BMW K 1200 RS test comparison against Honda CBR 1100 XX

Crown jewels

K 1200 RS and CBR 1100 XX are the image carriers of BMW and Honda. You don’t just want to convince through performance, but above all through future-oriented technologies.

Power is nothing without control. In other words: Without control, the biggest muscles are of no use.

A stupid slogan? Perhaps. In the case of this comparison test, however, it hits the nail on the head. Performance must remain manageable, otherwise the shot backfires, not just from a political point of view.
The defending champion
The measure of all things in the open-top performance class is the CBR 1100 XX. Compared to Kawasaki’s ZZ-R 1100 (see MOTORRAD 22/1996) not only chosen as the winner because it is stronger and faster than anything that has come up to date in series, but above all because of its easy controllability. Thanks to the playful handling, the calming straight-line stability at top speed, the excellent braking system and, despite all the power, the very smooth power delivery of the modern in-line four-cylinder, the Honda was able to secure a clear lead.
The challenger
The new BMW has everything but easy: The open K 1200 RS is not necessarily one of the strongest in the big bike scene, but it is the first Bavarian creation, the BMW at least abroad with more than that of the German industry self-imposed a maximum of 100 hp.
One look at the performance diagram is enough to identify the inviolable boss when it comes to top performance. The strength of the BMW, on the other hand, is below 6500 rpm. Exactly in the area in which 90 percent of everyday motorcycle life takes place. The remaining ten are left for short intermediate sprints on the country road or for quick kilometers on the motorway. The actual driving performance reflects a similar picture: The MOTORRAD measured values ​​show the K less as a sprinter than the double X, but more as a powerful workhorse. The trump cards of the weighty BMW come as standard with a regulated catalytic converter, ABS and an ergonomics package including a manually adjustable windshield.
Four cylinders each, sixteen valves, water-cooled in-line engines – and yet two completely different concepts. While the Japanese screw their unit vertically and upright in a light aluminum frame, the Bavarians hang their "brick" lengthways, lying on its side, decoupled by rubber mounts, in a massive cast aluminum frame. This vibration brake actually works so well that almost nothing can be felt from the moving masses inside the engine when the vehicle is moving. Only when idling does the BMW still give internal combustion engine signs of life.
When it comes to feeding their four-cylinder predators, too, the two manufacturers go different ways: Honda relies on carburettor technology, while BMW relies on electronic injection. Both ways are effective when it comes to a perfect cold start or a spontaneous, direct throttle response. The consumption values ​​are almost identical. It’s all very nice, but not the most important thing.
Because what is important is what comes out at the back, i.e. how the valuable fuel (the BMW even thirsts for an expensive super) is converted into propulsion. The Honda decides the acceleration duel for itself from the very first meter: the XX storms the 200 km / h mark in a good nine seconds, the open K lets it approach much more smoothly and cannot even up to 100 km / h compared to its throttled version Gaining ground, and the 98 hp version (MOTORRAD 6/1997) is even clearly superior to the open K in pulling power – no wonder, since the throttled engine delivers a good ten hp more between 3000 rpm and 6000 rpm.
Nevertheless, the open BMW also shows the Honda where the hammer hangs when it comes to pulling through. Only when the double X engine really bites in sixth gear at around 180 km / h does it make up lost ground and finally push its slender bow past the chubby BMW at 200 km / h. Actually at shame, because from 220 km / h the inner pipe of the K-rear silencer starts to glow in an exciting bright red – an impressive sight that is therefore denied to the Honda driver.
The lightning-fast and absolutely track-stable XX can only play out its top speed advantage on a really free stretch of motorway anyway and shake the stubborn, somewhat restless competitor out of the slipstream. Even before the BMW reaches its top speed, its ABS surrenders: At a speedometer of 260 km / h the computer gets out, the warning lights start to flash, the ABS is out of order. It only reports back after a restart with the wheels stationary.
Powerful engines need powerful chassis. And here, too, the Japanese and Bavarians are at odds: Honda relies on conventional chassis technology with telescopic fork and two-arm swing arm, BMW trusts its own developments, Tele and Paralever. The Bavarians have already proven several times that these levers work, but never as convincingly as with the new K: The comfortable coordination of the spring elements, the almost complete brake buckling compensation and the barely noticeable cardan reactions give the impression of gliding weightlessly instead of over boring asphalt bump. This unusual feeling is reinforced by the way in which the BMW brick converts the commands from the accelerator hand into propulsion immediately and with almost no noise or vibration, regardless of the gear and engine speed – a foretaste of future vehicles with electric drives. Almost regrettable, because this means that the transmission, which can be shifted as smooth as butter, usually remains unemployed.
The Honda, on the other hand, is connected to the earth. Every steering impulse is followed by a direct feedback via the somewhat tightly dampened and unfortunately not adjustable fork, every twitch of the throttle hand changes the tone and vibration of the power plant this time "only" 153 hp (the test machine in MOTORRAD 20/1996 with measured 162 hp was probably a particularly well-presented copy), which its performance over the entire speed range can be finely dosed, but presses firmly on the road. The seating position is sportier, the wind protection behind the flat-cut fairing is worse, and the lower stub handlebars drawn your wrists earlier than on the K.
While the Doppel-X with its at least 254 kilograms was the benchmark for playful handling among the heavy-weight big bikes, the 290-kilogram Bayern bomber goes one better: as soon as it has picked up speed, it lets itself be – as if it were the steering is servo-assisted – directing precisely with minimal effort, while the Honda has to be forced into the curve with a little more pressure. And if the righting moment when braking or over bumps with the Bridgestone BT 57-tyred Honda is already low, it is hardly noticeable with the Dunlop-Sportmax-tyred BMW.
The Honda remains the undisputed mistress in the ring when it comes to braking: Its compound brake system (regardless of whether you operate the handbrake or footbrake, both wheels are always decelerated) is characterized by enormous deceleration with little manual force and fan-tas-tic controllability. In direct comparison, the BMW Brembo system, which is problem-free in everyday operation, with its high manual strength and spongy pressure point, acts like a rim brake on a Dutch bike. Only the ABS can make up for it, although sometimes it kicks in very early on bumpy surfaces and valuable meters can be wasted as a result.
Und who has something to give away? Honda and BMW certainly not. They only have their crown jewels stolen for a not entirely modest obulus of just under 22 browns for the XX and just under 28 for the K.

