For motorcyclists, the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469-mile road that winds its way along the Appalachian Mountains through Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, is the ideal stretch of road. The parkway, which ranges from 650 to 6,000 feet above sea level, is one of those rare stretches of curvy pavement that allows you to glide at 45 mph from apex to apex in uninterrupted bliss, blessedly free from commercial traffic and stoplights for mile after mile.
But what happens if it rains? Wet-weather riding can transform your trip from delight to distress, and I instinctively began to worry when, on a recent ride on the parkway, the drops began to descend. Aboard the new BMW R 1200 CL, however, I was confident that I could continue to enjoy the magical connection between road and rider.
I marveled at how the fairing kept the spray at bay, and how the broad, high handlebar made directional changes on the serpentine roadway effortless. The standard integrated braking system with ABS made stopping on the slick pavement, sometimes a harried procedure, a stress-free affair. Such attributes help the 679-pound machine feel light on its feet yet firmly connected to the tarmac, making the rain just another touch of atmosphere to sweeten the ride.
This journey illustrates the mission of the R 1200 CL: to provide relaxed, comfortable, all-weather touring. The CL, a new variant of BMW’s successful R 1200 C cruiser, aims to expand cruising into the touring class, and in typical BMW fashion, the focus is on luxury.
The CL takes the basic C design and adds a sizable handlebar-mounted fairing, hard saddlebags, and a detachable tail trunk. Also, the 1,170cc oil-cooled flat twin from the C has received a new 6-speed transmission for comfortable high-speed cruising. Heated grips, ABS, and cruise control are standard on the base model CL, and the more erudite CLC version adds a radio and CD changer along with heated soft-touch seats.
The bike relaxes you with comfort instead of thrilling you with horsepower. The 61-hp Boxer twin engine delivers plenty of power in most situations, but it can become taxed on grades, and a couple of downshifts are required for passing. But the transmission shifts crisply, and the CL handles well for its size.
A smooth ride and roomy, comfortable accommodations round out a well-integrated motorcycle that has the look of classic cruiser yet is loaded with contemporary touring functionality. “The direction we’ve gone with the CL is one we understand well, with the background we have in tourers and luxury tourers,” says David Robb, BMW’s director of motorcycle design. “There are a number of features which definitely raise the level of comfort and quality you can expect from a touring cruiser.”