BMW S1000XR: The sporty Ad­ven­ture

This is the 160bhp, 83lb-ft, S1000R-pow­ered up­right Ad­ven­ture bike from BMW. Geared di­rectly at the likes of Du­cati’s Mul­tistrada, this is one bike with a lot on its hands. Can it match the op­po­si­tion and then whup it?

Motorcycle Monthly - - Bmw S1000xr - Tested by: Bruce Wil­son Pho­tog­ra­phy: BMW

Ever since its re­veal late last year the XR’s been sub­jected to a plethora of opin­ions, quite of­ten be­ing dis­missed as BMW’s at­tempt at recre­at­ing Du­cati’s Mul­tistrada.

It’s the fourth ad­di­tion to BMW’s S1000 fam­ily, each pow­ered by the highly-praised 999cc, in-line-four mo­tor. While it doesn’t use the same 200bhp en­gine as seen in the HP4 or S1000RR, it mir­rors the naked S1000Rs iden­ti­cally, with the same gear­ing, cam-pro­files and 160bh­p­tuned out­put fo­cussed on de­liv­er­ing low rpm torque and a con­sis­tently smooth de­liv­ery all the way through its rev range.

A dif­fer­ent ex­haust and al­tered fuelling op­ti­mise the pack­age, which is also bol­stered by an all-new frame and swingarm, length­en­ing the bike’s wheel­base by 109mm (now 1548mm). As the head of BMW’s in-line-four model line Rudi Sch­nei­der ex­plained: “The XR needed its own chas­sis. The bike’s frame needed to be longer for added sta­bil­ity and taller for com­fort.”

While it’s hard to gauge the model’s ex­tended wheel­base from the way it looks alone, there’s no mis­tak­ing its dom­i­neer­ingly tall build, which fea­tures a rider’s seat height of 840mm. At 5ft 10in, swing­ing a leg over the bike – which comes with an ad­justable screen and hand-guards as stan­dard – was a bit of a chal­lenge. My feet were only able to reach the ground on tip­toes. Thank­fully, there’s a low seat op­tion avail­able (820mm) and also the po­ten­tial to buy the bike in a lower-sus­pended ver­sion (re­duc­ing the min­i­mum seat height to 790mm).

To cre­ate the de­sired look and ride height, the XR’s sus­pen­sion travel is longer than the S1000R’s, 30mm at the front and 20mm at the rear. On the bikes we tested near Barcelona, the S1000XR Sport SEs were equipped with BMW’s proven Elec­tronic Sus­pen­sion Ad­just­ment tech­nol­ogy. By switch­ing through the op­tions the rigid­ity and fo­cus of the setup could be al­tered to suit our pref­er­ences and this is also the case for the power modes.

The XR comes with ‘Rain’ and ‘Road’ rid­ing modes as stan­dard, but our higher-spec op­tions also fea­tured the live­lier ‘Dy­namic’ and the cus­tomis­able ‘Dy­namic Pro’ out­puts. Un­like the R1200RS re­viewed this month, the XR’s Pro mode also car­ries BMW’s new ABS Pro tech­nol­ogy, al­low­ing you to brake in corners with­out risk­ing the front wheel wash­ing out by mod­er­at­ing the brak­ing pres­sure ac­cord­ing to the an­gle of lean picked up by the bike’s sen­sors. As with all BMWs built since 2013, the stan­dard bike is equipped with tra­di­tional ABS.

It took just a few me­tres of road to re­alise that this model is sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent to any­thing else on the mar­ket, in­clud­ing the Mul­tistrada. For such a big mo­tor­cy­cle and weigh­ing 228kg, its ex­tremely ag­ile han­dling and in­stan­ta­neously smooth en­gine pickup blew me away. The bike feels very well bal­anced and easy to ride, with a light­weight clutch and a silky smooth throt­tle. BMW’s Gear Shift As­sist Pro gave its usual ef­fort­less gear changes as we ne­go­ti­ated the lo­cal town’s in­tri­cate thor­ough­fares en route to the mag­nif­i­cent moun­tains of Montser­rat.

