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Take 2 – reviving the super-tourer

(by Guy 'Guido' Allen, August 2022)

bmw k1200lt



All it takes is patience, miles, time and a budget...or something like that


A little while back, we confessed to buying a 1999 BMW K1200LT 'super tourer'. Back when it was launched, it was aimed squarely at Honda's king of the road, the GL1500 Gold Wing and its soon-launched successor the GL1800. The latter was a formidable opponent in this market which, if you followed the money trail, was centred in the USA.


We're now a few months down the track and have a fair bit to report, including a major driveline rebuild.

Before we get to that, a quick recap is in order. While taking on Honda's 1800 'Wing (and even Harley-Davidson's Electra Glide Ultra) was a tall order, BMW made a pretty good fist of it (see the model profile). The 16-valve K1200 inline four claimed about 100 horses and was competitive in a straight line. It gave away some low-end urge, but had the goods in the mid and upper ranges. Curiously, BMW insisted on sticking with five rather than six gears.


In typical BMW fashion, it came fully-loaded for the Australian market. That included ABS, cruise control, heated grips and seats, power screen and a reverse working off the starter motor. Oh, plus there was a sound system, which included radio, cassete and a CD stacker. Overall the spec was similar to that of the GL1800, with the addition of the heating. That was to come later on the Japanese product.

It weighed around 20 kilos less than the Honda and was very competitively priced at Au$32,000 (US$23,000, GB£19,000) plus on-road costs. The GL1500 was $30k, while the 1800 leapt to $40k.

Motorcycle Trader magazine (RIP) back in 2001 conducted a Melbourne-to-Cairns 3000km (1800 mile) comparo between the 1800 Honda and the 1200 BMW, which the latter won by two votes to one among the three riders involved. Ironically, I was the dissenting vote, and a couple of decades later ended up buying the BMW.

bmw k1200lt

With 50,000km on the clock it was in overall good shape, with a couple of provisos. One was the front tyre was, to use the correct technical term, rooted. It didn't look so bad at first glance, but the handling was appalling thanks to the fact it had somehow worn into a triangular profile. Having picked up the bike, I stopped two corners later to work out what the problem was and to this day have no idea how the seller coped with it. Weirdly, he had replaced the rear...why not do both?

The real issue however was the tell-tale oil weep near the seam between the bell housing and rear of the engine. Plus, nail the throttle in top gear on the highway and you'd get a little clutch slip. That suggested an issue with the rear main seal and would be expensive to fix. This is typical of K-series along-the-frame engines of the era. The seals tend to go at 20-25 years regardless of mileage.


Fixing it is expensive as the rear drive and gearbox have to be removed. On something like the K1100LT we owned previously, you can expect a bill for around Au$2500. However the 1200LT is not only far more complex, it has some unique parts and features, which raised the cost to Au$4200 (US$3000, GB£2500).

So why on earth would you get into this? Because the numbers still stack up when it comes to value. The bike cost a mere Au$8500 (US$6000, GB£5000), which, along with the cost of replacing the front brake lines, brings the total to around Au$13,000 (US$9200, GB£7600). That's for a relatively low-mile full-dress tourer with all the features you could reasonably hope for, and still  several thousand dollars cheaper than the equivalent GL1800.

Taking that logic a step further, the 'old' Kay has pretty much everything I want in this style of motorcycle: Decent performance, good brakes and handling, ABS, cruise control, heated seats and grips, plus an adjustable screen. In other words, it's doing everything I actually want that a new heavy tourer would provide at three times the cost.


The rebuild was cheerfully handed over to BM Motorcycles in sunny Ringwood, on the east side of Melbourne. Chris and crew are after-market specialist repairers with a great reputation.

Super Mario was the appointed mechanic and had quite a job ahead of him. On the replacement list were the rear main seal and clutch assembly, plus the clutch slave cylinder. In an act of design bastardry, BMW chose to locate this in the clutch housing. Ours was leaking and it's critical you replace or rebuild the assembly as a matter of course when you have the thing apart.

brake line

Also on the replacement list was a right-side hydraulic line. Located inside the frame rail and otherwise almost impossible to reach, the original rubber unit was swapped out for a braided steel item.

bmw k1200lt

However the real surprise came when I was informed the quickest way to deal with the clutch et al was to literally remove the motorcycle from the engine/gearbox assembly! I must confess I didn't see that one coming and it easily explains the extra workshop hours required for the job.

bmw k1200lt

And yes, what you're seeing above is a K1200LT jigsaw...


As it turned out, the leak was major, made worse by the fact the engine oil had been over-filled.

bmw k1200lt

Most of the parts were ordered in advance and, surprisingly in these days of rampant shipping issues, turned up in good time. Prices were okay, too. For example the expensive components were Au$330 for a model-specific clutch housing, $313 for a clutch plate, $179 for a pressure plate and $318 for an updated slave cylinder.


All-up, the job took a surprisingly modest 19.5 workshop hours – frankly, less than I would have expected, given the size of the task.

And the end result? Pretty much what you'd hope for: Everything working and with no more clutch slip.

bmw k1200lt

In the brief time I've owned it, the LT has done a Melbourne-Brisbane return trip, about 3600km (2200 miles). With the big aftermarket screen in place, it proved to be an exceptional mid-Winter tourer. Warm, smooth, handles better than a land-yacht that size has any right too, and it performs okay. It's also surprisingly light on fuel, getting 20km/lt on the highway.

bmw k1200lt


This probably won't win me any friends...however I recently had a new BMW R1800 Transcontinental for an extended period. That's the company's latest 1800 boxer touring package. At Au$40,000 (US$28,500, GB£23,500) it was nicely appointed and very up-to-date. However it had features such as adaptive cruise that I wouldn't cross the street for when 'normal' cruise to me makes more sense.

Nice as the new toy was, it did nothing important better than my old machine at a third of the cost.


With the assorted gremlins sorted, the K12 should be right for another couple of decades. While I'm not necessarily in love with its looks, I am a big fan of its abilities and reckon the whole exercise will prove to be money well-spent. See you out there, somewhere on the highway...

See our BMW K1200LT model profile

And our Perth to Melbourne run

More features here

See the bikes in our shed








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