BMW launched their very first superbike some two years ago. It had to be good, given that the Japanese and Italians have perfected the art decades ago, making small improvements every other year to eke out that little advantage over the competition. The German new-comer had to be near the top of the bunch and it had to be reliable from the start. That is why 300 Berlin employees rode around on pre-production bikes for a year as part of the development testing. When it was launched it was the most advanced superbike in terms of technology.
I collected the S1000RR in Cape Town in the pouring rain and was immediately so comfortable on it that I rode it straight to Franschhoek to tackle the pass. Apart from all the electronic aids the chassis and engine combination inspires massive amounts of confidence. Added to the fully adjustable suspension, the computer keeps everything under control by way of four engine mapping modes, dynamic traction control (DTC) and race-ABS. The modes are selected via a switch on the right handlebar just above the kill switch. The next mode can be pre-selected and is only engaged once the clutch is pulled in. Rain-mode reigns in the power to a 750cc-ish 110 kW and in Sport and Race mode the full 142 kW and 112 Nm is available. In Rain and Sport mode the throttle response is gentle and relaxed, but flick it into Race mode and it becomes aggressive and responds to the slightest of inputs from your wrist.
In all three of these modes wheelies are prevented by cutting the power for a fraction of a second. If you surprise it by closing the taps and whacking it open, the front will lift around a foot from the ground and will hop about if you keep it pinned. The rear is also prevented from lifting, except in Race mode. The fourth mode can only be activated by a BMW dealer by plugging in their laptops. For this slick tyres is necessary and huge wheelies of up to five seconds is possible, as well as sliding the rear tyre in motard-style.
The clever DTC system works by measuring the relative wheel speeds as well as lean-angles via yaw-sensors. In each successive mode a steeper lean angle is allowed before the traction control kicks in. The race-ABS also cuts in later as the modes progress. I tested the computer’s response by giving it the full beans on wet grass in Rain mode. No mess, the bike simply crept forward and picked up speed as it started to gain grip. The gearbox is seamless even without the quick-shift option that cuts fuel flow for a fraction of a second when you upshift with the throttle wide open.
The screen is big enough to tuck in behind and I never got tired on the bike. Handling is superb, you can lean the bike over with telepathy. The S1000RR is such an amazing combination of all the right ingredients that one might be forgiven for thinking BMW has been at it for ages. At R160 700 for the base model it’s not cheap. Add R14 746 for race-ABS and DTC and another R4 444 for the gearshift assist and you end up with three bikes for the sum total of close to R180 000. I now know what I want for Christmas this year.
|Engine||999 cc 16-valve liquid-cooled in-line four|
|Fuel system||BMS-KP EU4 engine control|
|Fuel tank||17.5 litre (including 4 litre reserve)|
|Max. power||142 kW (13 000 r/min)|
|Max. torque||112 Nm (9 750 r/min)|
|Redline||14 2000 r/min|
|Gearbox||6 speed (optional gear change assist)|
|Dry weight||183 kg|
|Standard price||R160 700|
|Price as tested||R179 890|