2014 BMW S 1000 R First Ride

BMW pulls the fairings off its ultra-successful S 1000 RR superbike, and the results are as sweet as you'd expect

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A new gauge cluster features a fuel indicator and clearly depicts the selected riding mode.
Footrests are moved 23mm downward and 40mm forward.
Asymmetrical elements can be found in the headlight and side fairings. Wind protection is as you’d expect from a naked bike, meaning limited.
A longer chain lengthens the wheelbase 22mm.
A wide handlebar adds much-needed leverage at the entrance of a corner and helps offset the R's more relaxed geometry.
The S 1000 R’s cruise control, ABS, and traction control were extremely easy to manipulate with the switches on the left side of the handlebar.
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A few years back Senior Editor Andrew Trevitt put his riding license in jeopardy by converting the magazine's 2007 Yamaha YZF-R1 test bike into a wheelie-prone naked bike. The accompanying story wasn't written from jail, amazingly, and detailed the bike's capabilities: "At a pace that would leave any other naked or standard gasping, our project R1 remains composed and barely breaking a sweat. The undressed Yamaha requires far less effort to ride at speed than the standard version does, and we'd bet it's flat-out quicker down a given twisty section of road." To this day Trevitt says that the R1 is one of the most entertaining bikes he's ridden, and he still gets a twinkle in his eye when you bring the project up in conversation. Pure, unadulterated fun will do that to a man. This is the premise behind BMW's newly stripped S 1000 R, too.

Introduced as a naked version of BMW’s ultra-successful superbike, the S 1000 R takes Trevitt’s idyllic platform to an even higher level. The bike’s bloodline is traced straight back to the manufacturer's S 1000 RR but the package has been nipped and tucked for better performance around town or in the canyons. In addition to a handlebar, repositioned footpegs, and redesigned fairings (modifications similar to what Trevitt made in 2007), BMW have delved into the R’s engine and reworked the bike’s geometry. “If I were to paint every part that we changed in red color there’d be nearly a red bike standing there,” says Thomas Huelss, the S 1000 R Lead Chassis Engineer.

The Bike

The R’s chassis is more relaxed, add BMW engineers, who go on to say that the primary goal was to increase overall comfort and stability by raising the front of the bike and lowering the back. To this end, BMW have pulled the R’s fork tubes through the triple clamp (shortening the distance between the clamp and top of the fork) and lowered the swingarm pivot 3mm. There’s an extra 5mm of trail, and .8 degrees of rake, and a longer chain lengthens the wheelbase 22mm. A steering damper comes standard and a new shock linkage is more progressive for better initial bump absorption.

The R uses the same frame as the RR but does away with the sportbike’s multi-position swingarm mount option. Passenger and rider footpegs are lower and further forward, and BMW’s made the handlebar especially wide for better leverage as you tip into a corner. The R is five pounds heavier than its fully faired counterpart (456 pounds wet, versus 451 on the S 1000 RR), so that added leverage will definitely come in handy.

BMW’s 999cc inline-four engine hasn’t been too heavily neutered but does produce 33 less horsepower than the double-R, and the compression ratio has dropped from 13.0:1 to 12.0:1. Engineers say that the primary differences include reshaped cylinder head ports, cam profiles, and a new engine-management system. The rev limiter has been lowered 2000 rpm, but in its most restrictive riding mode the R still produces a claimed 136 horsepower and 77 foot-pounds of torque—more than enough to put you behind bars. Need more reason to hold on to your license that little bit tighter? Consider that the R makes roughly 7 foot-pounds more torque than the RR up to 7500 rpm.

The base-model S 1000 R comes with just two riding modes: Rain (more conservative Automatic Stability Control parameters) and Road (a more direct throttle response). You can upgrade to a Sports Package, which replaces ASC with DTC (Dynamic Traction Control, a more sophisticated traction control system which uses wheel speed sensors in addition to a lean angle sensor) and adds a Riding mode Pro option. With this equipment you get access to Dynamic and Dynamic Pro riding modes, the latter of which is activated by a coding plug and characterized by lower DTC intervention levels. Wheelie control and the rear ABS is deactivated in Dynamic Pro.

