BMW R1200C Cruiser

Imagine the dilemma for the product planners at BMW. One of the longest established motorcycle manufacturers in the world, they make highly acclaimed, technically superb bikes, and the bike market is booming. But the biggest growth area in recent years has been in what are now called cruisers, (customs or choppers to those of us who remember the Seventies), and this is a mile away from the serious sporting tourers that are synonymous with the Bavarians. Cruisers are laid back bikes, big on style and comfort, and above all with serious pose value. In short, cruisers are Harley Davidsons.

No problem to the Japanese, to whom copying is seen as some form of industrial compliment. They have been churning out shiploads of Harley clones for years, the early ones quite laughable really, but in the last year or two their copies are almost indistinguishable from the real thing, to the point where Harley Davidson's lawyers have been burning the midnight oil attempting to patent every last detail of the Harley brand mystique, right down to the unique "potato, potato" sound of the exhaust note. Their copies may be technically brilliant, but let's face it ... they have no soul.

BMW could never have contemplated this copy-cat approach, it would offend dignity of the brand, but neither could they allow such a lucrative and image enhancing opportunity to pass them by. They did what only BMW would do, they started from scratch, they started with their own trademark, the venerable flat twin "boxer" engine, and put it in a chassis incorporating all of their recent technical innovations. The engineers then handed the plot over to the stylists. Judging from the results they must be on a diet of Prozac and Pink Floyd, because the remarkable vehicle that you see pictured here is the decidedly wacky looking result. Welcome to biking Deutschlander Disco style, the BMW R1200C Cruiser.

The bike is almost even more bizarre in the metal than it appears in the photos, but the first thing that strikes you is the truly stunning quality of the finish, and the absolutely fanatical attention to detail. Look at the rear light cluster, the foot pegs and the fuel filler cap as examples. They look more the product of a jewellery workshop that a bike factory, each one a flawless little piece of industrial art that could just as well be stamped Rolex. Look at that saddle, comfortable, low, covered in real leather, and that clever little pillion pad swings up to form a genuinely comfortable drivers backrest. With design like this you can be impressed by this bike without even riding it.

But that would be a waste, as it is as charismatic to ride as it is to look at. It is no lightweight, but the low riding position makes it fairly unintimidating, an important point as this sort of bike often attracts inexperienced riders. It has a good deep sound too, if a mite too polite for its looks, although I am told on the sly that this can be, ahem, enhanced. All the controls are beautifully weighted, and fully adjustable. The classic boxer flat twin has been taken out to 1,200 cc, but compression has been dropped to make less power, but lots more torque for that unstressed cruiser style urge. My test bike was literally brand new, and it was a very squally day, so I am in no position to give you a performance report, but for once that is irrelevant. This bike is about relaxing, not blasting, and it fits the bill with an easy loping stride and a well damped ride. Do not dismiss this as an old crate however. Radial tyres, Telelever and Monolever suspension systems, floating brake discs with optional ABS, and lots of ground clearance mean that this is a cruiser that can really handle when push comes to shove. That is emphatically not something you can say for most of the copy-cat bikes, and dare I say it, most Harleys as well!

It costs a little under, or a little above, 10,000 depending on the specification that you choose, and BMW have a whole range of custom designed accessories, helmets and clothes to go with it that will very likely tempt a good deal more out of your wallet. It is a good deal more expensive than most of the Japanese competition but it is a lot more bike, and it is a lot less expensive than many of the Harley Davidsons it is so obviously competing with. I would say it represents very good value for money, and I would not be at all surprised if this is an entry price. Order now before the price goes up.

All the predictions are that this will be a world wide best seller for BMW, and deservedly so. The BMW Cruiser is a genuinely radical bike. It copies no one, it is exquisitely made, has all the real world performance you could need, has all the best safety gear, and it's a hoot to ride! The only question is can you love with those "Brunnehilda on Acid" looks? Who says the Germans have no sense of humour?