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Throwback Thursday: BMW K1300S first ride

Published: 08 December 2016

Updated: 07 December 2016

Don’t let the familiar appearance fool you – the numerous, seemingly small changes to the BMW K1300S amount to a seriously improved machine over the outgoing model. It may look similar but the combined result of so many developments has given the inline four more performance, better fuel economy and range, and improved engine refinement.

More important for many potential owners is the fact that the whole range now has ‘proper’ indicators on the left-hand bar – not the complicated, confusing BMW multiple switches on both bars. This may sound like the smallest change of all but for many non-BMW riders three-switch indicators are a reason not to buy German. The new K-Series also heralds an end to all BMWs having multiple switches – all new bikes will have conventional ones.

The biggest seller of the K-Series range in the UK has always been the fully faired K1300S – the firm expects to sell around 450 in 2009, compared to 250 of the naked R and 100 or so of the massive GT touring version.

The S is a bike BMW is happy to compare with the likes of the Suzuki Hayabusa and the Kawasaki ZZR1400 – even though the power output from the slightly bigger capacity engine is lower, producing a claimed 175bhp against 194bhp from the Hayabusa.

While the Japanese bikes are even faster than the K1300S, BMW maintains the K1300S is a more usable, everyday bike that can combine huge speeds with fitted hard luggage, heated grips, traction control and the improved Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA II) system.

Engine development was carried out by Ricardo Engineering rather than BMW– the first time the hugely respected firm has worked on a BMW motorcycle. The brief was to work on improving the fuel efficiency, emissions and most importantly, refinement. All of these have been sorted successfully.

The most impressive facet of the motor is its ability to combine all of these qualities yet still sound like a racing engine when revved hard. It’s also got away from the slight reluctance to rev that characterised four-cylinder K-Series motors of old.

Despite being pushed very hard over twodays with loads of stop-start riding for photos, all of the launch bikes were averaging no less than 40mpg. Over two days of riding in Spain and into Portugal the S showed how versatile it is, covering miles of Spanish mountain roads that ranged from tight, first-gear hairpins with rock faces on one side and perilous drops on the other, through to ultra-fasts traights, motorways and even some off-road action.

The off-road riding was a surprise – the result of a slightly odd road that went from beautiful virginal tarmac to unpaved rubble and then back to tarmac. What this did allow, however, was a tough test of the ESA II system. A simple click of a switch on the left bar changed the suspension from taut Sport mode to plush Comfort – the difference in ride quality was immense. Add in the ASC traction control (the same as on the BMW R1200GS) and it was all under control.

ESA II works by adjusting the springs and dampers a sbefore but now allows the spring preload to be adjusted too thanks to an Elastogran. Basically there are three settings each for single rider, single rider with luggage and with pillion and luggage…Comfort, Normal and Sport.

These settings are preset and a sliding piston allows a rubber-style ring to expand only to set amounts to govern the ride height. Forget the science – just focus on the fact that it works brilliantly. The system’s helped by some weight savings on the Duolever front– with the use of aluminium rather than steel.

Once on the move a simple click of abutton alters the feel of the bike. Feeling lazy and want a plush ride on the motorway? Then Comfort is for you. Want the bike to feel sharp and focused? Then click onto Sport. Normal is just that… something in the middle. All you need to do is wait about four to five seconds for the stepper motors to do their work – no need to stop and definitely no need for spanners.

There are, of course, little niggles – nothing in life i sperfect. Some of the bikes were fitted with Continental Sport Attack tyres – they were universally disliked for a lack of feel. Most test riders thought they felt like they were over-inflated in the 10 to 15°C temperatures we experienced in Spain.

The fuel tank is no bigger and without a longer test it hasn’t been possible to find out the full range, despite improved fuel efficiency. And adding some options is going to get pricey – ESA II is £617 for starters – although BMW do bundle some options together to save money.

I wouldn’t bother with the quickshifter unless you really want it. It worked fine but seemed out of place on a machine like this. Also, some of the bikes that had been run-in on salty British roads were already showing some worrying amounts of corrosion on brake discs, too.

Despite these tiny issues, BMW has shown that it doesn’t need a huge model change to make a good bike even better. The engine is brilliant and the K1300S is fast, comfortable, practical, good looking and will handle anything thrown at it… even accidental off-road riding.

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