MCN Fleet: Continental fast break - Ben takes the BMW M1000R on a mission to Motorrad Days Berlin

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One of my favourite things to do with a motorbike is strap on some luggage and head for the horizon. Covid-permitting, I’ve taken a trip across the channel on all my long-term test bikes so far and when an opportunity arose to take the BMW M1000R to the firm’s big Berlin bash presented itself, I stuck my hand up.

After a Channel Tunnel crossing, my route would take me north to Belgium before turning right and blasting straight through Holland and on to Hanover. I’d stop here before polishing the ride off the following morning.

An M1000R – or any super-naked for that matter – might not be top of your list of touring bikes under normal circumstances for several reasons. It has next to zero wind protection, hardly any luggage capacity and a fairly racy riding position borrowed from its faired superbike counterparts in BMW’s range.

BMW M1000R on the Channel Tunnel

However, the flat bars mean your weight isn’t right over the front spindle and it’s certainly got the legs for a bit of motorway, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Patience of a saint 

Something I never seem to get my head around is that planning a route from Calais when you don’t live in Calais means allowing extra time on your journey – about 3.5hrs of it in my case or 4.5 with the time difference. And so, when I plumb my destination into the BMW Connected app, I’m astonished to read an ETA after 10pm.

A cruise-control limited ride on speed-check strewn roads down to Kent gave me no opportunity to make up any time before my crossing, so I revved myself up on the train to make progress once I hit France. Sadly, thanks to a mixture of roadworks and heavy summer traffic, this wasn’t possible either.

MCN Fleet BMW M1000R at a fuel station

My last hope to get to my hotel while there was still a member of staff on duty to sell me beer was to hammer it through Germany on their glorious unrestricted motorways. As I approached the first gantry festooned with familiar, circular national speed limit signs, the ‘current limit’ display on my dash simply went blank. I felt like a kid with keys to the sweet shop. 

Neck of a rhino

I tucked in as best as I could, dropped to third and opened the throttle. Moments later, I was thundering along at an indicated 160mph. Finally, I was making proper progress. Unfortunately, after just a few seconds my neck muscles were so tired that I could no longer look up to see where I was going.

I slowed down a bit to give myself a chance – and then the fuel light came on. Turns out, high-speed riding with a massive tail pack makes the bike rather thirsty.

BMW M1000R on German B road

After refuelling, I stuck to a more compromised speed somewhere between 100-110mph. This kept fuel consumption relatively low and was physically achievable for me but still fast enough to watch the ETA drop as I rode. I made it to the hotel in plenty of time for a beer, but was far too knackered after my 550-mile day to actually manage one.

The rest of the trip, fortunately, was far less frantic and I had time to escape the motorway and enjoy the things the M1000R does best. 

Update three: What’ll it do mister? A deep dive into the stats of the BMW M1000R

Published 17.07.23

BMW M1000R performance testing on runway

I once read that nobody actually knows the top speed of a cheetah because they only run as fast as they need to, not as fast as they can. I didn’t want that to be the case with the BMW M1000R super naked, so I headed to an airfield with MCN’s Datalogger and speed tester, Bruce Dunn.

Unfortunately, the day we turned up, there was some tarmac being laid and so we could only use a shortened version of the runway, but we were (well, Bruce was) still able to achieve some mindboggling figures from the BMW.

Before all that, though, I headed to BSD Performance near Peterborough to get a more accurate answer than ‘enough’ to the question of ‘how much power does it make?’.

BMW M1000R on the dyno

BMW claim 210hp, which translates to around 207bhp but according to the dyno run, that’s a little optimistic. The curve topped out at 195.85bhp at around 13,500rpm and 83.06lb.ft of torque at 9500rpm.

Impressively, the BMW M1000R sails past 75lb.ft of torque before it even gets to 6000rpm – which would explain the low-rev usability and is thanks, no doubt, to the ShiftCam engine.

While I was at it, I interrogated a few more of BMW’s claimed stats, too. The Bavarians state that the M1000R will manage 44mpg, not bad at all for a bike with this much power. In a full tank’s worth of B-road blasting through Norfolk, I managed to get 137.9 miles from a tank (14.45 litres at the pump), which equates to 43.4mpg.

Bruce Dunn tests the BMW M1000R

Spec sheet weight for the M1000R is 199kg and we made it 202.4kg on the scales at MCN Towers with the tank brimmed into the filler neck, so that’s pretty close, too.

But enough of all that, let’s get back to the runway. After a few rides back and forth to warm the tyres and get his bearings, Bruce was ready for some measured runs. The M1000R got from 0-60mph in 3.14 seconds, 0-100mph in 5.68 seconds and 0-140mph in 9.99 seconds.

The BMW isn’t exactly a slouch on the brakes, either, with 70-0mph taking 3.37 seconds and 50.73m to complete. That means, from a standstill, you can get to the motorway speed limit and back again in just 7.32 seconds!

Bruce also tested the BMW S1000R on the same day. He said: “I’ve never tested two bikes like this back-to-back where one has wings and the other doesn’t. You can feel the instability on the S1000R when you get to really high speeds. Getting towards 150mph the S gets a sort of weave on, whereas the M sailed through to 166.7mph and was completely stable.”

Update two: Che-wing the fat… BMW M1000R aero proves a conversation starter

Published 03.07.23

MCN fleet BMW M1000R turning left on the road

“Look at those bloody stupid wings,” was a sentiment echoed by many Devitt MCN Festival of Motorcycling visitors as they filed past the BMW M1000R in our marquee.

Some nudged their mates in the ribs and muttered about it under their breath, others were less bashful in their critique, but the general consensus among the hundreds I spoke to or overheard was that you “don’t need aero wings on a road bike”. It was all anyone wanted to talk about, which I found a little bit odd.

