2015 BMW S1000RR – 2nd Test

Editor Score: 88.75%
Engine 19.0/20
Suspension/Handling 14.75/15
Transmission/Clutch 8.0/10
Brakes 9.5/10
Instruments/Controls4.5/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.0/10
Appearance/Quality 8.0/10
Desirability 8.5/10
Value 8.5/10
Overall Score88.75/100

When MO’s Managing Editor and enthusiastic sparring partner, Tom Roderick, flew to Spain back in October for the intro of BMW’s heavily upgraded S1000RR, he discovered a motorcycle that’s been comprehensively honed to advance its tech cred and lower its lap times.

Tom’s 2015 S1KRR First-Ride

Let’s get a few things out of the way right up front. Yes, the new S1000RR is more advanced and powerful than last year’s version. Furthermore, BMW claims it has shaved an impressive 8.8 pounds from the bike for 2015, bringing the upgraded S1000RR’s total mass down to a moderate 449.7 lbs. No, it still won’t make your commute any shorter, and no, a modern superbike isn’t a great tool for casual street riding, even if that superbike now has heated grips and cruise-freaking-control.

However, the industry’s constant search for more power, better handling, trick-er electronics, and less weight does count, damnit! Scoff if you must, but today’s “practical” motorcycles – the Sporty Standards, Sporty Sport-Tourers, and Sporty Adventure Bikes – are all decades ahead of where they would have been if not for the constant evolution of the supersport/superbike classes. So sure, these racy ones may have morphed far-away from practical real-world street considerations, and they surely do suffer for it when not on a racetrack or loosely-patrolled stretch of twisties, but racetracks do exist! Heck, it seems there are more of them every day, and many are booked months in advance.

Re-enacting the blast down COTA’s back-straight at 50-mph for the benefit of a camera van doesn’t result in the same effect as the actual 180-mph blast which simply couldn’t be filmed from this proximity.  When not mugging for the van, the stock-tune S1000RR delivered ferocious acceleration that was slightly tempered by inconsistent wheelie control intervention and then by ever so slightly-constrained high-rpm breathing.

Re-enacting the blast down COTA’s back-straight at 50-mph for the benefit of a camera van doesn’t result in the same effect as the actual 180-mph blast which simply couldn’t be filmed from this proximity. When not mugging for the van, the stock-tune S1000RR delivered ferocious acceleration that was slightly tempered by inconsistent wheelie control intervention and then by ever so slightly-constrained high-rpm breathing.

Clearly there is a healthy market for truly track-focused motorcycles. In that context, 2015 is going to be one hell of a year for street-legal superbikes. So without further bloviation, I give you a second on-track impression of the 2015 BMW S1000RR.

If you read this far, then you’re probably just the sick sort of degenerate who could tolerate a quick rehashing of the S1000RR’s key features and upgrades for 2015. BMW purports the 2015 S1000R isn’t just a mild mid-cycle warm-up with new graphics and trick seat foam, saying there is enough new and improved stuff here to almost call it a “new” motorcycle. The following are highlights cribbed from the BMW’s press kit.

She looks the same, but the 2015 S1000RR went to the computer lab, and followed it up with a trip to the gym.

She looks the same, but the 2015 S1000RR went to the computer lab, and followed it up with a trip to the gym.

  • Increased power output to 199 hp at 13,500 rpm and torque to 83 lb-ft at 10,500 rpm.
  • Better rideability thanks to increased torque from 5,000 rpm upwards, as well as a more linear curve.
  • A broad plateau of peak torque available from around 9,500 up to 12,000 rpm.
  • Re-engineered cylinder head with new duct geometry, new intake camshaft and even lighter intake valves.
  • New intake system with shorter intake lengths, larger airbox.
  • Reduced weight (by 8.8 lbs) of 449.7 lbs with a full tank of fuel (making allowances for equipment).
  • New exhaust system weighing around 6.6 lbs less without a front silencer.
  • Riding modes “Rain,” “Sport,” and “Race” as standard, plus the option of the Ride Modes Pro, which adds two additional modes: “Slick” and “User” (configurable), for optimum adaptation to riding conditions.
  • Launch Control for flawless starts as part of the optional Ride Modes Pro feature.
  • Pit-lane speed limiter for maintaining an exact speed in the pit lane as part of the optional Ride Modes Pro feature.
  • Lighter frame structure with an optimized blend of rigidity and flexibility for more traction, greater precision and clear feedback.
  • Refined chassis geometry for even better handling, increased traction and unequivocal feedback at the limits of performance.
  • Fully adjustable spring elements with optimized negative spring travel for more banking clearance and greater agility.
  • Improved version of electronic Dynamic Damping Control (DDC), familiar from the HP4, as a factory option.
  • Race ABS with optimized set-up.
  • Dynamic traction control (DTC) with precision calibration in 7 +/- steps.
  • Gear Shift Assist Pro for fast clutchless upshifting and downshifting as a factory option.
  • New electrical system with a more powerful sensor box and lighter battery.
  • Instrument cluster with extended array of functions and wide variety of information.
  • Restyled bodywork for an even more dynamic design language.
  • Three color schemes: Racing Red / Light White, Black Storm metallic and BMW Motorsport.
  • Extended range of optional extras and special accessories available as factory options.

