Know for the high-performance capabilities of its autos, has BMW finally found the ultimate driving machine on two-wheels with its S1000RR literbike?
De Uber Speed King
‘The Ultimate Driving Machine.’ BMW has touted such a statement to describe its four-wheeled vehicles for decades. And for good reason. The German firm’s line of cars, from family sedans to M performance machines, has always been on the cutting edge of performance and drivability. Could the same be said for their motorcycles, though? In a true sporting sense, No. While they have dominated areas like adventure riding with its GS line and long-distance touring with the LT range, a purebred sportbike has always eluded the Bavarian brand, something that has perplexed us for years. Until now. Enter the 2010 BMW S1000RR.
And as such, no amount of terrible airline food or long layovers could stop us from riding the highly touted new machine, which is why this story is coming to you straight from a hotel room in Portugal, mere hours after riding the new propeller-branded bombshell.
So, without further ado…
Let’s start at the heart of the beast, the essence of what BMW has always been known for. And while it may not be a strange Boxer motor, the somewhat traditional Inline-Four was designed and built 100% in-house in BMW’s Berlin facility. In fact, the entire motorcycle is built in its German super facility.
BMW took the Inline-Four approach for its Superbike project, but features more oversquare configuration at 80 x 49.7mm.
The 33.5mm intake and 27.3mm exhaust valves are made from lightweight titanium and feature a narrow valve angle. The valve springs are supplemented by a hydraulic tightening mechanism to eliminate valve flotation.
Though don’t fret all you BMW lovers, as well as connoisseurs of speed in general. It may be similar in basic design to the Japanese competition, but it takes things to a whole new level. Instantly noticeable from the first lap exiting the pits, seat-of-the-pants says this bad boy has the Japanese covered by a healthy margin.
These prancing ponies come via 999cc lump. Sporting a an extremely oversquare 80 x 49.7mm bore and stroke, this equates to a very short stoke ratio of 0.621 and the biggest bore of any 1K sportbike on the market. A forged, single-piece and heat-treated steel crankshaft is mated to “anti-friction” bearings and features traditional 180-degree angles for a consistent firing order. Con-rods are also steel, but are said to be an “extra-light” forged makeup, weighting 334 grams each. At the end of each of these sit forged lightweight “box” pistons with a thin-ring design for less dynamic friction. Each piston weights a mere 253 grams as well, further reducing internal rotational mass.
This is all housed in a horizontally split aluminum crankcase, the upper section die-cast to form a stiff overall unit. This upper half also holds a very small 6-speed stacked gearbox which mates to a wet slipper clutch. Above sits a cylinder block featuring nikasil coating for reduced friction and wear, while a compact cylinder head features a narrow valve angle (11.2 degree intake and 13.3 degree exhaust), claimed to “provide ideal intake ducts as well as a compact combustion chamber for high compression.”
Both intake and exhaust valves are lightweight titanium and measure a rather large 33.5mm intake and 27.3mm exhaust. These are operated by valve springs as well as a hydraulic tightening mechanism to reduce drag forces and allow power to be produced at high rpms without the chance of valve flotation. Small and light individual cam followers are also utilized to allow BMW the freedom to optimize valve lift and duration. This all equates to an astronomic – in liter-bike street terms – redline of 14,200 rpm, of which BMW says the engine could be run much higher in pure mechanical terms – i.e. if long-term street durability wasn’t a factor.
Cylinders bank forward at a 32-degree angle, which was obtainable due to the extremely small overall size of the engine. Despite the large 80mm bore the powerplant only measures 18.23 inches wide at the crankshaft. Height is also a vertically challenged 22 inches top to bottom, allowing low and “optimum” placement within the chassis. Another byproduct of this size is a featherweight 131.8-lb engine weight, said to be the lightest of the any stock 1000cc sportbike currently produced.
Producing a claimed 193 horsepower at the crank, the S1000RR clocked top speeds during our first ride in excess of 180mph in Portugal.
Spent gases exit through a 4-2-1 stainless exhaust system that features a main section under the engine, in which equal length of piping from each cylinder is routed, then exiting through a small and low, right hand muffler. This centralizes mass beneath the engine to further aid in moving the CG as low as possible.
With a compression ration of 13:1, the final result is a lump that produces a claimed whopping 193 hp at the crank, which BMW say translates to roughly 180 hp at the wheel. While this may be a tad optimistic (we’re guessing in the 170 hp range), compared to the best we’ve seen of low 160s from the Japanese and it’s easy to see the difference.
And while the following may sound like a bit of regurgitated PR, one run down the front straight at Portimao and it all quickly became quite believable. From as low as 3000rpm right up to the 14K redline she pulls like a factory Superbike dressed in drag.
