WARNING! Taking the BMW M1000R for a spin will ruin whatever you ride next | Long-term test

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One of the BMW M1000R super naked’s big selling points is its electronic suspension. The M1000RR homologation superbike – on which the R is based – is built for race teams who will throw the stock suspension in the bin, so BMW stuck with unglitzy, manually adjustable Marzocchi units.

But since the M-R is designed to be ridden and enjoyed in the real world, it comes fitted with BMW’s electronic Dynamic Damping Control (DDC) system. This allows the bike to apply the optimal amount of suspension damping for the road conditions in real time – determined by the parameters set for each riding mode.

This is handy, because suspension is normally a compromise, especially on sporty road bikes. Set a bike up for track performance and it will clatter and crash over potholed tarmac and undulating B-roads, but soften it off and it’ll let you down on your favourite, marble-smooth A-road.

BMW M1000R long-term test bike rear shock

DDC attempts to solve the problem by giving you the best of all worlds. In the M-R’s sportier riding modes, the suspension is firm and supportive and then you can soften it off at the touch of a button by selecting ‘Road’ or ‘Rain’ modes. But because it’s reacting to the riding conditions, even the stiffer settings will look after you if you hit a bumpy patch.

So, does it work? You bet it does. I swapped bikes for the night with deputy editor Emma Franklin last summer and took her Triumph Street Triple home. I was so disappointed with the Trumpet’s handling – one of its best features normally – because I’d just stepped off the BMW. It genuinely felt like hard work to ride, not something I ever thought I’d say about a Street Triple (or any modern Triumph).

But what did Emm think? “Thanks for that,” she said as she passed back the keys the next morning. “You’ve ruined other bikes for me now.”

Ben Clarke stands with the BMW M1000R long-term test bike

What’s that kit?

That’s the effect the BMW has. Whatever you think of the styling, or the aero wings, or the daft power figures, the next bike you ride after it will probably disappoint you. And a lot of that is down to the way the M1000R just seeks out grip everywhere you go. You’d think that 200bhp-plus on the road would feel intimidating, but it isn’t because the bike’s brain is doing thousands of calculations per second to make sure your ambition isn’t outweighing your talent.

But far from feeling sanitised or removed from the riding experience, the electronic input gives you the confidence to press on and enjoy yourself. Could I get caught out and highside a noughties superbike after riding the M-R? Probably. But that would be my fault, not the bike’s.

Ben swaps the OE tyres on the BMW M1000R for Pirelli Supercorsa rubber

Published 31.01.24

BMW M1000R cornering shot on the road

One of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to change the performance of your bike is to swap the tyres, and the difference can be particularly pronounced the first time you switch from the OE-spec rubber it came with – and that’s what I did with the BMW M1000R.

The MR comes shod with Bridgestone Battlax RS11 tyres, a sporty road offering that promises to shave two seconds off a two-minute lap time, according to the manufacturer. As you would expect, a company like BMW won’t let a 207bhp hooliganmobile out of the factory with sub-par tyres – this would be a health and safety nightmare as much as anything else – and I was really impressed with the Bridgestones.

The RS11s are grippy and stable and work well from lower temperatures. They are fully capable of coping with anything you can throw at them on the road and I’d feel confident hitting a trackday on them, too. The most surprising thing I found was the strong wet weather performance, something I didn’t expect from such a sporty option.

BMW M1000R cornering on the road

I collected the M on a wet and cold autumn afternoon and – having spent the preceding year on a comparatively tame and welcoming Indian – gave it the respect and reverence it deserved. Before leaving the car park I selected the rain riding mode, which softens the throttle, cuts power and winds the suspension damping back.

Despite these changes, the M1000R still felt like a bona fide rocket ship compared to everything else I’d ridden in recent times, but as my confidence grew and my brain adjusted to the new turn of pace, I found I could take quite large fistfuls of throttle without troubling the traction control. Even crossing slippery, Fenland white lines and splashing through puddles, the bike behaved impeccably and everything stayed inline without any electronic intervention.

As the world began to warm back up and the roads got warmer and stickier, the RS11s proved themselves to be an excellent performance tyre, too. With the air temperature above 15°C they grip from the moment you hit the starter button and they’re really predictable, inspiring confidence through fast sweepers.

BMW M1000R puncture

I quickly realised that I wouldn’t be getting anywhere near the limit of either the bike or the tyre on the road; the chemical grip of the rubber combined with the electronic wizardry of the Marzocchi suspension makes for a feeling of being glued to the tarmac.

Sadly, a nail I picked up in the rear brought a premature end to the Bridgestones after just a couple of thousand miles. With a hot summer of riding ahead of me, I opted to replace the RS11s with a set of Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SPs.

