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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
|2015 BMW S1000RR Specifications|
|MSRP||$16,795 – 17,930|
|Engine Type||Inline Four-cylinder|
|Bore x Stroke||80mm x 49.7mm|
|Transmission||Constant mesh 6-speed|
|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|
|Seat Height||32.1 inches|
|Curb Weight||449.7 pounds|
|Fuel Capacity||17.5 liters (4.6 gallons)|
|Colors||Racing Red/Light White, Black Storm Metallic, BMW Motorsport|
One platform; two personalities
With the motorcycle industry collected in Cologne, Germany, for Intermot, Honda made the surprise decision to present its latest Neo…