Riding back from the Nürburgringon the E42 motorway recently, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself.
An early morning blast on the 410 via Gerolstein and Prüm showed the brilliance of my Beemer as a road bike – light, plush, grippy and endowed with the kind of midrange from its clever ShiftCam, that would make a Busa proud. Heated grips took the sting out of an early morning chill and cruise control soothed sore motorway wrists past Spa.
The day before I’d been on that magical 12.8-mile Nordscheife circuit, where, staggeringly, the new BMW felt every bit as sharp as my old S1000RR race bike, if not better. But a closed slip road on to the E40 (and the petrol station I desperately needed a couple of miles up the motorway) quickly wiped the smugness off my face. I had a tunnel train to catch.
Filtering past stationary traffic into the next town, the welcoming glow of a Shell forecourt sign was quickly followed by a tankful of unleaded for my gasping friend. But then I did something I’ve never done on a superbike before: fired up its in-built sat nav. Yes, sat nav on a superbike - just download BMW’s free Motorrad Connected app to your phone, sync it to the dash via Bluetooth and off you go.
The day before I’d been looking at lap times, flickering traction control lights and crazy big-lean three-figure speeds on the RR’s readout (there are three race displays to choose from), but now that same colour dash is guiding me through towns, B-roads, past the incident and back on the motorway.
I’ve stared down at some sportsbike dashes in my time: the speedo cable-driven clocks of the 80s and 90s, LCD displays of the noughties and the colour TFT revolution of the past few years, but BMW has moved the game on.
With its menus and sub menus, it could be information overload if it wasn’t laid out so cleverly. There’s a big, bold everyday display, which even adjusts its red line to a cold engine, pages of data on everything from tyre pressures to journey stats and options to play music through a Bluetooth headset and answer calls.
This M Package model comes with Rider Modes Pro, allowing you to customise everything (via the dash), from engine power level, wheelie/traction/engine braking control, ABS intervention and suspension damping set-up. It’s all easily controlled (once you’ve got the hang of it) by the menu button and adjuster wheel on the left switchgear. NASA’s mission control has nothing on my clocks.
Update two: Trackday heaven
Published: 15 June 2019
A recent MSV Trackday at Brands Hatch gave me the chance see to how my new S1000RR would go at one of my favourite circuit and to find out what happens when you start fiddling with its suspension and electronics.
Before the big day I treated my Beemer to some crash protection, just in case, but sat loose on my desk when it all arrived, it’s a couple of kilos’ worth – it seems sacrilege to add weight to one of the lightest superbikes money can buy…
GB Racing’s Secondary Engine Cover Set (£244.58) and paddock stand bobbins (£22.52) took about half an hour to fit and to gain access you can just pull the rubbery belly pan out of the way, rather than take the whole fairing off, as I’ve had to do with other superbikes I’ve had.
The high quality, high impact, ‘Long Glass Fibred Nylon’ covers come with all the required fixings, colour instructions are clear and easy to follow and even the packaging has a luxurious feel to it. ACU licence holders also get a 20% discount.
I’ve also fitted Evotech Performance lever protectors (£150.00) and purely for looks, a tail tidy (£175.00), which are both beautifully and robustly made from powder-coated aluminium.
The lever protectors take all of a minute to fit, but stripping the back of the bike down to remove the old number plate hanger took some guesswork, swearing and taking too many things apart. Evotech’s online instructions are perfect for building-up the tail tidy, but vague when it comes to dismantling the bike. Fortunately, the owner’s manual (which I didn't think about until later) explains things in more detail.
To really get a sense of its potential and see how my own Prime Factors Racing ’19 S1000RR will behave when it finally gets here (still no news), we ran my long-term test bike as a racer for the day.
My friend Bob came along with his race van to help, we propped the BMW up on paddock stands, swapped the Metzeler Racetec K3s for Pirelli Superbike SC1 slicks (those carbon wheels weigh nothing carrying them to Rod Harwin Racing’s tyre service) and fitted SBS Dual Carbon racing pads to the Hayes calipers (fiddlier to do than the old Brembos).
With the immense grip of the tyres and bite of the brakes, we made some tweaks to the semi-active suspension during the day. The rear preload is on its minimum out of the box, so we added three turns (with a socket) to sharpen the steering and added more damping (via the dash) for extra support under hard acceleration and braking.
Compared with the base and S model S1000RR, my M Package version comes with the Full Monty’s worth of riding modes and aids, including slide control. It also has three ‘Race Pro’ modes, on top of its more road-based Rain/Road/Dynamic/Race settings.
Within each of the Race Pro modes you can customise settngs: engine power (we set on the raciest) engine braking control (the most ‘freewheeling’), traction control (minimum – with a further 15 increments adjustable on the left bar, which we set in the middle) anti-wheelie (on +2, allowing miniscule front wheel lift), ABS (race mode with rear ABS and rear wheel-lift disabled) and suspension damping adjustment (firmer).
