BMW S 1000 R 2014 Review: Less ‘R’, More ARRR



Photos: Aaron ‘Hia-arrgh’ Hia & Derryn ‘Spelt Double RR’ Wong

Singapore – MotoBuyer’s own Deyna Chia previously tested the BMW S 1000 R on track at Pasir Gudang. The S 1000 R is of course, BMW’s naked version of its wrathful, superb S 1000 RR superbike. We’ve gone over the mechanics of ‘nekkidising’ a sports bike in that story, but in summary: delete fairing and fancier bits of kit to keep price down, retune engine slightly and modify bike geometry to suit, add on handlebars and ta-dah, a supernaked is born.

With the S 1000 RR hailed as the most powerful production bike at time of its 2008 debut, it’s also where most of the magic happens with the new supernaked as well.

Again, we went over the specifics in the previous story but there are serious revisions to the mill such as a different airbox, fuel injection, cylinder head and camshafts, plus a closer ratio gearbox.

The important stuff? It has 33bhp less overall – at ‘only’ 160bhp – but it does make 10Nm of torque more. Revs wise, the naked R loses power through top end revs, as it goes to 11,000rpm (compared to 13,000rpm for its track-biased brother) but the torque curve isn’t just beefed up, it’s also moved 500rpm forward for a peak of 121Nm at 9,250rpm.

 

Not just a S 1000 RR with no fairing

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ARR-round Town

Riding the Single R is all about, um, well, rrrr. Fire the engine up and it sounds just like an S 1000 R, the same metallic burr that sets the BMW engine apart from Japanese inline fours, but we imagine the naked is a bit louder.

With a considerable 160bhp still on tap, what’s surprising is how agreeable the bike is at low speeds and in town. The steering is light, the seating position natural and not too forward-canted, while the throttle is pleasingly light and linear, and the fuelling spot on to match – no herky jerky stick your feet out moments at low speed here.

The test bike wore the same Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tyres (visibly worn from track use, thanks to our own Deyna Chia) but dipped into sharper corners and U-turns around town cleanly and without drama. In fact, it’s one of the easiest high-performance bikes we’ve ridden thus far, thanks to solid ergnomics, good throttle feel and perfect fuelling. First gear is a little tall, but the following ratios are all quite close, and the (non-standard) quickshifter means your left hand rests during upshifts.

If there’s any clue to the rampaging beast within, it’s the noise. Below 3,000rpm, the bike emits a droning burble – rrrrrrr – the sort of sound we imagine an impatient, cow-sized hornet would make. As other brawny naked bikes do, the only real problem is of heat control – the left side of the bike emits a huge amount of radiant heat in traffic and slow spells. If you’re silly enough to ride a bike like this in shorts, you’ll end up with a cooked leg. But overall for town us, lots of phonetic ‘Rs’ but little to ‘arrgh’.

Less crouchy riding position but still focused

ARRgh-o-naut

Urban riding proves that BMW’s engineers – who claimed to have improved the bike’s all-round ridability in keeping with its road bias – are telling the truth but also a bit optimistic. Yes, the bike’s easy to ride, but the flip side of that is such a high level of performance that it’s very, very rare you’ll ever be able to use all of it anywhere except a race track.

Below 3,000rpm the bike sounds like a massive hornet, above 4,000rpm the bike sounds like a massive hornet fed through a Marshall amplifier. To match the chainsaw grind, the S 1000 R leaps forward with an immediacy and kick that the S 1000 RR couldn’t match – even on track. In that sense, the sportbike is easier to ride – it’s less white-of-the-eyes because you don’t have to grip the tank for dear life and consciously hold your helmeted head downward.

Give it more beans above that and hold bravely onto the same gear and you’re ‘rewarded’ by a second-wind, but by this time it’s likely your lizard brain has abandoned all pretense of metaphor and are simply holding on for dear life. I know mine did, anyway. As Deyna reported on track, the S 1000 R actually, by seat of the slightly soiled pants, feels faster than its sportbike progenitor, which is probably a combination of more torque, noise and less wind protection, but still something extra-ordinary to report on a significantly less powerful machine. It’s a good thing the radial Brembo brakes are massively strong and backed up by ABS as well.

Brembo brake system is strong, confidence inspiring

The bike comes with four modes and electronically-adjustable Dynamic Damper Control (DDC) to make your life a little less risque. The modes (Rain, Normal, Dynamic, Dynamic Pro) give you varying levels of power and electronic nannying, although the in-built anti-wheelie and traction control is always on, along with ABS, unless you switch it off, and that’s not recommended unless you’re Chris Pfeiffer.

DDC is a $3,000 option but well worth the money, since it absolves you a little of suspension setup work, taking care of rebound and compression settings, though you’ll still need to set preload and ride height, but those are arguably the easiest to do. Besides being active – it monitors road conditions all the time – there are also three presets, Soft, Normal and Hard, just like on other DDC-equipped BMW bikes. Soft is good for Singapore’s lumpy roads in general, and even highways, while Hard is best reserved for race track use, to avoid potholes or depressions upsetting the bike at speed.

Crazed. eyes askance look is accurate

What’s truly convincing about the S 1000 R is how usable it is. The engine, besides being massively strong, is so flexible gear selection becomes almost irrelevant at legal speeds. The handling is precise and confidence inspiring, it eases into corners quickly without falling into them alarmingly, while the ride quality is superb – and flexible, with DDC – for a sporty naked bike. Which makes its fearsome nature all the more interesting, for here’s a machine that will give you confidence up to a certain point, after which is still feels massively settled and has much more to give. Unfortunately, on the road, your brain will not be able to cope.

Non-standard equipment on the test bike included BMW HP rearsets and folding brake/clutch levers, all made by the masters of CNC aluminium, Gilles Tooling. It’s top quality stuff, although the rearsets do force your legs into something of a racing crouch, they are adjustable, as are the levers. They lack the ability to flip up, which could trip up riders used to conventional folding footpegs.

Variable riding modes and suspension add flexibility

What we also like is how the bike doesn’t simply look like a de-frocked S 1000 RR. The Forest Whittaker Squint headlights give it instant character – sort of like your face after giving it the beans – as does the unique styling, such as the vent like gills on the tank surface, the wide bars, the exposed steering head, all looking wonderfully engineered. But most of all, one shouldn’t think of this supernaked as the S 1000 RR minus one grade of raciness. It’s a hugely accomplished machine that can make you go ‘Ah’, ‘Ah?’ and ‘ARRRRR’, all the nicest way possible.

BMW S 1000 R (with DDC)

Engine type 999cc, 16V, inline 4

Bore X Stroke 80 x 49.7mm

Gearbox type 6-speed manual with quickshifter

Max power 160bhp at 11,000rpm

Max torque 121Nm at 9,250rpm

0 to 100km/h 3.1 seconds (est.)

Top speed >200km/h (est.)

Dry Weight 207kg

Seat Height 814mm

Price $38,000 (OTR)

Front Suspension 46mm USD forks, electronic adjustment (DDC)

Rear Suspension Adjustable rebound, electronic adjustment (DDC)

Front Brakes Dual 320mm floating disc, Brembo four-piston, ABS

Rear Brakes Single 220mm disc, 2-piston

about the author

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Derryn Wong
Has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. Is particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats.