Review: BMW S 1000 RR

When I arrive home after picking up a test bike, and my 10-year-old son enthusiastically shouts “Wow dad, that’s one of those World Superbikes!”, then I know I brought home a special bike. Or you know my son and I watch too many races.

Let’s wind back a couple of hours. At the Belgian BMW headquarters, the all-new
S 1000 RR is waiting for me. It’s a stunner, in its Motorsport color scheme, which is only available with the optional M pack. It comes with very cool and superlight M carbon wheels and has a lighter M battery. An embroidered M graces the seat, just to show this is the sportiest RR one can buy. The letter M is mythical amongst car lovers, and from now on it’s also the way BMW brands their sportiest Motorräder.

It’s impossible to describe all the electronic aids on the new RR, there are simply too many. The most important are the riding modes: Rain, Road, Dynamic and Race. Choose either one, and all the other electronics are automatically optimally set.

With the optional Ride Mode Pro, specifically added for track racing, come the extra modes Race Pro 1, Race Pro 2 and Race Pro 3. In these modes every single parameter can be set manually. This can be done by scrolling through the intuitive menu on the 6,5 inch TFT display using the well-known BMW multi-controller. I still think this dash is the best one available in motorcycle country. It’s beautiful to watch, simple to use, big and clear to read. The Pure Ride screen setting offers a simple yet very clear and complete view of the basic parameters. Or you can choose one of the three Core Screens to include fun stuff such as lean angle, braking pressure or throttle opening.

The settings of the electronic suspension can be set through the menu too. I didn’t play with that because you better know what you’re doing when changing the suspension.

The S 1000 RR is equipped with the Dynamic pack, as if the bike doesn’t have plenty of dynamism already. The pack adds cruise control and heated grips. You’d almost think this is a long-distance cruiser. Also part of the Dynamic pack is DDC: BMW’s new generation Dynamic Damping Control a.k.a. semi-active suspension.

When I finally start riding I expect a twitchy throttle and jerky clutch. After all, this is a thoroughbred superbike. But nothing like that happens. I’m surprised how smooth the RR pulls the chain: no high revs are needed and the clutch is perfectly controllable.

When shifting up I don’t feel the slightest click. I even wonder if I’ve shifted, but the gear indicator on the dash confirms I did. I need to get used to this, especially since I’m not a big fan of other BMW quickshifters, which tend to be quite clunky. But on the S 1000 RR, shifting gears is incredibly smooth.

Once on the road I soon encounter typically Belgian bumps and holes and I make sure not to absorb them with my back. But when I ride over them, nothing happens. The semi-automatic suspension absorbs everything surprisingly softly. I really didn’t expect this.

So riding slowly is approved but that’s not what the RR is made for, right? The higher the speed, the easier the German rocket rides. So I ride fast. Too fast. The speedometer shows numbers that are only legal in Germany. But I don’t seem to registers them immediately. My brain and body need some time to grasp they’re travelling so fast. I hear myself shout out loud “Wait, how is this possible?!”. I have to reset my senses. Unlearn everything I knew about experiencing speed.

I’ve been advocating for cruise control on every motorcycle since forever, and on the RR the cruise control really is a blessing. Not only don’t you need to check your speed constantly, it also allows you to sit a bit more upright and to ride fairly relaxed. In any case, the sitting position is not as extreme as you’d expect. The M seat offers good, hard support and there’s enough space to move. The clip-ons aren’t positioned extremely low either, nor are the foot pegs extremely high. Which becomes very obvious when I see the RR standing next to my 600 super sport that has a more extreme geometry.

The new RR with M pack is only three kilos heavier than a new Japanese 600 cc super sport. But with 207 hp, it has 80 furious stallions more! A year ago, the Ducati V4 was the only hypersport that had more than 200 horsepower as a standard but now they almost all pass that magical number. BMW introduced the ShiftCam on their all-new four-in-line to achieve this. Because of this variable intake camshaft, more torque is available at lower revs and thanks to all the innovations, the peak power also rose.

This makes the RR exceptionally easy to ride in low revs. At any acceleration, with every throttle input, there is enough power to accelerate frenetically. The BMW brakes, made by the American company Hayes, are very efficient and perfectly manageable. When you ride fast and then brake even harder, the rear becomes very light without the ABS intervening. At first that’s a bit scary, but you get used to it very quickly.

The cornering stability is absolutely sublime. The RR steers incredibly light, partly thanks to the carbon wheels. A hypersport requires an active riding style and if you lean a little in the corners, every business park transforms into a race track. So to speak, of course.

