MCN Fleet: BMW S1000R takes on Brands Hatch

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Track evenings are my favourite. Compared to track days you don’t need to leave at silly o’clock to get there and your fellow riders are generally less pent-up and full of ego, so there are fewer red flags.

The tarmac is nice and warm from the get-go and going from 5.30pm to 8pm with just two groups (novice, inter/advanced) running 20-minute sessions, there’s lots of circuit time. They’re cheaper and MSV Trackdays run a tight, but friendly ship.

Riding Brands Hatch, my home track is always a treat and the perfect place to try my S1000R flat stick for the first time.

BMW S1000R in Brands Hatch pit lane

More long-term tests

It’s easy to morph the S1000R from mild-mannered road bike to track weapon via the dash functions. In 'Dynamic Pro' riding mode you can adjust wheelie, traction and engine braking control, as well as the engine’s eagerness. The rear ABS can be disabled to get rid of unwanted intrusion under hard braking and you can play with fork and shock damping, but adjustment is limited to soft, hard and a slightly tougher pillion setting. 

My Beemer sails through noise testing at 96db (even with its M Package Akrapovic can), so off we go.

It may 'only' have 163bhp, which is down on most super nakeds, but that’s more than enough to hang to superbikes at small track like this. The brakes are strong and consistent, too, despite what I’ve read in reports from the S1000R’s Cadwell launch.

It’s well balanced, as you’d expect from its RR-derived chassis and easy to ride but gets loose when you push hard. The front end isn’t as plugged-in to the tarmac as its super naked rivals or S1000RR sister and without greater suspension adjustment there isn’t much you can do about it. 

Lowering the pressures reveals a warning message

I’ve been trying out Pirelli’s new Diablo Rosso IV for the past 1000 miles. They’re all-purpose sports tyres that are superb on the road and handle Brands track abuse admirably. The front comes close to trackday rubber levels of grip and only the yumps on the start/finish straight can unstick the rear at full throttle. 

But dropping the pressures sends the dash into a spin and its huge warning message, which blots out the tacho, sometimes won’t clear, which is a distraction. I later discover there's a tick box in the menu to get rid of it...

My S1000R isn’t as accomplished as its rivals on track, but I still have a whale of a time. Best of all, I can make the BMW soft again by pressing a few buttons and enjoy a relaxing sunny evening ride up the motorway back home. 

Watch MCN's expert BMW S1000R video review:

Update two: It's good to be back on a BMW S1000R

Published: 06.06.21

Riding the BMW S1000R on UK roads

Back in 2014 I had a first-generation S1000R and adored it. It didn’t hang about, but it was as happy pottering to work or cruising around Europe as it was being a naked superbike. That’s what made it so special and even now it’s the best super naked I’ve owned. Sure, the Streetfighter V4 S I had in 2020 was faster, cleverer and prettier, but the Beemer was more fun at road speeds and more practical.

Now the planets have aligned again and there’s an S1000R back in my world for 2021. The engine, chassis and electronics are based on the latest-gen S1000RR, which is good news, but it only makes 3bhp more than the original (and one more than the outgoing model) and doesn’t have the RR’s clever ShiftCam system, which on the face of it isn’t so good.

More long-term tests

I’ve recently been riding my Beemer for a series of MCN riding tips videos and first impressions are the power delivery isn’t as instant or dramatic as the new breed of big cube V4s, triples, V-twins and crossplane crank super nakeds. Its performance, handling and riding position is similar to before, albeit slightly crisper and more refined, but the more time I spend with it the more I love its smooth delivery, appetite for monster wheelies and strong brakes (although reports from its recent Cadwell launch say they’re lacking on track).

In base trim the new S1000R is just £12,055 and for that you get lean sensitive ABS and traction control, three riding modes (Rain, Road, Dynamic), full LEDs and one of the best colour dash displays in the business. Mine is the £14,000 Sport with cornering and daytime running lights, an up/down shifter, an extra riding mode (Dynamic Pro, although it seems to be missing), cruise control, heated grips, keyless ignition (the fuel cap still needs a key), a USB charging socket, heated grips and engine spoiler.

On top of that mine has the £2800 M Package fitted with forged ali wheels, a sportier seat, Akrapovic can, GPS lap timer trigger, endurance chain and lithium battery. Add in the £225 alarm and £235 tyre pressure control and that tots up to £17,260, which isn’t cheap. You get a three-year warranty, though.

Cornering on the 2021 BMW S1000R

Whether all those add-ons are worth it is what I plan to find out over the summer, but right now I’m loving the keyless ignition, cruise control, heated grips and I’m always a sucker for a gold chain. My BMW connect app works from when I had an S1000RR in 2019 and the in-built sat nav still displays my favourite destination, which is a nice touch. Showing the places I visited in Europe it’s also a sad reminder of the freedom we had to travel two years ago…

This year’s trips will be closer to home with a few trackdays thrown in - I might even fit the wheels and slicks from my S1000RR race bike for one of them, just to see what it can really do.

Update one: Is the BMW S1000R all my favourite things rolled into one?

Published: 06.04.21

A side view of the BMW S1000R

Heated grips, cruise control, straight bars and superbike performance are all my favourite things – the BMW S1000R rolls them into one. I can’t wait to get out on it and enjoy the simple pleasure of doing distance on two wheels again.

The rider Michael Neeves, Chief Road Tester, 51, 6ft. 35 years road riding. Racer, tester, tourer.

Bike specs 999cc | 162bhp | 199kg | 830mm seat

Read the latest stories causing a buzz this week in MCN Fleet…

Michael Neeves

By Michael Neeves

MCN Chief Road Tester, club racer, airmiles millionaire.