BMW send us to Spain for the new S Thou’ and some R NineT vari­ants. It rained. Lots...

Why launch one bike, when you can launch three at a time in sunny Spain? BMW’s new S 1000 R Sport, plus R nineT Racer & Pure are put un­der the mi­cro­scope be­neath the Span­ish sun. Well, for an hour or so...

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Just my luck – ev­ery launch I’ve been on this year has been un­der­wa­ter! The launch of three of BMW’s lat­est and great­est promised much, and though we had a sin­gle hour of dry time, the rest was spent un­der ap­palling con­di­tions. Dam­mit...

The bikes in ques­tion are the up­dated S 1000 R naked hus­tler, and the R nineT Pure and Racer. Of course, though, the big in­ter­est is the bom­bas­tic S Thou’.

The en­gine has been re-jig­gered to meet Euro 4 spec’ but via an ex­tra ef­fec­tive catal­yser rather than in­ter­nal wran­gling. They claim an ex­tra 5bhp up top, prob­a­bly via the ECU. The bike also now comes, as stan­dard, with the HP Akrapovic ex­haust. Nice!

The elec­tron­ics sys­tem has been up­dated, and now fea­tures both an up and down­shifter. There’s an ex­tra cus­tom mode avail­able when you plug the ‘Dy­namic’ stick into the port un­der the seat, too, which activates a pit-lane lim­iter and launch con­trol, as well as en­abling you mul­ti­ple options to fid­dle in­clud­ing switch­ing the ABS off. The ABS is now the ‘cor­ner­ing’ ver­sion.

An­other big change is the frame (and new sub-frame), based on the lat­est S 1000 RR and help­ing to lop two ki­los off the bike’s weight. Ge­om­e­try re­mains sim­i­lar, but the elec­tronic DDC sus­pen­sion is sub­ject to the very lat­est (and bril­liant) al­go­rithms.

Smaller changes in­clude the new vi­bra­tion-free han­dle­bars, a new dash an­gle to re­duce glare, and the fair­ings have been re­duced in size. What do these changes amount to? Well, the pre­vi­ous ver­sion is ace, just los­ing out to Aprilia’s Tuono 1100 by a slim mar­gin. Now, how­ever, it’s clear this bike will give the Aprilia a much harder time in 2017. Cats & dogs Yep, it was pid­dling down when we left the ho­tel, but it was only a few hun­dred yards be­fore I was re­minded how good the DDC sus­pen­sion is while travers­ing a huge sleep­ing po­lice­man. If you’ve not ex­pe­ri­enced it, it’s re­mark­able, tak­ing some­thing se­ri­ous to fox its ex­cel­lent damp­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

I’d got the bike set in Rain mode, which al­lows enough power for speedy progress and the Bridge­stone S20s keep the chas­sis hon­est. An­other new trait glar­ing through early was the steer­ing. It’s most def­i­nitely sharper (and not just down to the op­tional forged HP wheels on my bike) and quicker to ma­noeu­vre, which serves to make the bike feel lighter and more re­spon­sive. I was com­fort­able enough to even fly into a drenched hair­pin a lit­tle too quick at­tempt­ing to test the new cor­ner­ing ABS. As with any bike fit­ted with this Bosch sys­tem, it feel like witch­craft! Then we stopped to switch bikes. One retro step too far I headed straight for the R nineT Racer be­cause I think it looks very cool. I’ve never been a fan of the Boxer en­gine that pow­ers it, but hopes were high. High, but dashed within a few hun­dred yards, and it’s to do with the rid­ing po­si­tion. It’s too long, too low, and it’s clear that were it a bit more com­pact, you’d have far more con­trol.

It is, how­ever, fun when chas­ing the lead rider up and down Span­ish hills, wet roads or oth­er­wise. The bike comes with BMW’s ba­sic (up­grade­able)TC sys­tem and that takes care of the size­able torque punch avail­able at your wrist when grip is at a pre­mium. The mo­tor is a proper trac­tor of a lump, shov­el­ling heaps of grunt at you. Be­ing fair, the top-end isn’t too shabby although re­ally you want to keep feed­ing it gears in its sweet spot.

