Super Commuting On A 160hp BMW Bike



30094079973 af429ec62a zFive reasons why BMW’s insanely quick S 1000 XR sports tourer is actually very much suited to the urban grind and more

Text & Photos: Derryn Wong 

SINGAPORE – Nobody needs a motorcycle with 160bhp. Time was, not so long ago, when a figure like that seemed like the upper-limit for a full-on racing motorcycle. There’s still a call for that, but in that respect, absolutely nobody needs a sports-tourer with 160bhp, and especially not in Singapore.

The BMW S 1000 XR is exactly that – a super-fast sports tourer from BMW which packs the same 160bhp engine as the S 1000 R naked, a detuned and slightly less fang-ed version of the colossal powerplant from the S 1000 RR sports bike.

So if you ride to work daily and spend a lot of time around urban areas (which erm, is basically 95 percent of Singapore) it sounds like an over-powered touring machine is actually the worst thing you could choose.

Yet as we noted in our review of the S 1000 XR, it’s fast, powerful and very capable – but it’s not unruly, uncontrollable or lacking in finesse. In fact, besides the huge amount of power available, it’s no less difficult to ride than the BMW R 1200 GS, a bike that’s much easier to ride than it looks. It’s something of a BMW trademark, come to think of it, making motorcycles that have a huge amount of performance but don’t make the rider work like Casey Stoner to access that performance – and it’s even true of the S 1000 RR sports machine.

That said, we tested out the S 1000 XR in all conditions ourselves and came away with a newfound love of its amenable nature, one that also has a snarling, super-fast side to access as and when you choose.

1. It’s tall but not unmanageable 30692376296 097ac53daa z
Like its key rival, the Ducati Multistrada, the S 1000 XR looks like an adventure bike, but it’s far more tarmac-biased than machines like the BMW R 1200 GS Adventure or KTM Super Adventure. But it is tall: the standard seat height is 840mm. We’ve tested it before and for us, with not-particularly long legs and average 1.73-metre height, tiptoeing it around tight areas was quite tricky. Luckily the bike comes with two cost options for making it less towering: a 30mm lowered suspension package and a 20mm low seat option. You can combine both for a very all-round accessible 790mm seat height. The bike we tested here has the lowered suspension and that was enough for us to be comfortable with it without using a lowered seat.

2. Adventure bike traits give good visibility and ride 30802383256 fed944517b z
As mentioned, the S 1000 XR isn’t meant for off-roading, but like a modern SUV (sports utility vehicle) such as a BMW X4 or X6, some of its off-roading influenced features actually make it more useful in an urban setting. The upright seating position is great for general comfort, while screen isn’t so tall that it blocks your vision. In fact, the XR’s seat offers a great perch from which to view the world, looking over cars and through vans or trucks adds to the sense of awareness and helps you ride safely.  The XR also has a daytime running light – a bright, vertical LED strip – and paired with the tallness of the machine, means cage-drivers have a better chance of seeing you.

3. It’s not that heavy / wide
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The S 1000 XR is a full-sized machine, it’s 228kg wet, which isn’t exactly light, but it’s already 10kg lighter than a dry R 1200 GS, and more than 20kg lighter than the GS Adventure. Without panniers the S 1000 XR is actually quite manageable, even to ‘reverse’ using the rider’s feet alone. It even has the BMW ‘trick’ of feeling much lighter and easier to ride slowly once it’s moving – once you’ve pushed it off the side-stand, which takes some effort, it’s basically a cinch to ride at walking pace or to do U-turns with. Unlike the R 1200 GS, you don’t have to worry about wide-set cylinders so the only thing holding the S 1000 XR from lane-splitting everywhere you go are the very wide set, adventure-style handlebars. You won’t be squeezing into every nook and cranny like a kapcai, but the S 1000 XR is far more easy to use in traffic than it appears at first glance.

4. It adapts to the situation
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The XR’s long-travel suspension helps to soak up the worst of city road works and speed humps, so you’re not sore from fighting a bike that’s delivering bumps straight to your body. In addition to that it has both adaptive dampers and selectable riding modes. We chose ‘Road’ for the ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) for most situations and it worked well, although lowering the suspension did make it a little more harsh over bigger bumps. It being the rainy season we naturally got caught in more than a few rain showers, but a simple flick of the switch to Rain mode meant the XR’s explosive power became much more muted and suited to slippery conditions, and we were also very glad for its full suite of electronic aids like traction control and ABS.

5. You can ride it like a scooter
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The wonderful thing about high-powered, four-cylinder motorcycle engines is how flexible they are. They’re usually not fussed about which gear you’re in, unlike twins, and the S 1000 XR is no different. For just about any sort of riding you can choose from third to sixth gear and leave it there. In fact there’s such an abundance of power and torque they almost all feel the same at speed below 90km/h. BMW also has another great feature: Shift Assistant Pro, which is an up-down quickshifter. This simply means that you only use the clutch when moving off or coming to a stop – all other times you simply toe the gear lever and it shifts and rev-matches for you perfectly. It’s so smooth and quick you can use it at all speeds and even in the middle of a corner as it doesn’t upset the bike’s balance at all.

6. It’s still a master blaster
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There’s nothing like a motorcycle for getting around town, as we’ve seen, even a larger, powerful machine like the S 1000 XR takes a lot of the pain out of a daily commute. At the end of the day though, it’s the all-round ease of use paired with the whopping great powerful engine that really gets us. In fact it’s the sort of crazy-sorted ability of the bike that makes the rider a tiny bit complacent: Think it and you’re there. It’s easy to see things, easy to use, and then sounds and goes like a bat out of hell (especially with the optional Akrapovic exhaust) when you want it to. If that’s not the perfect commuter, we don’t know what is.

BMW S 1000 XR
Engine type 999cc, 16V, inline 4
Bore X Stroke 80 x 49.7mm
Gearbox type 6-speed manual with Gearshift Assist Pro
Max power 160bhp at 11,000rpm
Max torque 121Nm at 9,250rpm
0 to 100km/h 3.1 seconds
Top speed >240km/h (est.)
Weight (fully fueled) 228kg
Seat Height 840mm
Price $39,000 OTR

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Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.