After handily laying waste to the competition in last year’s Superbike Smackdown tests, BMW’s top shelf Superbike has established itself as the bike to beat. Despite not seeing any major changes, the 2011 BMW S1000RR is proof that the Bavarian brand has engineered a superbike platform with tremendous potential for winning races.
Without question the highlight of this German-made Superbike is its engine. Like its Japanese counterparts, it utilizes a 999cc Inline-Four configuration with liquid-cooling and a 16-valve cylinder head spun by double overhead camshafts. All it takes however is one short blast down any straightaway to feel that it’s no garden variety Four-cylinder.
It’s unreal how hard the BMW charges forward when the tach needle is pegged above 10,000 rpm. Looking at dyno chart shows it has a clear cut horsepower advantage, pumping out nearly 20 more horses than Kawasaki’s ZX-10R and 32 more than Ducati’s 200cc larger L-Twin powered 1198 in route to a 183.37 hp peak at 13,100 rpm. That’s right you’ve read correctly—almost 184 horses at the back tire from a stock streetbike that anyone can buy for less than 14 grand—amazing.
Over-rev is also excellent with it continuing to produce in excess of 170 horses until the rev-limiter ends the fun at a lofty 14,000 rpm (highest in class). Plus the visceral shriek emitted at elevated engine speeds makes you feel like you’re at the controls of a MotoGP bike. All our test rider notes included some type of proclamation about how awesome the engine is and how much they loved the sound.
(Above) It’s simply astounding the performance the BMW serves up at the racetrack. To confirm that fact the S1000RR took top honors in three track categories: Max Acceleration, Top Speed and Max Flick. (Below) While the traction control system works well it is now second-rate compared to the system employed in the ’11 Kawasaki ZX-10R.
“Does thing have a turbo on it?!” exclaims Garcia. “Because when the tach needle reaches 12 it feels like it just hit the nitrous button. This thing get’s up and goes!”
“Even though the corners at Chuckwalla don’t have many long straights between them, the BMW makes getting to the next one a lot of fun” says Hutch. “I swear this engine feels like it’s in a different league than the other bikes. It’s not fair. I would’ve been laughing with glee the entire time if I wasn’t so damn scared to get into a turn too hot. It’s fun for sure but it’s a no nonsense motorcycle. It’s flat-out wicked.”
In terms of torque production, despite not having as quite a robust mid-range curve compared to the European Twins and even Honda’s CBR1000RR it actually delivered one more lb-ft of peak of twisting force than the rest of the Four-cylinders, albeit at a slightly higher rpm.
The numbers don’t lie. Just look at our track chart for examples of how well the S1000RR connects corners. When accelerating away from Turn 10 the BMW achieved the highest acceleration force (0.90g) and top speed (139.9 mph), nearly five miles per hour faster than the second fastest CBR1000RR. Another feature that improves acceleration is its optional electronic quick-shifter (Gear Shift Assistant) that can be purchased separately for $450 or as part of the $1930 Premium Package with Race ABS and Dynamic Traction Control. While the TC system is one of the best we’ve tested, Kawasaki’s set-up on the new ’11 ZX-10R is still superior. It is worth mentioning that for our test we disabled the TC during Superpole because we didn’t like the functionality of the wheelie control feature.
The quick-shifter works well though, much like popular aftermarket units and much better than the unit employed on the Ducati. Even still some riders complained about the gearbox during downshifts claiming that it felt “notchy” and not having the most positive feeling.
“The BMW is by far the fastest bike in this test,” confirms former Daytona 200 winner Steve Rapp. “It was noticeably faster as far as sheer acceleration and power hit. The powerband seems a lot thicker than the other bikes. Where some of them had good low and mid-range—the BMW had it all over the place to me. It you’re into having the fastest bike with the most brute power and speed than this one’s it.”
Considering the enormous load the engine puts on the rear tire the suspension does a fantastic job of putting every last horsepower to the pavement (especially when shod with Michelin Power One Race Tires you can read the Power One Tire Review for more details). While the back end of the Beemer had the propensity to move around a bit more than some of the other bikes it’s a trait you just learn to accept, given its massive power output.
Despite only hitting third gear on the tight Chuckwalla Raceway layout, the BMW is moving five mph faster than the rest of the bikes before it’s time to drop anchor in preparation for Turn 11. During hard braking the suspension exhibits much better balance than last year’s bike due to an improved set-up. This allowed us to be much more comfortable at high speed, ride the bike more easily and improve its showing in Superpole. All though the fork worked well it wasn’t quite up to par with the Honda’s but it still worked better than before.
Even though the lower-spec two-piece Brembo calipers recorded the second highest braking force (-0.99g) they were rated the highest on our testers note pads due to their high-levels of feel and initial bite. However we did encounter some brake fade. It’s also important to note that we enabled the ABS throughout the test and it performs flawlessly for riders of all skill levels.
“I can’t believe how little effort it takes to slow down,” said Rapp in reference to the BMW’s brakes. “If you’d use the same amount of pressure as some of the other bikes it felt like you might smash through the windscreen. Everything about it is just so in your face. The engine, the brakes, it’s all like right there.”
Although the chassis wasn’t nearly as dialed-in as the class-leading Honda as soon as you dip the Beemer into a corner it’s obvious that the potential for excellence is there. In spite of its 459 pound curb weight (third highest) it is a surprisingly agile motorcycle transitioning and entering corners with little effort. The slipper-clutch is well calibrated and
works as well as the set-ups on the Japanese bikes, stabilizing the rear end during fast corner entry and making smooth work of high-rpm down-shifts.
While the BMW didn’t obtain the greatest lean angle through the banked right-hand Turn 13 it did achieve the greatest range of lean—that is the degree of lean measured from right to left through Turns 8/9. This signifies it’s high-level of low-speed maneuverability. Surprisingly, the speed at which it transitioned from side-to-side was toward the pack of the pack which just goes to show how difficult it is to rate these motorcycles without having data to support your seat of the pants feeling. Regardless of what the data said, it certainly didn’t feel like it was hard to transition.
Even though it recorded the second slowest flick rate (42.3 degrees/second) it felt much more maneuverable than that according to Neuer: “The bikes is so responsive to handlebar input. It was very easy to get the BMW to turn anywhere anytime on the throttle or on the brakes.”
The BMW also scored well in the Rider Interface/ergonomics category. While the S1000RR didn’t have the same balance of comfort and track stance as the Honda it was definitely close. The reach to the handlebars isn’t a stretch and the rider is positioned right smack dab in the middle of the bike compared to the tall position of the Ducati or the low stance of the Suzuki and KTM.
Although the BMW didn’t set the fastest time in Superpole it was closer this year than last time around. But in the end this shootout isn’t just about having the fastest lap times or highest peak horsepower numbers it’s about having the best all-around Superbike. And that’s exactly what BMW has in the S1000RR and the reason why it’s this year’s Superbike Smackdown VIII Track champion!
2011 Superbike Smackdown VIII Track
2011 Ducati 1198 Track Comparison
2011 KTM RC8R Track Comparison
2011 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Track Comparison
2011 Yamaha YZF-R1 Track Comparison
2011 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Track Comparison
2011 Honda CBR1000RR Track Comparison
2011 BMW S1000RR Track Comparison
2011 Superbike Smackdown VIII Conclusion