Goodbye to the K1300S
BMW’S eternally popular K1300S gets the axe for 2017 – so we go for one last glorious blast to say goodbye to the 175bhp oddball Continued over
Highly rated for its storming engine and inter-continental comfort, the big BMW also benefits from one of the oddest front ends in any mass-production machine. Now, however, the Germans have decided to call time on the big K as their S1000XR steals the sports-touring limelight. We hack over to the Nürburgring and back as a fitting tribute to best sports-tourer ever.
Velocity is relative to the observer. To the trucker grinding gears in his slate-grey 12-wheeler at 55mph on the Autobahn, the Bmw-shaped streak of howling metal and plastic spears past him close enough to spin his wheel nuts, is warping Germany’s space/time continuum at 161 feet per second. Yet if the pair of Bundespolizei in the parked patrol car cared to get their radar detector warmed up at the same moment, the same blur of two-wheeled hysteria would register around 164mph – or 241 feet per second – as it screams blue and white murder past the layby.
But to the rider, crouched, head down, chin bobbling gently on the plastic battery cover and isolated from the Sturm und Drang happening all about in a pocket of calm, the big, lairy K1300S might as well be standing still. Its snow-white speedo points nor’east of 160mph, the tacho dances around 10,500rpm and the 1293cc inline four – canted forward to 55 degrees to lie down beneath the frame spars – is gulping pressurised air through pair of long intake snouts and funnelling it into the airbox at the scarcely believable rate of around 90 litres – the volume of a decent fish tank – every second.
From there it plummets down all four throttle bodies and past a quartet of 46mm butterfly valves pinned flat open and where it meets petrol, squirted into the airstream under constantly variable load-based pressure. The mixture races past eight intake valves battered by tiny finger rockers, tumbling and swirling for a fraction of a second before being slammed against the combustion chamber ceiling, ignited, burned and then fired out into the exhaust ports and the wide blue yonder. At 165mph, the whole process takes 0.0057s.
All this and the K’s fuel consumption is apparently only 30mpg – clearly an average figure; after all, we haven’t been doing 165mph all day. They don’t appreciate that kind of thing in Belgium.
But the traffic has cleared momentarily on the A1 heading south from Cologne towards the Nürburgring. And this is a K1300S for goodness sake – arguably the fastest long-distance bike BMW have ever built. If you can’t open it up and stretch its legs here, in its homeland, legally, you might as well be riding a moped.
Except BMW aren’t building it any more. From next year the once-mighty 175bhp K1300S is being deleted. Sales have slowed to trickle as the younger, more adventure-fashionable and Euro 4-friendly S1000XR usurps the K’s high-speed mileage crown. Now, the XR is an indisputably excellent motorbike – but when it comes to burying your head behind a screen, gripping a wide set of clip-ons, sticking it in top and unzipping the motor’s flies to unleash its astonishing midrange bulge, few bikes can match the meaty swagger of a K1300S.
Big K’s difficult birth
The Autobahn slows to crawl, the A1 funnelling from a full-bore motorway up to a trunk-road T-junction. As the K13 prowls along an outside line of traffic, snorting like a bison through its Akrapovic when I blip the throttle, it’s worth ruminating on the bike’s history. Launched in 2004 as the smaller-engined K1200S, it wasn’t an auspicious debut. On paper the K was a nerd’s dream: with a standard BMW Paralever shaft-drive rear end, at the front the Telelever arrangement of the R-series flat twins was swapped for a unique double wishbone system called Duolever. But so far, so typically funny front-end BMW. But the engine spec was something else: at 167bhp, the K1200S was the most powerful BMW ever made and put it up alongside Suzuki’s Hayabusa and Kawasaki’s ZX-12R.
Yet the bike was panned for lotterystyle fuelling, suspect high speed stability and poor vibration. BMW cancelled the planned on sale date and spent the best part of a year fixing issues such as cam wear (not for the last time), adding a steering damper and re-mapping the fuelling. The result was a bike that worked – and BMW sold 65,000 K1200-series bikes between 2005 and 2008.
In 2009, it grew in capacity to become the 175bhp K1300S, gained ASC
(rudimentary traction control), threeway electronically adjustable damping called ESA II and an optional quickshifter as well as numerous minor refinements – although the engine still felt gritty on a neutral throttle, as if it was running too lean. And the switchgear routinely failed if left in the sun too long.
On the road to the Ring
Back in Germany, the road to the Ring opens out into typically sinewy, clinically smooth Eifel forest tarmac, passing around tree-lined hills with a relentless cornering rhythm that suits the K1300S’ long wheelbase and its reliable, flowing steering. Its suspension is firm and positive, engine rippling like a flexed bicep as it guns from apex to apex, quickshifter triggering the next gearbox ratio like a revolver (it’s not actually quick; BMW call it ‘shift assist’, but it’s still good fun).
The riding position is classic sportstourer – not the upright pseudo adventure bike which flatters to deceive after eight hours, but semi-sports, canted forward and purposeful. Rewind a few years and you’d say the BMW was surprisingly narrow and agile for a hyper sports bike – today, it feels like a big bike; not cumbersome, but definitely deliberate. The K1300S doesn’t just go somewhere, it gets there like it means it.
We’re heading to the Nürburgring for an evening session – three laps before it gets dark (and, at 28 euros a lap, it’s not the timing so much as the cost). And then the BMW is going to take me straight back home again – another 500 miles and another ten or so hours. It’s a long day.
The Ring is crowded with all sorts of cars, as it often is, and a few bikes. I haven’t been here for many years and can’t remember where I’m going – with the low sun directly in my eyeline around the back of the circuit, I can’t see where I’m going either. I also made the mistake – or not – of watching a few Nürburgring crash compilations on Youtube before I left. It focuses the mind somewhat. As a result, the three laps are pitifully slow in the corners and painfully fast in between. More
‘A relentless cornering rhythm suits the K’s long wheelbase and reliable, flowing steering’ ‘The K1300S doesn’t just go somewhere, it gets there like it means it’
than once I’m grateful for the K1300S’ unshakeable steering letting me haul the bike out of a corner having turned into it many yards too early. The motor’s a belter too, with such a flexible power curve that it makes almost any gear the right gear.
Three laps complete without leaving anything on the track but my pride, and it’s time to reverse the journey. Back up along the A1, powering silently across into Belgium and fleecing the Brussels ring road in record time, the BMW minimises distance like clicking in the bottom righthand corner of the box and dragging upwards. It’s desktop easy. Fuel stops come and go with 160-mile regularity, but caffeine breaks are for refuelling the brain only; the K’s high speed comfort is absolute. Heated grips warm my hands and a heated jacket gently boils my torso (wired into the battery; the BMW’S 12v socket only has enough grunt to run a sat nav); when sodium lights overhead give way to an inky blackness, the BMW’S astonishingly potent main beam illuminates the immediate future. By the time we get to Calais in the small hours, suffering a few police diversions presumably to avoid refugee roadblocks, the K feels as fresh as it did at the start of the trip.
By the time the scent of home is tantalisingly close, the K is ready for a rest and so am I. But one last push up the back roads is interrupted by a flashing blue light – at this time of the morning? I think the copper is bored and just checking the BM’S not nicked. It’s not. And the speed? Which speed, officer? It’s relative to the observer, and it wasn’t fast where I was sitting.
164mph Tanking down the Autobahn in total comfort and style. You can see why the K1300S has a cult following
If you want to buy one of these in 2017, you’ll have to look in the used market
Big K is right at home on that silky German tarmac
Scenery that’s chocolate box pretty leads us closer to the Ring