The BMW K1200R and the Yamaha FZ1 why are these two 'outsiders'? Well, the last time either of these was in a group test the reviews were less than favorable. Especially when it came to the engines, or more specifically, the fueling. I saw a article about the BMW K1200R, from 2005 : 'It's impossible to ride smoothly when you're trying to be delicate with the throttle.' And another article about the Yamaha YZF-R1 in 2006 said 'Unless the engine's at very low revs, or in the top half of the rev range and dealing with large throttle openings, it's impossible to open the throttle smoothly.'
It was a shame. Both bikes offered more than 130 horsepower at the rear wheel, but getting at that drive was such an arduous, unpleasant experience in was hard to get truly excited compared to other bikes in the same range.
Stopping to fuel up after my first ride on the Yamaha FZ1, I take my lid off. While a Thai boy mans the pumps, I take a minute to stare at the bike, while the pump boy was staring at me. I remember riding the Yamaha FZ1 last year and , frankly, I hated every second on it. But this is.... good. No, it's great.
So what's different? The ECU. Yamaha have put a new computing brain into the 2008 Yamaha FZ1 and Fazer models, and he difference is staggering. 'It's cured,' I repeat, almost shocked. 'They've fixed it.' Why couldn't it have been like this last year?
Other bits of the bike feels improved, the throttle feels lighter, and the midrange feels sharper. It's now the Yamaha R1-engined streetfighter it should have been from day one, rather than awkward, frustrating and without purpose.
But frustrating is how boyfriend finds the BMW. 'The Germans just don't know what fun is, do they? They don't make bikes for fun.' We al laugh, but in this company, the BMW K1200R stands out. It's certainly built by people with a completely different mindset, a different approach to building a motorcycle. Maybe therefore the English manual still says BMW Motorrad.
With most of the bikes on the road, it's easy to imagine that at the initial design meeting the brief was simply to build a bad-ass motorcycle. But after riding the BMW K1200R it feels like their intention was to build a powerful BMW, without a fairing.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. 'It's a good bike, that,' says the boyfriend. He's right. It's very fast, very stable and the Duolever front end works well, providing you're not expecting reams of feedback. It's comfy, too, with the most spacious riding position of any of the bikes I ever touched. However the transmission quickly irritates and the engine feels uncertain on a shut throttle.
But its biggest problem, compared with the Yamaha FZ1, is a pure lack of grin factor. The Yamaha is short and lively; the BMW is long and lazier. Even the boyfriend, who turned out a big advocate for the BMW, is clearly having more fun on the Yamaha. Ahead of me, he shifts his body position on the exit of corners and draws a huge black line in the tarmac with a 130 horsepower paintbrush. As he clears off into the distance, the only way I know he's still somewhere ahead is a trail of smeared Dunlop left in his wake.