Now that we have those details out of the way, let’s talk turkey: I haven’t tested a hardcore sportbike in anger for several years. There are a few reasons for that, but it was mostly due to a job that didn’t include regular track time, and also the fact that my old leathers acted like a straightjacket when shoehorned full of my ever expanding body. This led me to prefer standards and sport/adventure tourers, due to their undeniable ergonomic generosity. Fast-forward to 2015 and I’m back on the media side of the house, riding opportunities abound, and the ability to get new leathers that actually fit means I’m once again able to remain comfortable and physically mobile on on a sportbike.

The racy BMW is normal sized, something else in the photo is making it look small. In all seriousness, Sean says he was perfectly comfortable on-track, thanks to the BMW’s sensible (track) ergonomics and the extra flexibility afforded by his roomy new custom-fit Gimoto leathers. Size: Don’t Ask.

The racy BMW is normal sized, something else in the photo is making it look small. In all seriousness, Sean says he was perfectly comfortable on-track, thanks to the BMW’s sensible (track) ergonomics and the extra flexibility afforded by his roomy new custom-fit Gimoto leathers. Size: Don’t Ask.

Partially thanks to my subtle new custom-fit Gimoto kangaroo leathers, but mostly thanks to the S1000RR’s relative ergonomic roominess, I found my time aboard the new bike to be a physical pleasure. I have to give it a solid C for motorcycle comfort, which really translates into an A+ for hardcore sportbikes. I finished my four on-track sessions at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas relieved to discover that I was in no discomfort and relieved again when the next day dawned and I was still free of aches or pains.

On track, the new S1000RR delivered the best stock motorcycle acceleration I’ve ever felt once the electronics stepped-aside and unleashed the engine’s full glory. Third gear and fourth gears were the most impressive on COTA’s long back straight, once into the higher cogs though I did detect a bit of a breathless sensation above 12,000 rpm. It would pull all the way to 14K, but I really couldn’t detect any benefit from the extra revs. I suspect this is due to the stock exhaust and 50-state legal ECU tuning. It probably also didn’t help that I’m tall and wide, so aerodynamic loads were beginning to stack-up near the top of 5th gear. A race pipe and a couple dyno sessions would be very likely to see the engine pulling hard to its 14,400 rpm rev limiter, a smaller rider wouldn’t hurt either.

With the electronics sorted to the rider’s preference, the S1000RR is delightfully neutral in almost all respects, it turns in fairly quickly, tracks well and accelerates nicely off the apex with the throttle pinned (as long as the wheelie control is behaving).

With the electronics sorted to the rider’s preference, the S1000RR is delightfully neutral in almost all respects, it turns in fairly quickly, tracks well and accelerates nicely off the apex with the throttle pinned (as long as the wheelie control is behaving).

On a short and extremely powerful bike like this new S1000RR, the wheelie control could be a very useful tool for rapid corner exits. It seems logical that the wheelie control should stay fully active as traction control is dialed back. Alas, BMW chose to have wheelie control scaled in proportion to the DTC setting. In other words: If you can ride it really fast, say fast enough to want to dial-back the DTC, you must sacrifice some electronic wheelie control and go back to dragging the rear brake and/or rolling back out of the throttle to control your own wheelies. It makes me wonder why BMW would offer a MotoGP-ish feature like wheelie control if you can’t use it near a race pace. That seems counter-intuitive to me, since it’s the fast guys who are most likely to be using all that power in anger.

