Review: BMW S 1000 XR

With the arrival of the 2020 BMW S 1000 XR, we say goodbye to the first generation XR. That bike received very nice reviews and Jean even named it his favorite test bike in 2015. But when I got to ride it last year, I wasn’t really convinced. OK, the engine was awesome and the suspension very good, but the bike felt aged due to its outdated dash, it vibrated a lot and a stubborn quickshifter spoiled all the fun. Curious to see if they fixed this for the 2020-version. I was very eagerly looking forward to this test.

BMW puts the S 1000 XR in their Adventure family. Strange, because the ’S’ in its name clearly points out the sporty DNA. The extensive standard equipment shows that touring is definitely within the possibilities. So in which category does this powerhouse really belong? Adventure, Sport or Touring?


First let’s start with the dull part of this review: all the bells and whistles you can find on this top of the line machine. Dynamic ESA, lightweight cast wheels, adjustable windscreen, small storage compartment, LED-lighting, TFT-display, Connectivity, integrated pannier attachment points, Pro riding modes, ABS Pro, hill start control, traction control, engine brake settings: it all comes as standard.

Our test bike was further equipped with some of the well-known – and actually indispensable – BMW option packages that make that this S 1000 XR basically has anything you could want on a motorcycle. Quickshifter, automatic height setting, cruise-control, keyless ride, heated grips, center stand, GPS-holder, USB-port … The list continues for a while and – another BMW habit – adds up to the price until you’re well over budget.


The solid pricetag luckily offers a lot of motorcycle in return. The XR is rightfully on top of the foodchain. Its powerful engine and sublime rolling frame eats the competition alive.

The four-cylinder engine was derived from the hyper sporty S 1000 RR motor, but it comes without the ShiftCam. With the help of a different set of camshafts, it was tuned for more torque in the midrange, which leaves us with 165 hp and 114 Nm.

The power delivery is very forgiving and never uncontrollably aggressive. This makes riding this distinguished machine very enjoyable both in low, mid or high revs. Down low the bike feels very supple which makes for easy and relaxed riding. In the middle of the rev-range there’s a lot of power for fast overtakes and weaving through traffic. Once you go over 8.000 rpm, the XR really shows why it has an ’S’ in its name: the beast is cut loose and the speed goes up in the wink of an eye. A sportsbike after all.

Trackday enthusiasts will also enjoy the Dynamic Pro riding mode in which all parameters can be adjusted separately (unfortunately BMW wouldn’t allow us to take this bike on track). It’s a nice extra, just like the sports-setting of the display (with lean angle meter!). The BMW branded brakes are also on track-level: they are very dosable and offer phenomenal performance.

Or more Touring?

With the panniers mounted, the GPS in its holder and the cruise control set, the XR is really inviting to do long travels. It’s a shame I couldn’t take it to the Pyrenees. Something about a certain virus and red zones, etcetera.

The riding position is straight up, the handlebars are wide and the seat offers a lot of support due to its caved-in form. This gives you a very comfortable geometry. The windscreen is easy to adjust, but it doesn’t offer me full protection in neither of both positions and there’s always some turbulence. The annoying vibrations from the previous generation are gone though. All in all, the seat of the new XR is a very good spot to be in.

The full electronic suspension in Road setting is soft enough to efficiently filter out all cracks and creases in the road. There are two solid ledges in the on-ramp of the highway near my home that will unsettle many motorbikes, but not the XR. It doesn’t even flinch in Road mode and sticks to the riding line like glue. Nice!

Because everything feels so effortless and even though it has more than enough power on board, the XR isn’t tiring at all to ride. Ideal for some long touring rides. I preferred the Dynamic riding mode because the gas response and suspension work together in perfect harmony.

Sport touring!

The XR is big, high and the 228 kg dry weight isn’t light, even though it’s still 10 kg less than its predecessor. And yet it’s no problem throwing this allrounder into corners without the slightest hesitation. It only needs the smallest input to throw it from one ear on the other, it’s incredibly stable and sticks to the chosen riding line with great determination.

You don’t need to shift a lot thanks to the wide torque range. One would even think that that is a pity because it’s so much fun pulling the quickshifter through the gears. I never thought I would say this about a BMW gearbox, but here we go: the quickshifter on the XR is mint! Softly but securely it shifts from one gear to the other, no matter the rpm or power. My prayers were finally heard?

