2009 BMW K1300S Comparison

Steve Atlas | January 25, 2010
BMW K1300S
2009 BMW K1300S
MotoUSA put the updated-for-’09 BMW K1300S and its state of the art suspension and braking technologies up against the tried and true Suzuki Hayabusa in order to see if the mighty German contender can take down the hyper-sportbike King.

We first threw a leg over the slightly updated Beemer back in March when it was released to the sporting press and found it to be an excellent motorcycle. While changes were minimal to the naked eye, the exception being the new 1300 sticker on the tail section. The fact of the matter is that there are a host of minor changes aimed at making the bike not only faster but easier to live with on a daily basis. This is what happens when BMW believes the U.S. market is now its primary target for motorcycle sales moving forward and will change models to fit U.S. rider’s requests when the demands require it.

For full technical details on the K1300S be sure to check out our First Ride, but the cliff notes version goes something like this: a 1mm bigger more (80mm) and 5.3mm longer stroke bump the displacement up to 1293cc, while inside the lump sits redesigned and lighter pistons along with updated engine-mapping. The objective was to achieve more outright power while making it more useable at the same time.

We’ve had issues in the past with the previous K1200S wanting to surge under partial throttle and actually still accelerating on occasion when the throttle was fully closed. Both of these issues were said to have been addressed by the time the production 1200 hit the assembly lines and like I said, we only rode the pre-production units. I can attest that the pre-production 1300s were a definite improvement, no longer scaring us under braking.

Though it makes almost 150 hp and over 90 lb-ft of torque  the BMW is no match for the Suzuki on the dyno.
While it’s down almost 20 hp on the Suzuki, making 147.9 hp and 91.1 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheel is plenty of push for the Beemer.

That said, BMW did release a recall of over 2000 of its K-series motorcycles for problems involving their fueling systems, which included the 1300S and 1300GT. The recall revolves around the use of poor quality fuel that could leave deposits in the throttle bodies. According to the NHTSA, this could cause the bikes to stall due to restricted air flow during low rpm riding. BMW also released a recall for issues pertaining to the new for-2009 turn signal switchgear (more on that later). According to the German brand both have been, or are in the process of being addressed, at no cost to the consumer. Still worth paying attention to, nonetheless.

Though BMW claims 175 hp at the crank, once up on our dyno the K1300S laid down a solid 147.9 hp @ 9150 rpm with an even more impressive 91.1 lb-ft of torque at 7900 rpm. The machine also held extremely strong torque numbers from as low as 3000 rpm, where it produced nearly 80 stump-pulling pounds of grunt and only continued to build up to its 7900 rpm peak. It also holds strong through its over-rev to the 11,000 rpm redline, losing less than eight horsepower and 10 lb-ft of torque. And while the horsepower numbers are considerably lower than the 166.6 hp posted by the ‘Busa, some of this may come down to the power-robbing shaft drive.

Visually the K1300S bears little change to its predecessor.The ABS system is far improved over the previous model  eliminating a good deal of the pulsation felt through both the hand and foot levers.2009 BMW K1300S Review
2009 BMW K1300S: Duolever front suspension (middle) is good in the straight line but tough to get your head around in the twisties; BMW has finally adopted traditional switchgear after decades of doing it their way (bottom).

As for the performance numbers, the K1300 ticked the quarter-mile lights at an extremely respectable 10.16 @ 141.4 mph. We actually may have been able to get a few more tenths out of it, but the shaft started to overheat and shudder off the line, negating any further attempts. As for top speed, BMW limits it at 186 mph, much the same as the Suzuki. On our GPS unit it recorded a very close 185.8 mph in controlled testing, though felt like it was running out of pull and slowing down at that speed.

Though not what we may think of as ideal for a Hypersports bike, BMW has always stuck by its shaft drive system, using it across almost every motorcycle in its lineup – the new S1000RR Superbike being one notable exception. And while we found the shaft drive on the 1200 model to be jerky during hard performance riding, the updates on the 1300 have seriously smoothed out the final drive. With little-to-no driveline shudder other than what we experienced at the drag strip and nearly instantaneous throttle response, when it comes to comfort and logging some serious miles it becomes clear why the Bavarians put such faith in the shaft drive system.

“The driveshaft isn’t what I would want for something around town or racing from stoplight to stoplight, but when it came to hammering out the miles it works alright,” said Road Test Editor Waheed. “It’s extremely smooth on and off throttle and doesn’t hamper suspension action much and the roll-on response is right there – no lag at all. Just don’t try and do a burnout or wheelie with it!”

Another plus in the ‘distance and comfort’ category is the BMW’s eccentric suspension. The Duolever system up front and Paralever in the rear elevates the use of a traditional fork and as a result there is limited front-end dive under braking. Add into the equation that the K-bike offers an extremely stable ride during the high-speed straight line freeway mileage and this bike starts to really make sense for riders geared toward the touring side of the equation.

