2001 BMW K1200 LT C

After making a couple of long cross-country rides on my 1994 Harley-Davidson Dyna Convertible and also many rides around California on my Kawasaki Concours, a mid-size sport touring bike, I decided I wanted a more comfortable super-heavyweight touring motorcycle. I looked at several as possibilities. Honda was just introducing the redesigned Gold Wing with an 1800cc engine, and that looked like a good possibility. I put a deposit on one. But when the Honda dealer in Concord, California, received the first one, I was disappointed. One of the things I liked about the older 1500cc Gold Wings was their large luggage spaces, especially the rear top compartment. Honda, in making the Gold Wing 1800 more of a sporty performance bike had also downsized the luggage space. Especially the rear compartment, which now had a compartment in its floor for the stereo system electronics, but a lot less space for packed items. Also, the new bikes were rated for gas mileage of only around 30 MPG. That, to me, was not impressive. I cancelled my order for the Gold Wing.

Then I went to the Harley-Davidson dealer in Walnut Creek, CA, to look at the big Electra Glide Classics and Ultras. I liked them, but the problem there was that all the bikes that were readily available from the dealer's stock had been heavily customized. Custom paint, custom wheels, etc. drove the asking prices for the bikes they had brought in from the factory up several thousand dollars over Harley-Davidson's advertised list prices for those models, which were already expensive. I wanted a bike for riding, not for show, and I wasn't about to pay $25,000 for it just because the dealer thought the way to sell them was to pretty them up and make them more expensive. So, disappointed with that, I went over to the BMW motorcycle dealer in Walnut Creek, which was also the Kawasaki dealer where I had my Concours serviced, and discovered that they had a large BMW touring model available in stock, and not only did it not have extra items added, but they were also offering a discount of a couple thousand dollars from BMWs advertised list just to sell it. I could buy the K1200LT Custom with chrome trim and the 6-CD stereo that listed for $21,000 for about $19,000. That seemed like a good deal to me, so I went for it.

I purchased this bike new from Diablo Kawasaki-BMW in Walnut Creek, CA, in Spring of 2001, and rode it to Jackson, WY, that Summer where I met up with my daughter, Elyse, and her husband, Boris, who had been hiking in the Grand Tetons. They were traveling on a 1999 Gold Wing 1500, and we rode together back to their home in Minneapolis, MN, with stops at Lakeside Lodge in Pinedale, WY, and Sturgis, SD, along the way. After that, I rode north and returned to the West Coast through Canada. Subsequently, I rode this bike across America two more times: One trip was to Minneapolis again and then across Michigan's upper penninsula and through Canada from Sault St. Marie to Sherbrooke, Quebec, then into Maine to visit my dad. The other was to Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan after which I turned south due to rain and came to Santa Fe in October 2005 where I met my sweetheart and later-to-be wife, Eileen. I also rode it on a trip around the Western US where I joined up with my son-in-law Boris and his Swiss friend Paul for a few days. One of the things I discovered that I really liked about this bike on these trips was that the 1200cc inline-four-cylinder fuel-injected BMW engine, in spite of its high performance, was very efficient. At higher highway speeds, the bike usually got between 40 and 45 miles per gallon. But if I held my speed down to between 50 and 60 MPH on two-lane roads, it could actually get about 55 MPG, which was pretty amazing for a bike this size.

I sold the bike with 57,000 miles on the odometer at reduced price in early 2011, sans the ABS which had ceased to function and was promising a $3000 bill for repair. Fortunately, the brakes on this early 2001 model were the unlinked variety, without power assist, and were able to function perfectly with the ABS simply disconnected. I never found the ABS particularly useful, and the experience taught me a lesson: I would never without reservation purchase another motorcycle with ABS, as it is just one more feature to require expensive repairs that a skilled and careful rider can easily do without. Although nowadays one often no-longer has that choice.

Additions over the years included halogen road lights on the front fairing and crash-bar covers for visibility, a shallower, wider, more comfortable rider seat from Corbin, J-Pegs to provide an alternate foot position during long-distance highway riding, a Cee Bailey aftermarket windscreen, and a Kenwood 150-watt subwoofer mounted in the left rear luggage compartment to over-compensate for lack of bass in the factory stereo, which was otherwise satisfactory. A few one-inch and 1-1/2-inch holes were drilled in the periphery of the luggage compartment inside the lip where they were not visible with the lid closed to let the sound out. The extra bass didn't do much good on the highway, usually getting lost in the wind, but at low speeds and standing, if I cranked up the volume with that subwoofer on, the sound was awesome.

On the rider-seat issue, I found the original seat to be too high in the center, therefore uncomfortable on long rides. Amazingly enough, a dealer in Vancouver, Canada, informed me that the seats installed on K1200LT bikes sold by BMW in the US were different from the ones sold in Canada. The Canadian seats, which he called the "Canadian Manly Seats" were wider and more comfortable. The Corbin seat was less expensive, however, and did solve the problem, although it was a bit shy on padding. At some point, RoadRunner decals that I picked up at a car show were added, because I thought that purple cartoon bird looked a bit like this bike.

