When BMW introduced its S1000RR
sportbike in the fall of ’09 it instantly became the benchmark in the ultra-competitive Superbike class. Considering its prodigious level of performance engineers could have very well left it alone for 2012. Instead they bestowed it with its first technical update. The enhancements are intended to make it a friendlier and more effective racetrack weapon.
ENGINE / ELECTRONICS
One of the few complaints with this German-built machine is how hyper-sensitive the throttle felt in its Race and Slick power modes. This made it more challenging to control especially at lean when accelerating hard off corners. New throttle maps were installed with the Rain setting using its own map and Sport, Race, and Slick sharing another separate one. Complementing these updates is a new throttle tube with a shorter and lighter pull. Another change, which might sound a little foolish to the hardcore sport rider are the optional heated grips. Yes, I’m not joking, the S1000RR is the first sportbike to offer this as an option.
Each of the four engine power modes (Rain, Sport, Race and Slick) were also modified for added torque at low-to-mid engine speeds. Rain mode also now cranks out an additional eight peak horsepower. Lastly the Slick map (designed for use with high-grip racing tires) provides improved vehicle stability during deceleration when the engine is in the overrun phase (at 14,000 rpm redline).
Both the air intake and the exhaust systems were also tweaked. The ram air induction opening is 20% larger and feeds a slightly modified airbox (necessitated due to revised chassis geometry, more on that later). The stainless-steel exhaust was also altered with the catalyzers relocated from the headers to the muffler. This allowed the removal of the oil sump’s heat shield, which saves a little bit of weight. Furthermore a complete exhaust system built by Akrapovic is available as an accessory directly from the dealer.
BMW’s optional Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) also received fresh programming. Most of the changes revolve around the functionality of wheelie control with the throttle butterfly valves opening more smoothly when a wheelie is detected. This was done to help avoid the abrupt and rather violent intervention experienced on the first generation bike. TC functionality in Race and Slick mode was also optimized based on the updated engine/throttle mapping. Lastly, a race data logger is available as an accessory and allows you to analyze the dynamics of the motorcycle at any point on track.
Other electronic upgrades include additional functionality within the instrument display. Not only has the font of the engine speed changed (so it’s easier to read at a glance), the display offers “Best Lap in Progress” and “Speedwarning” lights. The first light illuminates when the bike detects that you are traveling at a higher rate of speed than the lap before and the second light is used if you want to be alerted if you’re traveling above a preset speed on the highway. The brightness of the display can be adjusted in five-way increments.
CHASSIS / APPEARANCE
While the engine and electronics got some attention it’s the chassis that received the most. Even though we didn’t encounter any major problems with the Beemer’s chassis in road-going trim, when set-up exclusively for road racing at the professional level we heard of some issues that required attention.
Engineers began altering the balance of the machine. First, the length of the shock was decreased by 4mm and front end was raised by 5mm. Next, the wheelbase was reduced by nearly 10mm via a one tooth larger rear sprocket (45). A shorter wheelbase aids in maneuverability at the expense of stability. To mitigate unwanted effect, the angle of the steering head was revised and the offset of the fork was reduced by 2.5mm. The fork is now held by a new top triple clamp fabricated from forged aluminum. Lastly, in order to maintain optimum rear wheel traction the swingarm pivot point was elevated by 4mm.
Complementing the geometry updates are new suspension spring rates and valving. Lastly special check valves were fitted in the fork and shock and allow for completely independent compression and rebound adjustment. Lastly, a 10-way adjustable mechanical-style steering damper was integrated.
Other small changes include the fitment of new heel plates on the rider’s foot controls as well as the use of lighter passenger foot holds. The S1000RR also received some aesthetic upgrades in the form of a slimmer-looking tail section and reshaped side panels with plastic winglets said to improve aerodynamics at speed. Other more inconspicuous upgrades include the plastic grilles on the fuel tank and new ‘RR’ logo. For ’12 it also comes in three new colorways: Racing Red with Alpine White, Bluefire, Sapphire Black Metallic and last year’s popular red/white/blue Motorsports color.
