With the new R 12, BMW Motorrad is bringing a relaxed cruiser for everyday use onto the road. Compared to the BMW R 12 nineT, the simple basic model is a little less popular, but it has a lot of talent, as the test shows.

The basic model of the R 12 series leads more of a wallflower existence at BMW Motorrad. The vehicle, designed as a classic cruiser and costing around 14,500 euros, is very different from the higher-quality R 12 nineT, which is a good 3,000 euros more expensive.

The boxer engine produces 70 kW/95 hp. The boxer engine produces 70 kW/95 hp.

The boxer engine produces 70 kW/95 hp.

(Photo: Rita Niehues)

As is well known, BMW has not only had good experiences with cruisers. In particular, the R 1200 C, built from 1997 to 2004, never managed to break out of the small niche it had occupied with the then still powerful Telelever and the boxer engine that produced just 60 hp.

1170 cubic and 95 hp for only 227 kilos

This is different with the new R 12, even though it is also powered by a boxer engine, as is typical for the brand. It is a 1170 cc four-valve engine that produces 70 kW/95 hp at 6500 rpm. Although this is 14 horsepower less than the otherwise identical engine in the nineT version, it is not missed in the R 12: the maximum torque of 110 Nm is almost the same as in the sister model (115 Nm), which is a more than respectable level. And with a classic cruiser, plenty of torque is much more important than sheer power anyway.

The test consumption of five liters per 100 kilometers is OK. After 190 kilometers of brisk cruising, a refueling reminder appears in signal yellow.

“Rock” and “Roll” to choose from

The displays are very clear and reduced. The displays are very clear and reduced.

The displays are very clear and reduced.

(Photo: Rita Niehues)

The engine is perfectly tuned and a joy to drive. There is plenty of power at any speed above idle, and the names for the two driving modes are well-chosen: the throttle response in “Roll” is gentle, while in “Rock” it is much sharper. In the first mode, you can glide along in absolute relaxation, while in “Rock” you can easily perform maneuvers that are not typical for a cruiser.

The radial four-piston monoblock calipers at the front are fine, the deceleration is top-notch. There is another, well-dimensioned disc at the rear. The clutch is also easy to control and smooth. It harmonizes perfectly with the well-stepped, precisely shiftable six-speed gearbox. Cornering ABS and dynamic traction control are now a matter of course.

Short suspension travel

So everything is fine on the drive side. The same can be said of the chassis, although the suspension travel has been reduced by three centimeters compared to the nineT, from twelve to nine centimeters, in favor of a lower seat height. The reduced suspension travel is only noticeable when the asphalt under the thick wheels becomes untypical for a cruiser.

The BMW R 12 is powered by an air/oil-cooled 1170 cc boxer engine. The BMW R 12 is powered by an air/oil-cooled 1170 cc boxer engine.

The BMW R 12 is powered by an air/oil-cooled 1170 cc boxer engine.

(Photo: Rita Niehues)

Overall, the chassis setup is perfectly fine. It is by no means slack, but allows for forced cornering without instability occurring. The fact that the footrests start to scratch at some point due to the lower ground clearance can be forgiven for the R 12 – squaring the circle just isn't possible in Munich either.

The empty weight of 227 kilograms is not a problem in the slightest, so that the R 12 with the full tire sizes 100/90-19 and 150/80-16 can be described with a clear conscience as handy and cornering-friendly.

Basic and special equipment

The R 12 comes standard with a single round instrument that includes a semi-circular scale plus a digital display field. It harmonizes well with the pure appearance of the motorcycle. We were therefore skeptical about the micro TFT display that was installed as an optional extra. Does it suit the type? We quickly became friends with it, because the displays are very clear – and reduced.

A button on the left of the handlebar switches through all possible displays one after the other. The current speed and a narrow rpm bar are also always visible. If you want, you can even just call up the speed display – the law does not allow anything less.

A whole series of vehicle details are pure. The headlight is circular, of course of the LED type and, no longer pure, can also be equipped with cornering lights on request. The R 12 is delivered without any wind protection as standard. If you want a windshield, you can get one for an additional charge. A pillion seat with footrests is also only fitted on request – the standard R 12 is designed for solo riders.

In our opinion, BMW has gone too far in reducing the number of “Keyless Ride” functions: the ignition key is always required for the somewhat tricky steering lock and the fuel tank cap, and only the starting procedure takes place at the push of a button. This interpretation seems crude to us.

The basic price is relatively cheap for a cruiser: starting at 14,460 euros. The basic price is relatively cheap for a cruiser: starting at 14,460 euros.

The basic price is relatively cheap for a cruiser: starting at 14,460 euros.

(Photo: Rita Niehues)

Otherwise, we have nothing to complain about: The chrome-plated double pipes of the exhaust system are harmonious and sound sonorous without being too noisy, the mirrors show a good image, the seating position is relaxed, but not inactive.

BMW has pulled out all the stops when it comes to customization options. They range from 719 cast wheels to handlebars, seats, hand levers, handlebar end mirrors, special cylinder covers, a smartphone holder and a silver rear end. If you go all out, you can push the base price from 14,460 euros to over 23,000 euros.


But you can also have a lot of fun with a “pure” BMW R 12, especially if you are lucky enough to live in a hilly area with well-developed roads where there is not too much traffic. That is when the BMW R 12 really comes into its own.

To our surprise, BMW is delivering a type of motorcycle with this fine model that Harley-Davidson no longer has in its range: a pure, classic cruiser in the style of the unfortunately defunct Sportster 1200. Who would have thought that?

Technical data BMW R 12

  • engine: Air/oil-cooled two-cylinder four-stroke boxer engine, 4 valves per cylinder, DOHC, 1170 cc displacement, 70 kW/95 hp at 6500 rpm, 110 Nm at 6000 rpm; injection, 6-speed gearbox, cardan shaft
  • landing gear: Steel tubular frame, load-bearing engine; 45 mm upside-down telescopic fork, 90 mm suspension travel; cast aluminum single-sided swing arm with torque support (BMW Paralever) with WAD central spring strut at the rear, preload and rebound damping adjustable, 90 mm suspension travel; light alloy cast wheels; tires 100/90-19 (front) or 150/80-16 (rear). 31 cm double disc brake at the front, 26.5 cm single disc brake at the rear
  • Assistance systems: Cornering ABS, lean angle active traction control DTC, engine drag torque control MSR, two driving modes (“Roll”, “Rock”), automatic indicator reset, Keyless Ride (without steering lock and fuel cap); also intelligent emergency call, gearshift assistant, hill start assist, cruise control, smartphone integration and Headlight Pro with adaptive cornering light
  • mass and weight: Wheelbase 1.52 m, width 83 cm, seat height 75.4 cm, weight ready to drive 227 kg, payload 203 kg; tank capacity 14 l
  • Driving performance: 0-100 km/3.9 seconds, top speed over 200 km/h. Consumption according to standard 5.1 liters/100 km, consumption in test 5.0 liters/100 km; range about 275 km
  • Colors: Black, Red, Silver Metallic-Black-Gold (Thorium)
  • Price: from 14,460 euros


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