For those who don’t feel like settling for anything less than the latest and greatest technology, BMW offers yet another package—the Dynamic package, which adds heated grips, LED turn signals, a small engine spoiler, and more importantly, DDC (Dynamic Damping Control, a semi-active suspension system that was previously only available on the HP4). The standard S 1000 R comes with a fully adjustable fork and partially adjustable shock with just variable preload and rebound damping.

The Ride

Ergonomically speaking BMW has made all the right modifications. The R’s footrests are low enough that I (at six-foot-three-inches tall) was able to ride all day without my legs cramping; the handlebar is wide enough to almost entirely offset the relaxed steering geometry (but not fully, as my wrists still felt a bit tattered by day’s end); and the new seat is plush enough that I’d easily consider it one of the best I've recently sat on.

But “an RR is below the body,” reminds Alexander Buckan, BMW Motorrad Designer, and that becomes immediately clear the second you roll the S 1000 R’s throttle back. The throttle is smooth and the fueling is spotless, but the bike barks loudly with each additional rpm. It’s viscerally exciting, and only more so as you click through the gears. Think the RR pulled hard? Imagine first-, second-, and third-gear wheelies that are accomplished with less than a flick to the one-piece handlebar. Such is reality with the R thanks to that abundance of low-end torque. And it’s no slouch up top, either; I made it to fifth gear before scaring myself, and had plenty of revs in reserve.

The R’s DDC system doesn’t feel as lively as it does on the HP4. BMW admits that the algorithm is different and thus the bike reacts differently under braking and transitions, but the difference in performance between the Soft, Normal, and Hard settings provides a perceptual difference in handling. Around town Soft provided nice compliance, but in the tight stuff Hard was required to keep the bike settled. More importantly, the settings can be changed on the fly and within seconds. That means you can cruise down a straight section of canyon road in Soft, then toggle to Hard as the road tightens up. Suspension action changes almost immediately, too.

The R steers a bit heavy (remember what we said about our wrists getting tired?) but the handling is neutral, meaning it doesn’t steer in heavily then fall on its side as you get past a certain lean angle. Despite being 14mm lower in the back, it doesn’t run wide in the corner. One thing to consider, of course, is that the DDC system is stiffening up as you get on the gas and that this action will automatically provide more support at the exit of a corner. It’ll be interesting to see how the standard model’s shock changes overall performance.

As is the case with the DDC system, the R’s traction control system, ABS, and riding modes can be manipulated on the fly. Each rider aid saved me on multiple occasions, and while the intervention of the TC system isn’t perfectly seamless, I quickly learned that the system was still better than I at managing tire slip on a damp, chalk-covered road. Following the rear-wheel slide that ensued, I quickly toggled back to the TC-on setting.

Considering the road conditions (it had rained heavily on the days preceding our test ride), it was amazing to see that there weren’t many more hair-raising incidents. All of the test riders admitted to having at least one “moment,” but everyone came out on the other end unscathed, and that speaks wonders for the BMW’s electronics.

And for every “moment” I had on the slick roads I had five times as many laughs. Pure, unadulterated fun will do that to a man.

For a full review on the 2014 S 1000 R, be sure to pick up a copy of the April 2014 issue of Sport Rider Magazine.

Specifications

_ 2014 BMW S 1000 R
MSRP: $TBD

Engine
Type: Liquid-cooled DOHC inline-four four-stroke, 4 valves/cyl.
Displacement: 999cc
Bore x stroke: 80.0 x 49.7mm
Compression ratio: 12.0:1
Induction: BMS-X EFI, single-valve 48mm throttle bodies, dual injectors/cyl.

Chassis
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
Rear tire: 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
Rake/trail: 24.6 deg./3.9 in. (99mm)
Wheelbase: 56.7 in. (1439mm)
Seat height: 32.0 in. (814mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.6 gal. (17.4L)
Claimed wet weight: 456 lb. (207kg)
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