As it happens, I personally just returned from riding all seven factory World Superbikes at the some Portimao circuit less than three weeks ago, making for a perfect comparison. To give to an example of the new BMW’s engine performance, my top speed on Ben Spies’ factory Yamaha R1 was 301 km/h (187 mph) at the end of the massive front straight, and according to the data on the stock S1000RR I clocked high 280s with ease and a peak of 289 km/h (180 mph), a mere 12 Km/h (7 mph) down on the world championship-winning machine. To say this is impressive is an understatement. These speeds on the stock Beemer were also equally as quick as the factory-supported Kawasaki WSBK I rode at the same time. Unreal!
But power without control is nothing. And making the S1000RR even better is the smooth progression in which the heaps of hp are delivered. Fuel delivery is spot-on from as low as 1000 rpm and at no point are there any hiccups or spikes of any kind.
Full-lean provides a good view of the S1000RR exhaust system, which exits out a shorty right-side exhaust canister and keeps the center of gravity as low as possible.
This is the result of BMW’s engine management system, called BMS-KP (BMW Engine Management with Anti-Knock Control), which controls fuel and ignition mapping for each cylinder independently. Variable intake control, which changes the intake length based on rpm and throttle position plays a roll, as does their E-Gas ride-by-wire throttle system that continually adjusts the butterflies of the 48mm throttle bodies.
It is further aided, in part, by the DTC (Dynamic Traction Control) system. Our test units came fully kitted with the DTC and integrated ABS system, a first for a production sportbike. Four modes: Rain, Sport, Race and Slick are available for the rider to choose from, with Slick needing a special plug under the seat to be installed to access. This plug comes with the bike if you buy the optional upgrade.
The Rain setting limits power output to 150 hp at the crank and turns the traction control up to a very high level so as to allow for easier riding on slick surfaces like in the wet or for less experienced riders. We tried this for the first couple laps getting used to the track on new tires and while it was nice on new tires, once the buns were heated I was quickly into Sport and then Race mode, as Rain cuts in quite a lot and prevents any steering of the motorcycle with the rear tire.
Full power is gained in Sport, Race and Slick modes, but the delivery is changed as the modes increase, giving the rider faster throttle response as you progress up the ladder. All of the systems work in conjunction with the integrated electronic ABS as well as a wheelie control function. Though Slick mode does away with the wheelie control, only leaving the DTC and ABS in place. Simply holding down a button on the left switch cluster can also turn off the entire system.
Gripping the Portimao circuit was Metzeler Racetec K3, with the S1000RR’s DTC (Dynamic Traction Control) system offering four optional settings.
And while Slick mode may have been designed for slick tires, the Metzeler Racetec K3 rubber on the machines were plenty grippy to allow such setting to be used and also what I found to be optimal. Much of this revolved around the wheelie control function, as on the track it wasn’t quite able to keep up, making for abrupt deceleration and some slightly violent rides cresting Portimao’s hills. At a flatter track or on the street, if one didn’t want to wheelie, I think the system could do fine, but with the drastic elevation changes of the Portuguese track this wasn’t the case. Not to mention, I’m quite the fan of wheelies in general, so to limit them on such a machine is the ultimate tease.
Our machines also came with the option HP Gearshift Assistant, or in non-Germanic terms, a speed-shifter. This allowed for full-throttle up-shifts without the use of the clutch, and the system worked flawlessly in all conditions. The back-torque-limiting clutch worked equally well, though in its case under braking, as long as one was sure to fully engage the clutch lever for each downshift. If not, false neutrals could be found, but only if the rider was ham-fisted with the hand controls.
Mondo power is great, but needs to be teamed with world-class handling. The Beemer delivers both in spades.
Harnessing the harrowing horsepower is BMW’s aluminum bridge frame, which uses the engine as a stressed member and weighs in at 26.42 lbs. The frame is comprised of four castings, designed to allow flex to be tuned differently along each axis. It also serves to make the machine as slim as possible between the rider’s legs for optimum ergonomics.
The steering head and the two side sections with their integrated engine mounts are made from ‘tip casting’ aluminum. The rear section, swingarm supports as well as the mounting points for the footrests are produced from a low-pressure die-casting process. A “high-precision welding robot” then assembles the individual pieces in the “Aluminum Competence Centre” at BMW’s Motorrad Berlin plant. The subframe is a welded structure comprised of square aluminum pieces that are bolted to the frame and as such is removable.
Due to the compactness of the engine BMW was able to utilize a long swingarm, to provide as much mechanical grip as possible. Measuring 23.35 inches from the rotation point to the center of the rear axle, this is one of the longest on the market today. It is made up of deep-drawn and very thin aluminum plates on top welded to a cast-dish base. This makes for a stiff unit that also only weights 13.72 lbs. An eccentric housing at the frame joint allows for swingarm adjustability, something only seen on a few high-end sportbikes.
The S1000RR sports one of the longest swingarms on the market and is also adjustable at the engine pivot, as is the wheelbase.
Suspension is handled via a massive 46mm front fork; featuring very German-like 10 clicks of rebound and compression adjustability, as well as spring preload. The steering head is also adjustable up to 15mm, allowing the front end to be lowered up to 5mm or raised 10mm as compared to stock. Same can be found out back, with a single shock featuring compression, rebound and spring preload tune-ability. Rear ride height can be changed up to 10mm using eccentric inserts in the upper shock support.
