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BMW S1000RR test ride

Earlier this year, I was considering getting a new bike so I went out on a BMW S1000RR from Vines of Guildford. It was the second time I’d ridden one as I had tried one out a few years before when they first came out to see what all the hype was about. This time, I had it for three hours so I decided to head for the A272. With that in mind, I arrived at the dealership, had a coffee, spent 10 mins chatting and filling out some forms for insurance, and then was handed the keys and told to have fun. Awesome.

Background

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Pointy nose bike

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in a very remote part of Nepal for the last 9 years, you’ll know what the S1000RR is all about. It was BMW’s first sportsbike, released in 2009 in a limited run of 500 to satisfy WSB homologation requirements so they could go racing. In 2010, they produced it in more significant numbers and launched it as a commercially available road bike.

The S1000RR really, really upset all the Japanese and Italian manufactures, as it caused the same sort of shake-up as the ’92 Blade and ’98 R1 did when they were launched. It managed this by coming out of nowhere and immediately spanking the arse off all the other superbikes around – it was another level in terms of performance and usability, with around 190bhp and fantastic handling. BMW had launched a class-leader on their first attempt which was pretty embarrassing given the other manufacturers had a 20-year head-start of sportsbike development and refinement.

The BMW was voted Bike of the Year by various prestigious sites and publications in its first year, including MCN and Cycle News.

Racing success

WSB

In its first year of WSB racing, Troy Corser had a best finish of 5th. BMW’s first WSB win would come in 2012, with Marco Melandri taking the flag first at Donington. In the 2010 Superstock Championship, Ayrton Badovini absolutely slaughtered the rest of the field, completely dominating the series and winning every single race except one. As this is the series where the bikes most closely resemble the ones on general sale, this was a fantastic result for BMW in their second racing series.

Isle of Man TT

The BMW has been a popular bike with TT racers since 2010 with Michael Dunlop being one of the more regular riders. In 2014, he took the hat-trick of the Superbike, Superstock, and Senior TT races and he also won the Superbike and Senior classes on a BMW in 2016. Ian Hutchinson, also on a BMW, was runner-up in both races and took the Superstock win. A statistic which really highlights the capabilities of the S1000RR at the TT, a notoriously tough race to set bikes up for, is that five out of the top ten Superbike finishers and four of the top ten Senior and Superstock finishers were all on BMWs.

Specifications

The BMW is laden with goodies – it has massive power, loads of electronic wizardry, quality kit, and some really nice touches. I’m not going to quote a gazillion acronyms for all the technology crammed into this bike, but trust me, it has them all. And then some.

Instead, I’m going to focus on the details that matter and how they translate into fun when you’re spanking it down your favourite A-road.

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Switchgear – lots of buttons!

Highlights

Power: 199bhp
Torque: 113 Nm
Weight: 183kg dry / 208 kg wet

So basically, it’s fast. Very fast.

Brembo calipers as standard provide fantastic stopping power and the fully adjustable suspension gives great feedback and a really comfortable ride.

The bike I rode had all the options, including various rider modes, quickshifter, seamless downshifter, traction-control, and anti-wheelie. It also comes with a built-in lap timer so you know if you’ve beaten your previous best time when you nip to the chippy. The bike also came with lightweight wheels, electronic suspension, cruise control, and much to my disgust, heated grips. Which turned to immense appreciation within about 5 miles as it was a pretty cold day in March and I only have summer race gloves. I’m not even ashamed to admit that I loved these. Such a hypocrite!

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Love em or hate em headlights

Looks

You can’t possibly write a review of this bike without mentioning the most marmite-like part of it – the asymmetric headlights. These have sparked a series of memes, one in particular suggesting they resemble Forrest Whitaker, which is hard to disagree with. Some people love them, some hate them. I am genuinely ambivalent – I neither love them nor hate them so, while they aren’t a selling point for me, they wouldn’t put me off getting one.

For 2016, they’ve given it a sharper, pointier nose (so more of a beak) which is noticeable in profile (this I really do like) and it had always had a distinctive fairing design with what looks like shark’s gills cut out of the side panels. Again, like.

The rest of the bike is, I think, unremarkable. It’s a good-looking and well-designed bike, typical German efficiency, but doesn’t scream “bike porn!” at me.

The ride

My approach to all bikes with rider modes is to whack it into race before I set off and not fanny around with the low-fat version. I don’t see the point in riding a superbike and limiting its power. So that’s exactly what I did on this. My thinking is that I want to ride the bike and see what it’s got, not drip-feed in the power by changing modes. As it happens, this bike was the Pro version so also had Slick mode for pure track riding which reduces the traction control and other electronics quite a lot so I thought best to avoid this as the cold and bumpy roads I was going on were hardly Mugello in the summer.

