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Super Lux

Profile: BMW K1200LT

(by Guy ‘Guido’ Allen, Mar 2022)


Germany’s Gold Wing challenger



Towards the close of last century (it really doesn’t seem that long ago!), BMW launched what it saw as a true challenger to the mighty Honda Gold Wing and its then dominance of the heavy tourer market.


Back in 1999, your choices of premium kit in this class were clear: either the 1500 Wing, or a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide. Both, we might add, were formidable competition and very capable pieces of machinery. While the Harley wasn’t as quick in a straight line and tended to be a little less tidy in the handling department, it had other virtues. For example, street cred in spades, and a lot of really well thought-out appointments which in some cases were superior to the Honda offering.


Sure BMW made good touring bikes and up to that point its class challenger was the K1100LT. However the K didn’t quite cut it in this company and wasn’t regarded as a direct competitor.


That changed with the launch of the K1200LT in 1999. Though still running a variant of the laid-down inline four engine platform, the package looked and felt substantially larger than the 1100.



Basic stats included an injected 1172cc 16-valve powerplant with double overhead cams, claiming 98 horses (72kW) at 6750rpm and 115Nm at 4750. That meant it was producing the same power as the 1100 but lower in the range, but around eight per cent more torque again lower down the rev range.


BMW persisted with a five-speed transmission with Paralever shaft drive, while the front end swapped over from a conventional fork to the firm’s arguably superior Telelever suspension/steering combo.



Weight was pegged at 345kg dry (378 wet) and overall the stats were competitive with the 1500 Wing. Power and torque were roughly the same, while the weight was around 15kg lower. Like the Honda, it featured a reverse driven by the starter motor.



International models came in three levels of equipment, however in Australia we got one variant which was pretty close to fully-loaded. That included anti-lock brakes, electric windscreen, CD stacker and radio, cruise control, trip computer, plus heated handgrips and seats. Plus of course there was the full suite of integrated luggage. That lot was initially priced at Au$32,200 plus on-road costs (US$24,000, GB£18,500), which compared to an even Au$30k for the Gold Wing.

bmw k1200lt


The Australian media launch happened in the first half of 1999 and involved a ride from Melbourne to Adelaide for one group of journos, and the return trip for a second pack. You have to say it was a pretty good opportunity to see what the new monster would do.


In short, it impressed. Performance was good without being arm-wrenching – as you’d expect, given the stats. It was certainly capable of tearing up a licence and was roughly equivalent to the 1500 Wing in that department. Where it scored points over the Honda was for its much tidier handling. While you’d be reluctant to call anything this size sporty, it was certainly more capable through a set of bends.


Its Telelever front end kept things very tidy, even if the feedback wasn’t as sharp as you might hope. The bike was easy enough to tip into a turn, was stable once it got there and had reasonable cornering clearance. Braking was good, with the customary set of four-spot Brembos on the sharp end and a two-piston caliper out back.



Over the long term, there don’t seem to have been too many surprises when it came to reliability. Owners have noted rear main seals eventually going, which is a pest to replace but not terminal (ditto the dry clutch), and ABS sometimes giving up the ghost. BMW’s first couple of generations of ABS left something to be desired when it came to long-term reliability, though the systems can be repaired.


That said, you also hear of big miles being done on these things with little drama.

BMW made some running changes along the way, including updating the brakes to the electric-boosted system used elsewhere in the range. That was a backward step, in our view. This was from 2001 and you should check which version you have before working on, or ordering parts for, the stoppers.


Honda meanwhile went and launched the 1800 Gold Wing series in 2001, priced locally at an eye-watering $40,000 (US$30,000, GB£23,000). This bike had an additional 18 horsepower over its predecessor and raised the level of competition by a few notches. It handled much better than the 1500 and in many respects was more than a match for the K1200LT.


BMW’s response was to release a MkII K1200LT in 2004, with a lot of work done to a powerplant that now claimed 116hp (85kW) at 8000rpm. There were numerous other refinements, including the option of a powered centrestand. However this generation wasn’t sold in Australia, instead the model was killed off altogether in the local market by 2005.


Though expensive in its day and at the low volume end of the showroom, there are a surprising number of used K1200LTs available, priced around Au$7500-11,500 (US$5600-8600, GB£4300-6600). When you look at what they offer, they’re tempting in that they’re now substantially cheaper than the equivalent Gold Wing.

There is however a catch. You can expect a K-series of this era to require rear main seal and clutch replacement at around 20-25 years regardless of mileage. The LT is complex and the job can add up to a little over $4000 through a pro workshop. Now if you package that cost and that of the bike, the LT can still be a very viable alternative to a GL1800.



So tempting that we just bought one. A 1999 model with under 50,000km on the odo, it cost Au$8500 (US$6400, GB£4900). We pick it up next month and will let you know how we get on. Wish us luck!





More reading
Second-gen BMW K1200LT test at Bennetts

See our K1100LT:
Part 1- the pick-up ride;

Part 2 - in the workshop

Perth to Melbourne run

K1200LT ratings...


Handles okay

Lots of luxury


Not so good

Not so well-known as a Wing







TYPE: Liquid-cooled, four-valves-per-cylinder, inline four

CAPACITY: 1172cc

BORE & STROKE: 75 x 70.5mm


FUEL SYSTEM:  Bosch Motronic EFI



TYPE: Five-speed, constant-mesh,




FRAME TYPE: Aluminium bridge with subframe

FRONT SUSPENSION: Telelever with 35mm stanchion and single strut

REAR SUSPENSION: Single-side Paralever with single strut

FRONT BRAKES: 2 x 320mm discs with 4-piston Brembo calipers

REAR BRAKE: 285mm disc with 2-piston Brembo caliper



DRY/WET WEIGHT: 345/378kg

SEAT HEIGHT: 770mm (adjustable)





FRONT: 120/70-17

REAR: 160/70-17



POWER: 72kW @ 6750rpm

TORQUE: 115Nm @ 4750rpm

TOP SPEED: 198km/h




NEW PRICE $32,200 plus on-road costs

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