Nate Kern’s name is synonymous with racing BMW motorcycles and the diehard fan of two-wheeled Bavarian track weapons definitely deserves some credit for helping revive the interest and popularity in racing BMW’s modern bikes in the US. The German manufacturer doesn’t have a factory-backed US race team, meaning all of BMW’s domestic competing in professional events has to be financed privately, often by dealerships. This makes it all the more impressive that Kern is able to repeatedly nab podium finishes and set lap records – not to mention his championships – against riders who have the factory support of deep-pocketed manufacturers.
Today Nate serves as an official brand ambassador and test rider for BMW while also working as a guest instructor at racing schools, appearing at moto-events, and of course doing a bit of professional racing himself. But before his success, New Jersey-born Kern grew up on a farmstead in Ohio before he would leave home at the age of 16. Seven years later he was enrolled in a community college and driving an old Ford Bronco that got such poor gas mileage that the then-23-year-old decided to get a two wheeler, a decision that would forever alter the course of his life. In just a few years, he would be signing a contract with BMW.
Nate’s competitive racing journey began back in 2002 aboard an R1100S. After doing his very first open trackday, he was encouraged by friends and fellow riders who took note that day of how fast the inexperienced 24-year-old was on his BMW. In March of 2002, he would compete at Daytona in seven races aboard what was essentially a stock R1100S that had a few very minor mods to make it race legal. Rumor has it Kern showed up to his first race with just his bike: no mechanic, track stands, or tire-warmers and supposedly not even a toolbox. Nate would go on to win his first race…and then his second…and then the five that followed. In a matter of 24 hours, a racing star was born.
After winning his first handful of races, Kern began spending less and less time attending classes and focused more of his energy on racing, while also utilizing his student loan funds for racing. Kern popped up on BMW’s radar almost instantly and pretty soon the Bavarian marque offered him that aforementioned contract. “It was really cool to be so successful as a late comer. But the biggest motivator for me was the BMW family that I became a part of,” Kern explained. In 2005, Nate would win his first CCS Road Racing Series, a feat he would repeat the following year.
Then in 2008 Kern won the ASRA’s Championship Cup Series (or CCS) Pro Thunderbike Championship aboard a BMW R1200S race machine, making him the first to achieve this feat aboard a bike that wasn’t a Buell. Nate had two near-identical (one white and the other black) 2007 #12 R12S’ in race trim that he used in CCS competition. The white boxer was Kern’s primary bike and the black one was his back-up machine, and that is the example that is currently for sale. It is more or less the exact machine Kern won his 2008 title aboard, boasting a handful of important top-shelf upgrades that one would expect to see on professional-level competition equipment.
In 2009, BMW would lure Kern off his Boxer platform and onto the brand’s upcoming superbike (the S1000R) almost a full year before it hit the market. Shortly after Kern would become the official ambassador for BMW’s Double-R and by 2010 Nate had taken the bike racing. It was obviously a welcome change between all the extra horsepower and not having to worry about scraping the engine when cornering, and it didn’t take Kern long to hit his stride aboard the BMW liter bike and start winning. Earlier this year Kern made racing headlines when he managed to clinch the bottom spot of the podium at the first round of the WERA Triple Crown at Road Atlanta in the Superbike Class while piloting a bone-stock S1000RR – though it was fitted with the HP Power Kit. There’s a really cool story of how this unlikely third place came to be on Ultimate Motorcycling.
Though there is no question as to the level of Kern’s talent on two-wheels, the Buckeye-born racer credits some of his success to the BMW’s that he pilots. “I went on a boxer against purpose-built bikes that were developed just for racing. People like to judge a book by its cover. But a boxer has racing in its genetic make-up. Its heart and soul come from racing,” Nate explained. Kern thinks that the same advancements in technology and engineering that enable BMW Motorrad’s machines to perform so competently on the road, are equally beneficial on the racetrack – in particular the Beemer’s anti-dive Telelever system, stating, “The Telelever gives me an advantage especially in braking and cornering. I may not always be riding the fastest or lightest bike on the track, but I’m always riding the best cornering machine.”
The BMW R1200S is a high-end sport bike built in 2006 and 2007 and was the successor to the R1100S – which had grown pretty long in the tooth by 2005 which was a time of radical advancement in the sport segment. BMW’s answer to this technological two-wheeled arms-race was the R1200S, a revised version of the previous model with a significant face-lift, and thoroughly improved mechanics with 25 percent more power in an overall package that weighed almost 30 lbs less. The R12 was powered by a “hexhead” 1,170cc flat twin that reportedly made 122 hp at 7,525 rpm and 79 ft-lbs of torque at 6,710rpm, a big bump up from the 1100’s 98hp and 72ft-lbs of torque.
Wrapped around the German power-plant was a steel tubular trellis chassis which was largely to thank for the reduction in weight as the 1100’s big alloy frame was much heavier than it needed to be. Because this was a sport/race-oriented model, BMW offered customers a decent selection of optional addons to further the already impressive performance of the 1200 “hexhead” such as Ohlins suspension (fore and aft), lightweight Akrapovic exhaust, heated grips, tire-pressure monitoring system, solo seat cowl, ABS (that could be deactivated), and a wider six inch rear wheel to accept a 190 tire.
This particular ex-Kern R1200S racer was initially from Morton’s BMW in Virginia who supported Nate’s victorious 2008 CCS effort. The engine has been specially race-tuned and has recently received a new fuel-pump, new sender units, and a few other minor odds and ends like tires. The bike is in full-race trim-bodywork and still wears the same decals it did when it served as Kern’s back-up bike in 2008, though the numbers have been changed from 12 to 42.
After it was Nate’s spare, this machine was purchased by an older gentlemen who used it for track days but never raced it. It is by no means in perfect shape – showing a few scratches and dings here and there – though the current owner says the imperfections are from the bike falling over and that the machine has never been down at speed (or while moving period). It is said to be in remarkable shape mechanically and has just 2,000 miles on the odo. The seller also points out that this example could easily be converted back to street use.
I personally love the R1200S. It was born in a time when BMW was designing its bikes and cars with a similar distinguishable visual-theme. The dual-intake channels on the nose of the 1200 are unmistakably BMW, harkening back to the grills on the increasingly hip 2002’s of the 1970’s – a look BMW has utilized for decades. It’s the essence of the Bavarian brand’s aesthetic. But the R1200 is more than just eye-candy as Kern has so thoroughly demonstrated. The only downside that comes to mind when considering owning an ex-Kern racer, is the fact that Nate believes in the bike’s stock components and technology and therefore modifies his racers a lot less than most. While this can be fine in the hands of someone with super-human riding chops like Nate Kern, mere mortals like myself might not appreciate the raw, unforgiving feel of the almost 500lb (wet) bike at speed.
Nonetheless this is a stellar example, and its prior ownership is just the feather in its cap. You can find this ex-Nate Kern 2007 BMW R 1200 S ex-CCS Racer for sale here on Craigslist in Doral, Florida with a price of $8,000.