Speaking of wheelie control, BMW said it eliminated the front-end slam-and-bounce effect that plagued earlier versions of their wheelie control software, but once in the lower DTC settings, some of that old pogoing reared its ugly head for me to the extent that I had to intervene on my own as it caught sudden wheelies and the front end started bouncing off the pavement between semi-controlled moon shots on a few different occasions. Lest you think this is some sort of deal-breaker, it really isn’t. Superbikes have worked just fine for decades without computerized wheelie control, and most riders good enough to benefit from it on the track are also good enough to ride around it if needed, so perhaps I’m just picking nits.  TIP: Keep your weight low and forward then short-shift the S1000RR out of first as you reduce lean angle on corner exits and the wheelies aren’t a problem, then the software can’t get it wrong.

I searched and searched, but I could find no nits at all to pick with the 2015 S1000RR’s chassis or suspension, including the trick electronic dampers that are included in ‘Premium’ trim level.

I searched and searched, but I could find no nits at all to pick with the 2015 S1000RR’s chassis or suspension, including the trick electronic dampers that are included in ‘Premium’ trim level.

The BMW’s brakes were mechanically sublime with precise modulation from the lever and very impressive stopping power from a minimal amount of effort, even when trying to lose something like 120+mph for the sharp-left at the end of COTA’s long back straight. However, circling back to the bike’s electronics suite for a moment, I must to mention how it is very important to be in the correct ride mode or individual ABS setting when riding aggressively.  I unwittingly hopped on a bike that someone else had set to “Sport” mode and then almost promptly soiled my leathers when the ABS intervened at the end of the back straight during the out-lap.  Turns-out that the default ABS threshold for “Sport” mode allows only 0.8G of deceleration before intervening, and while that is plenty for normal street use or gentle sport riding, it is wholly insufficient for anything approaching a race pace. I immediately pulled into the pits and consulted with a BMW technician about the “SPOOKY!” brakes. A switch back to “Race” mode chilled the ABS out and allowed me to regain some confidence.

I searched and searched, but I could find no nits at all to pick with the 2015 S1000RR’s chassis or suspension, including the trick electronic dampers that are included in ‘Premium’ trim level. They are simply transparent and highly effective. I really love the S1000RR’s chassis for its ease of turn-in and the way it clearly excels at railing through high-speed sweepers on the side of its tires. This is a chassis that encourages exploration or even expansion of its rider’s (and/or tires’) limits.

Accelerating through the loooong triple-apex turn 16-17-18 complex at COTA, my thoughts were on the tires and my own rusty skills, as by the exit of 18 you’re cranked-over on the right sidewalls and the scenery is rushing-past at a truly sobering pace. It’s the kind of curve that generally triggers one’s self-preservation instinct, but the S1000RR was so damned sweet through there that every lap brought more and more throttle and ever higher speeds. It was the kind of good clean fun that’s always drawn me to racing, and I could almost feel the S1000RR peeling years (and pounds) off my carcass as I grinned inside my helmet.

Noteworthy Shifting: A quickshifter and easily-reversible shift pattern are but two of the many nice features on the 2015 S1000RR.

Noteworthy Shifting: A quickshifter and easily-reversible shift pattern are but two of the many nice features on the 2015 S1000RR.

The BMW Gear-Assist Pro quickshifter works very well but was perhaps a little too easy to upset when old dogs like me forget their new tricks and reflexively blip the throttle on a clutchless downshift. In those instances the quickshifter seemed to check-out. I confess to being a rabid manual throttle blipper in both cars and on bikes, and the BMW doesn’t like for the rider to do anything at all to the throttle while downshifting with Gear-Assist Pro engaged. Speaking of gear changes, the stock shift lever had two mounting holes for the shift rod; swapping between them quickly converts the S1000RR from standard to race-pattern, a nice feature that ought to be included on all supersport machinery.

BMW’s accessory part display bike pictured below features $11,300 in accessories, and it’s equipped with only a slip-on exhaust, so add a few grand more if you want BMW’s full 50-state legal Akrapovic titanium Evo system ($3,099 includes ECU reprogramming and a decibel eater). The BMW Carbon “race” accessories are really street/show parts, thanks to five coats of clear which help ensure they look great but really aren’t much lighter than their standard counterparts. A whole set offers a combined weight savings of just 2.65 lbs over stock.

