If an influx of entirely new, youthful, and sporty motorcycles from BMW in the past couple of years didn’t give a clue to BMW’s plans, then a remark from Pieter de Waal, Vice President of BMW Motorrad USA, during the recent U.S. press launch of the 2009 K1300S and K1300GT makes clear BMW’s motivation: “The USA holds the key to the future of BMW’s growth.”
The German bike maker is off to a rip-roaring start on carving out a sizeable chunk of the U.S. market with the soon-coming S1000RR superbike. But BMW hasn’t been around for decades by chasing trends. They know that in order to grow in the U.S. they must continue to serve a market segment that, though not always as glamorous as sportbikes and cruisers, is evermore significant: large displacement sport and sport-touring machines.
The K1300S isn’t a brand new model, as the K line has been around since the early 1980s. Originally, the inline-Four was laid flat (longitudinally) and thusly dubbed the Flying Brick. In 2005 the K line was reinvented, now using an inline-Four transversely mounted and with cylinders canted forward to 55 degrees: the K1200S. On the surface, this doesn’t seem groundbreaking, as most four-cylinder bike engines are mounted crosswise (think of the typical Japanese Four), but for BMW this was a first. The super-touring, full-dresser K1200LT is the only bike to retain the Flying Brick configuration.
Unfortunately for BMW the early K1200S models suffered snatchy fueling and a notchy gearbox. Mid-year model revisions were implemented in hopes of eliminating a closed throttle surging issue, but the fixes seemed hit-and-miss. BMW plainly admits a misstep or two when press materials state that the “2009 K1200S and K1200GT were reworked to address the shortcomings of earlier models.”
The first order of business in the ‘09 K bike was raising displacement from 1157cc to 1293cc via a 1mm overbore and 5.3mm increase in stroke. Additional changes include lighter pistons with thinner rings.
A “step” in the intake port is aimed at improving combustion with the result of increased torque, power, fuel economy and cleaner emissions. Other enhancements are new fuel mapping to improve “partial-load situations,” a new dual-throttle cable (as opposed to just one from before); an idle control valve now made from metal rather than plastic, and the exhaust valve timing was revised. The airbox was redesigned as were ram-air intake ducts. The objective behind the majority of those changes was cleaning up the sometimes-unpredictable throttle response the K1200S exhibited.
BMW has jumped on the compact exhaust bandwagon so popular these days. The all-new canister (on the S model only) now contains the catalytic converter as well as an electronically controlled valve that’s all the rage these days in order to meet stricter noise limits and is purported to aid torque and power delivery throughout the rev range by controlling exhaust backpressure.
An added bonus with the new exhaust is the appearance of a shorter bike, yet wheelbase and overall length have increased marginally.
Over the course of a day that saw just a couple ticks less than 250 miles on the clock, we would have plenty of time to suss out if the changes had improved throttle response. We’re glad to report the hunting and surging, created by inconsistent idle speed control on the 1200, is no longer. However, a new or different problem remains – though it’s not a deal breaker.
A number of riders, including me, discovered what can best be described as a flat spot in fueling. It often surfaced after reapplying throttle from closed to open, particularly after a length of time on overrun. The problem didn’t seem related to rpm, gear selection, etc. There’s no surging or rugged abruptness, but imagine dialing the throttle back on, say, after passing the apex of a long sweeping bend only to have the engine respond with moderate but notable hesitation. Otherwise, throttle response is good, and despite its ferocity, the big mill is exceptionally smooth with only upper revs rousing some vibration.
This flat spot only lasts for a heartbeat, but one potential drawback can be less-than-smooth cornering. When power does come back in, it causes the front end to unload slightly with some chassis pitch as a result. A patient or skilled pilot can ride around this little glitch, but it’s possible a rider might start anticipating it, which in turn could lead to some choppy riding.
It’s hard to pin-point the source of this mildly annoying gremlin as it could be the result of numerous factors; suffice it to say that fuel mapping needs a few more tweaks.
Claimed output from the S model is 175 hp at 9,250 rpm and 103 ft-lbs at 8,250 rpm, with a claimed boost of over 7 ft-lbs between the 2K and 8K rev range when compared to the K1200S. That tremendous torque runs through a new clutch and tranny improved for smoother, more precise shifting. Indeed, BMW has hit the mark here. Shifting action is Japanese sportbike-like: light, accurate and often transparent.
