2011 BMW K1300S Comparison

Bart Madson | September 26, 2011

It’s easy to forget about BMW’s other sportbike, the K1300S. The German marque’s S1000RR superbike gets all the accolades (including Motorcycle USA’s 2010 Motorcycle of the Year), and the Inline Six-powered K1600 touring bikes stole the headlines in 2011. Yet the Bavarians still deliver a sport bike purpose built for the road – its K1300S

exemplifying the Road Sport aesthetic.

The Propeller brand bumped displacement for its ‘small’ K series up to 1293cc in the 2009 model year. That volume increase makes the K’s Inline Four the largest engine in this Road Sport test. The dual overhead cam 16-valve beast walks the walk on the dyno too, where its 148 rear-wheel horsepower and 89 lb-ft of torque stake it at head of the class. It does the same at the drag strip, where the Beemer runs a quarter-mile at 10.24 @ 137.7 mph. It peels from 0-60 mph in 3.55 seconds.

On the street, our testing crew lauds the BMW’s engine performance too. The class-leading horsepower and torque surge rather than bark from the potent throttle, the 148 ponies charging to the rear wheel cloaked in a linear powerband. The Beemer’s muscle is deceptive, as power sneaks up on riders and pounces with blitzkrieg-like ferocity. Speedos climb and corners approach faster than riders can shout “Schnell! Schnell!”

“I liked everything about the BMW and the way it makes its super smooth power,” coos Gibson. “You can hardly tell its spinning, which is deceptive because this is the fastest bike in the test.”

2011 BMW K1300S Comparison review
2011 BMW K1300S Comparison review
2011 BMW K1300S Comparison review
The BMW K1300S is powered by the strongest engine in the comparison. Its Inline Four churns out class-leading horsepower (148 hp) and torque (89 lb-ft).

While undoubtedly powerful, the BMW’s ultra-refined engine makes the performance gap between it and 124-horsepower Kawasaki seem less than the dyno charts would have us believe. The optional ASC (anti-spin control) system cuts into the raw power feel – further smoothing things out. While the ASC can be switched off, the BMW’s overall subtlety sees test rider loyalties gravitate toward the more raucous powerplants.

“Although the BMW feels like it is one of the fastest in this test, if not the fastest, it is simply bland,” states the usually Teutonic-loving Ken. “It is so smooth that it doesn’t make me want to pin it and hear it roar. Because it just purrs… which isn’t a bad thing, but I like more from my engine than a dull roar.”

Some testers fancy the restrained growls of the K1300, but the Four does exhibit a mellower demeanor than all save the Suzuki. Partly to blame is a faint sensation of lag in the fueling. Another irk at the throttle is pronounced engine braking that chops up deceleration. Curiously, the smooth engine can exhibit some buzz – though nothing close to the invasive vibes of the Kawasaki.

While not too distracting, the Beemer’s shaft drive feels out of place in the sportbike realm. Less refined than the  shaft-driven Honda, the final drive doesn’t make itself known until downshifts. The familiar BMW gearbox clunk isn’t as pronounced as we recall, although it proves more difficult to launch than the more sorted Japanese clutch and transmissions.

Stout brakes and BMW’s integral ABS system bring the 569-pound bike to a confident stop. “No surprise the BMW brakes are great,” says Hutch. “They might be the most powerful, but they lack the feel offered up by the FZ1 and the VFR. As a result, they fall somewhere in the middle.”

Getting a big handful of the dual 320mm disc four-piston caliper front brings virtually zero front-end dive thanks to the Duolever suspension. BMW’s unique suspension components (the single-strut Duolever mated with the Paralever rear), deliver unique handling traits. While exhibiting unwavering stability upright or once committed in a turn, the K1300 is not as quick to react to steering inputs. Nor does it provide the same level of feedback offered by bikes with conventional forks. It’s not wrong – but it does take time to adjust.

“I have always had a soft spot for the quirky German suspension technology,” admits Kaiser Hutch. “I feel the benefits when diving into a corner on the brakes, and see the benefits when accelerating between corners when the chassis remains compliant, but it always has shielded the rider from the road. That is why the BMW is both loved and hated by test riders. It doesn’t offer a lot of feedback, you just have to trust everything is fine. But then again, it doesn’t take as much of a physical toll on you either.”

2011 BMW K1300S Comparison review2011 BMW K1300S Comparison review
At 569 pounds fully fueled, the BMW is not the heaviest on paper, but it felt the heftiest handler with its long wheelbase, wide body and unconventional suspension components.

The stout Bavarian feels the heaviest, even if the scales say otherwise (the Honda is 18 pounds heavier). Sensations of it being the broadest and longest bike is confirmed by physical measurement, and riders didn’t need a spec sheet to guess the Beemer sports the longest wheelbase at 62.4 inches. This helped it run the fastest quarter mile time but makes the bike feel big.

While all the above traits don’t lend themselves to top-handling prowess, it can’t be said the Beemer is shy of railing through sporty terrain. Riders just need to holler “Achtung!” inside their helmet on corner entry, put faith in Herr Duolever’s invention and the Continental Conti Sport Attack tires, and all should turn out right in the end.

The ESA II push-button suspension returns, offering three settings: Comfort, Normal and Sport. The progressively stiffer options deliver markedly different performance, depending on terrain.

Surprisingly, the BMW stumbles in overall comfort. The wide engine crowds riders’ feet at the right-side brake lever – a glaring ergonomic oversight. One of the sportier riding positions of the testing quintet also garners some blame, but the soft seat is our biggest gripe. The perch offers plush comfort, at first, but tends to sink riders forward and into the fuel tank, with uncomfortable, crotch-contracting results. The soft seat also got less than enthusiastic feedback from our pillion opinion.

“If this seat wasn’t so soft it would rate higher, but as it was, it’s similar to the Suzuki seat,” says Laura. “It is very, very comfortable in the short term, but it was too squishy after riding all day. My knees were bent up a lot on this bike too, so it made it tough to deal with sometimes. You can say it put my panties in a bunch.”

The Beemer does redeem itself, somewhat, with uber protection from its fairing and windscreen. Of course, the BMW heated hand grips are always appreciated.

The BMW delivers exhilarating acceleration on the street & strip, but the high performance comes with a high price tag.

Our testers find the cockpit and switchgear attractive and functional, particularly the info button on the left handlebar. The traditional turn signal switch makes the BMW a little less quirky, and the onboard computer function brings the most information to the rider by far. One exception to the K1300 instrumentation is the analog speedometer, with its small-ish numbers on a white background prove difficult to read at a glance.

BMW always features distinct styling, and we fancy the K-series look. Fit and finish is on par with a high-end motorcycle, with a few notable misses, like the mirror stalks which shook from minimal vibration. The biggest obstacle to the K1300S, however, is its high-end $15,850 price. This kills the affordability argument for the Road Sport class, big time. It’s a damnation made all the more true when factoring the cost of accessory options fitted to our test unit. Heated grips ($250), ASC ($400 ASC) and ESA II ($900), not to mention the extra $650 for the blue/white/black coloring of our test model… And we’re not even factoring the sly $495 “destination charge.” That’s more than 18 large!

The argument for the BMW all boils down to taste. The K1300S is the unique ride in this test. It’s the most powerful, the fastest and a capable, if unconventional, handler. It’s a near-perfect gentlemen’s sportbike. But there are more affordable options with similar performance, which hold it back in our rankings.

Bart Madson

MotoUSA Editor | Articles | Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for 10 years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to motorcycle racing reports and industry news features.