It had been six years since I last rode around the northern and central parts of Western Australia so when the opportunity arose to explore the area again I jumped at the chance.
My mount for this sojourn was BMW’s R 1150 RT. Introduced in 2001 as the successor to the R 1100 RT, the R 1150 RT is the German company’s most highly appointed twin cylinder model. I was certainly going to be accommodated with more comfort this time around as the last time I was in these parts was onboard a 1997 DR650SEV Suzuki. A great bike for sure, but far from the perfect mount for covering huge distances.
I flew into Broome on a pleasant but slightly brisk Wednesday morning at around 10:30am. Here I was met by an associate who had ridden the BMW up from Adelaide. After donning my leathers and exchanging pleasantries I was keen to take the bike off his hands, fill the tank and hit the highway.
With that in mind I thumbed the start button and experienced the traditional boxer lurch sideways as the two big slugs sparked in to life. With a bit of a clunk into first gear followed by a good slip of the dry clutch to prevent a stall, I was off and running.
Quickly I was in my element. Riding long deserted stretches of highway is a liberating experience, and I quickly realised that I really have to try and find the time to get out for some more long distance touring once again. Nothing is more relaxing than getting out in the middle of nowhere astride a modern motorcycle.
Broome has just experienced one of its coldest winters so I quickly came to appreciate the heated handgrips on the BMW as I got up to a comfortable cruising speed and started to familiarise myself with my cockpit. The layout is traditional BMW with a large easy to read speedo and tacho combined with a vertical LCD to display oil pressure and fuel level. The separate buttons for each indicator take a while to get accustomed to, but work well enough. However, it would be nice if they had the excellent self cancelling function found on similar equipped Harleys. The screen is electrically adjustable and provides good protection. I would have preferred for it to be a little taller when fully erect, another inch would make all the difference…
The 25 litre fuel tank provides a touring range in excess of 400km at the national limit. At the same service station that charged me 137.9 cents per litre for fuel, I picked up a just as unattractively priced Michael Buble tape to round out the mellow mood I was enjoying. The stereo is reasonable enough at legal speeds, but does lack the power and sound quality available on some of the Japanese tourers. There is something wonderfully perverse about waiting at intersections with the stereo blaring as car drivers or pedestrians try to work out where the music is coming from. Great entertainment!
Useful side panniers were fitted to the R 1150 RT and I was very impressed by the excellent BMW locking and docking system. A couple of seconds is all it takes to remove or mount the panniers to the machine. The test machine featured the standard luggage rack that integrates with the side panniers. We did not get the opportunity to try the optional top box.
Another highly impressive feature of the machine was a complete and utter resistance to crosswinds or turbulence from oncoming trucks. Many of the large Japanese tourers can get a bit of a weave going at speed when encountering wind turbulence, but nothing could stop the R 1150 RT from tracking true. The thing must be near cyclone proof!
The telelever front end performed well and along with the trademark Paralever rear end, the suspension package proved well up to the task. Preload is hydraulically adjustable for when you are fully loading up the machine or carrying a pillion. Rebound damping is also adjustable.
Surprisingly, the R 1150 RT proved quite light on its feet, even rapid changes of direction are accomplished with ease. If you get really aggressive the rear suspension can complain a little, but so will any other machine in this class of motorcycle.
Stopping the machine is a fuss free affair. Just grab a big handful and the integral ABS system ensures the show remains tidy under full emergency stop conditions. The brakes are linked together, thus a dab on the rear brake also activates some force on the front brakes, and vice-versa. It works well enough, but it would be nice to have an off switch when traversing gravel stretches.
In the gravel the BMW also acquits itself well. Power-on is the order of the day to stop the front ploughing. If your confidence is up you can dial on some more throttle and slide around the turns.
The engine has reasonable power, but is certainly no match for the super powerful four or six cylinder engines available in the large Japanese tourers. Enough mumbo is on tap to put a smile on your dial though, and the machine will happily maintain speeds that would only be legal in the Northern Territory.
BMW claim 95 horsepower @ 7,250rpm from the 1,130cc four-valve boxer twin with 100Nm of torque arriving at 5,500rpm. They also claim that more than 90Nm of torque is available from 3,000rpm all the way through to 6,500rpm. The transmission offers six ratios, the tallest of which is very much an overdrive gear for high speed touring.
The seat is the best I have ever experienced. Even after covering nearly 2,000km on the second day in order to make the traditional Thursday night barbecue at a friend’s Osborne Park workshop, my posterior was not too worse for wear.
The seat is a two-piece unit which is adjustable for height. Heights of 805, 825 and 845mm are on offer. An optional shorter seat can be ordered with the machine, which lowers the choices further to 780, 800 and 820mm respectively.
You can keep your four wheel drives and steel cocoons. Only a motorcycle can make thousands of kilometres of roads entertaining, and the R 1150 RT is definitely one of the better weapons for the job.
SPECS – BMW R 1150 RT
Engine: 1130cc, two cylinder boxer, air/oil cooled, SOHC
Bore x Stroke: 101 x 70.5mm
Induction: Bosch Motronic EFI
Transmission: Six speed
Final Drive: Shaft
Dimensions (L x W x H): 2230 x 898 x 1380mm
Seat Height: 805-845mm (special 780mm low seat available)
Dry Weight: 255kg
Fuel Capacity: 25 litres
Tyres: Front _ 120/70ZR17; Rear _ 170/60ZR17
Suspension: Front _ BMW Motorrad Telelever; Rear _ Aluminium single sided swingarm with Paralever, spring preload hydraulically adjustable, rebound damping
Brakes: Front _ Dual 320mm discs, four piston calipers; Rear _ 276mm disc, twin piston caliper
Warranty: Two years, unlimited kilometres