It's Not Just A Town On Long IslandThis cruiser thing is pretty serious to the folks at BMW, and for good reason. The U.S. market snags almost three-quarters of worldwide cruiser sales, and the Bavarians' own R1200 C has collected a loyal following since its debut seven years ago. BMW's latest spin on that platform, the new R1200 C Montauk, aims to continue that tradition.

BMW wants you to believe that it's more of a bruiser than its other boxer brothers. "Masculine and powerful" is how the company portrays the new bike, which fills in the airiness of the elegant R1200 C design with a more solid silhouette. Using mostly bits scavenged from last year's luxo-barge, the R1200 CL, the Montauk loses the CL's handlebar-mounted fairing and hard luggage while retaining the broad stance of the touring bike. The design of the Montauk is readily identified by stacked dual headlights (a small beam butted up underneath a larger one), and a wider, five-spoke cast alloy rear wheel with a single-sided, single-shock swingarm. A higher, narrower passenger seat and redesigned side cover give the Montauk a powerful profile. Think of it as more stripped-down CL than beefed-up C.

The Montauk gets its own handlebar (wider than the CL's), Telelever fork and subtle windscreen, along with the usual top-shelf BMW features, such as fuel injection and catalytic converters. Sporting an air/oil-cooled 1170cc boxer engine (with the two-spark ignition system all BMW cruisers receive in 2004) nearly identical to its CL cousin, the Montauk's mill delivers the same claimed 61 horsepower to the rear wheel.

This newest R1200 C brings five gears to the CL's six, however, with high-contact, helical-cut gears smoothing out the shifts. BMW's latest power-assisted EVO/Integral Antilock Braking System (ABS) comes standard, with two 12-inch rotors up front slowed by four-piston calipers, and a single disc rear. The Telelever spreads fork legs to accommodate the same 16-inch wheel and 150/80 tubeless front tire found on the CL-this is fat stuff, friends. A Monolever swingarm wears a 15-inch rear wheel with even beefier 170/80 rubber, though; at four inches wide, it's an impressive sight.

"Montauk" is an Indian word meaning "hilly land," but BMW's inaugural ride centered around the idyllic fishing hamlet of Montauk, New York, on the tip of Long Island's easternmost finger-which is pretty darn flat. With famous lighthouses as our destination, we trundled through the finer parts of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, putting the newest German cruiser through its paces. Judging by the seat of my pants, I'd say BMW did some smart reshuffling on the Montauk.

Where the CL was a handful in corners, the Montauk tracks more surefootedly through the same type of terrain with nary a misstep. The bike is rock-solid in turns, with the wheelbarrow-wide bar providing plenty of leverage now that it doesn't have to carry a weighty fairing (as on the CL). And if you think the covered forks and fat tire would make steering sluggish at walking speeds, you'd be wrong. I was pleasantly surprised by the Montauk's nimbleness and its more manageable center of gravity (possibly because the bike is 25 pounds lighter than the CL).

The Montauk shares the sometimes-abrupt throttle characteristics of its R1200 stablemates, but once you acclimate to the sensitivity, it's smooth sailing. Fourth gear is where the Montauk is happiest, loafing along at highway speeds at low revs without complaint (though it takes its time getting there). There's still a low-frequency vibration through the bars if you need to venture above 80 mph, but the deeper gear teeth ensure slick shifting, albeit still with a hint of clank in first and second. Midmount footpegs and an accommodating, sculpted seat combine for long-range comfort and an easy reach to the ground (though the 31-inch seat height is on the high side), with flat bars offering a neutral seating position and lots of room, even for super-six-footers. I found the brief, slanted fly screen ineffective, however, and chalked it up to styling conceit. The standard heated grips scored big points, especially when ocean winds picked up, and cleanly arranged instrumentation consists of CL-issue gauges, which include an electronic speedometer, tach and analog clock.

Braking on the Montauk is, ah, insistent-to put it mildly. I feel the ABS servo units on the C bikes still engage too forcefully and cycle for an eternity when the bike is first started. Let's just say you shouldn't park uphill. It's also important to dial in the bike's suspension first, but preload adjustment of the Montauk's rear shock is a breeze; you simply turn a handwheel to line up the setting. Once all is said and done, however, the Montauk's back end tends toward the mushy side, and I felt it could stand more rebound damping. The factory setting turned out to be the best compromise for me.

If you're feeling aggressive, the Montauk allows for reasonable cornering clearance (but watch the low-hanging sidestand on the left side). If you're looking to tour, however, there's not much room or enough attachment points on the Montauk to carry more than a small duffel.
-Andy Cherney