BMW builds a variety of different types of motorcycles, many of which are considered to be some of the best touring machines. Having said that, cruisers aren’t exactly what come to mind when the German marque is mentioned but nonetheless, here is an example born of out BMW’s foray into the lucrative cruiser segment: the R1200C. This was BMW’s first crack at building a cruiser, and they threw a lot of money at this project in terms of both development and marketing. In addition to BMW calling on its head designer to create a scoot with a leaned back riding position, you probably remember this bike was utilized in the Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. Needless to say, this wasn’t because the writers happened to really dig the German cruiser.
The R1200C was powered by a 1,170cc two-cylinder eight-valve, fuel-injected boxer that made 61hp and 72ft-lbs of torque at 3,000rpm. The German cruiser weighed in at 520lbs dry, tacking another 44lbs on when wet. Paired with a five-speed transmission, the bike could hit 105mph, and accelerate through the quarter mile in 15.9 seconds. The second year (’98) it was in production BMW began offering the cruiser without ABS, as the feature was standard on the model in ’97. The engine was attached to a partially stressed-engine frame that was dampened by a mono-shock in the rear. Up front, twin 305mm Brembo disc brakes offered great bite while a single 285mm disc in back was there to do its part too.
The end of the 1990’s were marked by several distinguishing design features, one of which being the rear passenger seat folding into a rear-cowl or back-rest for the front seat. It’s as period as 311 or JNCO jeans, and has stood the test of time about as well too. The R1200C boasted this feature, but managed to do a slightly better job than most other manufacturers. BMW genuinely held onto hope of becoming a formidable force in the cruiser world, keeping the R1200C in production from ’97-’04 despite disappointing sales figures towards the end.
When first released, the R1200C was recognized for its performance that was in a lot of ways superior to most other cruisers being made around that time. The brakes on the R12C were superb, and above average (for a cruiser) ground clearance enabled for a more agile machine than the vast majority of bikes in the cruiser category. The thing was also said to be – like most products that roll out of BMW’s factories – well engineered and boasted fantastic reliability. At under 600lbs, the bike was also considered relatively lightweight for a cruiser too, though its 1200cc engine was accompanied by a clunky BMW gearbox.
Various R1200C offerings existed over the years. In addition to the “Classic” – the name the first model was given after BMW began selling additional models – they offered the Avantgarde, Independent, Montauk, Troika, and the R1200CL and CLC. The various specs differed in accessories, color, and a few changes in components in certain areas. For the fourth year of the BMW cruiser’s production, the high-end manufacturer began offering an 850cc version of the machine under the name R850C. It turns out the extra 320cc’s weren’t what was holding buyers back from purchasing the cruiser.
The R1200C is admittedly a good looking cruiser (in my opinion), even by today’s standards. The use of a stock single-sided swingarm may be a feature customers had grown to expect on BMW Motorrad offerings, but it is still cool to see its cruiser retained this stylish trait. The intakes and bodywork have aggressive lines and the low-slung exhausts visually work really well with the rest of the bike. Not everybody loves the darkened windscreen that came on some models, but it’s an easy part to swap, and the machine is undeniably a pretty unique cruiser – especially in a country where Harley’s are omnipotent.
This particular example is from 1999 and it boasts an aftermarket touring windscreen, a factory dark blue paint job, side windscreens for the rider’s knees, aftermarket engine-guards, upgraded BMW passenger seat, BMW removable and lockable leather luggage, and a custom exhaust system that’s said to generate a low growl. This example does have the factory ABS, and 21,000 miles have been put on this example, though it is still said to be in great shape. Cruisers aren’t cheap and neither are BMW’s, but somehow the universe seems to recognize a weird double-negative in this case, as the R1200C comes at a pretty reasonable price. Because it’s always fun to watch a good high-production chase scene, here’s the R1200C’s cameo in Tomorrow Never Dies.
You can find this 1999 BMW R1200C for sale here on Craigslist in Boca Raton, Florida with a price of $5,900.