Rags and Riches,
Motorcycles are machines, some are built to a budget to do a job, some however are built to impress.
Sometimes I stop and re-think how and why I ride a motorcycle, I have ridden for a number of years now and let’s face it, we need to stop and have a look at ourselves from time to time, and a quick check up on personal abilities and attitudes is good for everyone. Practical or pleasure, work or play, what bike do you want? We can choose with the head and buy a commuter machine based on the economy and practicality of use or we can buy with the heart and buy a machine because it is special and sexy and a little unique.
I have been lucky enough to ride loads of different motorcycles over the years, I’ve ridden sports bikes on road and track, I raced enduro for several years in the 90s and have toured many a glorious mile on Britain’s roads rain or shine. I currently ride my KTM 990 Adventure almost every day to and from work and for pleasure too, this beastie is (in my opinion) probably one of the most versatile bikes ever made.
At work I ride a BMW R1200 RT (P) every day (think about it.). These bikes are very basic- at the very raggy end of the spectrum, they’re not all that powerful and the suspension is what I can only describe as cheese like, firm when cold - soggy when hot.
However earlier this week I spent a whole day riding an enlightening 200+ miles of Kent and Sussex’s’ best roads aboard a very different Boxer engine powered motorcycle.
The classic Boxer BMW engine is based on a very old design, its dates back years, before WW2 and I’m sure some may even know it was once used to power airplanes. However for some die hard riders it’s a classic motor and has a worldwide following of enthusiasts who would never use anything else. Do I like it? What do I think of the boxer? well I don’t dislike the engine, I have a bit of a twin thing going on anyway, I like the way twin engines produce their power and I love the drive they give out of corners, but it does have a sort of character all its own, for a start its weird the way the pistons seem to fight each other for space causing the bike to sway from side to side when revved from tick-over at a standstill and it vibrates too. It’s not very powerful by modern standards so BMW seem to mainly use it in their niche touring bikes and the new generation GS stuff. … But would you put it in a sports bike? ….mmm… let me tell you now, not all boxers are the same …
One could possibly draw a vague comparison between engine power and prize fighting or boxing, BMWs’ RT and GS’s with boxer engines could be classed in human terms as overweight middle weights, This engine fits into middle weight in terms of power in the big bike world. RT’s and GS’s do very well in the market place though, the engine does the job asked of it, Its solid, reliable and good in its own arena against similar competition, but it has not got a huge punch if put in the heavy weight ring with proper powerful Sports/Touring bikes ….. Enter the engineers; you want a BMW Boxer to pack a punch? Throw the rags away and speak to the rich boys. One does get what one pays for every now and again.
Well, we live in a funny old world and there are some people out there who do things because they can, Edmund Hilary climbed a mountain just because it was there and he could, and in true “buck the trend” in your face “we can so we will” sort of way the blokes/frau at BMW have done the same with a motorcycle.
BMW have built a very special motorcycle, powered by a very special Boxer engine.
Role up the HP2 SPORT, or should I say raw, pop and bang up, BMW have set about making a drop dead gorgeous (subjective opinion, obviously) sports bike dripping in some of the best components currently in the BMW parts bin plus some that it shares with other brands of exotic bikes. The HP2 comes with Titanium this and carbon that and stuff like a quick shifter, not to mention super sticky tyres as standard and the obligatory Ohlins suspendy things are just lovely. Boxer engines in the middle weight class? This one has been on steroids and working out for months. It goes and stops like a … ( sorry I’m getting carried away now) It goes very well for a twin, I once owned a Millie R and this beauty is every bit as quick, the engine pulls like a train, it punched out of corners like a heavy weight boxer. It’s not in the star ship “warp factor Sulu” class like the new S1000RR BMW but as a motorcycle it is, in my opinion a proper motorcycle for riders to master their trade of simply riding very quickly. It’s so involving riding it’s as if the bike communicates, it talks to you as you make extremely rapid progress across any road you may ride/drive it along. Combining the light weight, did I tell you it weighs next to nothing, and the Ohlins suspension it works so well together even someone of man size proportions (wrong side of 17st) can allow them a little exuberance and still get away with the odd wrong line in need of correction mid-bend? This is rich man’s bike with a lofty price on the expensive of £17k, the BMW HP2 is not cheap, but quite frankly, the more I rode it the more I began to understand why it costs so much money, and it is quite simply a great rider’s motorcycle. It will live with the best road sports bikes on the market everywhere except possibly a long straight on a race track or drag strip. Ride the HP2 as it was meant to be ridden, ride it well, and it is a rewarding mix of stomping acceleration with the quick-shifter turning the experience into a sublime endless stream of smooth linear drive followed by a brick wall hitting stopping power of the ferocious brembo monoblock brakes.
This motorcycle is a demonstration of what is possible if one is prepared to spend time, money, and express engineering expertise on top kit, hence my rage to riches theory, I ride my work BMW RT bike around thinking “I wish the suspension was better, I wish I had a little more power and a wish the brakes were stronger“, You get the picture, I ride the rags version of what can be a good no, great engine, put some shiny expensive tuning goodies into this humble engine housing and away you go. If riches are you bag the HP2 is a stonking bike for the discerning rider who is perhaps like me, tired of the generic dare I say bland sports bike genre. (Modern Sports bikes are now so fast they’re almost, dare I say, dull …? But that’s a different blog) HP2 is a very good but expensive (you get what you pay for!!!) real world sports motorcycle.
The HP2 SPORT is now on my lottery win list alongside the Ducati MHR, Vincent Black shadow, MV Augusta F4, Manx Norton and Cyril Despre’s Dakar winning KTM, oh, and a Harley Wide Glide to park next to the fully loaded Snap-On tool cabinet … dream on lad.
Right … back in the real world.
For now I’ll continue to be amazed by my 990 Adventure KTM, it does me just fine. Special motorbikes are just that, special, and BMW should be congratulated for making the HP” Sport … “because they could“.
… Now where’s that lottery ticket?
Keep it up … right.