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Heading out from the dealership

The guy at the dealership specifically asked me not to turn off anti-wheelie (which probably has an acronym) when I asked how to do it and also suggested leaving the traction control (no doubt another acronym here) where it was. I thought this was reasonable given they were letting me take out a fully loaded, £18k bike (which is what this costs with all the extras) for most of the afternoon.

So off I set down the A281 which is a great road, quite fast with lots of decent bends. It rollercoasters up and down the Surrey hills with some dips and fast crests over which, when taken flat-out in fourth, will lift the front wheel despite the anti-wheelie control on. After about 20 minutes, I reached the A272 and headed along there until it was time to stop, take some pictures, and head back. Those of you not from the south east may not know the A272 is quite a popular biking road and runs parallel to the south coast from Winchester (and the ever-popular Loomies Cafe) to Haywards Heath. Personally, I think it’s a decent road but a little over-rated. However, we aren’t spoiled with loads of amazing roads down here so it’s all relative, I guess.

Cut to the chase – what’s it like?

Well, the strongest impression I came away with was just how easy it is to ride. For a bike with so much power, it’s incredibly smooth and the handling is fantastic. The throttle is sensitive to the slightest input as it’s completely electronic so it doesn’t have a throttle cable. The lightweight wheels make it feel like you’re riding a 250 as it’s so light and easy to turn. The riding position is really comfortable, the seat height is low enough to get both feet flat on the floor easily (I’m 5’10) and my bum, knees, and wrists were perfectly fine after being on it for 3 hours.

My only physical complaint was that I was freezing, but that was due to weather and my summer gear, not the bike. (Except for my hands – they were really toasty!)

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Lots of info on display

The S1000RR is amazingly fast. It’s really easy to pootle around town on because it’s remarkably civilised and easy to manage at low speed. When you get out of town and wind it on, the acceleration is ballistic and it surges forward with an urgency that’s completely addictive. It’s so fast that it almost makes my 10-year old litre bike feel like a 750 in comparison. The speed with which you can reach 160mph+ is staggering (you know, hypothetically, if you were on a private road or a race track).

If my granny had just passed her test and I had to pick a litre bike for her to ride to Italy and back on, it would have to be this one. It’s a little like the Fireblade in that it’s so easy to ride and so easy to ride fast, but just much better at it and has way more rider aids to make the journey even easier, like cruise control. Cruise control on a sports bike divides opinions but there is always going to be that occasional journey where you end up spending time on a motorway or long dual carriageway, or going through average speed zones where cruise control will potentially help save your licence.

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The first S1000RR I rode – less pointy

The seamless downshifter took a little while to get used to – you literally bang it down the gearbox without using the clutch and the clever engine acronym sorts everything out for you. In fact, the gearbox was fantastically smooth both ways, up and down, the slick quickshifter ensuring I didn’t lose valuable hundredths of a second while changing up between roundabouts.

Summary

The BMW S1000RR is an amazing bit of kit. I don’t want to do it a disservice by suggesting it’s bland, as it isn’t, but it is just so so easy to ride and didn’t thrill me like it should have. I prefer superbikes to have a bit of bite to them, and not feel like I could stick my granny on it. I can’t blame the bike for that though because I know it’s obviously down to the settings the demo bikes are put in for test-rides. If I’d been able to back-off some of the settings (like, oooh, the anti-wheelie maybe), I would no doubt have found it a more exciting because, well, I like pulling wheelies. So I need to be objective and not peg the bike as unexciting. Instead, what I need to do, it get one for a week and take it to a track…

Would I buy one?

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Tyco replica

This is a really good question… I think if I was looking for one bike to do everything on (trackdays, touring, commuting, etc.), then yes, I would definitely choose an S1000RR, as it’s such a brilliant and capable bike that can just do anything. Having a BMW also offers great peace of mind as their build quality, customer service, and warranty are all excellent.

However, this wouldn’t be my only bike. My current bike already does all that perfectly well (just, you know… a bit slower!) and I’m not looking to get rid of it. So, would I have this as a second bike? Hmmm… that’s trickier and, if I’m brutally honest, I don’t think so. If I was spending £18k on a second bike, I’d have to go with something a bit different and think I’d choose the RSV4-RF as it has that little something extra, that je ne sais quoi which made me feel like I was riding something a bit more special. But I would never be unhappy owning an S1000RR as it’s such a brilliant bike.

If you’re interested in an S1000RR (or any other BMW), contact the lovely team at Vines of Guildford for a chat.

http://www.vinesofguildfordbmw.co.uk/

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Spa Francorchamps

My only foreign trackday in 2016 was at Spa and it was everything I’d expected it to be – fast, technical, thrilling, and epic. Oh, ...