Reducing rotational mass are “very light and extra stiff” aluminum wheels. Designed with Supersport racing in mind, the thin 10-spoke wheels are pressure cast aluminum. Furthermore, the front brake rotors bolt directly to floating mounts on the wheel, eliminating carriers and an extra set of bolts found on most common wheel and brake setups. These 17-inch wheels come shod with 120/17 and 190/55 size tires front and back, respectively. Three different brands will be used; we rode on Metzeler K3 rubber in Portugal.
Slowing things down are dual front Brembo four-piston radial calipers that grab 320mm rotors via steel-braided brake lines and a radial master cylinder, while out back a single-piston Brembo caliper grabs a 220mm disc. The model we rode also featured BMW Motorrad Race ABS, which adjusts depending on the aforementioned setting (Rain, Sport, Race, Slick) in which the bike is used. The system only weights 5.51 lbs, making it the lightest on any production sportbike.
Developed by top-shelf riders, like Jurgen Fuchs, the BMW’s chassis handles the rigorous requirements of track use with ease.
While the engine is without question the eye-opening and shining point of the new Beemer, the chassis and suspension isn’t far behind. Developed by BMWs fast and well-trained testing staff, which includes former world-class racers like Jurgen Fuchs, the base setup was well balanced and stout, giving great feedback to the rider.
The compactness of the chassis allows for a machine that feels very small between one’s legs and combined with the shape of the tank makes for an ergonomics packages that fits nearly all size riders. My small stature had no problem flicking it from side to side, while none of the taller riders complained of it being cramped.
Although the overall weight is on the high side at a claimed 455 lbs full of fuel, due to the low CG and centralized mass one barely feels it, allowing for quick and easy transitions in both the slow and fast sections of the track. Equally capable was the feel and feedback once leaned on its side. Each and every bump was translated directly to the rider, as if one was strapped straight to the pavement.
Initially the shock was a bit soft and would transfer weight to the rear somewhat excessively under hard acceleration, but a few clicks of compression to keep it up in the stroke and she was good to go. Otherwise I left it exactly as setup by BMW and it worked as well as anyone could ever hope from a production machine on stock tires.
And speaking of the stock tires, Metzler’s K3 impressed greatly. Similar to the Pirelli Diablo SP3, these have to be one of the best OE tires on the track I personally have even ridden. Only complaint, if you want to call it that, is they get greasy after about 20-25 minutes of straight hard riding. But for a street-based tire that’s hardly a complaint and more like a compliment.
The new S1000RR makes power and handles like a proper Superbike. No more scratching Boxer engine heads in the corners! Bring on the big shootout…
The only other minor complaint was the ABS system under hard braking. In the lower settings it would initiate quite early in a predictive manner, and while it doesn’t pulse or do anything funny, it does give back a mushy feeling through the front fork and lacks some feedback at the brake lever. This was slightly better in the higher settings, but even in Slick mode one could feel it under extreme conditions. However, with the system totally off full brake feel and feedback comes back.
It’s impossible not to have an opinion about the styling of the new BMW. Everyone does. Why is this? Because for the first time on a sportbike the faring design and lighting is quite asymmetrical, with two completely different side panels as well as totally different headlights.
The different fairings are almost easy to miss, as they are never viewed together at any one time, so this rarely a point of contention. The headlights, on the other hand, are. Sitting right next to each other and very different in shape, I must say at first I wasn’t a fan. And while I’m still not totally sold, they are growing on me.
Why did they do this, you might ask? First off, performance. The high-beam projector didn’t need to be as big as the low beam, thus by making it smaller they saved weight. But the big thing was to be different. With an engine configuration the same as the Japanese, BMW needed something to call their own, something to separate them from the pack. And no doubt the angular lines, crazy shaped taillight and asymmetric bodywork have accomplished exactly that. Equally different is the green color they chose for us to ride, which they say is very “urban” focused.
The bodywork is also very much wind tunnel influenced to provide optimum aerodynamics while still giving the machine a small “600cc Supersport feel,” according to the Germans.
The asymmetrical headlight configuration of the S1000RR is bound to rile some, but where will the Beemer fall when the 2010 Superbike Smackdown finishes?
Sitting behind the controversial shrouding is a very techno gauge cluster that features an analog tach and digital speedo, as well a host of racetrack-focused digital readouts. A built-in lap timer can be accessed via the high beam switch on the left bar, as well though a censor that works with any 2D transponder. Also available to the rider is his max speed as well as percentage of overall brake pressure and throttle opening for each recorded lap.
Without shooting myself in the foot before we get the BMW back to the U.S. for a proper shootout, I can tell you this bike impressed more than any production motorcycle in recent memory. Utterly amazing power harnessed by a communicative chassis and very adjustable suspension, plus high-tech electronics, make for a bike that should no doubt push the envelope of liter-class machines worldwide. And all this for a base price of $13,800.
All hail the 2010 Superbike Smackdown. It gets better by the minute…