Although you’d think it were a natural decision for BMW to have planned the S1000R naked bike at the same time they first penned the S1000RR supersport, surprisingly they didn’t. BMW Motorrad design manager Alexander Buckan revealed this during a discussion on BMW design in Mallorca, Spain, during the launch of BMW’s sporting new roadster.
It came as no surprise to me that the S1000R wasn’t planned from the get-go because when I’d attended the launch for the RR back in November 2009, Stephan Zeit (the guy behind BWM’s class-beating supersport) revealed his inspiration was the 2005 Suzuki GSX-R1000. It was his benchmark for performance, and BMW was focused solely on beating the Japanese at what they do best: supersport machines.
With such a sharp focus on performance, BMW didn’t spend resources and manpower designing a naked bike at the same time. However, once the S1000RR gained traction in showrooms, and it beat out its Japanese competition in magazine shootouts (if not on the racetrack, at least initially), the focus turned naturally to a spin-off bike, one that would offer RR performance but in an ergonomically friendly, everyday-useable package.
The answer seemed simple, when, a couple of years ago the guys at BMW took an S1000RR off the assembly line, stripped off the bodywork, bolted on a handlebar and let test riders loose on a naked RR test mule.
Although Buckan admits he would have loved that the S1000RR could be so easily converted into a naked bike, it didn’t.
Test riders loved the outright wickedness of the machine, but it proved too nervous –stripping the RR of its fairing messed up aerodynamics and weight balance of the bike, and although highly wheelie-prone, it was too much of a handful at speed.
So they went back to the drawing board to produce the S1000R ridden here.
In losing one “R”, many other changes were incorporated into BMW’s new, high-performance roadster to make it a more agreeable ride.
To cope with the altered weight bias after removing the fairing, wheelbase was stretched by 22 mm to 1,429 mm (56.3 in) – achieved simply by adding a couple of links to the drive chain and pulling the wheel back in the swingarm axle slots. The wide handlebar and lack of wind protection adversely affected stability, so the steering rake was kicked out 0.8 degrees to 24.6 and trail was increased 5 mm to 98.5 mm.
Footpegs have been moved forward, the handlebar rearward and upward, and seat height is 814 mm (32 in), a tad lower than the 820 mm of the RR. Tire sizes remain 120/70 and 190/55 and wet weight is up just half a kilo on the RR, at 207 kg (456 lb).
As is the norm with every company — except KTM (who kept the full 180-hp mill in the 1290 Super Duke) — engine power was subdued for naked bike duty with a 2,000 rpm drop in redline and the loss of 33 hp (now at 160 hp). Peak torque remains unchanged at 83 lb-ft, though the R makes 7.5 lb-ft more torque up to 7,500 rpm thanks to revised cam profiles and different engine mapping.
Aside from those changes, the R comes standard with all the RR’s race-ready goodies, like a slipper clutch, ride-by-wire throttle control, selectable ride modes, semi-linked race ABS, ASC (automatic stability control), adjustable suspension front and rear and a steering damper. It also gets the racier options, like adjustable DTC (dynamic traction control) and electronically adjustable, semi-active DDC (dynamic damping control).
The DTC is part of the $950 Sport Package that includes an electric shift assist. Opting for this package gets you the capability of adding Dynamic and Dynamic Pro ride modes to the standard Rain and Road modes, via a coding plug that’s plugged into the wiring harness.
The ride modes integrate throttle control, ABS, DSC and DTC settings, and attempting to describe each mode would take more room than we have available in this infinite internet, so since a picture is worth a thousand words, I scanned the mode settings sheet BMW provided for our test ride, which you can peruse here.
The S1000R is one of those bikes that looks better in the metal than on paper. It’s angular and futuristic, but not as bold as the new Kawasaki Z1000, which has taken naked motorcycle styling to a very different place.
Where the BMW’s styling comes apart for me is below the waistline, where it’s obvious that its exposed crankcases and muffler were designed to be concealed by a fairing. BMW does have an engine spoiler to cover this, available either as a standalone accessory or as part of the $775 Dynamic package that includes the electronically adjustable, semi-adaptive suspension.
Weather hasn’t been very cooperative in Europe in this late autumn, and in our morning ride briefing we’re told it could get as low as 3 degrees Celsius in the mountains of Mallorca. Fortunately we didn’t get the snow a previous wave of journos had to endure, and our bikes were equipped with the optional heated grips. I’d also piled on the layers, which unequivocally explains my bloated appearance in the photos, I swear.
The S1000R has an upright riding position, with ample legroom, as expected on a naked bike, and it produces a nearly intoxicating exhaust sound for an inline four. It’s by no means loud, but it produces a rich, low-pitched growl – I couldn’t help but keep rolling off the throttle in town to listen to its burbling, popping overrun.