With a measured 204bhp at the back wheel with a standard pipe (it sailed through noise testing), it’s no surprise the new RR feels every inch as quick as the blueprinted-engined BMW I raced last year along Brand Hatch’s straight bits. It’s nimbler, holds an easier line and the electronics are more effective than the race-kitted stuff from the previous model. That’s a phenomenal feat for a road bike.
Traction control works away in the background without slowing you down and the anti-wheelie, which was too intrusive on my old race bike (so we never used it) works so well that you can pin the throttle to the stop exiting Graham Hill and the front wheel hovers inches from the ground, through second and third gear. That saves you energy and concentration, which you can divert to riding faster.
Braking power is race grade, thanks to those new SBS pads and crucially there wasn’t any fade during the course of each 20-minute session. Grip from the Pirelli slicks is way beyond what you can use in a trackday scenario and lasted all day with little sign of wear.
The only weak link is the suspension, which is good enough for trackday work, but would need upgrading for racing to improve turning and general sharpness and stability. We’re going for K-Tech fork internals and rear shock for our race bike.
With its full-floater rear suspension linkage the shock spring doesn’t need to be that hard, so rather than the 90 or 95kg spring we’d use on our old Beemer, we’re looking at a 55/60kg for the new bike.
What’s most impressive about the new S1000RR is that it can lap Brands Hatch within a second or so as a race bike, but with road tyres and pads back in, electronics set back in their friendly modes (I use ‘Rain’ for most riding, with its soft throttle and suspension) it’s an accomplished road bike, too. Within an hour of screaming around the track, I’m cruising back up the M25, heated grips and cruise control on, as happy as Larry.
What a machine.
Update one: The wait is finally over
Published: 10 June 2019
It’s unusual for a new model to come out so late in the year, but the new S1000RR was always due to arrive in dealers in June. It hasn’t stopped me, or many of you who’ve slapped deposits on the new Beemer getting impatient. But if it’s any consolation for those still in the queue, you won’t be disappointed.
This is the RR I’ll be running through the summer, in M Package spec, so as well as the M-Sport paintjob (BMW have switched from ‘HP’ to ‘M’ branding for their special bikes and parts), it has carbon wheels, a lithium battery, race seat, an adjustable swingarm pivot and rear ride height adjuster. It also has the full range of electronic riding modes, including slide control.
My first encounter with the new Beemer was at a dissapointly wet Estoril in March for its world launch and again a month later at a Bridgestone tyre event, where as good as the S22 front is, the rear is no match for a genuine, dyno-confirmed 204bhp.
The planets have never aligned for a go on a dry track with sticky tyres and I’ve never ridden it on the road, either…until now.
For the past few weeks we’ve been riding the new S1000RR on the road and track against the best of its superbike rivals and I’ve just returned from a trip to the Nurburgring on ‘my’ Beemer.
I won’t give anything away about the group test, but here’s a few things that have made me feel all warm a fuzzy about my new bike so far.
- It’s the comfiest superbike I’ve ever ridden distance on. OK, the special M race seat gets painful after eight hours, but the riding position is spacious and because it has cruise control you never get sore wrists. Any time they start getting painful, just let go of the clip-ons and shake them off.
- Heated grips are a joy on chilly mornings and the colour dash has a built-in navigation. Sat nav on a superbike!
- The ShiftCam motor has so much grunt between 4-9000rpm it feels like a 1300cc and whooshes like a Busa when you crack the throttle.
- It’s bloody fast around the Ring, which is no big surprise, but the electronics cope beautifully with the fearsome track’s rises, crests and keep you safe on cold tyres at the beginning of a lap.
- Hayes calipers have more bite and feel than the old Brembos and don’t fade on road or Ring. The lever can come back to the bar on some short circuits, but the plan is to try new pads later in the month to see if they help. Adjusting the span too far out to begin with gets around the problem, with the lever coming back to where it should be after a few laps.
- Metzeler Racetec RR K3 rubber comes standard on the M Package in a 200-section rear (the standard and S model run a 190). Superb on the road, even in the wet, stick like glue on circuit and with over 1500 miles racked up on them already are showing no signs of wear.
- It makes mincemeat of the glorious roads surrounding the Ring - the 258 on the way in and 410 heading home.
I have a few more long trips up my sleeve over the coming months, lots of trackdays and I’ll be racing a new S1000RR, too, in Prime Factors Racing colours, to find out what it takes to turn the BMW into a chiselled track weapon.
It’s going to be a fast-old summer.
Update one: Introducing the BMW S1000RR
Published: 1 March 2019
My time with the BMW S1000RR will be spent explore the wealth of its new track-based tech, getting under the skin of its new electronics and comparing its engine and chassis to the previous model that I know so well.
Using the RR day-in, day-out, over some serious mileage will give me the chance test the full range of its skills in even more geeky depth and detail than we do in our road tests.
I’ll be racing a new RR as well this year, which will also allow me to test the new BMW race kits, and measure what improvements they give.
As well as all the track testing, I’ll be smashing in the miles on the road, and I’m keen to see how much value the new ShiftCam engine contributes to normal riding.