Test Ride: BMW R1100S, Part 1


Words: Rob Harris

The Red One

Sometimes, very rarely, I find myself sitting at a bar with fellow journo Scott Magnish (Toronto Sun). That in itself is not that rare, but this is different. We’re in a five star establishment, there’s no bar bill to pay and we’re stuffed with the proceeds of a very extravagant multi course meal. We raise our single malt Scotches, and declare our toast to the god of good fortune; “It doesn’t get much better than this”. ïThis’ is the rare but much coveted motorcycle press junket. Oh, and it’s a BMW junket.

The location was a classy restaurant on top of Mont Tremblant, Quebec. The occasion was the Canadian launch of BMW’s new R1100S. Two days in the Laurentian Mountains, with nothing to worry about except “which colour of R1100S do I want?” and “which way to the bar?”.

But enough gloating from me, what’s the bike like? Well, I’m not telling. Actual I’d love to tell but I haven’t had time to write it up all yet and Caroline says I have to have it to her by tonight (Sunday) in order to get the piece up on CMG for Monday. So, as a little appetizer (thus the title – get it?) I figured that I could probably get away with a quick intro on the bike, followed by short blurb of a lap of St Eustache, courtesy of the BMW R1100S …

The R1100S is the most powerful and lightest boxer yet, with a claimed maximum output of 98hp at 7,500rpm and a peak torque of 71ft-lbs at 5,750rpm, giving a max top speed of 226 Km/h. The engine is a tuned up version of the R1100S motor, with about the same torque output but with an extra 7 horses to play with. Suspension consists of the usual BMW telelever front and paralever rear, but BM’s excellent anti lock brakes are offered as an option only. The styling is probably the most significant departure from the usual BMW ïconservative’ look. “Flowing design with an athletic waist” is how they describe it. Bit like me really, except my waist is more flowing than athletic and design? Well, I like to think that I was designed for one thing, although endless days in the CMG basement seem to have curtailed that activity somewhat these days. I do however have one up in the weight department, which, for the R1100S, comes in at a light (for BMW) but lardy (compared to most everyone else) 505lbs. The exhaust system is credited for 70% of the power gain and includes a three way catalytic converter. Two pipes exit the engine, join as one before the converter and then exit as two under the rear seat. Again, a bit like me except that I don’t have a converter and only a single exit at the rear.

The R1100S comes in Night Black, Brilliant Red and Mandarin, unlike myself who just comes in Brilliant Red … better stop now before I get in even more trouble. Oh, the price. Doesn’t say anything here in the 20 pages of tech stuff that I got. I’ll go with Cycle Canada and guess around $17,000. Should be available to the Canadian public sometime in September.

The Official Programme

A LAP OF ST. EUSTACHE Out of the pits and onto the track. Not much time to get the speed up for the chicane but it’s a useful slow speed warm up. Left, straight, and right in quick succession. Mmmhh, can’t wait to hit that at full tilt next time round. Faster, then ease off as I enter a sweeping 180 degree left hander. I quickly slide off the left of the seat slightly, knee out, ready. Pull her down, closer to the ground. The lower you go the more you can open her up. It doesn’t feel that the tires will hold at this angle with this much speed but it will. I know it will. Don’t think of it, just pull her down lower until something scrapes. It probably won’t but the tires are good at least until that point. The corner’s starting to straighten out now, time to cut into the inside and tap the shifter so that I’m down a gear for the start of the straight. Throttle wide open as she gives a little wiggle on the power and time to get back in the saddle … but not quite. It’s too late now, just tuck behind the screen best I can with my body still slightly off to the left … narhhhhhhhh … jab up a gear … time to get back up on the bike and … narhhh ..hh..h…h….. rev limiter. Jab into sixth and the needle’s rapidly approaching one eighty. There’s a line of cones coming up to my right. Cone one is safe to hit the brakes hard for the next corner. Cone two should work but just squeeze harder (I made sure I got an ABS model) and sit up to catch the wind for further assistance.

