If the bike is a lightsaber, it’s a blue one, which is to say it’s a machine that’s definitely on the right side of the rider most of the time.
At its most basic, the streetfighter formula is removing the fairing of a superbike and slapping on handlebars, but we all know what makes sportsbikes a pain on the street isn’t just ergonomics.
BMW took the S 1000 RR’s new ‘Flex frame’ chassis, and most of the engine, but the latter is tuned for less top-end whack and more mid-range torque which is better for the street.
That’s the same approach as the first-gen bike of course, but what’s new is a focus on weight-loss: The engine sheds 5kg, and the frame another 1.3kg. In total the bike’s seven kilos lighter than before, which makes it the lightest bike in the segment, with rivals like the Ducati Streetfighter, KTM Super Duke (even in limited-edition RR guise) and Aprilia Tuono all starting at 200kg and up.
As tested here, the S 1000 R weighs 196kg with the M Package and forged wheels, though you can bring that down to svelte 194-ish kilos if you opt for the carbon wheels – that’s the kerb weight of a Yamaha MT-09, for comparison.
In the saddle, the result is impressive: The first time I took a corner at speed it leant over with such a lack of resistance I puckered and thought I was going to fall off. But it was simply that the S 1000 R handles more like a 600 or mid-range naked than a litre-class streetfighter with a 200-section rear tyre.
The basic ride quality is sporty and deals with Singapore’s bumpy roads quite well, and at normal speeds it just lets you get on with the sometimes tricky business of motorcycling.
Pair the comfortable ergonomics with the light and linear controls and you have a bike that’s perfectly suited for the day-to-day in Singapore. This is common on BMWs, again like the F 900 R, but not on supernakeds.
BMW’s onboard infotainment, for example, is still class leading: You control the crisp 6.5-inch TFT screen from the rotary ‘iRide’ controller on the left handlebar, and can pair up your phone for music and navigation. Keyless ride is another, much welcome convenience.
Not only is the throttle predictable at all openings, the bike’s also very stable at low speed thanks to a longer wheelbase. The previous S 1000 R was okay in traffic, but not as light on its feet and it got hot, as streetfighters often do.
The new bike has a lower swingarm positioning the rear shock away from the engine for better damping and absolutely no heat at stoplights. This versatility and basic ride-ability would make the S 1000 R a great machine for sport touring too. Along that line, the 16.5-litre tank and our fuel consumption of 6.5L/100km (close to the quoted WMTC 6.2L/100km) delivers just over 260km of range too.
When not at speed, the bike’s a total pussycat – biddable, light on its feet, and great for just about anything. Of course that’s only half the equation, as you don’t get a supernaked to hang around at stoplights (by choice, anyway). But if you’re in a Vader sort of mood, the S 1000 R delivers that too.
The easygoing nature of the bike would imply less drama. It’s there, it’s just not as immediately apparent. We described the previous bike as sounding like a massive, angry hornet fed through a Marshall amplifier, while the new bike sounds a lot quieter and less raspy. It’s turned down from 11 to seven, and like many other bikes you have Euro V regulations to thank for that.
The engine’s 165hp doesn’t win top trumps or kopitiam arguments, but we defy any sane person to take it to 10,000rpm (redline is 12,000) and still ask for more. We’ve run out of creative ways to say ‘it’s bloody fast’ but 1. BMW quotes a 0-200km/h time of eight seconds and it’s believable, and 2. after three days of riding we felt like we were heathens.
The secret sauce here is the torque curve – the bike delivers 90Nm or more from 4,500rpm to redline.
Above 4,500rpm and toward 6,000 the engine really wakes up and almost seems to come on-cam (even though it lacks the RR’s Shiftcam variable valve tech) and from then on its lightspeed, it’s the Keppel run in howevermany parsecs.
That lightness is certainly part of the equation in the acceleration game, and just as true in cornering. The suspension is sporty but doesn’t detract from feel, that’s especially true under braking, and the feel from the front end is rock solid. Even fast cornering over major depressions – scary in other bikes – didn’t phase the S 1000 R.
But even when you’re hopped up like Yoda on
ketamine the Force, you don’t need to be a Jedi to ride this thing, or you’ll feel like one anyway with the unseen ‘Force’ to help you.
Local bikes get all the goodies, including a six-axis IMU, full ride modes (Rain, Road, Dynamic, Dynamic Pro), Hill Start Control, ABS Pro and Dynamic Traction Control. In short, that means you can adjust the modes to suit your needs. The ride modes work in-sync with the Dynamic Damping Control (DDC), but you can choose from two modes – Road or Dynamic – at any time.
If you understood nothing about the previous paragraph, know that it has all the electrickery a modern biker could want/need, and it doesn’t slap your wrist nanny-style but works in the background, even during spirited street riding.
Our only niggles here are the Hayes BMW-branded brakes, which offer lots of stopping power but not as much feel as the previous Brembo ones. Other media have suggested better aftermarket rubber would improve over the OE Dunlop Sportsmart.
In short, superb blend of comfort and super-naked ability, and it is. But as we’ve mentioned, the supernaked category is on fire now, and the dominant force is Ducati’s dramatic Streetfighter V4/ V4 S.
The BMW, sans COE, will end up being a little more expensive (BMW has COE subsidies, POA) but where the S 1000 R has the advantage is handling and ease of use. While the SFV4 is much easier to ride than the old Streetfighter, it doesn’t feel as light nor as pin-sharp in the cornering department, though it is undeniably more dramatic.
While it doesn’t walk loudly and carry the biggest stick, the S 1000 R has, in terms of handling and sheer rideability is class-leading in its ability to deal with boring, slow aspects of motorcycling – while being faster than ever before. In fact it reminds us quite a bit of the Honda CB 1000 R, just with a whole lot more power and a much higher level of performance. Importantly, that could make it a good choice for one-bike riders.
To come back to our questionable metaphor of the lightsaber, the S 1000 R is an extremely capable supernaked that pairs neck-straining power with sharpness and finesse. It’s a weapon alright, and one that fits well into the less civilised age of S$10,000 COEs.
|Engine||999cc, inline 4|
|Power||165hp at 11000rpm|
|Torque||114Nm at 9250rpm|
|Gearbox||6-speed manual with up-down quickshifter|
|Agent||BMW Motorrad Singapore|
|Price||S$74,800 machine price|
|Verdict||More usable, more capable, faster, sharper and very light. The new S 1000 R is impressive, though it loses a little of the aural drama in the process|