BMW S-1000RR Test Ride
Everything you’ve read and heard is true. Germany really has crafted a groundbreaking masterwork in superbike engineering. Sport-riding enthusiasts in the audience will know I am talking about the brand-new BMW S-1000RR, BMW’s first-ever foray into the superbike arena. May I say that Bavarian Motorwerks has not merely dropped a disposable, cookie-cutter, half-hearted hero into that arena, but a full-on fire-breathing dragon of epic, Tolkienian proportions.
The salesman gave me the test-ride rules as we stood next to the running motorcycle, in Beemer green, onlookers gazing in admiration, while we conversed in that slightly-raised, talking-over-a-running-bike tone, “You track-ride a 1098 and a CBR-1000, so you know what you’re doing, but I have to go over the rules. The bike is electronically limited to 8,000 RPMs during the break-in period, so just be aware of that. BMW requires that we only demo in ‘Rain Mode’.”
“150 horsepower,” I interrupted.
“Exactly. You can switch to other modes, but it doesn’t matter. The demo bike is configured to remain in Rain Mode.”
“No problem,” I affirmed.
“About the Quick-Shifter, if you’re gonna try it, don’t let off the throttle between gears. Just stay one the throttle while up-shifting clutchless,” as he made the universally understood wrist motion with his right hand.
He noodled various switches and poked his head closer to the display, “Traction Control on. ABS active. Trip timer reset. That’s about it. Enjoy! Don’t crash it!” [chuckles]
“How many have you guys sold already?”, I inquired pulling my helmet onto my head.
“5 pre-orders right now. Every single person we have let ride it, has bought it.”
“Well, let’s see if I can maintain that trend for ya,” as I slung my leg over.
Accelerating out of the parking lot, I was surprised how much power the bike actually had in Rain Mode. Regardless of what the dealer had told me, I still had to at least try putting it in Race mode. I frantically thumbed the tiny gray “Mode” button with my right thumb and squinted at the dash. I watched as the little arrow cycled up to SPORT mode, then RACE.
- RACE <
I attempted a hard acceleration, but the bike was clearly still in RAIN mode. Keep in mind that even in RAIN mode, the horsepower is equivalent to the most powerful 1,000’s of 6 years ago. There is a forth, even more powerful, mode beyond RACE, called “SLICK”, but you have to flip a switch under the seat to activate it.
I noticed one particular difference immediately, and this was a small difference but it was an indicator of the thoughtful engineering to come, found throughout this machinery. The turn-signal button moved all of a micron in each direction. No huge 1/4-inch push with your thumb was necessary. All it took was a tiny, effortless nudge with your left thumb and *snikt* the blinker was active. The same applied for turning it off.
I stopped at a red light with some fast, smooth road ahead and thought it the perfect time to try some full-throttle, clutchless upshifts. The light greened and I was off. I snapped through several gears, in the tuck, hitting 8,000 each time. I even felt the temporary “break-in” limiter kick in on a gear or two. I could not believe the smoothness and speed at which this motorcycle changed gears. I realized I was actually being too hard on the shifter with my left foot, being used to my Ducati’s fine but noticeably less effortless gearbox. I made a mental note to shift more easily.
I arrived at another light, made a right onto a buttery county road, and really gave it the goose. This time, clucthless upshifts were executed by merely thinking. I identified the bike’s gorgeous and distinct engine sound as Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 in G Minor. Strudel to my ears, as I tucked it cleanly around a beautiful left-hand sweeper at 80 MPH, leaning off, knee out. I rolled on smoothly but assertively and absolutely launched myself out of the corner. 90, 100, 110, 120… as fast as you can say it. Various expletives of wonderment came to mind as my spine shivered and goosebumps appeared on my skin. Rapidly approaching a line of cars doing 50, I had a chance to feel the race-class brakes. I one-fingered the lever and zzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZ the sintered brake pads made their sound, the nose gently dove, and the bike decelerated with all the stability and rapidity of a world-class superbike. As I railed it down through the gears, habitually blipping the throttle each time, I noticed a certain smoothing of my downshifting. Ah, I remembered… the slipper clutch (or “back-torque-limiting” to be precise). It was time to put that to the test. I found a clean spot to pass and snapped it effortlessly down two gears and whacked it to the wood. The front-wheel skimmed the Tarmac as the bike had me past a line of 5 cars in seconds. Rounding a right-hand sweeper, a red light rapidly approached. Slowing from 125 again, I intentionally downshifted sloppily, not blipping the throttle at all. The Beemer absorbed my ham-fisted shifts with all the efficiency of Deutschland.
