Anxious to get in on a piece of the action, BMW joins the streetfighter class with its all-new S1000 R. The single R harnesses the muscle of its superbike brother, sharing the supremely oversquare Inline Four within a more street worthy chassis replete with features, including optional automated suspension control.
Set your eyes on the Frozen Dark Metallic Blue Beemer and if you don’t notice the signature roundels on either side of the upper fairing it could easily be mistaken it for a Japanese bike. Like the Kawasaki, it has sharp angular body panels highlighted by a lethal-looking double-tip tail section, and low slung underbelly exhaust. However the German bike stands apart from the mainstream through its now signature asymmetrical head lamps, and gill slits on the right side of the bike.
Physically, the BMW is one of the larger bikes in this contest. It has a wide and tall handlebar that is positioned further away from the rider compared to the Kawi and MV’s set-up. Still, it remains friendly for a wide range of riders courtesy of its lowest in class seat height (32.0 inches). That’s a smidge shorter than the rider-friendly Z.
“The seat-to-bar is a little longer than some of the other ones,” explains Dunstan. “It’s pretty much the exact opposite of the MV. The MV was short and the BMW is a little more stretched out.”
Factor in its optional heated grips, cruise control, and Dynamic Damping Control (DDC) and the BMW is certainly capable of a high degree of comfort.
(Top) As usual the 999cc water-cooled Inline Four engine inside the BMW continued to make us believers. It doles out lots of smooth, highly useable power at all rpms. It does however vibrate a little too much through the controls. (Center) The S1000 R has a very strong set of front brakes… In fact they are almost too strong with so much initial bite that it takes some time to get use to how sensitive they are. (Bottom) The premium package S1000 R comes with a host of goodies, including cruise control and heated grips. The instrument display was legible and feature-rich.
“BMW definitely spares no expense when it comes to the creature comforts,” says Verdugo.
And aside from the mirror-clouding engine vibration, there isn’t much to dislike about it in the comfort department. Still, it wasn’t quite as cozy-feeling as the V4R.
“It’s super comfortable when you ride it,” says Abbott. “It has a good position—you feel really comfortable when you’re cruising down the road.”
Even though it feels big, on the scales, the S was easily the lightest weighing 21 pounds less than the Tuono and 28 less than the porky Z1000. In spite of its weight advantage, on the road the BMW didn’t feel quite as agile as the others.
“Once we got into the tighter canyons, the BMW started feeling longer and longer, the tighter and tighter the corners got,” thought Dunstan.
“When I first got on the bike there was some very smooth sweepers with the constant throttle and the bike was great. It really enjoyed that sort of cornering,” he adds. “But once we got in the tighter stuff with hard braking and hard acceleration the BMW length stated to show a bit more and it lost a little bit of that smooth feeling.”
Part of the problem stems from the calibration of BMW’s one-of-a-kind DDC (similar to the set-up employed on BMW’s top-of-the-line HP4 sportbike). Standard on its up-spec premium package ($1800 upcharge) – the S1000R’s ECU automates suspension adjustment based on information received from sensors and rider input.
For casual riding at a reasonable pace the DDC works great—delivering a nice plush ride. But when you feel the need for speed—especially on irregular roads with camber and/or undulating terrain, the suspension can’t react fast enough to conditions—and when it does, it delivers an inorganic and disconnected feel. The suspension does offer a variety of modes including ‘Rain’, ‘Road’, ‘Dynamic’, and ‘Dynamic Pro’ however they didn’t make a much of a difference. What did, however, was selecting the extra passenger option which firmed up things considerably for sport riding but still left more to be desired in terms of feel and damping response.
“I kind of had mixed reviews on it,” shares Abbott. “I just wasn’t super confident in the suspension and action it had over the bumps. The cornering was fairly good but it never really felt connected to the ground like the Aprilia.”
When it comes to stopping, the Beemer’s brakes were clearly the most aggressive-feeling offering the strongest initial bite.
“Those brakes are gnarly… in a good way,” says Dunstan.
Suspension: Road w/ Passenger Setting
Power Mode: Road
Traction Control: Road
“You really had to be careful with the front brakes,” said Verdugo of the BMW’s hypersensitive front brakes. “They have a lot of bite and it takes time to get used to that.
While Dunstan appreciated the race-grade feel, the rest of our testers thought it was too hard-edged. In the braking test, the BMW’s ABS cycled the most aggressively (‘Road’ mode) which may have contributed to its lengthy stopping distance from 60 mph (133.8 feet). With the electronics disabled its distance reduced by 12.4 feet, positioning it behind the class-leading 1090 and V4R.
As usual, the BMW’s Inline Four engine impressed with its supreme tractability and dead flat power curve. It offers a decent amount of arm-stretching character, but didn’t sound as pleasing as the others. It does, however, generate a lot of noise, belting out just one fewer dB (102) than the racy-sounding V4R.
Bottom-end and mid-range power is excellent and comparable to the green bike. But where the Z runs out of steam the single R keeps on pulling like a freight train en route to its best-in-class peak torque figure of 76.78 lb-ft at 9400 revs. From there it surpasses the MV running neck and neck with the Aprilia before it bests it by less than one pony.
(Top) The S1000 R’s optional DDC suspension only impressed at a casual street pace. Faster riders will easily outwit the system in any of its modes. (Center) The S1000 R’s powerband is wide and highly useable. We weren’t big fans of its more rudimentary traction control system however especially compared to the racing-grade electronics on the Aprilia. (Below) With its more open cockpit the BMW was one of the more comfortable bikes to ride for any length of time.
“The power delivery on the BMW was really good,” said Abbott. “It was super strong and real, real smooth.”
The premium package S1000R also benefits from an electronic quickshifter which helps maximize acceleration through its close-ratio six-speed gearbox and short final drive gearing. This helped the BMW ace the competition during the acceleration tests, netting the fastest 0-60 mph time (3.54 seconds) and quarter mile (10.93 seconds at 136.2 mph). Overall, we like the BMW’s drivetrain a lot but we deemed the action of the Aprilia’s slipper clutch superior as well as its taller and more cruising-friendly gear ratio in sixth-gear.
“I felt like the rpms were too high when you were traveling in sixth gear and cruising down the road at 80 mph. It almost felt like I was in fifth gear. You might want to re-gear it to get the motor to settle down on the freeway.”
This could be a contributing factor to why the BMW matched the Aprilia’s thirst for fuel at 34.4 mpg. Factor in its second-smallest fuel capacity (4.6-gallons) and it was the bike that depleted its tank the quickest in just 158 miles.
As usual, we continue to be mesmerized by the BMW’s punchy and slick-shifting powertrain. We also loved the way it fit and its wealth of electronics, including optional heated grips. Problem is, the automated suspension is less than impressive at full sport pace. Factor in its overly sensitive front brakes and annoying engine buzz and it trailed well behind the well-sorted Aprilia.
- Strong engine performance
- Cozy cockpit and overall ride quality
- Weighs the least
- DDC suspension impedes handling at a full-sport pace
- Overly sensitive front brakes are tricky to get use to
- Limited mileage range