W hat a difference a year makes. Some people were alive 12 months ago. Now they’re dead. It really is a lengthy period of time. And thanks to some bar raising from other manufacturers, the reigning SBOTY champion couldn’t even make it on the podium in 2017. Last year, it set the fastest lap time. This year, it couldn’t get anywhere near the new kids on the block and found the hangin’ tough (sorry, I’ll get my coat...). The peculiar thing is that there’s nothing integrally faulty with the BMW S 1000 RR and it’ll satisfy a vast range of riders, proven by its unsurpassed sales figures of recent years. It’s a staple superbike, the benchmark. It just feels a touch outdated thanks to this season’s techno queens.
Despite claims that power isn’t affected by Euro 4 compliance, there’s no doubt that the Beemer has lost a soupcon of its inherent bottom-end and midrange shove. It’s slightly more lax at picking up revs, and waiting for the engine to play catch-up with throttle inputs which was evident exiting hairpins. It’s negligible but noticeable nonetheless.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still as ballistically fast and hasn’t hindered any of its straight-line prowess, and the Beemer has always been deceptively fast because of just how smooth it is. As the power builds gradually in its turbine-esque delivery and morphs into that notorious BMW top-end, you’d question just how it could be bettered. Granted, the quickshifter and blipper is a little third-world in comparison with crisper systems and it’s certainly more suited to road conditions, but the rest of the ancillaries are perfect. And, of course, there was the added bonus of heated grips at Portimao. In summer...
In the RR, BMW provides a lesson in proper ride-by-wire refinement. Whereas the bikes in the coming pages possess jerky throttle and inconsistent maps, the BMW’s action is as silken as the rest of the package. For an inline four, the rear wheel connection is probably the best on test, making feeling for grip everyday fodder for the S Thou’. Even the aging TC and antiwheelie proved excellent.
And riddle me this – if Euro 4 dictates ABS has to be fitted to all new models, then why are ALL the other manufacturers giving us seriously hampered bikes with non-switchable systems, when the BMW’s can be ditched with the press of a button? Braking was abnormally untroubled for the S Thou’ and, oddly, didn’t suffer in the heat. Its 600 physique made light work of Portimao too.
There’s not one area of the circuit that the BMW struggled with. It’s so easy to ride fast and explore the limits of adhesion, with feedback from either end that’s rarely outdone. It steers neutrally, über fast and with the meticulousness we’ve come to love, and it always feels poised and primed to be chucked around with abandon.
During our little warm-up soiree before the timed laps, I kinda guessed that the BMW would suffer when the GPS was fired up. The harder I rode it and pushed for the target times set by the Aprilia and Suzuki, the more shapes it would throw.
Bereft of snazzy gold and Gucci electronic Öhlins like the rest of the sheep, its semi-active Sachs didn’t cope with Portimao’s car-induced bumps and swells as well, but it makes up for this triviality with rather wonderfully controlled weight transfer. She’s still brilliant!
The BMW would do anybody proud!