If you’re as lazy as I am when it comes to shifting but don’t want to risk bunging up the tranny with fancy clutchless upshifts, BMW has made the Gear Shift Assistant from the HP2 Sport as an available option on the K1300S. This gizmo was normally only found on race bikes, allowing a racer full-throttle upshifts without concern for blipping the throttle. This “quickshifter” cuts fueling and ignition just long enough to slip into the next higher gear. For a small sum it can now be yours on this street-legal missile of a bike.
When power from the mighty German inline-Four leaves the engine output shaft, it does so via a new and improved shaft final drive that employs a 2-stage damping system to mitigate forces transmitted from the engine to the rear wheel. A spring and friction disc in Stage 1, and a series of three different hardness polyurethane elements in Stage 2 all but eliminate driveline lash and jacking typical to most shaft drives. Only ham-fisted throttle action will make some jacking noticeable.
|ESA II: Push-button perfection?|
BMW often takes the lead in developing new technologies that either improve some aspect of a motorcycle or make things easier and more convenient for the rider. ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) is a shining example of cutting-edge tech from BMW. For the uninitiated, ESA provides push-button adjustments to the suspension via a button on the left switchgear – a total of nine combinations of spring preload and damping are available.
The next generation of this excellent option is called ESA II, and it now automatically accommodates for the appropriate change in spring rate based upon the combination of damping and preload setting selected by the rider. A variety of combinations of rear shock settings can be dialed up, while rebound damping is the only tweak made to the front damper. Additionally, Sport mode is now more aggressive and Comfort mode is more forgiving than on first generation ESA. BMW claims this is possible without resulting in an overly harsh ride or sagging sensation.
Why someone wouldn’t want to pony-up for this $900 option, I can only guess.
A common criticism from riders with experience, or those with a penchant to push the limits of a bike, is that BMW’s unique front suspension lacks ultimate sensitivity. To remedy this, the aluminum lower control arm of the Duolever is 2.2 pounds lighter, trail was shortened by a significant 0.8 inch, and overall spring rates front and rear are firmer. Rake has increased fractionlly to a generous 29.6 degrees.
I was never one to have a problem with BMW’s unconventional motorcycle suspension systems, but I’m not sure moving in the direction of firmer spring rates was the right answer. With the K bike’s ESA II set in the softest preload (Solo Rider only), and damping set to Sport, the impression over rough or uneven pavement was that the ride was too firm, with the front rebounding more quickly than I’d prefer for my 155-lb weight. Switching to the softest combo possible (Solo Rider, Comfort mode) proved to be the best compromise for my weight, with only a little bit of chassis squirm over the roughest stuff.
One thing that hasn’t changed in the big K bikes is their utter stability in just about every situation. Whether screaming as fast as you dare in top gear on a tantalizingly long stretch of tarmac, or through a series of sweepers, this platform is rock-solid. Yet handling is responsive and linear for a 560-lb (wet) bike with a 62-inch wheelbase.
A couple of the most popular options, ABS and ASC (Anti-Spin Control), can be disabled/enabled at the push of a button, however, only ASC can be accessed on the fly.
Speaking of buttons, switchgear is all-new and their quality is befitting of the BMW name. Multiple functions such as ABS, ASC and ESA from one switch is a brilliant idea; starter and kill switch are also integrated. In case you haven’t yet heard, BMW’s quirky dual turnsignal switch, one per side, has been replaced with a more traditional unit like found on most other bikes – save for Harleys. BMW has finally assimilated, and they hate admitting it.
|K-Bike: Not just a performer, a pretty face, too|
Base price of the K1300S is $15,250, however, if you’ve been around bikes a while then you know finding a BMW “base” model is akin to tracking Sasquatch. Funny thing, BMW knows this too, so in order to simplify things the company has created two ready-made trim levels. The Standard package adds heated grips for $250 while the Premium package includes Gear Shift Assistant, ESA II, Heated Grips, TPM (Tire Pressure Monitor), and ASC, raising the cost of your new S model to $17,500.
Any of these goodies and more, including the $650 Sapphire Black/Granite Gray/Magma Red color scheme, are available a la carte. ABS is now standard, as is your choice of two seat heights of 32.2 or 31.1 inches.
BMW’s goal was threefold when updating the K bikes:
1. Improve overall engine performance
2. Refine the transmission and drivetrain
3. Improve handling and rider feedback
The heavily revised K1300S takes a step in the right direction toward seizing the attention of more U.S. buyers. Still, there’s the fueling issue that BMW has yet to perfect. And the firmer suspension may suit larger, heavier riders, but it might aggravate the lightweights among you.
These modest complaints aside, the 2009 K1300S is a lustful proposition if you like fast sport-touring motorcycles eminently capable of inhaling vast distances in voracious gulps.