Flagship Comparison: 1998 BMW R1200C

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

BMW R1200C: 1998 BMW R1200C
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 R1200C: 1998 BMW R1200C
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.