By the time we’d reached the tow­er­ing, wind-calved masses of stone, the half-ana­logue, half-dig­i­tal dash was show­ing we were 40-miles into our 180-mile trip. The path so far had been rel­a­tively mild and the pace re­strained, with the bike act­ing as a well-be­haved tourer, much akin to the R1200GS. It had proven a master of slow speeds, but now the wick was set to be turned up and the bike’s true po­ten­tial was go­ing to be un­leashed on one of Europe’s best moun­tain passes.

The fan­tas­ti­cally sur­faced slither of tar­mac we were now rid­ing climbed rapidly sky­wards, twist­ing across a suc­ces­sion of hair­pins. I nor­mally hate tight corners, but the punch from the XR’s mo­tor proved a treat, keep­ing the gear­box in sec­ond and scream­ing the mo­tor up to its lim­iter be­fore re­peat­ing the process once more.

The bike’s in­stant burst of energy from just over 1000rpm is ad­dic­tive, along with the deep bur­ble that emits from the stan­dard end-can. Hav­ing sam­pled the bike in ‘Road’ mode, ‘Dy­namic’ un­leashed a sharper throt­tle re­sponse from the more ag­gres­sive map. When push­ing hard in the first two gears the or­ange haz­ard flash from the clocks told how hard the bike’s Dy­namic Trac­tion

Con­trol was work­ing to keep the Pirelli Rosso IIs grip­ping and from lift­ing the front wheel.

A cou­ple of thou­sand feet up the road be­came more sweep­ing and much faster as we crested the moun­tains’ for­ma­tion. Ev­ery cor­ner that came our way con­firmed the XR’s ex­tremely good han­dling and sta­bil­ity. It didn’t mat­ter what speed you pitched the bike into a cor­ner, it dealt with all that came its way and chal­lenged you for more. Road im­per­fec­tions were ab­sorbed ef­fort­lessly by the long travel sus­pen­sion and even the slick­ness of over­band­ing failed to cull my con­fi­dence, as the wheels never failed to find grip and de­liver a mar­vel­lous ac­count of in­for­ma­tion on what was go­ing on be­neath you, es­pe­cially when brak­ing hard and even to the point of en­gag­ing the ABS.

Worn out from the ex­cite­ment, the pace even­tu­ally eased off as the route be­came slightly more se­date. The road we were now rid­ing was open to the el­e­ments and it gave the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to get an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the bike’s level of pro­tec­tion. Com­pared to a GS, the XR’s screen is def­i­nitely smaller, but hav­ing ad­justed it to its high­est po­si­tion, I never felt vul­ner­a­ble to buf­fet­ing. The nose fair­ing did a good job of keep­ing the wind from my shoul­ders and torso, while the hand­grips less­ened the im­pact on my arms.

Things felt pretty com­fort­able, made all the more so by the spa­cious rider’s seat and the long stretch down to the pegs be­low my feet. The broad han­dle­bars are well po­si­tioned, not re­quir­ing a big reach for­ward and the XR of­fers a very nat­u­ral and up­right rid­ing po­si­tion. One thing I did no­tice was the pegs be­came buzzy at higher revs, but this was erad­i­cated by short-shift­ing to the next gear, though this didn’t cure the shak­ing rear­ward view from the mir­rors.

As the day wound on I found my­self lik­ing this mo­tor­cy­cle more and more and I now con­sider it one of the best road-fo­cussed bikes I’ve ever rid­den. Peo­ple of­ten com­plain tour­ing bikes are lack­ing in the corners, while sports bikes are ter­ri­ble on the long slog down to favoured corners. But here’s a model that ex­cels in both fields. It is the ul­ti­mate com­pro­mise be­tween sports and tour­ing.

BMW might not have been the first to en­ter the ‘ad­ven­ture-sports’ sec­tor, but I’m more than con­fi­dent the ar­rival of the XR will shake things up, just as the S1000RR did in 2009 when it de­scended on the su­pers­port scene.

Don’t think of this as an Ad­ven­ture bike, think of it as an up­right su­per­bike. A com­fort­able, mile-munch­ing up­right su­per­bike, in fact. Red and white op­tions will be avail­able. The white stands out from the crowd quite a bit and keeps some of that...

Above: The pan­niers and taller screen up the ante in terms of just how many uses you can put the ex­cep­tional BMW to. It is pretty much a master of most trades. Left: When you can see the chas­sis like this you can ap­pre­ci­ate how com­pact the XR ac­tu­ally...

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