Now in its fourth year of World Superbike racing competition, German motorsports powerhouse BMW is beginning to collect race wins. Is it because of its fresh rider line-up? Or the brute force of its 2012 BMW S1000RR sportbike?
When seated at the controls, the Beemer shares more in common with the Japanese machines than its European counterparts. The seat and position of each control seem like a hybrid balance between the Honda and Suzuki.
However, no foot control adjustment is offered. It terms of outward size, it splits the difference between each delivering a slightly larger-feeling but still pleasing motorcycle that fit all of our riders. In spite of its more conventional ergos our testers preferred the cockpit of the KTM, Honda and Suzuki hence the relatively low score in the Rider Interface category.
“The BMW felt pretty good to me,” says Garcia. “It’s pretty slim for an Inline Four but it does feel kind of long. The best thing about it is that it doesn’t take you much time to get a feel for it. You just hop on and go for it.”
Although the S1000RR doesn’t necessarily feel overweight, the weight chart shows it one of the heftier bikes in this contest with a fully-fueled curb weight of 451 pounds (4.5-gallon fuel tank). That’s 28 pounds more than the V-Twin Ducati and 20 pounds more than the Kawi (lightest Inline Four). It is important to note that the BMW didn’t benefit from the weight savings of a racing exhaust, as it opted to compete in stock form.
(Top) The S1000RR logged high acceleration force numbers proving how effective it is at the racetrack. (Center) The BMW’s rocket of an engine helped it achieve the highest top speeds down Thunderhill’s two straightaways. (Below) Without the benefit of a lightweight racing exhaust the BMW was one of the heavier bikes in the test.
Lean the BMW into a turn and the similarities between it and the Suzuki and Honda continue. It didn’t offer the quickest initial turn-in, but it was trustworthy and never did anything out of the ordinary. Running through the Turns 11/12/13 chicane wasn’t the easiest at the controls of the German machine, as evident by its moderate 41.7 degree/second side-to-side flick rate—third-lowest behind the Ninja and Ducati.
Mid-corner the BMW was planted and the chassis responsive to steering corrections at lean. The calibration of the suspension was in sync but didn’t deliver that same racebike-type feel of say the Aprilia or KTM. Still it was tight and not as loose feeling as the Suzuki.
Having never ridden a BMW sportbike, Chamberlain was impressed with the German Superbike effort: “The BMW is pretty agile. I was surprised how ease it was to ride. At full lean the bike felt rock solid and inspired a lot of confidence. The harder I rode it the better it worked.”
Through Turn 2 the BMW logged the third-lowest corner speed of 67.7 mph in front of the Yamaha and KTM. However, in the faster, more crucial to a fast lap time Turn 8, it was third-fastest at 95.2 mph—0.6 mph behind the Honda and 1.9 mph off the KTM. In the final measuring point, Turn 15, it ranked third from the back again at 45.8 mph, trailing the Honda by 0.8 mph. The average of the three speeds resulted in a fifth-place ranking on the scorecard.
“The BMW‘s got a pretty good chassis—especially when you consider how much power the engine makes,” thinks Montano. “But it stayed very composed. I think with a little fine-tuning it can blow the doors off just about anything out there at the track.”
Accelerating off corners is where things got really interesting. Any motorcycle that can put 175 horsepower to the pavement without looping over backwards or generating excessive wheelspin is impressive, and that’s exactly the area the BMW excels. Very high acceleration force was recorded out of Turn 6 (0.88g) and Turn 15 (0.84g). After averaging the BMW was runner-up to the Aprilia, but it sure didn’t feel
(From full stiff)
Preload: 4 lines showing
Low-Speed Compression: 3
High-Speed Compression: 3
that way from behind the windscreen.
“The feel you get out of the corner is amazing; it’s like no other,” states Neuer. “It leaves you scratching your head like ‘oh my gosh’. It’s a really exhilarating motorcycle to ride.”
“All I can say is wow!” exclaims Hutch. “This bike has an insane motor. It revs quick and has a good amount of power at all rpms. But the top-end is where it really shines. When you hit 12,000 rpm it’s like God punched you from behind.”
Some credit for the Beemer’s crazy straight-line acceleration performance goes to the final drive gearing and gear ratios inside the transmission, which are a little closer together than the Kawasaki and Suzuki. Another plus is the optional Gearshift Assist (electronic quickshifter) that proved superior to the Aprilia and Ducati’s set-up and equal to the aftermarket Bazzaz and Dynojet equivalents.
At lower rpm the BMW’s engine proves friendly, cranking out one of the more mellow torque curves. Aside from the MV, it offered the lowest amount of torque, peaking at 73.79 lb-ft at 10,900 rpm. But get the engine revving and it delivers the highest peak horsepower of 175.22 at an astronomical 13,200 rpm, with another 800 rpm of power in reserve… and that’s bone stock; no fancy race pipe like the other machines (with exception of the MV).
(Top) Even stock the BMW proved to be the bike with the most outright horsepower. (Center) Mid-pack scores in many of the handling categories held the BMW back from a better result. (Bottom) The BMW is easy to hop on and ride but with 175 horsepower at the back tire it can be challenging to ride at an extreme pace.
Considering its forceful top-end, it wasn’t a surprise that the BMW had the highest top speed (164.2 mph) down the long, fifth-gear pinned front straightaway. That’s 2.5 mph up on the Suzuki and 3.3 more than the Kawasaki. Although it was a little slower on the shorter back straight its speed of 146.5 mph was good for third-fastest and only 1.7 mph behind the Suzuki.
In spite of its use of second-tier Brembo braking components, our testers preferred the BMW’s set-up over everything including the new-spec Brembos on the Ducati. Every bike in this test has no shortage of outright stopping power but the aspect that really made the BMW stand out is how much feel is available at the lever. This makes it easy to apply the brakes aggressively. Upon review of the Maximum Braking Force category it’s clear that it offers superior stopping capabilities, netting the highest reading of -1.46g into Turn 10 and -1.37g during entry to the final corner—barely edging out the Yamaha and Aprilia for the top score in that class.
When everything was on the line in Superpole the BMW faired positively setting Siglin’s third-fastest time of the test at 1’54.51. For the author it was his fourth-fastest machine at 1’58.11. Upon averaging the two rider’s lap times the BMW was awarded with the fourth-fastest overall time.
While the BMW impressed with its hard accelerating engine and crazy strong yet easy to use brakes, make no mistake about it, it’s a more difficult motorcycle to ride at pace. Top-end power is so strong and the bike is so sharp that despite how balanced and refined of a motorcycle it remains one of the more aggressive bikes in the test. And that’s why it moved back one position this year, finishing our Track comparison in the runner-up spot.
- Crazy fast acceleration
- Predictable handling
- Powerful, easy to use brakes
- Hard hitting top-end
- Could be lighter
- Challenging to ride at pace (with electronics off)
2012 Superbike Smackdown IX Track
2012 MV Agusta F4R Track Comparison
2012 Yamaha YZF-R1 Track Comparison
2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale S Track Comparison
2012 KTM RC8R Track Comparison
2012 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC Track Comparison
2012 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Track Comparison
2012 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Track Comparison
2012 BMW S1000RR Track Comparison
2012 Honda CBR1000RR Track Comparison
2012 Superbike Smackdown IX Track Conclusion