Monday, November 23, 2009

BMW S1000RR: Riding impression

With 193bhp at the crank, the BMW S1000RR is the most powerful litre-class bike in production and offers stunning levels of performance on the track

It may not have the race-proven heritage of a GSX-R, ZX-R, CBR-RR or YZF-R, but the BMW S1000RR has something which its litre-class competition doesn’t – an inline-four that makes all of 193 horsepower at the crank. Indeed, with a (claimed) 180bhp at the rear wheel, the S1000RR is the most powerful of all current litre-class production bikes. And with a top speed of 290km/h, it’s also the fastest.

Consider the spec – an engine that revs to 14,200rpm, cutting-edge engine management, ABS and DTC traction control systems, a ‘gearshift assistant’ feature that allows full-throttle upshifts without using the clutch, track-optimised aluminium chassis and optional Akrapovic exhaust system. Then there’s the fully adjustable 46mm front fork, lightweight aluminium wheels, high-spec Brembo brakes with four-piston radial-mount callipers and a claimed dry weight of 182 kilos. The S1000RR sure looks like it’s been built with a single-minded focus – to go around a racetrack as fast as possible. And with prices starting at US$13,800 (European prices start at around 16,000 euro for the basic model, and 17,400 euro for the bike with ABS and DTC), the bike isn’t all that expensive either.

The guys over at MotorBox recently had the opportunity to test ride the S1000RR at the Portimao circuit in Portugal, and they came away with some interesting observations. Here are some excerpts from their test report:

Creating a brand-new sportsbike powered by an inline-four couldn’t have been an easy task even for a company like BMW, whose prowess with technology is second to none. Also, the bike comes at a time when the market for big sportsbikes seems to be slowing down a bit. Still, BMW really believe in this product, which they admit has been engineered for an audience that’s external to the brand – people who have until now been riding Japanese or Italian bikes.


To begin with, there isn’t anything incredibly original about the S1000RR, there isn’t much ‘out of the box’ thinking here. All the bits – the inline-four engine, the aluminium double beam frame and even the high-tech electronics – it’s all been done before by other manufacturers. And yet, the bike has a very sophisticated engine, with titanium valves, two fuel injectors per cylinder and ride-by-wire throttle control. It produces 193bhp and 112Nm of torque at 13,000rpm and 9,750rpm respectively, and the 14,200rpm redline is very high for a litre-bike engine. With its dry weight of 182kg, the S1000RR has the best power-to-weight ratio in its segment.

And if the engine is powerful, the rest of the package – including the chassis, suspension and the electronics – has been engineered to allow the rider to fully exploit all that power. On this bike, the optional electronics – Race ABS and Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) – have been designed specifically for use on a supersports machine and are there to help you go faster rather than just rein in all that Bavarian horsepower.

The S1000RR’s DTC system is very high-tech and apart from the detecting difference in front and rear wheels speeds, its sensors can also detect the bike’s angle of lean, on the basis of which it decides when and by how much to reduce power. There are four modes – rain, sport, race and slick, with the last one being recommended for track use only, with race-compound slick tyres. As you move from rain to sport and race modes, power delivery becomes increasingly direct and aggressive, while the role of ABS and DTC is progressively reduced. In ‘slick’ mode, ABS does not work on the bike’s rear wheel and the traction control is dialled back to an absolute minimum. Both systems can also be disabled completely, if the rider wants it so.

Coming to the styling, well, some will definitely think that it’s rather ugly. The asymmetrical fairing and headlight is what you’d typically expect from BMW, but maybe there’s something to be said for the German company refusing to conform to other manufacturers’ idea of ‘beauty.’


Coming to the riding experience, the S1000RR was very well suited to the very demanding Portimao circuit. The riding position is just about okay, though the bike’s handlebars seem to be more suited to the track than the street. We started the ride with the DTC in ‘rain’ mode, in order to get familiar with the bike and understand how its electronics really work. The response from the bike’s ride-by-wire throttle is absolutely perfect and in the low-threshold rain mode, if you open the throttle at the wrong time, the computers simply refuse to delivery power to the rear wheel. There are, however, no jolts or sudden jerky movement – everything happens very smoothly, with the electronics working hard to remain as unobtrusive as possible.

In sport mode, the bike really comes alive and from 7,000rpm upwards, power delivery becomes furious, lofting the front wheel effortlessly in third gear and blasting the bike down hundreds of yards before you even remember to roll back the throttle. Suddenly, those 193 horses make their presence felt in a very big way. In fact, you begin to wonder if the bike might actually be making a bit more. When we tested the Ducati 1198 on this track earlier, the fastest we did was 259km/h. With the BMW, it was 279km/h and we knew there was more to come.

Things become a bit more abrupt in race mode, especially while exiting corners, and it seems the DTC system often has to work overtime to keep things in check. To quote one example, if you crank open the throttle with the bike still fully leant over, the bike will not respond till the computers deem it’s upright enough, and then all the horsepower comes stampeding in, in a rush. Still, the DTC is always very smooth and consistent, and remains as unobtrusive as possible.

In terms of handling, the S1000RR probably isn’t as agile as a Honda CBR1000RR or Aprilia RSV4, but is still a remarkably balanced package. On the Portimao circuit, the bike felt light and accurate, and very little suspension tweaking was needed to make the bike work. With Metzeler Raceteck K3 rubber, grip was never an issue and a best lap time of 1:57 speaks for itself.

Riding this BMW felt really different from anything else that we’ve previously ridden. Yes, the S1000RR is a remarkable bike – not just because of the outright performance it offers, but also for the ease with which that performance can be accessed by the rider.

And here's a video of MCN's report on the BMW S1000RR
image host

Via MotorBox

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