Furthermore, the on the fly adjustability of the suspension adds another comfort feature the Suzuki simply is not prepared to offer. Our test unit came equipped with the optional ESA II – Electronic Suspension Adjustment – system. Like the previous model this an option, only now the second version of the system has been updated for more adjustability. Featuring nine distinctly different modes the rider has the ability to alter shock damping, spring rate and spring preload, all at the touch of a button. Sport mode was overly stiff and jarring at times, while the Normal setting was optimal for most situations, as it provided good damping and stability without being excessively rigid. The final mode, Comfort, was the setting of choice for long-distance freeway miles, especially when the road got rough, making things more bearable on one’s rear end.

Same could be said for two-up comfort, as the BMW not only gave the passenger a slightly larger seat area but it’s less aggressive riding position allowed for substantial more distance to be covered before the pillion was aching to get off.

The suspension’s major downfall? The twisties! As the corners tighten, the Duolever lacks the feel and rider connection to the road compared to that of a traditional fork and single-shock setup of the Hayabusa. Improved for 2009, the 1300S Duolever features an updated front lever ratio in an effort to give the suspension slightly more ‘dive’ under braking which was intended to improve feedback. Did the changes work? While no doubt a step in the right direction, the system seems inherently doomed to always keep the rider seperated from the road and that is simply a byproduct of its design – no matter the setting. As a result, consumers must choose between the ultimate straight line stability or the ability to really feel the road while blasting through the turns.

Straight-line stability was the BMWs strong point.
Long-distance straight-line touring is the BMW’s domain, but when it comes to the tight corners it falls behind the Suzuki.

“There’s no question when you get to the twisties the Hayabusa leaves the BMW in its wake,” Waheed added. “The unconventional suspension of the K1300S makes the machine hard to turn-in and want to stand up mid-corner. It also lacks the feedback needed to really push. The rider is never really in tune with the road like he is on the Hayabusa. Kinda of strange, too, as looking at the two you would guess the smaller BMW would run circles around the rather larger ‘Busa, but it’s not the case at all.”

In a further aim to please the American market, the BMW’s switchgear is now of conventional fashion, which we quite like. Almost ironically, though, BMW already had a recall on the system. They tell us everything has been fixed and they will continue to use the traditional set-up on all new motorcycles. Never thought I would see the day, though it shows the German’s commitment to respond to U.S. consumer requests. As for our test unit, the switchgear system would stumble and delay on occasion, but nothing too major. Still enough for a recall though.

While the big K-bike looks nearly identical to the previous 1200, it’s actually now 18mm slimmer in the upper fairing, has new side cowls and a black-face split on the upper fairing headlight, all aimed to improve its image. A revised speedo, tach and clear LED taillight round out the changes. In other words, to the untrained eye they are nearly identical. As for whether we rate this as a plus or minus, that’s a question always taken in context. Sitting next to the bulbous Hayabusa the BMW looks angular, modern and sleek. I can hear the cult clanking their pitchforks and assembling the mob now, but in this comparison we give the aesthetic vote to the Beemer.

Summing the K1300S up quite well, Waheed said: “It’s the ultimate Autobahn machine. Considering the road restrictions and laws in the U.S. it feels somewhat out of place. This machine is all about being tucked behind the windscreen at 140 mph covering mile after mile of the German countryside, beautiful mountains one side and smart drivers to the other, all the while never worrying about ending up in jail. That’s what the BMW K1300S all about.”

2009 Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa
Many have tried, but none can stay in front of the all-conquering Hayabusa. Its monster motor and ability to hide nearly 600-lb mass makes for an awesome combination.

And The Winner Is…

While we hoped BMW had done enough to give the Suzuki a run for its money, the truth is that it’s not even close.

When riding the BMW by itself the Germanic instrument performs quite well, especially for its intended purpose – long-distance high-speed touring. Furthermore, we experienced only minor blinker issues with our test unit and none of the other recalled items were a problem, so in a standalone test it would have rated relatively well. But within one minute of getting off the BMW and onto the Hayabusa, the decision is plain as day. There’s good reason Suzuki has sold so many of these bikes: Whether you like its appearance or not, the combination of fearsome speed and wild looks is utterly addictive and is mated to a chassis that hides the 579-lb curb weight well. As such, the decision is simple.

The monster Suzuki just barely defeated the Kawasaki ZX-14 in our ’08 comparison and has now easily retained the top spot by defeating the contender from BMW. Many have challenged the ‘Busa, but so far none have succeeded. Considering the levels of legal intervention that loom on the horizon, who knows if any ever will? For now, all hail the mighty Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa, the undisputed Hyperbike King.


Steve Atlas

Contributing Editor |Articles | Professional-grade speed and an attitude to match, Steve Atlas has AMA racing creds that are even more extensive than his driving record.

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