The Revolutionary 1100cc 1996-2001 BMW R1100RT

by Jeff Dean

Click here to see photos of the R1200RT!

In its December 2000 issue, Motorcyclist named the BMW R1100RT the “Best Tourer” in its Best of Motorcycling 2000 Awards. Motorcyclist called it “one of the only rational touring bikes we know.

1999 BMW R1100RT

This is a 1996 BMW R1100RT on tour at Glacier National Park.

What is so great about this motorcycle? Where does one start?

The R1100RT, and the new R1200RT, handle like sport bikes, aided as they are by the unique telelever front suspension and paralever rear. With the telelever front end, you can brake as hard as you want, and an RT will not dive. I have ridden RTs on Road America, Elkhart Lake, at speeds over 120 mph and rounded tight corners at speeds and lean angles I though would be impossible for a street bike to handle—without ruffling the R1100RT. Unless you are a professional racer, chances are that the RT can ride a lot better on a track than you can.

A 1988 R1100RT at Kitt Peak, Arizona.

It has ABS (anti-lock braking system) for added safety in foul weather or panic situations (which is why the California Highway Patrol adopted the R1100RT- Ps exclusively). It has fuel injection, four-valve heads, and puts out 90 horsepower. It has a windshield that is electrically adjustable for height with the push of your left thumb. It has standard waterproof saddlebags and an optional top case for great luggage capacity. And the whole package is just plain beautful. (In my opinion, only one motorcycle can rival the R1100RT or R1200RT for sheer beauty . . . )

Touring on my BMW R1100RT in Colorado. (Photo by Ron Thompson)

The R1100RT has received numerous awards from motorcycle magazines. Cycle World selected the RT as the Best Liter-Class Sport-Tourer in 1998, 1997, and the year it was introduced, 1996. Rider Magazine chose the RT as the Top Liter-Class Sport-Tourer in 1999, 1998, 1997, and 1996. In 1996 the Robb Report named the RT as one of the world's eight best motorcycles. In 2000—somewhat surprisingly—even Motorcyclist named the RT Best Tourer.

The R1100RT and the new R1200RT are best known as “Sport Tourers.” You can get on one and ride across America without worry or inconvenience. And when you hit those fabulous mountain or twisty roads, the smile will not leave your face.

Here, above, is the rider's-eye view of the R1100RT dashboard.

Above: A BMW R1100RT in its element — loaded for touring.

Below: a red R1100RT on the left, and a police R1100RT-P on patrol on the right.

There are motorcycles that are faster than the RT or are more posh than the RT, but in being so they give up something critical. No motorcycle anywhere puts so many things together so well as the RT does. And now the 2007 R1200RT has taken it, and motorcycling in general, to a new level.

Click here to read English R1100RT specifications from BMW A.G., Munich, Germany.