Fast Bikes - - CORE TEST -

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.

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