First gear is tall-ish but close gearbox ratios mean subsequent changes come quickly. You can comfortably putt around town in top gear without lugging the engine, however, the lower final-drive ratio (2.65 as opposed to 2.59 for the RR) allows the engine to spin at around 5,000 rpm at 115 km/h. Although this made the mirrors buzz enough to blur images quite a bit on the highway, it isn’t intrusive to rider comfort.
The roads got progressively tighter as we headed into the mountains and within an hour they were almost too tight for even a supermoto. Switchbacks curled around themselves, sometimes at more than 180 degrees (one actually wound around in a complete circle, tunnelling beneath itself), and the S1000R proved just a bit ponderous in these tight quarters.
The more relaxed steering geometry gave the front end a slightly disconnected feeling, though to be fair, the Mallorcan pavement did little to inspire confidence. We were told during the morning briefing that the light-coloured asphalt found throughout the Balearic island was somewhat lacking in grip.
This was a bit of an optimistic appraisal, as what we discovered was pavement with about the same friction coefficient of eggshell.
In the cold morning temperatures front-tire grip often gave just enough in the tighter turns to cause a nervous twitch at the handlebar. Sometimes both tires gave, first the front, then the rear, which meant speeds remained cautiously low for most of the day.
Later in the day, when temperatures reached the double digits, we braved a more enthusiastic pace, though I continued braking on the side of caution going into turns and tried to keep lean angles closer to upright than horizontal.
Our test bikes were equipped with DDC and DTC, and the different ride modes made a considerable difference in the bike’s behaviour. I remained mostly in Road mode (though I was oft tempted to settle on Rain mode because of the grip-less pavement), which provided maximum power, but with full ABS operation and maximum wheel-lift control. The DDC was initially set to Normal, though the lack of traction prompted me to select the Soft setting, which improved handling in these unusual conditions.
Among other things, one area BMW seems to excel is in engine management, and the S1000R is an example of this. It’s a docile machine when needed, like when strolling about in congested areas, but if you turn the wick up (especially in one of the Dynamic modes), it’s a genuinely heart-palpitating hooligan machine.
I kept the hooliganism to a minimum, but I did see other journos readily popping wheelies. The bike certainly is capable of such antics, and the electronics are even tuned to allow for such behaviour. Of course, you can also turn the ABS off, and DTC if you take the Sport Package.
Later in the day we headed back south towards our hotel along a more open road with dark, grippy pavement. Here I switched the ride mode to Dynamic, the suspension to Hard, and I turned the throttle closer to its stop.
The changes to the chassis geometry have eliminated the rider-induced weaving many naked bikes with wide handlebars have a tendency to do, and the S1000R handled the fast, sweeping turns with confidence-inspiring stability. Here the S1000R was in its element, bolting along at speeds upwards of 160 km/h without issue.
Of course, at those speeds wind pressure is a major issue, and when I turned the throttle to the stop on a long, straight and traffic-free stretch of road, I also realized why BMW engineers reduced engine output. By the time I hit 220 km/h (and still climbing fast) I had such a death-grip on the handlebar that it made me realize the futility of the exercise.
I backed off to a more sedate pace and enjoyed the rest of the ride.
Although BMW didn’t originally plan on spinning a naked bike off from the S1000RR platform, the resulting bike is very well executed. It has all of the technology of its supersport brother, and much of its performance and handling, in a more rider-friendly package.
It’s definitely more useable than the S1000RR, and it can be dressed up in a number of tour-friendly accessories, like a tank bag, rear case, a tour saddle, and even a small windscreen for added road comfort. There are also carbon-fibre and billet aluminum cosmetic pieces to spruce up its appearance.
The S1000R is priced quite aggressively, at $14,700, and is right on par with the Aprilia Tuono V4 R and the Triumph Speed Triple ABS, so it’s obvious BMW will give some grief to its naked European competitors. It also undercuts the S1000RR by almost $3,000, and costs $2,500 less than the K1300R, and is even cheaper than the R1200R boxer, by $1,350.
Want more info? You can download the BMW S1000R factory PDF doc too!
|Engine type||Inline four, liquid-cooled, DOHC|
|Power (crank)*||160 hp @11,000 rpm|
|Torque*||83 lb-ft @ 9,250 rpm|
|Tank Capacity||17.5 litres|
|Final drive||6 speed, chain|
|Tires, front||120/70 ZR 17|
|Tires, rear||190/55 ZR 17|
|Brakes, front||Floating twin-disc brakes, Ø 320 mm, radial four-piston fixed calipers|
|Brakes, rear||Single-disc brake, Ø 220 mm, single-piston floating caliper|
|Seat height||814 mm|
|Wet weight*||207 Kg|
|Colours||Blue, white, red|
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