Almost fully optioned, this S1000RR features an extra $11,300 worth of BMW accessories … that doesn’t transform it into a racebike, but some of those expensive parts (tall gel seat, enlarged windscreen, bar risers and adjustable rearsets) do make it a lot more comfortable for everyday use.

Almost fully optioned, this S1000RR features an extra $11,300 worth of BMW accessories … that doesn’t transform it into a racebike, but some of those expensive parts (tall gel seat, enlarged windscreen, bar risers and adjustable rearsets) do make it a lot more comfortable for everyday use.

If you’ve read this far, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I took this assignment because I was rusty and needed to recalibrate my internal works to sync with modern hardware. That need was driven by the knowledge that MO is bringing you something extra-special this summer, in the form of an oversized 2015 Superbike Shootout featuring a stellar lineup that includes no fewer than four new-for-2015 models, plus a couple benchmarks to keep them honest.  It is such a large test that they’ve asked me to come along to help fill seats with my ample backside. Stay tuned!

Stay tuned as Dirty and the impressive S1000RR meet-up with the rest of the MO crew for a very special 2015 Superbike Shootout

Stay tuned as Dirty and the impressive S1000RR meet-up with the rest of the MO crew for a very special 2015 Superbike Shootout

2015 BMW S1000RR Specifications
MSRP $16,795 – 17,930
Engine Capacity 999cc
Engine Type Inline Four-cylinder
Bore x Stroke 80mm x 49.7mm
Compression 13.0
Fuel System EFI
Transmission Constant mesh 6-speed
Final Drive Chain
Frame Aluminum twin-spar
Front Suspension Fully adjustable 46mm inverted telescopic fork
Rear Suspension Fully adjustable monoshock
Front Brakes Twin radial mount calipers, 320mm discs
Rear Brakes Single caliper, 220mm disc
Front Tire 120/70-17
Rear Tire 190/55-17
Seat Height 32.1 inches
Wheelbase 56.1 inches
Curb Weight 449.7 pounds
Fuel Capacity 17.5 liters (4.6 gallons)
Colors Racing Red/Light White, Black Storm Metallic, BMW Motorsport

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  • Tom Murray

    C’mon Sean! It’s all about the lean angle readout! What did you hit?

    • Old MOron

      “Dirty” is short for “Dirty Elbows”.

      • http://www.motorcycle.com/ Sean Alexander

        Your mom knows why my nickname is “Dirty”. 😉

        • Old MOron

          Ahem, as in dragging his elbows through the apices.

          • http://www.motorcycle.com/ Sean Alexander

            That’s what she said…

  • Stephen Sykes

    Good to see you back writing and riding again. As a fellow tall guy I’m glad to know this bike is roomy. I won’t ask your weight, but how tall are you?

    • http://www.motorcycle.com/ Sean Alexander

      6’2″ Reverse those two digits and put a zero on the end.

      • Stephen Sykes

        So, not crazy tall. I am 6’4″ and cannot figure out where to put my knees on my panigale. Was thinking of trading it for a S1000RR or the RSV4. You would do the world a great service and settle many a forum dispute if MO would do a comprehensive “who fits on what bike” article. Just giving the ergo triangle dimensions does not tell the whole tale.

        • http://www.motorcycle.com/ Sean Alexander

          Stephen, be careful about the Aprilia, its tank flares at the top much more than the BMW and nestles my knees nicely without any “extra” room. I just measured from the inside ball (behind the big toe) to the top of my knee cap while standing flat-footed and the diagonal measurement to the top of my kneecap was exactly 24″. If that measurement is any longer for you, then the Aprilia might not feel so good on-track. For me it fits like a nice glove and is perfect on-track. The BMW’s tank doesn’t capture the rider’s knee in the same way so it will be more forgiving of longer inseams.

        • DickRuble

          You need to make a choice: racing or comfort. a) competitive sport bikes are very compact (see Aprilia) and b) at 6’4 you outweigh the rest of the field by a significant margin. At equal skill you stand no chance unless you race in a given weight class. Conclusion: Racing is pointless and if comfort is what you seek, you need a GS (or an africa twin if you need reliability).

          • Stephen Sykes

            The current Panigale, or maybe a future S1000RR, is my track toy or Sunday morning ride in the forest mount. I don’t race, I just enjoy going fast at the track. For comfort and long distance I have a 2001 VFR. Want to compare reliability? For versatility the VFR has done a couple days at COTA, but is useless in the dirt.

