by: Mike Ginsca
“The Ultimate Driving Machine”. That has been BMW’s slogan for decades now. But lately BMW’s vehicles just haven’t been living up to it. Less expensive BMW models are not fun to drive and even M models are not as fun to drive as they were back in the 90’s to late-00’s. Thankfully BMW’s Motorrad division continues to improve their motorcycles every few years. The latest motorcycle to receive an update is their “halo” superbike, the BMW S1000RR.
Performance – When the S1000RR was introduced in 2009, it immediately started winning racing championships. This was due to the phenomenal engine that was in between the legs of the riders. It is a 999cc inline-4 producing 199hp at the crank. For a motorcycle, 199 horsepower is a lot considering most economy cars and crossovers don’t have that much power under the hood. Economy vehicles also weigh quite a bit more than the S1000RR. At just 208 kg, the BMW can accelerate to 100 km/h in 3.0 seconds making it just as fast as a 650 horsepower Corvette Z06. But it’s once it goes beyond 100 km/h that the BMW blurs the lines between how fast your brain can process information and what the bike can actually do. When the anti-wheelie control program isn’t slowing the bike down by preventing the front wheel from getting off the ground, the bike feels like it accelerates faster than a fighter jet. The smooth and linear torque band of the engine is felt throughout the RPM range but more so once the needle goes past 9,000 rpm all the way up to the 14,000 rpm redline.
But you don’t need to be intimidated by the power every time your ride the bike. The BMW S1000RR has one of the most comprehensive electronics packages of any modern street legal motorcycle. Different power modes can be selected on the move which rein in the power and offer a smoother throttle response for city or wet riding. Traction control and ABS are also standard features that provide a blanket of security under tricky riding conditions, both of which can be turned off or adjusted to the rider’s preference. An option for this model generation is DDC, Dynamic Damping Control. The DDC feature electronically adjusts the suspension depending on road conditions and power modes. Or the rider can create their own custom settings for the power delivery, traction control, ABS, and DDC much like a custom “M mode” for the motorcycle. One of the best new features for this model year is the new quickshifter which not only allows for seamless upshifts without the use of the clutch but also downshifts through an auto-blip feature. Regardless of what engine speed or throttle position, both up and down shifts are smooth and quick. Only when you come or go from a stop do you need to use the clutch, which is surprisingly light for a 1000 class motorcycle.
In addition to the powerful engine and superb electronics package, the chassis has been modified slightly to improve overall maneuverability, grip, and stability. The frame and swingarm are lighter than before as is the exhaust system, which is surprisingly loud for a stock unit. The lighter weight makes the BMW a very nimble motorcycle that can be easily tossed around from corner to corner even by featherweight riders. Stopping the lightweight S1000RR is also a breeze thanks to the Brembo calipers both front and back.
Comfort – When it comes to superbikes, they tend to be focused solely on racing. But in reality most buyers of these types of bikes only go to trackdays maybe twice a year and the rest of the time they ride on the streets and pose in front of coffee shops. Thus bikes like these tend to be very uncomfortable on city streets and on long rides. While the BMW S1000RR is not an ideal motorcycle for traveling on long distances, it is one of the more comfortable sportbikes on the road today. From the moment you sit on it, the riding position feels just right. It is comfortable enough to ride around a city for a few hours without breaking your back but also compact enough for the race track. If you do opt for the Dynamic package which includes the Dynamic Damping Control suspension, you also receive heated grips. Usually the hands are first things that freeze on a rider’s body when riding on cold mornings or evenings and the heated grips are a very nice feature to have. As well as the standard cruise control feature for long road trips.
However it is not without its faults. In stop and go rush hour traffic, you do tend to feel quite a lot of the engine’s heat. During colder months it’s not so bad but during summer months with 25 degree Celsius or higher ambient air temperatures, it becomes very uncomfortable. Also the windshield doesn’t offer much in the way of wind protection. It is too low (even in the full tuck position) but thankfully you can buy a taller windshield from BMW. But of course this being BMW, they’ll charge you a ridiculous amount of money for the littlest of things.
Odds and Ends – Everyone knows the saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, but it still puzzles me how anyone could say that the BMW S1000RR is a beautiful bike. Apart from the Nissan Cube, I can’t think of any other vehicle in recent times that is purposely styled to be asymmetrical. The headlights are completely different and one side of the bike has shark fins while the other has a big gaping hole in the bodywork. Maybe I’m just not getting it and there’s nothing wrong with the styling of the bike.
I’ve ridden numerous different types of motorcycles over the years. From beautiful Italians such as the Ducati 899 and Ducati Monster to crazy fast KTM Super Duke R and Triumph Daytona 675R. But it always took me a few minutes before I could feel comfortable to ride faster with those bikes. With the S1000RR on the other hand, I immediately felt comfortable the moment I hopped onto it. That’s the best feature of this motorcycle, it gives you the confidence to ride it hard even if it’s your first time on it. As I mentioned before, BMW vehicles don’t feel like “The Ultimate Driving Machines” anymore. They’ve lost their way but BMW Motorrad feels like they’re hitting their golden era with the S1000RR. It is as close as you can get to a perfect superbike.
Thank you to the owner for the opportunity to test ride and photograph it.
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.