When the R1200S landed in showrooms in 2006, it was the most powerful production boxer that BMW had ever made. Performance was rapid, with 122 horsepower and a claimed dry weight of just under 400 pounds. But the R1200S was dropped from the catalog after just two years, making way for the HP2 Sport.
Despite the short production run, the R1200S is a good motorcycle with plenty of fans. And one of them is Alan Stulberg of Revival Cycles in Texas. He likes the bike so much, he broke his own rule and took on a failed project from another workshop.
“We prefer to avoid projects that other shops have failed to complete,” he told us. “They normally come with a string of problems, and/or a client who could be impossible to resolve.”
“But we took on the R1200S because we were motivated by the model of bike—and the client’s desire to build something unseen in the current red hot BMW oilhead/airhead custom scene.”
Alan’s crew are no strangers to airhead builds: They built their first way back in the mid 2000’s, before the BMW boom, when they were underappreciated by most custom builders. “They all seemed to be owned by older guys, who appreciated smooth-riding, reliable machines.”
Flash forward ten years or so, and times have changed. “There are so many custom airheads on the scene,” Alan sighs. “And most of them seem to have the standard fork setup from the /5, /6 and /7s, or the modern R nineT.”
Back in the mid-2000s, BMW ‘R’ bikes were technically similar to today’s R nineT—aside from the ‘Telelever’ front wishbone suspension system. “Even the powerplant used in the R1200s was nearly identical to today’s R nineT.”
The Telelever was superior to standard forks in many ways, separating the steering function from braking and suspension duties to improve handling and stability. But the average buyer was probably put off by the looks, and the setup was more costly to produce than standard forks.
“I think the ‘wishbone’ setup is better looking than a standard fork,” says Alan. “So we set out to build a bike that put the wishbone on full display—and pay homage to its technical superiority.”
On the factory R1200S, there was a bulky ‘sport’ fairing that covered up the Telelever (above). “I’m guessing this was BMW acknowledging that the average rider didn’t care for the look,” says Alan.
With the 2006-spec R1200S stripped of its plastics, the Revival crew started beating out a custom alloy tank. It harkens back to the famed ‘Hoske’ endurance tanks of the 1960s and 1970s. “The profile of our bike is inspired by those extremely beautiful, handmade pieces coveted by collectors,” says Alan.
The subframe is new too, with a hand-shaped alloy tail section complementing the tank—and a custom seat unit, covered in leather in-house by the ‘Revival Limited’ artisans.
There’s also a small custom headlight surround—machined from solid alloy, and nestled tightly between the forks. Just below is a small alloy fender that discreetly calls further attention to the Telever.
The mighty boxer motor now breathes through a full custom stainless exhaust, from header to tailpipe. And the running gear is top-notch, with Kineo spoked wheels, Öhlins shocks, and stainless brake lines. “The upgrades make this the best handling R-variant BMW we’ve ever ridden,” says Alan.
Revival are huge fans of Motogadget gear, so there’s a full complement of Motogadget electronics, plus bar-end turn signals, a Motoscope gauge, and a hidden ignition switch. “It was a massive undertaking to rewire much of the bike,” says Alan.
“It would have been a serious problem for an impatient builder; we spent many days simply trying to get everything to talk to the factory electronic systems.”
Revival also spent many hours sanding, cleaning and polishing the inevitable production line blemishes and casting marks. Then the alloy body was finished in multiple coats of solid black and a very deep dark metallic blue, for a subtle multi-hue effect. (“It becomes much clearer in daylight,” says Alan.) Also noticeable in bright light are upgraded carbon fiber head covers and timing chain covers.
‘Wishbone’ has got us thinking about the untapped potential of the R1200S as a donor bike. It may not have been a huge hit for BMW, but it’s prime raw material for customizers. These days, you can pick up a secondhand R1200S for just over $5,000 in the USA—which has to be one of the great bargains of the motorcycling world.
“We hope there’s a resurgence of interest in these bikes,” says Alan. “They are still excellent modern riding machines.”