Twin Touring Sportbikes

Buell's S3T Thunderbolt v. Ducati's ST2 Sport Turismo

Page 3
Where's the Beemer?

The 1998 BMW R1100RS is one of the best sport-touring motorcycles on the market. It has everything a sport-touring rider needs: Comfortable ergonomics, great wind protection, a humane, forward riding position and an excellent, removable hardbag system. The fit and finish is typical BMW -- excellent. Then, if this is such a great bike, why wasn't it included in the shootout with the Buell and the Ducati?

BMWs are essentially high-performance touring bikes, not relaxed sportbikes. Where the BMW had the decided advantage over both the Buell and the Duc was on long, gently meandering roads -- mainly freeways and state highways. Its smooth powerband, excellent wind protection and riding position make 500-mile days a snap. Where the R1100RS is at a decided disadvantage is on the tighter, twisty roads. 

The RS weighs 40 pounds more than the Duc and 60 more than the Buell, and its wheelbase is 1.2 inches longer than the Duc and 2.5 inches longer than the Buell. The RS is a great high-mileage sport-tourer, but not a canyon scratcher. That's not to say that the RS isn't fun in the canyons. But it is not a quick turning bike and it must be ridden hard to keep up with the lighter, quicker Buell and Ducati.

There is a lot we like about this bike. Much of what we like is common to all next-generation Boxers, particularly the no-brake-dive Telelever front suspension and excellent ABS system, although at a 9/10ths pace the ABS brakes are overwhelmed slightly. The instrument panel, with a digital fuel gauge and clock, is tastefully laid out and easy to read.

The hardbag system is a great -- Ducati essentially copied the design for the ST2 -- although it is small; we couldn't fit a large-sized, full-face helmet. We also liked the seating position: Forward, but not so far over the front end that it becomes uncomfortable over long distances or in slower, city traffic. Even better, the seat height is adjustable.

Since it is a twin, vibrations are noticed, but they are neither intrusive or annoying, just omnipresent at highway speeds. Ample torque is available for passing, although some bottom-end torque has been sacrificed for top-end horsepower.

Handling is very good and very stable, but the steering is slow, and one MO staffer commented that he found it necessary to hang way off the bike in order to keep up with the other two twins.

Since its debut in 1995, BMW has not made any significant powertrain changes on the new-generation Boxer. That's good and bad news, because we wish they'd do something about the clunky tranny. Missed shifts and false neutrals are not uncommon, and that shouldn't happen on a $15,000 motorcycle.

Shifting must be made with solid, Teutonic authority. "I vill sheeft das bike into second gear now!" It's something that all Beemer owners get used to and eventually take for granted, but for moto-journalists used to riding 20-30 different bikes a year, it is a very noticeable flaw.

The 1998 BMW R1100RS is expensive, listing at $14,750 MSRP.

ABS is standard. It is an excellent sport-touring and commuter bike, able to send you off to work or the store before ripping off 500 mile days while throwing in a little canyon carving to spice up the journey.


Manufacturer:  BMW
Model:    1998 R1100RS 
Price:   $14,750.00 USD 
Engine:   Air/Oil cooled opposed twin cylinders
Bore and Stroke: 99 mm x 70.5 mm 
Displacement:  1085 cc  
Carburetion:    Bosch Motronic electrical fuel-injection
Transmission:  5-speed w/dry, single plate clutch 
Wheelbase:  57.5 in/1467 mm
Seat Height:  30.7/31.5/32.2 in 780/800/820 mm
Fuel Capacity:   6 gal (1 gal reserve)/22.7 L (3.8 L reserve)
Claimed Dry Weight:  506 lbs/230 kg
Measured Wet Weight:  580 lbs/263 kg 

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