            The last time I took the VFR to the track, before getting the Panigale, the tech inspector looked at my bike and said “looks like somebody brought their big boy bike.” I was slightly insulted. I’m 6’4″ but a lean 200 pounds.

            To settle the issue, I signed up for Code’s school in a couple of months, and will rent one of his S1000rr’s. Then I’ll know. Interesting the UK version of CA superbike school uses the Panigale.

          • DickRuble

            I don’t get your reliability comment. The VFR should be reliable, definitely more than any recent BMW. Don’t know about recent ducks, but 10 years or older are dreadful. I also don’t get the inspector’s comment. The VFR seems like a decent Sunday track bike, though I couldn’t fit on a 2003, and I am only 6’3.

          • Stephen Sykes

            the VFR lacks clearance on the pegs, and nobody makes aftermarket rearsets for it. After all, who tracks a VFR? I left huge gouges in the pavement 16-17-18 at COTA dragging my pegs through there. Sean is right, that is a glorious triple apex.

      • ColoradoS14

        Sean, what I think would be a very interesting article (in fact I am begging you guys to write this) is a comparison in performance based on rider weight. I, like you am a 250 pounder, and I find myself constantly wondering how much slower my bike is from an acceleration standpoint compared to a 165lb rider on the same bike. I think it would be a very popular and interesting article to take 3 or 4 bikes, say Yamaha R3, Triumph Street Triple, Ducati Panigale and Moto Guzzi California; just to have a variety of engine types, sizes and styles and just run acceleration runs with your heaviest tester and lightest tester to see how much handicap us more happily fed riders have. Thanks, really hoping that you guys take this into consideration.

  • Buzz

    Good to see you back on the track.

    I believe they called that “road-hugging weight” back in the old days.

  • Ducati Kid

    Sean,

    Few question Berlin’s 2015 S1000RR a better motorcycle!

    However, YAMAHA has dramatically effected motorcycling’s Sportbike sector with their 2015 YZF-R1 and YZF-R1M motorcycles.

    • Jeremy

      Agreed, the BMW is a good sport bike; but not the promised land that I was led to believe. After owning a 2012 BMW S1000RR for 2 years and now a 2015 R1M the R1 dominates over the BMW in ever way I can tell. Yamaha did miss out on a few BMW niceties like Cruise Control, Heated Grips, and a trunk (you lose the little trunk when the GPS is on the bike) so no place to even put your registration and insurance. However, I was very disappointed with Bring My Wallet’s level of dealership service, not honoring the 2-year warranty on a clutch cable snapping at 6,000mi, and overall bike reliability… it is a Ducati of a different color… no different than any Italian POS in my opinion… spent more time in the shop than all my 8 Japanese bikes ever did combined. The R1 “is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”

      • Ducati Kid

        Jeremy,

        BMW product maladies have been voiced before!

        Not good for any brand, exclusive or otherwise.

        Regarding YAMAHA’S 2015 YZF-R1M?

        When Ben Spies won the 2009 WSBK Championship he was astride an Ohlin’s Electronically suspended YAMAHA YZF-R1.

        Since then Electronic Suspension has been outlawed in WSBK and MotoGP arenas.

        Interesting that YAMAHA’S 2015 YZF-R1M features Ohlin’s Electronic Suspension (Front and Rear).

        This a worthwhile feature lacking from others at ANY price!

        • Steve Cole

          My friends have had terrible luck with R1 valvetrains and engines. Major, major expenses and complete head replacements abound. I hope Yamaha got it right with this one but in MY circle of (street riding!) friends, the R1 has been a real dog.

      • Goose

        BMW = Bless My Warranty. They are not overly reliable and haven’t been for many years. BTW, I’ve owned 12. When I rode BMWs we sold them when the warranty was up.

      • http://www.motorcycle.com/ Sean Alexander

        The 2015 S1000RR isn’t really anything like the 2012, just as the 2015 R1 isn’t much like the R1s that have come before.

  • John B.

    Now that we have a renowned large frame moto journalist, perhaps some intrepid manufacturer will build a large frame sport bike for him to ride. A (6’3″, 231lb.) man can dream, can’t he?

    • Bruce Steever

      Busa or ZX-14 might be your only options for a while yet.

      • Bmwclay

        Or, a nice new K1300S.

        • Bruce Steever

          I always forget they exist… good bike, too.

    • Kevin Duke

      KTM RC8 or Super Duke.

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