Happy Rider

SsssshhhhhHHHHHHH, I’m up and I’m squeezing. I quickly jab at the shifter … one … no, two down. As I release the clutch the revs jump up to the redline and the back end wiggles frantically. Shit, too low a gear and I’ve locked up the back. Clutch in again, more brake, clutch out and I hit the mild right too slow and look like a twat. Don’t think about it, there’s a real tight 180 that can be taken fast if taken wide. I enter wide and swoop in so as to almost clip the apex, then open the throttle and power out in a wide arc for the short straight ahead. Two strips of rubber lay along this straight, testimony to the Saturday drag races. “Slippery as all hell” I recount one journalist saying. I keep my arc going and straighten up to the left of both of them and tuck in. Narhhhhhh, narhhhhh, narhhhhhhh …. Next is a slight right to run alongside the pits and it’s full on with the brakes as late as I dare for the chicane once more. Fellow journalists stand just proud of the pits exit in full view, just where the chicane starts, watching and judging the techniques of those on the track. A couple have cameras poised for the brief moment when I let go of the brake, slip off to the left and haul the bike down into the chicane. My own attention to the possible glory shot must cease before I let off the brake, otherwise I’ll miss phase one of the high speed chicane and then either wobble through like a supreme twat or make every mag as the first twat to high side the new BMW.

Side View

It’s time for phase one. No more brake, slip to the left and haul that mother over. As soon as it’s over, so is the corner and the track now switches to an immediate right. Whenever you’re pulling out of a corner for an upcoming straight you never sling the bike upright with full force otherwise she’ll overshoot and start to dip to the right. Here, you can, no … have to. Done right this is sex. Dare I say better than sex? Nah, sex may only just match that intensity at orgasm, however if it is done right, sex is a riotous ride for two, unfortunately, something that on this day could only be shared with my fellow journos, and beside being all male were damn ugly too (sorry guys but it’s true). Perfect timing as I sling over to the right, butt cheek landing nicely on the edge of the seat, and the bike follows just as I enter the bend. BANG … the right footpeg hits hard and wiggles the bike slightly. I let out an uncontrolled yelp as I crack open the throttle again in preparation for that beautiful 180 once more.

Rear View.

THOUGHTS OF THE R1100S ON THE TRACK For a big twin, the R1100S doesn’t have the tendency to lock the rear wheel when downshifting as if it were a four (unless you’re really shifting too early). Whenever I’ve had the Honda VTR on a track I always lock up the rear for the first couple of laps until I eventually get my head around the fact that big twins tend to have big engine braking. You can crank it over quite far in corners and it feels like a rock. The suspension and chassis are well sorted but at 505lbs with the weight feeling quite high up, it needs persuading to get down and then again to get back up. Just don’t try and change yer line mid corner, ïcause it’s a heavy bugger and it doesn’t like it. Okay? The brakes aren’t super sports grade. They do the job in every day riding but can leave you a bit sweaty if pushing the 505lbs hard. However, BM stressed that this is not a pure sports bike, more sports touring, so I guess that’s alright then. My advice is go for the ABS (anti lock brakes) ïcause they work really well and allow you to panic into every corner without fear of a lock up and subsequent trouser fudging. Ground clearance is pretty good. I touched the peg down once in the chicane but to no ill effect (Bondo, are you jealous?). BM list rear sets as an optional extra. This may help as I found I had to make a conscious effort to tuck my feet in at corners in order to prevent an embarrassing “ohh, I’ve run over my own foot” scenario.

Power is very usable. Coming in strong all the way from 2,000rpm to the 8,4000rpm redline. This helps the incompetents (of which I include myself) who consistently fail to get the revs up in the power when exiting corners. On the other hand, the rev limiter seems to cut in while the power is still coming on strong, “for longer engine life” according to BMW. When given the choice of riding on the track with the ïso fast we’ll knock you outta the way slow coach’ or ïtouring’ group, opt for the latter. That way you look like you know what you’re doing – It’s all relative. So that’s all for now. Tune in next week for the full test (well as much as two days will get you) and trip report. Must go now, just heard from the hospital that there’s a new liver ready for me.

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