fter an hour or so in the Aprilia’s unrelenting saddle, I jumped on the BMW’s armchair equivalent. The two bikes are at the polar opposite of the comfort spectrum, and pretty much every other spectrum for that matter. Initially, the Beemer felt sluggish and unresponsive – largely down to not being based on a WSB racer – but its road-based etiquette soon got our juices flowing with tidings of comfort and joy, rapidly discovering there are zero chinks in its armour.
You see, 90% of the time, the S 1000 RR was the preferred saddle of choice for all fourou testetesterss botboth in comfort and performance aspects. People laughed when BMW announced heated grips, similarly when cruise control was introduced to a production superbike. I was the one laughing on a brisk springtime morning while the others couldn’t feel their pinkies.
Being a rocket-powered massage chair, the ergonomics complement both road and track, with plenty of ground clearance yet the most bearable over 300 miles. Ridden at 90% is pure everyday fodder for the RR. You might as well engage autopilot. It’s so easy to ride fast, so intuitive, sniffing out corners and spitting them out with consummate ease. You get the urge to open the throttle sooner, carry more entry speed and there’s an air of invincibility aboard the BMW. Dare I say it, it feels like the most uncrashable of the foursome. On the flipside, it’ll manage everyday chores with aplomb. Perfect fuelling, a quickshifter and blipper that function just as well at 20mph as they do at 120mph and a comforting, innate balance that belittles the bike’s magnitude.
Steering at mediocre lean angles and flicking from side-to-side, the S Thou’ annihilates the others. It’s only when a Suzuki comes in to skirmish that the BMW starts to become flustered. Now, this might not apply to you, but the semi-active suspension is utterly stunning on UK roads. Classleading in fact, but it’s not perfect. For the same reasons that none of the pure road racing teams continue to use this electronic suspension, the BMW loses points when the pace gets serious and the roads get rough, which it did as we headed back in to Lincolnshire. It just cannot cope with UK bumps and shitty road surfaces as well as conventional damping and suffered against the Suzuki’s ruthless surge.
Watching Boothy aboard the Suzuki smother black lines onto the Lincolnshire roads was pure motorcycle art. It was also deeply frustrating as he edged away, and the Beemer and me had no answer. There are no stability issues, nothing innately dangerous: it’s just that the computer says no.
Away from the track where tenths matter little, the engine is absolutely flawless. While some others blame Euro 4 regs, BMW embraced the challenge, maintaining peak power and that cheeky engine (only twin pipes before the entrance to the can is the 2017 model giveaway). There’s enough power anywhere throughout the rev range to frack a county. We could be wrong, but it feels as though the Euro 4-spec engine has sacrificed a smidgen of bottom-end grunt. This could, however, be down to the Suzuki’s tricknology and bar-raising antics, although the BMW certainly isn’t as lively from low revs.
As well as riding dynamics and sheer thrills, there’s an onslaught of practicalities which makes owning an S 1000 RR even more appealing. There’s a lot to be said for German engineering, and trinkets such as being able to turn off the ABS and switch modes (while you’re riding) at the touch of a button makes life so much easier. And there’s even more to be said for BMW’s dealer network – something so superior to any other manufacturer.
The Beemer’s clocks are easy on the eye. It wasn't just the heated grips that Al was a fan of...