Consider the other items on the spec sheet: 207bhp, adjustable slide control, GPS lap timer, pitlane limiter, launch control… the list goes on. But the one thing people wanted to single out as unnecessary on a road bike was two pieces of plastic bolted to the bodywork.

MCN fleet BMW M1000R aero wings

The truth is that everything about the M1000R is unnecessary for the road and that’s what makes it worthy of its M badge and so unapologetically brilliant.

Can you feel the difference?

BMW say the wings generate 11kg of downforce at 137mph, which results in ‘a lower tendency for the front wheel to lift off the road surface as well as the possibility to brake later and accelerate earlier when cornering’. The truth is that none of this is detectable on the road, really, but that doesn’t mean you can’t feel them working.

At motorway speed, the M1000R is so stable, you’d swear it has foundations. Given the naked front end, I expected it to be exhausting to ride at speed but it’s so planted and calm you could ride it all day.

MCN fleet BMW M1000R ridden by Ben Clarke

The aero also – I’m reliably informed by Neevesy – makes it very difficult to steer the bike mid-wheelie, so make sure you factor that into your buying decision.

Something I have noticed is that the M1000R is very susceptible to crosswinds. It reacts more how you’d expect a big sail of an adventure bike than a svelte roadster and I’m sure the wings are the cause of this. It’s not so bad that you end up on the wrong side of the road, but it’s noticeable.

Whether or not you can feel the difference that the aero makes more clearly at track speeds I will find out later in the summer and report back in future issues.

What else don’t you need?

MCN fleet BMW M1000R rider's view of the aero

If we don’t need aero because you can’t feel it on the road then let’s start doing away with a few other bits and pieces. Let’s start with horsepower. Anyone who tells you they get the full benefit of 207bhp on the road is a liar. On A- and B-roads you aren’t even touching the sides.

Even if you start to really press on in road riding terms, the bike is coasting. The same goes for the ground clearance and those massive brakes – you don’t need those. Let’s really court controversy, you don’t strictly NEED the fruity Akrapovic exhaust, the bike would work just fine without it. Obviously, I’m just being daft to make a point, but you see what I mean?

You can’t judge a bike like the M1000R on necessity. We would all be riding around on Honda Deauvilles if we simply strove for what is needed, rather than what is possible. I applaud BMW for doing something so un-BMW as making the M1000R and – if the writing is on the wall for the future of petrol power – then let’s have more of this mania please, not less.

Sensible(ish) stuff you definitely need

MCN fleet BMW M1000R on the road

It amuses me that a bike BMW describe as having ‘a dash of insanity’ comes with turn-by-turn navigation (using your phone), heated grips and cruise control.

I’m also a big fan of the ‘Sport’ dash modes that have lean angle displays and tell you how much braking force and traction control you’re using. Gimmicky or not, it’s good fun and superbly well laid-out, just as you’d expect.

Update one: The really fast show – Ben gives his first impressions of the MCN fleet BMW M1000R

Published 19.04.23

MCN fleet BMW M1000R

As a benefit of the job I do, I’m lucky enough to have had access to some seriously fast machines. I’ve ridden several versions of Ducati Panigale V4 including the SP, I’ve done trackdays on BMW S1000RRs and BMW M1000RRs and I spent a whole year running a Kawasaki ZX-10R on this fleet in 2021, to name just a few. And it’s not just superbikes, either, I’ve been the support rider on road tests with Yamaha MT-10s, Aprilia Tuono V4s and BMW S1000R super-nakeds, too.

I’m not telling you this to show off, but rather qualify myself to say what I need to say about the BMW M1000R, which I will be riding this year. It is devastatingly, mind-bendingly, pant-wettingly fast.

But before we get to that, I’d like to rewind slightly to the Devitt MCN London Motorcycle Show back in February, which was the first place I clapped eyes on the M1000R in the metal. I picked my way through the crowd from the press office to BMW’s static display to have a proper ogle at the machine I’d be getting to know so well over the coming 12 months.

MCN Fleet BMW M1000R front

Seeing the bike trussed up on its wheel stands unable to move made me think of Hannibal Lector being wheeled into court – let it free and it will do unspeakable things. But I also felt a mixture of excitement, anticipation, anxiety and foreboding that took me straight back to being 21 with a freshly passed direct access licence and the open road in front of me.

Does a naked bike need 207bhp? One look at the size of the aerodynamic wings BMW have fitted – far bigger in real life than in the pictures – would suggest it’s not really a sensible idea, no.

Its looks aren’t to everyone’s taste (mine included if I’m completely honest) but they’re certainly impactful and put me in mind of a crashed alien spacecraft. Even if it’s not traditionally pretty, the M1000R has gravitas.

BMW M1000R aero wings

Once you get up close, you notice that it’s not just the bolt-on wings designed to keep your front wheel on the deck, there are small, downforce-inducing tweaks and nuances to the scant bodywork everywhere you look. Which makes sense when you consider that the rest of the bike is pretty much a homologation special superbike. Just look at how much aero the M1000RR now has.

So, does it work? No, not really. Get hard on the gas in seemingly any gear and the front wheel will surge skyward. It happens sooner on bumpy roads but even on billiard table smooth tarmac you struggle to enjoy peak power without the front leaping for the heavens. I’ve come to suspect that it’s trying to return to its home planet. It’s going to be one hell of a journey.

About the tester

Having run a Kawasaki ZX-10R on the fleet a couple of years ago and found it quite ‘focused’ I’m looking to discover if the BMW M1000R is actually the perfect blend of superbike performance and naked comfort. Hopefully, I’ll squeeze in a blast to the Nürburgring, too.