"In recent years the majority...
"In recent years the majority of historians have come to the conclusion that 'blitzkrieg' was not a form of warfare invented by the German military, but an old method of winning decisive battles using new technology."
-Online definition of blitzkrieg
It was difficult not to have even the slightest bit of skepticism when we arrived at the fabulous Autódromo Internacional do Algarve racing circuit located in the hills near Portimau, Portugal for the international press launch of BMW's new S 1000 RR literbike. The venerated Bavarian manufacturer has built a long-standing reputation for bikes that-while solid performers in their own right-were never really quite as aggressive as the latest supersport tackle from the Japanese (and some Italian) manufacturers. Much of this was due to BMW's penchant for incorporating different and often unusual ideas in some portion of the motorcycle's design, a hallmark of the Bavarian manufacturer.
The S 1000 RR represents a watershed of sorts for BMW. It's the first "conventional" sportbike for the company, in that the engine is an inline-four with chain drive nestled in a twin-spar chassis using a standard inverted cartridge fork and single linkage-equipped rear shock. The usual alternative designs in engine and chassis are absent this time for the most part; no boxer twin engine, Telelever or Duolever front end, Paralever shaft drive, etc. BMW engineers were quick to point out that many of those ideas were considered during the S 1000 RR's design, but ended up being dropped due to the compromises they would have imposed on the end result-which was to have the absolute best performing literbike on the planet.
Going straight up head-to-head with the established supersport brands for the first time is a tall order, and one fraught with incredible risk, especially for a manufacturer with a long and storied racing history like BMW. "This is a very important motorcycle for BMW," said BMW Motorrad USA vice president Pieter de Waal. "If it fails to have performance that is at least directly comparable to the Japanese, BMW's reputation as a motorcycle manufacturer will be tarnished." No excuses this time around; the S 1000 RR's purpose is undeniably clear. And failure is not an option.
The S 1000 RR's saddle is...
The S 1000 RR's saddle is wide and supportive while being narrow in the front to allow easy reach to the ground despite its somewhat tall seat height. Passenger accommodations are typically Spartan.
The Race ABS and Dynamic Traction...
The Race ABS and Dynamic Traction Control can both be disabled via the grey "ABS DTC" button to the left of the red hazard flasher button. Toggling through the various menu items on the dash display is easily accomplished with the "trip/lap/set" toggle switch.
The S 1000 RR's conventional...
The S 1000 RR's conventional cast aluminum frame and pressed-sheet/cast aluminum swingarm aren't very flashy, but they don't have to be. The detachable rear subframe is also made from conventional square aluminum tubing to ease repair or replacement.
"When The Green Flag Drops..."
We've already covered the voluminous technical details of the S 1000 RR in a previous issue ("First Look-BMW S 1000 RR", September '09) and you've probably been inundated with info from other channels, so we won't waste time rehashing all of that tech talk here. The burning question of whether the new BMW is going to measure up is surely on everyone's mind, so let's get right to the riding impression, shall we?
All of the S 1000 RR test bikes at the international press launch were equipped with the optional Dynamic Traction Control and Race ABS, which are entirely worth the extra $1480 (read on and you'll understand why), plus the Gearshift Assistant powershifter ($450). The BMW DTC has four riding modes-Rain, Sport, Race, and Slick-that can be easily accessed (on the fly if desired, although it requires that the throttle be closed and clutch pulled in) via a button on the right handlebar switchgear with the modes displayed on the dash's central LCD panel display. "We named the last two modes 'Race' and 'Slick' because we didn't want owners confused about the respective traction control and throttle settings," said Stefan Zeit, project manager for the S 1000 RR. "We wanted to ensure that owners understood that 'Race' and 'Slick' were primarily meant for the race circuit. For example, we couldn't use 'Race 1, Race 2' or something like that, because it could be confusing. 'Race' obviously signifies high limits, but 'Slick' is easily understood as racetrack only." The Slick setting requires that a special plug be connected underneath the seat, further reinforcing that the owner understands just what he is unleashing; our bikes had the plug installed.