Last updated January 15, 2015.
Revolutionary itself in design when it was introduced in 1995, the fluid lines and advanced technological features of the R1100RT have been retained nicely in its successor, the 2002 R1150RT. But two-pound lighter five-spoke wheels replace the original three-spoke cast wheels. The switches are as those on the R1150GS. The clutch is hydraulic. The headlight design is new for BMW. Available colors originally included red metallic, dark-blue metallic, silver metallic, and aquamint metallic. Later colors were titan silver, piedmont red, and Biarritz blue (named after Biarritz, France). At times, night black was also available during special promotions. For the 2004 model year only two spark plugs per cylinder and a maintenance-free gel battery were included; a radio kit was deleted from U.S. motorcycles.
The R1150RT comes with standard brakes that are themselves revolutionary. The RT has the worlds first power-assisted brakes ever put on a motorcycle. When you activate these brakes, you stop now! Moreover, they are fully integrated. That is, both brakes are applied fully using either the front brake lever or the rear brake pedal, or both. Advanced ABS prevents the wheels from locking up. These brakes set a new standard far ahead of normal motorcycles, and they are going to reduce injuries and save lives.
Strangely, southern California moto-magazines have posted some pretty unimpressive stopping distances for this motorcycle from 60 MPH-to-0 (97 km/h-to-0) in 123 (37.5 meters) by Motorcycle Consumer News and in 127 (38.7 meters) by Cycle World. In my own trial I stopped the R1150RT in 105 (32 meters). This distance is shorter than any motorcycle ever tested by MCN. I think a professional rider familiar with this braking system could reduce my stopping distance further.
Below: You don't think of the R1150RT as a suitable conveyance to head far north in Alaska, do you? Well, Norm Benedum of Wisconsin did. Here his 2004 RT is parked in 2010 along the Dalton Highway at the Arctic Circle as Norm was heading north.
For the 2004 model year, BMW introduced on the R1150RT Twin Spark heads two spark plugs per cylinder to eliminate surging some owners experienced and improve exhaust emissions. New for 2004 as well is a maintenance-free gel battery.
The 2004 models can be distinguished by the design of their valve covers: 2004 is below right; earlier years are below left.
BMW also deleted for 2004 the radio package, including speakers, antenna, wiring, and radio chassis, which had been provided on all 2002 and 2003 R1150RTs.
Late in 2004, BMW introduced the successor model to the R1150RT. It is the 2005-2006 R1200RT (photo above). It offers lighter weight, more power and torque, cruise control, and some other amenities. Its design is a radical departure from previous RT models.
Below: A 2004 R1150RT with the Wisconsin State Capitol across Lake Monona, Madison, in the background. Even in 2015, with the wet-head R1200RT in production, this is still the prettiest BMW RT ever made.
Metzeler's long-wearing ME880 tubeless radial tires are available in sizes to fit the R1150RT (120/70R17 front and 170/60R17 rear). I had been using Metzeler MEZ4s front and rear, which were stock on my motorcycle. I am now using the ME880 tires, which have now been approved for the R1150RT. When they wear out I will replace them with ME880s because they offer much better tire wear than the Z4s. I got 10,000 miles (over 16,000 kilometers) out of my first ME880 rear tire. On the other hand, Z6 tires offer better traction for riders who like highest possible performance. Here is Metzelers Fitment Chart for the R1150RT.
Like all BMW motorcycles, the R1150RT can go the distance. Above is my fully loaded RT at Grand Teton National Park, Jackson, Wyoming, where I had stopped on my return from Idaho to Wisconsin in August 2002.
In 2002 my trusty R1150RT took me to Trenton, Ontario, for the first BMW MOA international rally held outside of the United States, which was attended by some 5,500 enthusiasts. My next trip was to Glacier International Park, Montana, and then south to Boise, Idaho, where the National Association of State Motorcycle Safety Administrators held its annual meeting.
The R1100RT and R1150RT series from BMW have always been among the marques best sellers. In 2002, the R1150RT was the best selling BMW motorcycle in the United States. Inasmuch as "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," it comes as no surprise that other manufacturers are starting to imitate the RTs. Specifically, Yamaha is producing the imitative FJR1300, while Honda makes the ST1300. Both bikes copy elements of the RT, including a sporting design, standard integrated luggage, electrically adjustable windshields, full fairing, weight in the 600-650 pound (295-315 kilogram) region, sporting full fairing, and shaft drive. In the case of the Honda, ABS is available, but it is not standard as it is on the RT. ABS is now also available on the Yamaha.
Of course, one might note that the FJR will do 150 MPH (240 km/h) and the ST will go 140 MPH (225 km/h), while the pokey R1150RT can only muster 125 MPH (201 km/h). That statistic may mean a whole lot to motomagazine editors, but to me it means nothing because I never travel at anything over 110 MPH (177 km/h)
More information can be found on the R1150RT web page of BMW of North America.
Above left: My 2004 two-spark R1150RT at the American Motorcyclist Association motorcycle museum in Pickerington, Ohio.
Above right: Keith Jobe, a police detective who lives in Texas, chose to convert his R1150RT for solo riding. So he acquired the rear top box and parts for a police version of the RT and put them on his standard RT. The sanitary result is shown above.