By this point the roads had dried a lit­tle, and the Racer of­fers a sta­ble han­dling plat­form, but you’ve got to work at it be­cause con­trol isn’t nat­u­ral. It’ll do what you ask, but in turn asks more of you to achieve it. It wasn’t long be­fore a painful dull ache had set into my right shoul­der and wouldn’t go away. I had kind of en­joyed thrash­ing it, but it was with no small bit of re­lief that when the sun popped out we stopped to cram in some pho­tos and I could awk­wardly lever my­self off the thing.

It was dur­ing this photo stop that I jumped on the Pure ver­sion, the bike I was ex­pect­ing to hate. The Pure is a blank plat­form for own­ers to cus­tomise and, good, as the bike’s looks do noth­ing for me. It’s bland and blurs into the back­ground al­most un­no­ticed. But it’s sup­posed to – you’ve to make it your own. The im­por­tant part is how it feels to ride, and it sur­prised the hell out of me! After the Racer I wasn’t ex­pect­ing much, but the more ‘nor­mal’ chas­sis and rid­ing po­si­tion al­lows ac­cu­rate and ef­fec­tive con­trol over what it of­fers. Com­pared to the Racer, it was a bal­le­rina/gym­nast per­form­ing on a comfy sofa. The 110bhp en­gine felt more po­tent here, de­liv­er­ing a se­ri­ous punch off the line. It also sounded great, quite how BMW have man­aged this with Euro 4 as­tounds me. It’ll even wheelie nicely in the first cou­ple of gears when the TC is switched off! It was in part prob­a­bly the re­cal­ci­trant na­ture of the Racer that made the Pure so im­pres­sive, but it gen­uinely is a very com­pe­tent, en­joy­able bike to ride. Well done you! Ah, that’s bet­ter... Jump­ing back on the big S Thou’ how­ever was, frankly, bliss. There’s much to savour on the up­graded 1000 R. I stuck it into ‘Dy­namic’ mode al­low­ing full-beans, and the un­shack­led mo­tor re­sponded ac­cord­ingly.

Christ, it’s fast – re­ally, re­ally fast. And an­gry, oh so very an­gry when you’re bat­ter­ing the rev-lim­iter and us­ing the slick quick-shifter to bang in an­other gear. The down-shifter is slick, but does suf­fer the same foibles as on the Superbike. It doesn’t like go­ing down the box when you’ve a small amount of lean. Brak­ing up­right you get the lit­tle ‘blip’ as it slips down the box, smooth as but­ter. But with lean you’re of­ten met with a static lever, mean­ing you must em­ploy the clutch. It’s not a prob­lem per se, you learn to ride around it and BMW aren’t alone with this is­sue, it’s just a trait of the equip­ment and most of time it’s gen­uinely bril­liant.

As is the chas­sis. The roads, while dry, were still slip­pery as an un­for­tu­nate fel­low found out to his cost, but dry enough to sam­ple the new agility. The rear, even set on calmer rider modes, feels higher than be­fore which doubt­less ac­counts partly for the in­creased steer­ing prow­ess. The DDS sus­pen­sion con­stantly im­pressed es­pe­cially on fast, high-speed sweep­ing cor­ners where it dis­plays an ab­surd level of stead­fast sta­bil­ity.

