AROUND THE TRACK
BMW’s built a brilliant bike here that looks good, sounds great and sports an engine smoother than a baby-oiled dolphin. It’s an absolute weapon on the roads! But having had this bike on track before, I kind of knew what was in the pipeline around Bruntinghthorpe and it didn’t disappoint. I’m talking about slappers. Big ones, little ones and even those in between ones. The ‘R’ took all of one lap to remind me of its nervous disposition that is completely unavoidable when you start adding speed, lean and a bumpy surface into the equation.
This test bike came kitted with the brand’s fantastic semi-active electronic suspension package, but not even switching it to the stiffest, sportiest Dynamic mode proved enough to keep this thing from trying to shake out each and every one of my fillings. It was more than a bit frustrating, especially so because the BMW has all the right ingredients for a good naked sportsbike. It’s big, comfy and surprisingly agile. When you’re tickling it, it’s even stable, but the second you get a little frisky with the Beemer it gets crazier than Jason Voorhees in a knife shop. The problem is that its raggedness isn’t solely provoked by ham-fisted throttle twitches – it’s also nervous into corners. A few times I felt the front fold into a fast fourth gear left hander, which made me feel even more nervous than the bike. Time and again out on the back straight, where the motor proved itself a rocket ship, I’d stare down at the lap timer expecting to see a half decent pace but it just wasn’t there. Despite making me feel like I was riding on the ragged edge and pushing too hard, all that effort wasn’t translating against the clock. On a chirpier note, I was impressed by the Beemer’s strong braking performance, and the shift assist system did aid the ride along nicely. Going down the ‘box, the blipper system felt a little wooden, which often made me glance down at the dated dash to double check the bike had gone down the desired notch. That wasn’t so good, but it was also nothing more than a minor detail in the bigger scale of things. Not even the pegs’ tendency to scratch on terra firma without too much encouragement proved a big deal. The root of all evil in this scientific experiment was stability, and no matter how much I adapted my style, or how gently I moved my weight around, or progressively built in the throttle, I just couldn’t calm the R down. The general impression I got was the rear was squatting too much, but with little range to alter the pitch of the bike, short of dropping the forks through the yokes, there was no quick fix to be found… or quick lap, for that matter.
Show us how high you can wheelie, Frodo.