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

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Si­mon Har­g­reaves MCN CON­TRIB­U­TOR

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.

Dis­tance de­stroyer

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

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