When it’s time to pull wheel­ies, the rear shock sup­ports you per­fectly, even al­low­ing you to find your bal­ance point faster and safer. But the bikes we were rid­ing hadn’t got the ‘Dy­namic’ stick plugged in, and whereas the pre­vi­ous bike al­lowed stunt­ing when­ever re­gard­less of rider mode, here it in­trudes. In first and sec­ond gear it’s okay, but in third it in­stantly sum­mons the fun po­lice. Switch TC off and it’s worse, as the ba­sic ASC con­trol activates and that’s even stricter. It takes some ex­per­i­men­ta­tion to find the right bal­ance – Road mode with TC off, to be able to hoist big (and ob­vi­ously clever), fourth gear mingers. I’ve been as­sured though, that with the elec­tron­ics fully re­leased the bike will do what you like, when you like, even with the oth­er­wise ex­cel­lent TC ac­ti­vated, just as it used to. Awe­some... No pain in the rain Sadly the sun­shine was short lived, clouds gath­ered apace, the rain fell and the roads be­came awash. Not just wet, think Noah’s Ark lev­els of wash! Of­ten the wa­ter we tra­versed could be mea­sured in feet – the worst con­di­tions I’ve rid­den through in a decade. Wa­ter spilled from the top of boots, bikes cre­ated huge bow waves fly­ing high above lids, wa­ter­proofs were use­less and even wa­ter­proof pock­ets in­side ruck­sacks gave in, ru­in­ing mo­bile phones and pass­ports. In short – bi­b­li­cal.

So, quite why I chose to stay in full-power mode with the TC off, I’ll never know, but it did give me in­sight into just how much of a de­light­ful and ef­fec­tive ma­chine the S Thou’ truly is. Span­ish roads are ruth­lessly lethal when wet, but the level of con­trol plus the ex­cel­lent throt­tle re­sponse kept me up­right, safe and se­cure, and also al­lowed me to ac­tu­ally en­joy this shit storm, aided by the ex­cel­lent Bridge­stone S20 tyres. I was amazed at how fast I could en­ter cor­ners inches deep, splash through and then pro­gres­sively ac­cel­er­ate out. One long cor­ner in par­tic­u­lar made me re­alise what an in­cred­i­ble bike I was rid­ing while chas­ing our un­fazed lead rider. It was a fast up­hill right, third gear, and so slip­pery the rear would step out with just a sliver of gas. The fu­elling is that good, and so ac­cu­rate, I was able to tap it off a whisker un­til it be­haved and start play­ing with it. That’s not me, I’m not one to step bikes out of­ten, most def­i­nitely not on pur­pose and sure as hell never in the rain. We’re only talk­ing an inch or two here, but with the DDS rear shock work­ing its magic in con­junc­tion with su­per ac­cu­rate con­trols, I’ve never felt more com­fort­able do­ing it. It was re­ally bonkers!

We stopped to wait for some strag­glers and I asked my­self what the hell was I do­ing, so slung the bike into Rain mode with TC on. It’s there to be used, and is gen­uinely use­ful but, cru­cially, with­out curb­ing the bike’s spirit. A bal­ance only a few man­u­fac­tur­ers get right with rider aids. BMW are a lead­ing light in this re­gard. Epi­logue Let’s be­gin with the R nineT brigade. The Racer is a won­der­ful looker, with a hearty though agri­cul­tural mo­tor, ca­pa­ble chas­sis and enough mod-cons such as TC and ABS. But the rid­ing po­si­tion could dic­tate a pur­chase. Plus, I watched a short rider turn­ing one around and it bor­dered on the com­i­cal. I would thor­oughly rec­om­mend a test ride first.

The Pure is a ter­rific bike, but apart from the bang­ing sound­track, a lit­tle anony­mous. There are other BMWs far wor­thier of FB read­ers. Yet, weirdly, I’d have the Racer over the Pure ev­ery time. It looks bril­liant, and if you want to ap­pear cool and feel a twin’s thumpy blat, it does the job per­fectly.

But the S Thou’ is our bag and then some, a gen­uine step up in terms of both chas­sis, giz­mos and over­all per­for­mance. We’ll have to get it back in the UK to try it in dry con­di­tions. BMW laughs in Euro 4’s face, of­fer­ing even more bang for your buck, and we can ask for no more than that!

We also got to ride this... ...and this!

Cor­ner exit = in­com­ing big wheel­ies!

... while the Pure ain’t no looker!

The Racer looks fan­tas­tic...

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