Two bikes share my garage – a BMW R1200RT SE and a Harley Fat Bob. I love them both but for very different reason. It’s a head and heart thing. The Harley looks good, sounds fantastic and that big V-twin engine delivers an emotive punch. It’s comfortable to ride and it turns heads in a way that makes you feel king of the road. But there is a downside. The brakes and handling are not up there with the best, there isn’t enough ground clearance and it takes ages to clean.
I bought the Fat Bob last May, put 3500 miles on the clock then, come November, popped it away for the winter. It’s the third Harley I have owned, the best Harley I’ve owned, but it’s a summer bike and I like riding all year round. That’s one of many reasons I also have a Beemer. People call BMWs the thinking man’s motorcycle and everything about the 1200RT makes sense. The fairing, heated seat, heated grips (and we have heated jackets) mean you can ride this bike in all weathers in perfect comfort. And it takes just minutes to clean. Add the benefits of drive shaft over chain, brilliant headlights that the Telelever suspension keep on an even keel under heavy braking and an average fuel consumption figure of nearly 58mpg and you can understand why it’s the logical choice for so many.
But there’s more to it than that. Judged in cold clinical terms (the Teutonic way) it’s a winner all the way, but it’s also a motorcycle you want to ride for the sheer fun of it. Most of my riding is done two up with my wife Jayne on the pillion and in our first year with the Beemer we did 10,300 miles. That included trips up to Edinburgh, rallies and breaks to Brittany, the Harz Mountains in Germany and down to Allemont in the South of France. On the journey back from Allemont we did more than 600 miles in a day. We had planned to stop off half way but the weather was brilliant and we were enjoying it so much we just kept going to our destination near Rotterdam.
That was biking at its best, but you appreciate the BMW even more when the conditions are not so good. Our holiday in the Hartz Mountains was the perfect example of that. We had booked the bike on the Eurostar, which meant setting off from home at night in the pouring rain. We picked up a slow puncture in the front tyre on the way down and although it was July, our first couple of days in Germany were freezing. But it was still a great holiday. The R1200RT is far more nimble than your average big tourer. Slip off the panniers and top box, switch the electronically adjusted suspension to the sport setting and you can ride it like a performance bike.