Don't look now but BMW is on the charge. Long known for building awkward boxer twins or comfortable inline fours that appeal to the more-ahem-older crowd, if you've purchased a BMW lately chances were likely an AARP membership was also on its way to your mailbox. Nobody wants to be known as that guy and now Bavarian Motor Works is doing something about it. For those who were paying attention, the HP2 line of performance-oriented boxer twins was the proverbial knock on the door to the younger demographic, but this year that door is being busted wide open with the introduction of the company's first superbike, the S 1000 RR, and the revamping of its flagship-the K1200S-into the more powerful K1300S. Both models aimed directly at its Japanese competition. So with the obvious challenge in plain sight, we decided to pit the German challenger against the Japanese king of the mountain-the Suzuki Hayabusa. At this point you've probably noticed a distinct member of the party is missing: Kawasaki's ZX-14. That's no mistake. Past showdowns between the 'Busa and 14 have resulted in the Suzuki edging the Kawasaki in our overall scores mainly because of its handling advantage. Power plants were mainly on par, with the Kawasaki getting a better jump off the line, but the Suzuki has the edge in peak horsepower. The Suzuki won, but by no means was it a blowout. So with one contender out of the way it was time for someone else to try and knock the Suzuki.
Means To An End
Both of these machines do one thing really well: go fast, really fast, especially in a straight line. But the methodologies by which each machine gets there are vastly different. We've covered both bikes in detail before, the Hayabusa last year in the April issue ("Big Numbers", April '08) and the K1300S in Kento's first ride piece in the June '09 issue ("Bavarian Brawn"). Both bikes were the benefactors of displacement increases during their major redesigns (the Suzuki's in 2007); the Suzuki up to 1340cc (from 1298cc) and the BMW 1293cc (from 1157cc). Beyond that, combustion chambers for both bikes have been revised to promote more swirl. For the Hayabusa, piston shape was slightly altered, resulting in a 12.5:1 compression ratio, rings received ion plating treatment to reduce friction, and titanium is the metal of choice for the intake and exhaust valves. Of course, this is old news by now as the bike has been out for three years.
On the BMW side of things, a 1mm larger bore and 5.3mm longer stroke (80 x 64.3mm, respectively) account for the displacement increase, with a number of changes to promote breathing for this larger engine. Though let's face it; the electronic gadgetry seen on most BMW models, both on two wheels or four, is what draws most people (well, those who are fans, anyway) to BMWs and the company takes pride in this. Even takes advantage of it, really. So what does the K13S have to offer? Well in the case of our test bike-everything: ABS, ASC (Anti-Spin Control), GSA (Gear Shift Assist), and ESA II, or Electronic Suspension Adjustment. At the push of a button, suspension settings (as well as spring rates) can be changed from three different options, Comfort, Normal, or Sport. To put these settings into perspective we'll equate each setting to its equivalent in the four-wheeled world, with the Comfort setting akin to your grandfather's Buick-plush, soft and, well, comfortable. Normal is more like mom's 5-series BMW-a little firmer, but it still rolls around corners. Sport meanwhile is your fancy M3 (to keep it in the family). The suspension's firm and you feel every jolt in the road. But that doesn't matter, because instead of wallowing through turns like in grandpa's Buick, now we're carving corners and shredding apexes. All with the push of a button.
Size Doesn't Matter
Since the ZX-14 failed to topple the 'Busa in a straight-up dogfight, BMW's only chance was to approach the attack from a completely different angle. From simply sitting on the bike it's clear BMW have done just that. Seating position has the bars higher up and the footpegs slightly forward, creating a rider triangle that's noticeably more comfortable than the Suzuki. The LCD gauge cluster of the K13 is easier to read and navigate than others we've tried, though most testers found the analog speedometer difficult to read on both bikes.