To discover what the new and improved Beemer is like to command we were lucky enough to test ride it in Valencia, Spain, at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo—the same track where MotoGP elitists will bang bars at the season finale only weeks away. The bike we rode came fully kitted with all the factory options (minus Motorsports paint job) including Race ABS, DTC, HP Gearshift Assist (electronic quickshifter) and heated grips.
While it sounds odd, the first thing we noticed out on track was how much more comfortable we were courtesy of the two-way adjustable heated grips. This helped my mildly arthritic hands respond at the controls on a cool morning.
As always the highlight of the BMW is its class-leading powertrain. From the charismatic and outrageously powerful, yet smooth powerband, to its well sorted clutch and quickshifter-equipped six-speed gearbox, you won’t find a sportbike with a superior engine package, period.
But riding a sportbike with 183 ponies at the rear tire (based on the result of our 2011 Superbike Smackdown VIII Track
shootout) around a racetrack you’ve never ridden isn’t for the faint of heart. And that’s where Rain mode comes into play. In addition to lessening the voracity of the powerband and peak power output, Rain mode allows for the highest level of anti-wheel spin. This helps facilitate a higher level of confidence allowing the rider to focus on learning the intricacies of the track rather than worrying about what’s happening beneath you. Plus, it’s pretty fun to be able to pin it out of the corner (just like you would in a modern sports car) and just let the electronics sort everything out for you.
Since I was already fond of Sport mode on the first generation machine I stepped right into Race after a handful of laps. And wow, the herky/jerky, twitchy feel of the twist grip has been eliminated completely. This made it simple to feed in gas when cranked over on the side of the tire. The TC settings felt well calibrated and still allowed for a surprising amount of wheel spin. Faster riders however will still think it’s too intrusive even on high-performance street rubber.
Our biggest complaint is that the wheelie control comes in too aggressively with it cutting in hastily when the front wheel is off the ground. If you’re smooth at the controls and modify the way you ride you can work around it, but it’s only a Band-Aid fix.
Next up was Slick mode. Again the touchy, overly sensitive feel of the throttle has been eliminated and it felt nearly identical to Race mode only with less TC intervention. With the OE-fitted Metzeler Racetec Interact Front Tire
and Metzeler Racetec Interact Rear Tire
(K3 street/trackday compound) you could still feel the tire sliding off the corner. Once spinning you could apply more throttle and get the rear end to step out slightly. When that limit was reached full throttle can be applied even while leaned over and the electronics will maintain the slide/trajectory until grip is restored or you let off the gas for the next turn. Based on the relatively slick surface of the track and the adhesion limit of the Metzeler hoops, Slick mode was ideal as it provided a reassuring safety net. Like before Slick mode offers minimal wheelie control with it only activating after it senses the front wheel has been in the air for more than a few seconds.
Although engineers did significant work to the S1000RR’s chassis we were unable to notice much of a difference aside from an improvement in overall front-to-rear chassis balance as experienced when loading the front end with the brakes or rear with power. Turn-in is still light and easy for a 1000cc bike and the BMW felt planted mid-corner on street rubber. Even though grip levels around Valencia’s 2.5-mile road course weren’t the best, we were startled by just how well the rear end hooked up and drove off the corner. Stability was good too as tested through the sweeping long left (Turn 10) taken third gear pinned.
Just when we thought that Germany’s Superbike couldn’t get any better it did. Not only does it continue to offer class-leading levels of engine and braking performance with its updated electronics it’s easier to make use of both. While we weren’t blown away but the chassis refinements with the stock road rubber given some time with high-grip race tires we anticipate that the S1000RR is going to once again be the benchmark to beat for ’12. Ed. Note: As of this post there is no word on U.S. price or availability.