BMW S1000R

Coarse yet re­fined, bru­tal yet con­trol­lable – on the face of it=, the up­dated S1000R is ev­ery­thing a su­per­naked should be

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YOU’D BE FOR­GIVEN for think­ing the new S1000R is noth­ing of the sort. Looks like the old one. Sounds like the old one. But it’s not the old one. It’s mostly new, yet mostly sim­i­lar. It’s a distinc­tion with lit­tle dif­fer­ence.

But it has a new frame, from the 2015-on S1000RR. New body­work. New elec­tron­ics. An op­tional auto-blip­per. A lean an­gle sen­sor for the rider aids. Two ki­los less weight, five more horse­power, and an Akrapovic end can as stan­dard – part of ‘op­ti­mised’ ex­haust/in­duc­tion noise whilst ap­peas­ing Euro noise/emis­sions di­rec­tives. The bars are mounted dif­fer­ently to re­duce vibes, too.

It’s good tim­ing: the up­date was partly brought about by those pesky Euro regs, partly be­cause it was due af­ter three years any­way. But last year the Ja­panese fi­nally matched the Euro­pean man­u­fac­tur­ers at the fast/ un­faired lark, with the MT-10 specif­i­cally. Yamaha stopped scrimp­ing – no last-gen­er­a­tion en­gines, cheap frames, cheaper chassis parts. Like BMW, KTM and Du­cati, Yamaha did a proper job – the best job. The BMW was our favourite naked... un­til the MT-10.

No bet­ter time for im­prove­ments then. But dy­namic is­sues weren’t the BMW’s prob­lem – it was al­ready faster in a straight line and at com­ing to a stop (although the MT-10 was bet­ter on track). They matched each other move for move on the road, but the BMW cost more and lacked the same friendly, al­ways-up-for-it fun feel that the Yamaha pos­sesses from tick­over to flat-out. The Beemer was that lit­tle bit more se­ri­ous, that lit­tle bit harder to love: it’s Rossi ver­sus Stoner. Equals on their day, but only one would make you laugh down the pub.

So it’d be nice if the new bits of metal and wires with 0s and 1s trav­el­ling through them in a dif­fer­ent or­der added grin fac­tor as well as ex­tra go. Not that I was grin­ning at all for the first few miles of the launch in Spain. It pissed down. But the good thing about tak­ing the fair­ing off a sports­bike and soft­en­ing a few bits is that you get a taut, poised and qual­ity chassis, with a riding po­si­tion that makes it all the eas­ier to con­trol. So it’s per­fectly happy on wet roads – espe­cially with the ride mode flicked to Rain, which tones the en­gine re­sponse down, turns the rider aids up and puts the semi-ac­tive sus­pen­sion in the soft­est damp­ing pa­ram­e­ters.

It’s ev­ery­thing you’d ex­pect the defin­ing in­line four pack­age of

‘Put it in Road mode and it comes alive, with stronger poke where it’s wanted, and in­stant urge the mo­ment you pick up the gas’

the last seven years to be – ev­ery­thing feels right, does what you want. The en­gine has a coarse char­ac­ter that in­volves in its own way – dis­tinct from the cross­plane Yamaha, but no less ap­peal­ing. Con­ven­tional fir­ing or­der or not, it has an ad­dic­tive ex­haust tone, and snarls, cracks and pops on the over­run. As get­ting wet­ter than Jac­ques Cousteau’s swim­ming trunks goes, I ac­tu­ally en­joyed it.

Later, it dried out. Mode switch to Road: less ABS/TC, sharper throt­tle re­sponse and more damp­ing con­trol. This is the mode the old one was hap­pi­est in – flick to Dy­namic and the ride got harsh with­out any real ben­e­fit to han­dling, the mo­tor lairier than it needed to be. Road was plenty.

Road still is plenty. It makes the Beemer come alive, give its best. Re­lieved of 30bhp at peak but with stronger poke where it’s wanted on the road, with in­stant urge the mo­ment you pick up the gas with­out any nasty jerks and snatches. BMW’s DDS elec­tronic sus­pen­sion isn’t at its best here – Road is the best of the lot, though it’s no bet­ter than be­fore in any dis­cernible way.