The third power: Kawasaki ZZ-R 1100

She is now in her seventh year, but the Kawasaki flagship is far from being old. An open ZZ-R is always good for 150 hp, its still very up-to-date and much-copied Ram Air system gives it the last tick of speed at full throttle, the space is generous for driver and pillion, and thanks to Kawasaki’s exhaust gas cleaning system is KCAS they are even on the right track in terms of environmental policy. The fact that its somewhat bulky appearance and weight of 278 kilograms can no longer quite keep up with the more elegant double X Honda does not make the ZZ-R a bad motorcycle. The disadvantages in handling can also be coped with after a little getting used to. And the ZZ-R transmission is a real highlight: no other motorcycle can be shifted so smoothly and smoothly. There is not much that the Kawasaki engineers could improve on the braking system either – except for a good ABS or a combined braking system like the one installed by Honda. But who knows, maybe it won’t be long before Kawasaki will come up with the answer to Honda’s double X. And that has to be: not only stronger and faster, but cleaner and safer for the future.

The ancestors: BMW K 1100 RS and Honda CBR 1000 F

In 1990, a four-valve engine was used for the first time in the K 100 RS and even then it produced 100 hp. In 1993, the K 100 RS was replaced by the 1100cc engine, which had more displacement and higher torque. In addition to a new cladding with the distinctive ventilation slots, the K 1100 RS received a stiffer frame and modified spring elements. One of the main problems of the brick engine, the annoying vibrations, has only now been largely solved by the BMW technicians with the new, decoupled suspension of the drive unit on the K 1200 RS. The ancestral gallery of Honda’s CBR 1100 XX goes back even further. As early as 1987, Honda introduced the “yoghurt cup”, which, despite prophecies of doom, was celebrated as the best-selling motorcycle just one year later. Over the years, the Japanese have given their successful model a more elegant fairing, better spring elements and wider rims. In 1993 the dual CBS brake system, which was new for Honda, followed for the first time. In contrast to Moto-Guzzi’s integral brake system, both the hand and foot brakes activate both wheel brakes.

BMW 1st place – 1st square

It can not be what may not be. And yet the fat BMW K 1200 RS wins this comparison. The new K-motor sets new standards up to 7000 rpm thanks to the uncoupling of the drive unit and runs as smooth as an electric motor. Tele and Paralever suspensions work so perfectly that the sensational impression is created that the BMW is floating on a maglev. Whether it is bumps, longitudinal grooves or holey slopes, it’s none of your business anymore. But this supposed feeling of superiority and invulnerability also harbors its dangers. The K easily leads to overconfidence if the speed is not constantly monitored with one eye via the speedometer.

Honda 2nd place

It’s hard to believe, but the lightning-fast Honda CBR 1100 XX has found its master. Not in terms of top performance, acceleration or top speed, because it remains the queen of the series machines. There is hardly anything that can be improved on the outstanding braking system. Their loud gear, the annoying play in the drive train and the non-adjustable, too tightly tuned fork, on the other hand, are less convincing. So far, one could only be happy about the easy handling of the Honda racing car. But there has never been a BMW K 1200 RS either. And it just raised the bar a bit – too high, even for the double X..

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