It’s been a while since I’ve spent every day with an inline four, and I’ve been surprised by some of the revelations now a few thousand miles have passed between us.
The strangest feeling it evokes – considering how technologically advanced it is – is an overwhelming sense of retro sportsbike heaven. There’s something about the exhaust note’s howling bass tones, and pops and bangs on the overrun that transports me right back into the ’90s. It isn’t a million miles – tonally – from my 1986 Suzuki GSX-R750. I like that. The only downside of the pleasingly fruity exhaust is that it does telegraph my arrival by several minutes.
The most pleasing surprise is that the RR isn’t soulless, as I’d feared it might be. I can’t pretend I’ve fallen in love with its wonky face, but to be fair it probably hasn’t fallen in love with mine, either. But the view from the hot seat is perfect, and the sense of specialness it dredges from the pit of my stomach every time I open the throttle has cemented it in my affections.
The less welcome surprise is the amount of vibration delivered to the bars and footrests. After having two L-twins, a boxer twin, and a triple over the last five years, I was expecting my return to inline fours to be silky smooth. If you’re always making throttle inputs and climbing all over it like someone’s greased the seat then all is well. But sit at a constant speed for half-an-hour, and the vibes become intrusive. Catch it at the wrong rpm for too long, and you’ll have an impressive case of white-finger to show your mates.
Make it your own
Regardless of how good a bike is in standard trim, there are always things you want to change. Two obvious mods forced themselves to the top of the list before I’d even spent 50 miles on board. The most important was changing the stock footrests for adjustable rearsets. The other was to move the windblast up over the broadest part of my chest.
BMW’s accessory catalogue seemed like the logical start point – there’s a lot to be said for factory-fit precision and warranty-friendly modifications. Before I did anything though, I fitted a set of BMW’s paddock stand bobbins (£21.10), and retired my ancient and unstable Micron stand in favour of the official BMW item (£158). The bobbins are, well, bobbins – no complaints there. The stand is a rock-solid work of smooth-rolling art. A sound investment if you’ve ever seen the damage a paddock stand collapse can cause.
Changing the screen was the warm-up act, and took just five minutes, which is a rare mercy in this age of pointlessly overcomplicated fairings. The six screen bolts and two little damping grommets swapped over with ease, and it took only the merest of wiggles to position. The windblast has left my chest, and now flows just over shoulder height. Get tucked in though, and it delivers wind-free serenity.
The rearsets, tooled by Gilles for BMW, are the nicest I’ve seen from any catalogue (£534, bmw-motorrad.co.uk). The CNC work is stunning, and the fit and tolerances between the clever eccentric sliding pegs and rearset bodies, and action from the levers, is superb. Gearchanges through the slightly spongy Gearshift Pro feel crisper and more positive, and I can now get my feet where I want them (one of the joys of suffering with cake retention is that stock pegs feel unilaterally too far forward). They’re an absolute doddle to fit, too – see below.
The mods aren’t dramatic, but they’ve made the RR feel more tailored to my needs, more comfortable, while also enabling me to ride with more confidence and aggression thanks to improved body positioning. It’s gone from feeling like a great bike, to feeling like my great bike.
More updates at: Richard's BMW S1000RR