One-piece Brembo brakes are the same as 2016, but it was one of the best stop­ping bikes we ever tested be­fore. They’re not the brakes for you if you like a gen­tle ini­tial take-up and pro­gres­sive power build. They are pro­gres­sive, but they start with sav­age bite, build­ing to tyre car­cass-crum­pling stop­ping force. Subtlety is not their strong point.

Tog­gle the grey but­ton on the twist­grip hous­ing (not the heated grip but­ton) once more, and the rest of the bike is raised to a level of in­ten­sity that

‘Con­ven­tional fir­ing or­der or not, it has an ad­dic­tive ex­haust note, and snarls, crack­les and pops on the over­run’

matches the stop­pers. Dy­namic mode makes it­self felt im­me­di­ately if you do switch to it on the move (which it’ll let you do): the sus­pen­sion gets harsh, the throt­tle is more like a gameshow buzzer. Touch it and you get in­stant noise and are jerked along the road in the man­ner a ha­rassed par­ent drags a naughty child.

Mean­while, the sus­pen­sion gives you a bit of a bat­ter­ing, with no real ben­e­fit to steer­ing or mid-cor­ner com­po­sure, at least on the road. So in­vari­ably you end up back in Road – hap­pier, in more com­fort and pos­si­bly go­ing quicker.

You’ll no­tice I haven’t re­ally made much men­tion of the im­prove­ments. It’s for good rea­son: it’s hard to tell in iso­la­tion. It’s a great bike, but the same sort of great it was be­fore. Noth­ing jumps out and strikes you as new, ex­cit­ing, dif­fer­ent. Any­one who tells you it’s bet­ter with­out back-to-back test­ing one with the old bike is bull­shit­ting you: it feels just like an S1000R al­ways did. I’m pre­pared to be­lieve it is more pokey, and the new elec­tron­ics are bound to be a bit bet­ter – it stands to rea­son. It looks a bit more fresh, and sounds fruity for a stan­dard

bike. The new auto-blip­per func­tion on the shift-as­sist is wel­come, although it didn’t seem as smooth on this bike as it has on S1000RRs and XRs we’ve pre­vi­ously tested. Maybe the gear­box needs more miles – this one was just run-in.

So Mr Clever Clogs mag­a­zine ed­i­tor had the bright idea of fer­ry­ing the test bike back to the UK be­fore they’re gen­er­ally avail­able here to com­pare with Whitey’s MT-10 and a Z1000R to see if the changes are more ob­vi­ous in con­text with its ri­vals. We spent a morn­ing riding them around Cam­bridgeshire, and then met snap­per Mark for pic­tures.

That’s when Mr Clever Clogs be­came Mr Stupid Arse. Sim­ple three-bike ac­tion pic­ture, me in front on the S1000R. Throt­tle, slide, grip, up the in­side kerb (!), tum­ble, scrape, ouch. I’d turned the trac­tion con­trol off for a wheelie ear­lier, in nasty Dy­namic mode no less. Sharp throt­tle, cold road, no trac­tion con­trol... I might have got away with slip/grip/wob­ble and smashed bol­locks if it hadn’t found the high kerb when it over­steered. That’s when it got re­ally bad.

The kerb in ques­tion did a right num­ber on the bike, given the 35mph-ish speed – body­work/ footrests/bars as you might ex­pect, plus a gouged frame and gen­er­a­tor ripped from the crankcases for good mea­sure. A com­pre­hen­sive write off. Game over for get­ting pics in the UK. And for Austin riding it – it was to be his long-term test bike... For­tu­nately, be­fore I de­stroyed it, Johnny had rid­den it enough to com­pare it to the Z1000R, and I’d done enough miles on both it and the MT-10 to see how those two mea­sure up, so all is not lost. Just one brand new BMW, an Arai and my dig­nity, left in the shal­low, wa­ter-filled ditch I landed in. Arse.

g , be­fore, and now has an Akra can as stan­dard

Frame on this year’s bike is from the 15-on S1000RR

Ana­logue rev counter and LCD dis­play are a fine com­bi­na­tion

Road mode will suit most riders most of the time

Shift-as­sist Pro... a quick­shifter to you and I

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