According to Texas-based newspaper the Austin American Statesman, the distinctive V-twin rumble that has followed law-breaking motorists for decades will soon be replaced with the precision-engineered sound of a BMW boxer engine.

A few years ago, the Austin Police Department decided it needed anti-lock brakes (ABS) on its motorcycles to improve officer safety. But because its existing supplier didn’t offer the option at the time, officials looked elsewhere.

Early next year, the department will replace its remaining 21 motorcycles with 1200cc BMWs that come as standard with ABS, completing a transition of its 72-strong motorcycle fleet that began in 2002. Officers say that the BMWs have better manoeuvring capability and – perhaps more significantly – a brake system especially designed to prevent skidding.

"When you slam on the brakes on the Harley-Davidson, there’s a tendency for the brakes to lock up, and then you have no choice but try to steer where you’re going to crash," Sgt. Ruben Fuentes said.

Despite extensive training, according to Fuentes, officers often would end up on the ground after someone stopped or pulled in front of them abruptly during a chase. He said that last year; an officer crashed and injured his leg so badly that it had to be amputated. The anti-lock brakes quickly decelerate the wheels, giving the rider more control, said Fuentes, who patrols on one of the department’s new BMWs.

BMW Motorrad’s R 1200 RT Authority machine is a specially adapted version of its best selling touring Boxer and is equipped with many unique features, fittings and modifications designed especially for authority use. These include a large 27-litre fuel tank that allows for a greater range before refuelling, and a shorter first gear ratio, which offers better low speed stability and allows the motorcycle to be easily ridden at walking pace speeds for sustained periods (for example, when performing escort duties). The rear suspension strut has also been strengthened to cope with the extra stresses put on it during operational riding.

In addition to the options already offered for the civil version such as heated grips, seat heating and an anti-theft warning system, the authorities version also has several unique features. For example the panniers have upper lids, which can be opened with one hand while seated and without using the key. A new, high accuracy authorities speedometer with two digital displays enables exact current speed to be viewed at the push of a button.

The domestic manufacturer didn’t offer an ABS braking system until 2005 on police models, but this was just too slow for the Austin police, which bought three anti-lock-brake-equipped BMWs to test in 2002.

"It was hard to find a car that didn’t have ABS on it," said Sgt. Bruce Lutringer, who led the push for better brakes. "But we were still riding motorcycles that didn’t have it."

Since then, the number of crashes has gone down as the department has increased its fleet of BMWs by 20 a year for the past two years. Last year, there were 15 collisions involving motorcycle officers in Austin, and only three of them were riding BMWs, police spokesman Kevin Buchman said. This year, there have been six collisions involving motor officers, only two of whom were on BMWs.

BMW Motorrad has been operating for more than 75 years in this specific business, starting at the end of the 1920s. The first motorcycle prepared for authority use was an R 24 with 12 hp, sold in 1928. Since 1970, more than 100,000 authorities motorcycles have been supplied in 146 countries.

Anthony Kodack
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