BMW K100 RT - 1984
A BMW new model launch is something else. First they
truck 20 bikes to a wild and beautiful island set
in a shimmering sea. Then they fly a group of journalists
down to join them. The bikes are tanked up, the hacks
are tanked up, and a meeting is convened.
The hacks clutch their shaken but not stirreds and
brace themselves for the product-concept-marketing-strategy
marketspeak Japanese launches have conditioned them
to. But no, the man from BMW thanks us for coming
(!) and tells us to have a jolly good time and lunch
is at Evisa anytime. We take our pick from the £80,000-worth
of machinery lined up for our delectation (the robust
take maroon bikes, the badly hung-over head for cool
grey/green ones), and scamper off into the hills grinning
The island was Corsica, the bikes were the Kl00RT
BMW range flagships, and the roads were evenly balanced
between impeccable and awful. Corsica is a good place
to find out a lot about a bike in just two days and
a few hundred miles' riding.
The K100RT is a very important bike for BMW. As soon
as they can get over the production delay caused by
the German metalworkers' strike it is going to be
their biggest selling model so, even more so than
with the standard K100 and K100RS, it must be 99 per
cent right right from the start.
Lessons have already been learned: the RT sports
a redesigned seat in answer to criticism of the height
of previous fours' bumperch. It's much better and
will be fitted to all Ks from now on.
The RT is also the definitive BMW 1000cc four. Although
released last of all, it was the bike they had in
mind all along look at the 'ordinary' K100, it looks
like a faired bike which has lost its fairing.
As a result, the new RT is nothing like the old top
of the range twin. While there was no doubting the
R100RT's fairing's effectiveness, neither was there
any escaping the barn door feeling you received when
sheltering behind it either. On the K100RT, you get
on board and wonder where all that glass fibre reinforced
plastic suddenly went.
Several factors help the new RT's fairing achieve
a good deal of protection from comparatively little
GRP. The new screen is much lower and narrower than
the old one but angles back sharply. It doesn't attempt
to keep wind off the rider completely, but only the
top of his head and the extremities of his shoulders
catch any direct windblast. Nor is there any need
to build a 34in-wide fairing to protect hands on 30in-wide
handlebars when some lateral thinker in the design
department has come up with mirrors which clip on
just where they shield delicate digits. In this respect
the RT is a little more successful than the RS, since
the high bars mean the protector/mirrors are placed
where they don't engender conflict situations with
cars' door mirrors.
The screen tops out at the level of a five-feet,
ten-inch rider's chin, so you look over it: the view
ahead is almost as good as on an unfaired bike, right
down to a few feet in front of the wheel.
Outside the fairing, there is no cover over the headlamp
- even a clear glass can cut light emission by 15
per cent - and the indicators are on the main body
instead of on the mirror pods. Inside, two lockable
pockets provide a surprising amount of storage space
(I managed a 135mm lens and case, SLR camera and lens
(in case), seven boxes of film and usual passport,
wallet, maps etc.)
The RT's lowers extend below the head and bottom
(right?) end of the motor to provide shelter for your
tootsies and are just wide enough to keep all but
a hint of breeze off your shins.
In short, it's a superb piece of design which is
highly effective without dominating your view ahead
or totally divorcing you from moving air. I mean,
if you're after total wind protection, Mr Ford does
a neat line in full fairings if you don't mind a couple
of extra wheels.
The test routes covered about 300 miles of Corsica's
finest and most appalling main road: there's little
rhyme or reason to it, they build a great road until
the cash runs out and then just leave the bumpy, potholed
old surface for 20 miles or so.
The RT coped with the going better than a 500lb-plus
tourer really has any right to. Corsica's roads are
all bends — at best they're a scratcher's paradise
and at worst just bloody hard work — but most
of the test bikes quickly acquired hero marks on the
footrests and centre stand.
The smaller fairing definitely makes throwing the
new RT around less intimidating than the original.
Most criticism of the fours' handling centres around
the long travel, softly sprung (though not as soft
as most Yamahas') forks, but despite the absence of
anti-dive, the springing and damping are well matched.
Rubber mounting allows rather a lot of handlebar movement
but the majority who buy the RT (presumeably) for
total comfort above absolute control won't find this
I never detected any flexing from the forks, or rear-end-induced
wallows or wobbles, so the RT certainly looks as if
it'll make it as a rapid, if not superfast tripper.
Any doubts anyone might have harboured were answered
by the guy who was supposed to be leading the way.
A puff of smoke, trail of sparks and a rapidly disappearing
backside was all most of us saw of him all day.
One item still, surprisingly, omitted on the RT is
a proper grab grail. Hell hath no fury like an insecure
passenger but insecure is all they'll feel with the
inadequate hand holds which is all BMW have provided.
Even the factory press pics show a pillion deseparately
clutching the rider's beer gut, her helmet jammed
into the back of his neck. Could make the difference
between picking the RT or an Aspencade.
At £4595, the RT is only £100 more than
the RS (tested on page 40) but offers the advantages
of much better weather protection without too much
penalty in terms of weight or barn-door effect. You
also get the ABS panniers thrown in.
From this brief tryout, the RT seems to offer a remarkable
combination of comfort, protection, flexibility and
speed. Corsica appears to possess only three stretches
of fast, straight road and I had an indicated 130mph
on one — over bumps and faced with very strong,
gusting, cross winds. You can add 'remarkable stability'
to the list.
The most striking feature of the launch was the massive
confidence of all the BMW personnel. Sales of the
K range already give plenty of reason for such optimism
and the RT will doubtless boost it even further. We
weren't even asked whether we liked the bikes. Just
how much. I just had to say: 'Don't know yet but I'm
off on holiday to Scotland next week. Any chance.
. . ?'