This bike was dropped several times over the years, with little damage other than to my ego. The integral crash bars shrouded by black plastic covers on each side of the fairing did an excellent job of protecting the shiny plastic and suffered only minor abrasions themselves. The first drip occurred when I had the bike completely loaded and ready to depart on its first long road trip in 2001. I began to back it away from my garage door and down the driveway of my Danville house, lost my footing, and down it went. I couldn't budge it myself but eventually walked to the end of the block and found a neighbor to come and help me pick it up. Shaken but undaunted, I left on my trip. The second drop occurred as I pulled up on a sidewalk in a bicycle parking zone a a Safeway supermarket in that same town. Inexplicably, as I came to a stop, the front of the bike jumped to the left. I couldn't catch it and had to lower it down slowly on its right side. A startled bystander asked if I was OK then helped me pick it up. What was it? I looked at the pavement near the front of my bike. There was a small, hard pine cone about an inch and a half in diameter that had probably fallen from one of the pine trees bordering the parking lot. It was so tiny I hadn't noticed it, but apparently had hit it directly with my front wheel as I came to a stop and like a little ball bearing it had rolled my front wheel to the side enought to throw me off balance. The third and last time I dropped it, I was pulling into a parking space in front of the showroom at Grand Canyon Harley Davidson with my wife on the passenger seat. As I maneuvered the bike, I lost my balance, and over it went on the right side. I called to Eileen as it went over, "Jump!" She in her leather jacket ended up lying on her back on the pavement with her feet against the main rear luggage compartment. I asked if she was OK. She said yes, but didn't think she could get up because she perceived that her feet against the bike were holding it up. I assured her that was not the case, helped her up, and the two of us quickly lifted the bike, amazingly before anyone at the dealership noticed the mishap. This bike was so top-heavy it was always just waiting to be dropped. The fellow I sold it to, who was several inches taller than me and presumably heavier and stronger, told me he dropped it four times in the yard of his house during the first week after he bought it from me.

More Pictures



In 2007 I modified the rear of the topcase because the aluminum cast factory latch had broken, BMW wanted $800 for a replacement box and would not sell the latch separately, and I couldn't justify spending that amount of money for a case with a latch that would probably just break again in time because this is a known and well documented problem. I installed two adjustable automotive draw-bolt assemblies from Eberhard Manufacturing and also installed an additional square aftermarket LED tail/stop lamp in place of the original latch mechanism. The draw-bolts are lockable. Here are photographs showing the modified topcase:

Dealer maintenance charges for this bike were so expensive, over $1000 virtually every time the shop looked at it, that I eventually began doing most of my own service, including oil-and-lubricant changes, spark plugs, valve clearance checks, and fuel-filter replacement. Any work on the engine was also a bit of a pain in the ass because it usually involved about an hour to strip off the plastic before and another hour or more to put it back on afterward. Plus there were all those little screws you had to be careful not to lose and to get back in the right places. I opted to have the dealer shim the valve lifters at about 48,000 miles because the clearances were moving out of spec and shimming involved removing and replacing the camshafts, which I didn't feel confident about doing myself. (It's important to get them back in the right position.) I did supervise the mechanic, however, and when I found that he had failed to shim a few of the exhaust valves that were near minimum clearance I insisted they be shimmed even though that would take the clearances slightly above the high spec. I didn't want to have to bring the bike in and pay another $400 for this service again in only 12,000 miles. The mechanic admitted that having clearances slightly over spec would cause no damage, the only effect likely being a little extra tappet noise.

At about 50,000 miles the seals on the front suspension sliders, which were alleged to be lifetime service-free, began to leak. The fork lowers on this bike did not include shock absorbers. It has a single front shock mounted separately in the telelever suspension. I managed to remove the front fork sliders, replace the seals, and reinstall them myself with good results. I did have to purchase some extra tools, thin wrenches, a heat gun, etc., to do this job. Rode the bike on a couple of trips afterward with no further fork-oil leakage. Unlike other owners, I did not find that the factory shock absorbers required replacement during the time I owned the bike. The front shock was pretty inadequate, however, allowing the telelever to bottom frequently on road irregularities that normally would not produce that effect on any other bike. Aftermarket replacement shocks, however, tended to cost in excess of $1000, and with no assurance that they would be any better, I was reticent to invest in them. This bike also had the "screechy rear brake" problem, which could be corrected by periodically sanding the pads, or alternatively applying the rear brake really hard a few times seemed to also make it better. I think I finally cured it by installin EBC sintered brake pads.

Things may have changed since 2001, but in case you think German quality and engineering is without equal, you might gather from this account that my opinion is somewhat different. 

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