Since I wasn’t touching the edges on the OE tyres, the Pirellis were unlikely to improve my overall performance but they were plusher to ride on and just as sticky and immovable as I expected in the dry. Wet weather performance was less impressive than the Bridgestones. On cooler, damp or wet days, it felt like I couldn’t keep any heat in the rubber and the traction control and ABS were starting to get involved on dirty roundabouts.

Pirelli Supercorsa SP tyres fitted to BMW M1000R

But on hot and dry days, the Pirelli tyres are imperious and give the impression of infinite and limitless performance. With the speedo and lean angle sensor both displaying figures I never thought I’d see through corners I know well, I still found myself feeling I could have pushed harder. It’s reassuring and frustrating in equal measure. The Pirellis were ready for a change after about 2500 miles, which is longer than I expected them to last.

Rubber round-up

In many ways, I actually preferred the OE Bridgestone tyres to the Pirelli Supercorsas despite the obvious quality and performance of the replacements. The type of riding I do – predominantly road and in all weathers, year-round – means the RS11s are a slightly better fit. If I only took the bike out on sunny Sundays or was a trackday addict then the Pirellis would edge it, but only just. 

Update seven: Mr Sensible… Can Ben’s 207bhp M1000R super-naked really make a useful day-to-day ride?

Published 20.12.23

BMW M1000R long-term test bike on the road

European road trips and sunny Sunday rideouts are fun whatever you’re riding – but they’re extra special on a bike like the BMW M1000R super naked. But what about the more mundane side of life? How does the M cope on a morning rush hour commute when it’s raining and every third vehicle on the road is a combine harvester?

The first few commutes of the summer were… brief. The novelty of that face-melting turn of pace meant that the temptation to unleash it onto hot, sticky and comparatively quiet roads proved too much. A gap big enough for a quick overtake on normal bikes is big enough to overtake three or four dawdling cars on the BMW M1000R if you drop a couple of cogs and let rip.

The problem is that you can’t keep putting in a qualifier every time you throw your leg over a bike, especially when you’re repeating a similar or identical route. As much as anything else, it’s physically and mentally tiring and you can’t help but feel that you’re asking for trouble.

BMW M1000R long-term test bike reflected in a puddle

What I’ve found – for possibly the first time in my riding life – is that I’ve naturally just slowed down. I’ve found a pace and a rhythm on the road that keeps me well ahead of the traffic and engaged with the riding but is so far within the capabilities of the bike that it feels relaxed and easy going.

Case in point, there are a couple of roundabouts separated by a short stretch of dual carriageway that I navigate regularly. While it’s thrilling to brake hard and late, chuck it into the flipflop of the first roundabout and pull the pin on acceleration between them before repeating the process for the second, it’s equally fun to brake earlier and less, carry more corner speed and limit your bike inputs. By staying loose and relaxed and riding smoothly, you can attain a sort of zen riding state. You start to look even further up the road and when you are planning better, nothing will catch you off-guard.

When that overly keen 1990s supersport rider lunges past you, desperate to squeeze every last drop of enjoyment from their dangerous riding competition of a ride, you can just wave them through and smile. Let them brag to their mates in the pub about how they scalped an M1000R and ‘you could really tell he was trying’. Let them get home exhausted and tense and frustrated for I have matured. Maybe I’ll join the IAM next…

BMW M1000R long-term test bike commuting through town

Despite its spec sheet, the M1000R is remarkably well behaved when conditions are poor, too. I actually use the riding modes. And not because I’m a talentless snowflake, but because it improves the ride. Rather than creeping around in the wet, waiting for the rear to break loose because I’ve turned the throttle half-a-degree too much, I can just ride on almost as usual. It also automatically adjusts the damping and traction control settings, so you’d be daft not to.

Unlike a more focused superbike, you can easily and comfortably pootle on the M1000R, making it a perfectly acceptable commuter. You aren’t left frustrated by traffic jams or poor conditions because riding it slowly doesn’t make your back or shoulders ache. 

But the best thing about using a BMW M1000R to get to and from the office is the fun you can have on those days where the weather and your schedule align and you can wend your way home a more interesting way in the evening sunshine.

Fit and finish

BMW M1000R long-term test bike dirty exhaust

Despite being a thoroughbred performance model used in all weathers, the BMW has shown no signs whatsoever of wear. A poke around its nooks and crannies reveals that nothing is tarnished, rusted, discoloured, scuffed or scratched.

In fact, once I’ve given it a deep clean, it’ll look like it’s not been ridden. I’ve also had not a single blip, fault or wobbly from any of the electronic whizbangs. The keyless system has been flawless – although you do have to make sure it’s close to the dash if the bike’s been standing – as has the dash and the Bluetooth phone connection, too.