On the public road it’s damn hard to limit your enthusiasm and not constantly turn the needle towards the red zone. Unfortunately, a track day I planned was too wet to be fun.

The evening before I return the RR, I take one last close look at it. Those sport colors look great. The carbon wheels are really cool. The brushed exhaust understates the high caliber of the bike. The cross-eyed headlights of its predecessor have been replaced by two piercing LED lights. The rear light is beautifully incorporated in the direction indicators, a brilliant find. But who the hell decided to make the indicators in the mirrors so big?

I know it’s time to say goodbye to the double R when I hear a ten-year-old shout at me from the kitchen: “Dad? Are you looking at that motorcycle again?”

Conclusion

The new BMW S 1000 RR is a bike that can only be described with superlatives. It’s impossible to count the number of electronic aids, and they all work silently in the background, simply by choosing a riding mode. If you’d like to fully personalize all settings, you can. And with the M pack come the ravishing racing colors and super cool carbon wheels.

For a sportsbike, the RR is surprisingly comfortable. It’s easy – or rather: possible – to ride calm but fast cornering is obviously more fun. Lane splitting suddenly becomes fun too: thanks to the slim shape, swift acceleration and good brakes you can go for every opening you see. And BMW finally managed to create a bike that can shift gears silky smooth. Just the price tag isn’t that silky and smooth to swallow.

Of course, if you start rationalizing the purchase of a hypersport, you’ll probably never open your wallet. But this isn’t a bike you buy without emotion. You buy a BMW S 1000 RR because you want the best, the fastest, the most beautiful, the … Fill in for yourself.

My biggest concern is about myself. Can I limit myself and not use all that power and all that potential of the RR all the time? I’m quite certain I can’t. And that would get me into trouble very fast.

Photography: Kenny V.H.

Pros

+ So easy to ride fast
+ Beautiful racing options such as the carbon wheels
+ Surprisingly high comfort level for street use thanks to options like the cruise control and the semi-active suspension

Cons

– Too easy to ride fast
– Price

Tech specs

Engine

Type: Water/oil-cooled 4-cylinder 4-stroke in-line engine, four titanium valves per cylinder, BMW ShiftCam
Bore / stroke: 80 mm x 49.7 mm
Capacity: 999 ccm
Rated output: 152 kW (207 hp) at 13,500 rpm
Max. torque: 113 Nm at 11,000 rpm
Compression ratio: 13.3:1
Mixture control: Electronic injection, variable intake pibe
Emission control: Closed-loop 3-way catalytic converters, EU-4 norm
Maximum speed: 299 km/h

Electrical system
Alternator: 450 W
Battery : 12 V / 8 Ah, maintenance-free

Power transmission

Clutch: Multiplate clutch in oil bath, anti-hopping clutch, with self-reinforcement
Gearbox: Constant-mesh 6-speed gearbox with straight cut gears
Drive: Chain 525 17/45
Tractioncontrol: DTC

Chassis / brakes

Frame: Bridge-type frame, cast aluminium, load-bearing engine
Front wheel location / suspension: Upside-down telescopic fork Ø 45 mm, compression and rebound stage adjustable, adjustable preload
Rear wheel location / suspension: “WSBK” Aluminium swing arm, full floater pro, compression and rebound damping adjustable, adjustable preload
Suspension travel, front / rear: 120 mm / 117 mm
Wheelbase: 1,441 mm
Castor: 93.9 mm
Steering head angle: 66.9°
Wheels: Aluminium cast wheels
Rim, front: 3.50″ x 17″
Rim, rear: 6.00″ x 17″
Tyre, front: 120/70 ZR 17
Tyre, rear: 190/55 ZR 17
Brake, front: Twin disc brake, 4-piston fixed caliper, diameter 320 mm
Brake, rear: Single disc brake, single piston floating caliper, diameter 220 mm
ABS: BMW Motorrad Race ABS (part-integral), disengageable, modes to select
ABS Pro: ABS Pro settings for RAIN, ROAD, DYNAMIC mode, no ABS in RACE mode

Dimensions / weights

Seat height: 824 mm
Inner leg curve: 1,827 mm
Usable tank volume: 16.5 l
Reserve: approx. 4 l
Length: 2,073 mm
Height (excl. mirrors): 1,151 mm
Width (incl. mirrors): 848 mm
Dry weight: 175 kg (M Package 173.3 kg) without battery
Unladen weight, road ready, fully fuelled: 197 kg (M Package 193.5 kg)
Permitted total weight: 407 kg
Payload (with standard equipment): 210 kg

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