Flagship Comparison: 1998 BMW R1200C

BMW's flagship cruiser of '98 gets a closer look

BMW R1200C: 1998 BMW R1200CFran Kuhn

Because it is so different than other cruiser motorcycles, some people don’t believe that the 1200C actually fits into the cruiser phylum. That’s only true if you believe that a cruiser must have a V-twin engine and traditional American styling. However, if you believe a cruiser simply requires a certain attitude, riding position and nostalgic styling, then the BMW fits the bill perfectly. The 1200C incorporates classic BMW styling cues, starting with the opposed-twin engine. Despite its modern mid-cam valve actuation, oil-cooled heads, four valves per cylinder and electronic fuel injection, the 1170cc engine bears a close family resemblance to its Bavarian ancestors.

Viewers with a limited scope also take issue with the Telelever front suspension, but BMW’s use of telescopic forks is relatively new. The Earles fork, to which this has a vague resemblance, was a BMW tradition. The Telelever also permitted BMW to minimize the aluminum frame and make the engine a primary chassis component. The geometry of the design reduces dive under braking. At the rear, the single shock and one-sided swingarm impede the view of the wire-spoked rear wheel less than a hardtail. The wheels may be the perfect example of BMW’s ability to meld tradition (wire spokes) with modern technology (tubeless tires). Stopping comes from three disc brakes with anti-lock braking (ABS), a $1300 option and one that we highly recommend.

BMW’s front suspension confounds hard-line traditionalists, but pleases some eyes more than anything out there. Audaciously mixing nostalgia with high-tech, the BMW rides its own road.Fran Kuhn

The tallest handlebar here and the small passenger pad (which hinges up to become a rider backrest and reveal a luggage platform) give the bike a chopperesque quality. The lines of the tank, the rear fender’s shape and the black-with-white-pinstripes finish evoke BMW models from even further back in time than the 1948 model recalled by Harley’s Heritage Springer.

Everything considered, the 1200C couldn’t be anything but a cruiser.

This article was originally published in the August 1998 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

High Points: Low Points: First Changes:
Anti-lock braking Complex turn signal system Aftermarket saddle
Original design Harsh ride Lower handlebar
Anti-dive front suspension design Poor passenger saddle Change rear shock
Handy at low speeds Hard saddle
Model/designation: R1200C
Suggested base price: $12,990; $14,290 with ABS
Standard colors: Black, maroon, ivory
Extra cost colors: NA
Standard warranty: 36 mo., unlimited miles
Recommended service interval: 12,000 miles
Engine & Drivetrain
Type: Air/oil-cooled, horizontally opposed twin
Valve arrangement: OHV, 2 intake, 2 exhaust valves per/cyl., operated by pushrods, threaded adjusters
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1170cc, 101mm x 73mm
Compression ratio: 10.0:1
Carburetion: Electronic fuel injection
Lubrication: Wet sump, 4.0 qt.
Minimum fuel grade: 92 octane
Transmission: Dry, single-plate clutch; 5 speeds
Final drive: Shaft, 2.54:1
Wet weight: 563 lb
GVWR: 992 lb
Seat height: 29.1 in.
Wheelbase: 65.0 in.
Overall length: 92.1 in.
Rake: 29.5 degrees
Trail: 3.38 in.
Wheels: Wire-spoke, 18 x 2.50 front, 15 x 4.00 rear
Front tire: 100/90-18 Metzeler Marathon, tubeless
Rear tire: 170/80-18 Metzeler ME88, tubeless
Front brake: 2, twin-piston calipers, 12-in. discs, optional anti-lock
Rear brake: Twin-piston caliper, 11.2-in. disc, optional anti-lock
Front suspension: BMW Telelever, 3.8 in. travel
Rear suspension: Single damper, 3.9 in. travel, adjustments for spring preload
Fuel capacity: 4.5 gal
Handlebar width: 30.7 in. wide, 1 in. diameter
Inseam equivalent: 34.1 in.
Electrical & Instrumentation
Charging output: 700 watts
Battery: 12v, 19AH
Forward lighting: 7.5-in. headlight
Taillight: One bulb
Instruments: Speedometer, odometer, tripmeter; warning lights for neutral, low oil pressure, low fuel, left/right turn signals, high beam, ABS failure, charging failure
Fuel mileage: 34–52 mpg, 45.1 mpg avg.
Average range: 203 miles
RPM at 60 mph, top-gear: 2900
200 yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 73.3 mph
1⁄4-mile acceleration: 14.24 sec., 91.2 mph