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Tale of the unexpected

Published: 01 September 2000

Updated: 19 November 2014

TRACKDAY bikes – R1s, Blades, GSX-Rs, 916s, BMWs. Er, excuse me? Let’s try that one again. Track day bikes – R1s, Blades, GSX-Rs, 916s… BMWs?

Surely Munich’s big Boxers are designed to clock up the kilometres on autobahns, not scrape their cylinder covers on the corners of Donington or Brands? Well, that’s what we’ve been led to believe. But it’s not entirely true.

We’re not about to tell you to trade in your cutting-edge sports machine for a Beemer. But after testing a few different variations of the R1100S and R1100S Sport with some bolt-on accessories we can say it makes a surprisingly able track day bike.

We weren’t entirely convinced when we turned up at Cadwell Park, where a handful of BMWs awaited us sporting various performance-enhancing extras. As well as an R1100S kitted out by BMW specialist AC Schnitzer, there was a bike with six-pot aluminium PFM Racing calipers and discs and a couple of machines fitted with a new set of underseat silencers and new EPROM chips. The importer of the pipes and chip, Sportmoto, claims the modifications boost power by 3bhp at peak on standard.

As the R1100S is already the most powerful bike in BMW’s range, this results in a healthy 101bhp, with a claimed extra 6bhp at maximum revs in top gear. Not bad work for an already fairly punchy bike.

Give it some PFM six-pot racing calipers and discs that would stand anything on its nose at 100mph and you’ve got a BMW that sounds in theory like it could take on track days. But we weren't about to take Sportmoto’s word for it. A hot, sunny and strangely dry (for this summer) day at the winding Cadwell Park short circuit beckoned, with a standard bike for starters.

The first thing that struck me was how damned tall the R1100S Sport was. It’s got more ride height than the standard R1100S and stiffer suspension. As the marshal gave me the all-clear to head up the hill out of the hairpin, I just couldn’t get comfortable. The riding position is so upright and unnatural on the race track it felt like I’d taken a wrong turn and should instead have been pointing up the road towards the motorway.

But after a couple of laps of warming the tyres, the pegs and stands were scraping. The bike was getting into the groove and I was going flat-out everywhere. The engine wasn’t exactly inspiring on the track, but it was good enough to pull an indicated 140mph down the back straight.

Warming up when I came in was the bike with pipes and chip. It sounded great having the throttle blipped as it got the oil up to temperature. This is the way all BMWs should sound. The engine still had its trademark whirring, but the twin underseat pipes added a distinctly un-BMW bellow.

But more importantly, the pipes and chip improved performance, too, as I discovered when I climbed on board and set off for another stack of laps. There was a noticeable increase in grunt from around 3000rpm right the way to the red line. The bike pulled harder out of corners and was good for another 8mph by the end of the straight.

And where the standard bike often felt a bit soulless, this one seemed much more alive – but at the same time it was not nearly as intimidating as an R1 or GSX-R can be.

The kit includes two replacement stainless steel silencers and an EPROM chip and collector set. It is claimed to reduce weight by 2.2kg (4.8lb). It costs £625 plus VAT and is available through BMW dealers or Sportmoto (you can contact them on 01926-485101).

Next I tried the R1100S equipped with PFM calipers and discs. Though it has less power than the chipped bike, it proved the fastest way to get around Cadwell.

At the end of Charlies into Park Corner, pulling on the lever at 100mph had the back wheel hopping off the ground – and you could brake a good 100 yards later than on the stock bike.

The kit includes twin 320mm fully-floating discs and six-pot calipers machined from billet alloy. It uses the standard master cylinder. The kit isn’t cheap though, at £999. It’s available from Performance Parts on 0870-240-2118.

And the AC Schnitzer bike? It looked fantastic in its red and silver paint scheme, sounded pretty good with new silencers and manifold and turned heads with five-spoke deeply shiny wheels.

Unfortunately, the wide 6in rear wheel rim really didn’t get on with the rest of the bike. It was hard to pitch into corners and it struggled to hold a tight line, trying to run wide. The higher footrest kit looked beautiful and gave the bike more ground clearance, but it took a while to get on with.

The whole thing was a bit more show than go, and the cost of the parts mean you would have to be really keen on changing the look of your bike to consider it. The exhaust manifold costs £635, the silencer is £425, the wheel set is £2100, the footrest kit costs £290, and the seat cover is £280. All AC Schnitzer parts are available from BMW dealers.

BOLT-ONS FOR CRUISER OWNERS

ADD-ON extras for BMWs aren’t limited to the sportiest bikes in the firm’s range. The company has a version of its successful R1200C cruiser on sale, called the Independent. The bike has even more chrome than the original, a single seat replaces the standard dual seat, and there are oval mirrors, driving lamps, clear indicator lenses, a smoked windscreen and two-tone paintwork. The bike is available now for £8895, compared to 8795 for the stock model.

You can also turn your R1200C into a flashy-looking show-style bike with AC Schnitzer parts available from BMW dealers. But hold your breath, they’re not cheap. The exhaust manifold costs £385, a fishtail-look silencer is £540, a solid front and rear wheel set is £1775, a lowered mudguard is £90, a high handlebar costs £560, a seat is £260 and the footrests cost £475.

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