The addicting pops and crackles coming from the exhaust really finish it off. The symphony from that same pipe are really in line with the rest of the engine. Calm down below, powerful in the middle and howling like a wolf on top of the rev-range. A delight to crack wide open in a tunnel, even though you’re going way too fast by then.

And what about the other BMW Adventure?

When you’re testing the S 1000 XR, there’s no way around it: even though BMW puts the XR in the Adventure family, the Bavarian brand already has a real adventure king in the stable with the R 1250 GS Adventure. One that puts up record sales numbers year after year. And in that aspect, the XR doesn’t perform as well.

I was asked several times if this XR is better than the GS. The answer to that question isn’t that simple and ‘better’ will be different for different types of buyers. Is the XR faster? Yes. Does it steer lighter? Definitely. But the GS has wider capabilities (I don’t see myself going offroad on the XR) and it offers a little bit more comfort, even though it vibrates a bit more. But is the XR the lesser motorbike? Not at all.

Do you use your bike to do a lot of mileage on asphalt, do you love solid cornering and do you want both comfort and speed? Without a doubt the XR will offer you a worthy alternative to the GS. One that only has a few competitors with the other brands, except for the Ducati Multistrada 1260.


The BMW S 1000 XR is a real riders bike and it unites the best of several worlds in a sublime manner. It’s as agile as a naked bike when you’re weaving through traffic, yet comfortable as a touring bike when you’re racking up the miles. Not to mention that it conquers corners with sportsbike-like stability in every corner.

The engine and rolling frame are so well balanced in Dynamic mode that subconsciously you lose track of the enormous power this liter bike has on tap. Or the price you paid. Because it is definitely not cheap. But that can’t be said about the real Adventure bike from BMW either and that one sells like hot cakes. What are you waiting for to buy an XR? I say: go for it! You won’t have any regrets.

Photography: Kenny VH


+ Harmonious whole of engine and rolling frame
+ Calm touringbike and exciting racebike in one package. And good at both!
+ Excellent equipment


– Price
– Competition within the BMW brand

Tech specs


Type: Water/oil-cooled 4-cylinder 4-stroke in-line engine, four valves per cylinder, two overhead camshafts
Bore x stroke: 80 mm x 49.7 mm
Capacity: 999 cc
Rated output: 165 hp at 11,000 rpm
Max. torque: 84 lb-ft / 114 Nm at 9,250 rpm
Compression ratio: 12.5 : 1
Mixture control engine management: Electronic intake pipe injection
Emission control: Regulated three-way catalytic converter

Electrical system

Alternator: 493 W
Battery : 12 V / 9 Ah, maintenance-free

Power transmission

Clutch: Multiplate clutch in oil bath, slipper clutch, self-reinforcing
Gearbox: Six-speed synchromesh gearbox with spur gears
Drive: Chain drive, 17/45

Chassis / brakes

Frame: Aluminum composite bridge frame, partially self-supporting engine
Front wheel location / suspension: Upside-down telescopic fork, diameter 45 mm, electronic self-adjusting rebound/compression damping (Dynamic ESA)
Rear wheel location / suspension: Aluminium double-sided swing-arm, central spring strut, electronic preload adjuster, electronic self-adjusting rebound/compression damping (Dynamic ESA)
Suspension travel front / rear: 5.9″ / 5.9″ (150 mm / 150 mm)
Wheelbase: 59.9″ (1,522 mm)
Castor: 4.5″ (116 mm)
Steering head angle: 65.1°
Wheels: Cast aluminum wheels
Rim, front: 3.50″ x 17″
Rim, rear: 6.00″ x 17”
Tires, front: 120/70 ZR 17
Tires, rear: 190/55 ZR 17
Brake, front: Twin disc brakes, diameter 320 mm, floating discs, radial four-piston fixed calipers
Brake, rear: Single disc brake, diameter 265 mm, twin-piston floating caliper
ABS: BMW Motorrad Race ABS, partially integral

Dimensions / weights

Length : 91.8″ (2,333 mm)
Width (incl. mirrors): 36.1″ (917 mm)
Height (excl. mirrors): 55.5″ (1,411 mm)
Seat height, unladen weight: 33″ (31.1″ with optional lowered suspension)
Inner leg curve, unladen weight: 74″ (71.2″ with optional lowered suspension)
Unladen weight, road ready, fully fueled: 498 lbs (226 kg)
Permitted total weight: 992 lbs (450 kg)
Payload (with standard equipment): 493 lbs (224 kg)
Usable tank volume: 5.2 gal (20 L)
Reserve: Approx. 1 gal (4 L)

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