I stood at the red light and thought, “5 miles on the trip odometer. I have to turn around at some point. This is it. Let’s make it count.” I had read about the Wheelie-Control System so, being a recreational wheelier myself, I really wanted to feel that. The light went green and I gave it everything an 8,000 RPM limit would afford me. I pinned it. The front wheel eagerly attempted to lift into the stratosphere, with the Rain-mode-limited 150 horsepower behind it, but Germany’s finest electronics prevented that from happening. I felt the wheelie control engage as the bike’s front wheel just skimmed along at perhaps an inch off the ground. But, even in Rain mode, MAN did the motorcycle accelerate! I could feel the precession in the engineering beneath me, everything working in perfect harmony. The engine note is nothing short of beautiful. I cannot wait to feel it in SLICK mode on the track. I also cannot wait to feel this motorcycle when the shackles of an 8000-RPM limit are removed and the full power of its 14,200 redline can be felt. I can’t even imagine. Let’s remember that it was only six years ago that 600cc motorcycles had 14,000-RPM redlines. BMW has now exceeded this with a 1,000. The rest of the liter bikes in this class all have sub-14,000 redlines. According to BMW, the engine can spin significantly faster, but they limited it to 14.2 for production durability reasons.
I’m seeing mixed reports online about the Wheelie-Control System. I saw one report that indicated it is completely disabled in RACE and SLICK modes. I saw a report that only in SLICK mode is it disabled. I saw other reports that indicated that it is active in all modes, only allowing you to get the front wheel off the ground 12” to 16”, and only for 5 seconds (which, as a recreational wheelier, would be disappointing).
The bike is absolutely effortless to ride. It is the lightest, most nimble 1,000 I have ever ridden. Every lever, switch, and control on that motorcycle are manipulated by making the most infinitesimal movement with your hands, fingers, and feet. It has highly user-friendly ergos with everything in the right places. It felt very slim for an inline-4, definitely slimmer than my CBR-1000. The power curve felt pin-straight. It is also remarkable that BMW has managed to pack every possible gadget onto this bike at this insanely reasonable price point: DTC (with lean-angle sensor), ABS, wheelie-control, track-ready suspension, track-ready brakes, slipper clutch, quick shifter, and a free-breathing exhaust. I did the math, and to do the same to a new CBR, R1, or GSX-R with aftermarket kits, would bring you up to around $21,000, and you still wouldn’t have power modes or true DTC with wheel sensors. BMW has just, plain nailed it.
On the way back, I was waiting at another light, and I glanced at the SUV driver to my right. He was looking down at the bike, hitting his passenger in the shoulder to get him to also look, and he had that “HOLY SHNIKIES! WTF IS THAT?” look on his face with a smile. He saw me looking over, so I slowly reached to the throttle and give it a few twists for him, rotating the handgrip with only my thumb and index finger to demonstrate to him the precision of this wondrous machine. “GROOOOOWL!! GROOOOOOWL!! GROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWLLL!!”, the S-1000 sang its beautiful song. His eyes widened to disproportionate levels, a huge grin came across his face, as he gave the thumbs-up of approval. I had my mirrored shield on, but I’m sure he saw my upper torso and head vibrating up and down as I giggled in absolute astonishment, looking down at the marvel I was straddling, shaking my head, arms out, palms up as if to say, “Isn’t it just…?”
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