Update six: Fully loaded weapon – Ben explores luggage options for some fast naked touring

Published 04.12.23

BMW M1000R on the Channel Tunnel

Just because the BMW M1000R is essentially a fire-breathing superbike in the buff, doesn’t mean you won’t fancy taking it further afield or on a summer tour. I’ve been using it to commute, and for longer trips to Wales and Berlin, for example, and you could easily ride it to a trackday before spinning laps all day and then riding home again (hopefully, all being well).

This presents a slight problem due to the M’s svelte and sporty rear end. As standard, you don’t get pillion pegs, seat or grab handles and just a flash of tubular sub-frame is visible underneath the rider’s seat, so there’s almost nothing to secure any luggage to.

I’m a fairly committed rucksack wearer, but even I prefer to strap the weight to the bike on 500+ mile days where a tailpack or soft panniers would come in handy – and it’s not like you can stick a luggage rack on.

Wunderlich tankbag fitted to BMW M1000R

I did find my way around the problem, though, thanks in no small part to a tankbag I got from Nippy Normans. The Wunderlich Tank Bag Sport uses a clever three-point press-stud system that clips onto small, metal pins that replace the Torx head fasteners on the plastic fuel tank cover.

This is only a small piece of luggage but I managed to fit my wallet, phone, passport, disc lock, a few cans of Red Bull, snacks and spare gloves in without any issues. It’s worth noting that it’s not waterproof, but it comes with a waterproof liner to keep everything dry and the outer only leaks from the seams at the bottom anyway.

The fastener system on this tankbag is the best I’ve used so far. It’s really quick and easy to operate, is completely secure (160mph+ on the Autobahn) and when the bag is off, the fitment pins are so subtle you barely notice them. It also stays completely out of the way while you ride, leaving you free lock-to-lock steering movement on the bars.

Wunderlich tankbag fastener for BMW M1000R

To go with this tankbag and to carry the bulk of my stuff I also used my Shad SW45 rucksack in its tailpack mode. The attachment straps are just long enough to reach the subframe at the front and for the rear I attached them to each other underneath the seat unit. This gave me 40 litres of IPX5 rated waterproof capacity to add to the 10 litres provided by the tankbag and that was plenty to see me through.

Fully loaded and added to 100kg of me, this was still well within the M1000R’s 210kg payload and the bike took it really well. Performance was never going to be an issue, but I was pleased to discover that the handling was unaffected, too, despite the tailpack sitting quite high up due to the sporty angle of the seat unit.

Update five: Time for some S&M – The M1000R is amazing, but would Ben be better with the S?

Published 24.10.23

BMW M1000R vs S1000R

It’s a question I’ve been asked multiple times when people hear that I’ve been running the BMW M1000R on the long-term test fleet this year: Is the £19,401 missile worth the extra wedge over the £13,100 S1000R?

And the thing is, without even a moment’s thought I know the answer… No it isn’t. But however sure I am of this on paper, whenever I’m asked outright, I struggle to come up with an answer. Because bikes don’t exist on paper, they exist in the real world of emotion, ego, preference and drama.

When I jumped on the BMW S1000R for a run down an airfield earlier this summer, I half expected it to accelerate like a pushbike. I’d spent a few months acclimatising to 207bhp, after all, I won’t even get out of bed for a piffling 165bhp… Imagine my surprise, then, when the S1000R felt every bit as exciting.

BMW S1000R right side profile

On reflection, this makes perfect sense, I’m not unleashing 200 angry Bavarian horses onto the road every time I throw a leg over the M1000R. In fact, how much time do you really spend with the throttle pinned on a bike with anything over 100bhp?

Looking at the data, the S1000R lives with the M1000R quite happily until the speed climbs well into the prison range for road riding. So, in real-world performance stakes, there’s no point getting the M.

The M has better suspension, but you’ll not notice 95% of the time and if you opt for the £15,315 ‘Sport’ version of the S (still £4k cheaper than the M), you’ll even get electronic damping linked to the riding modes.

BMW M1000R right side profile

So having said all of that, why do I still struggle to admit that the M isn’t worth the difference over the S? There’s something intangible that the M delivers; it makes you feel a bit special.

Arrive at a bike meet on it and people want to ask you questions. Older bikers roll their eyes when you tell them how much power it makes. It feels rebellious and, dare I say it, a bit dangerous – a quality you don’t find in many bikes these days.

But which would I buy with my own money? The S, of course.

Update four: Continental fast break – Ben takes the BMW M1000R on a mission to Motorrad Days Berlin

Published 29.09.23

BMW M1000R in German forest

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.

Contact: ben.clarke@motorcyclenews.com