Of course, we were at the racetrack, so it was appropriate to switch to Race mode. It was easy to see why this setting is meant for the racetrack; the throttle response is much more aggressive than in Sport mode, and a skilled hand is necessary to keep from upsetting the chassis in the slower corners. Midrange acceleration is stouter, and the amount of rear wheelspin permitted by the DTC in this mode is generous enough to let you get away with minor slides, but still keep you well within limits; with the maximum intervention lean angle increased to 48 degrees, you can get much more aggressive on your cornering and exploit the traction of your tires a lot more before the DTC steps in. Speaking of which, we were just as impressed with the Metzeler Racetec K3 rubber that was fitted to the bikes at Portimao (BMW reps stated that USA-bound models will be randomly equipped with three brands of tires; the other two weren't specified at press time). Besides excellent grip and wear rates that handled all-day racetrack thrashing very well, the Metzelers offered dead neutral steering characteristics at all lean angles along with their quick turn-in manners.
The wheelie control feature is dialed back a notch, so there was much less of the pogo-stick effect over the track's many rises and drops. The ABS in Race mode is likewise pulled back to allow much more aggressive braking maneuvers, with the intervention threshold raised quite a bit, and the rear wheel lift feature disabled. Needless to say, the amount of speed that can be generated in this mode really does relegate its use to the racetrack in all but the most skilled (and self-controlled) hands.
This steering damper hidden...
This steering damper hidden inside the fairing helps quell any headshake tendencies. Definitely necessary, considering how much the BMW likes to loft the front wheel.
The four different Riding...
The four different Riding Modes can be accessed via the grey button above the starter/kill switch. There is no need to take your hands off the bars to access any of the vast information available on the dash.
The BMW Race ABS system only...
The BMW Race ABS system only adds 5.5 pounds, and considering its excellent performance, is well worth the additional weight and cost. The red plug just behind the fuel tank is the activator for the Slick riding mode.
With so much performance on tap in Race mode, you'd think there couldn't be much more to be had with Slick mode-guess again. Throttle response in this mode borders on belligerent, requiring that the rider have his cornering plan done well in advance, and that he be committed to that plan. Any tentative or sloppy throttle inputs are only rewarded with a choppy and muddled ride through the corner. The DTC max intervention lean angle is expanded to 53 degrees, which is cranked over pretty far; if you want much more acceleration at that point, you should probably take a serious look at racing. The rear wheel slip control level is likewise extended overall, and the amount of tire spin allowed at moderate lean angles is very generous-enough that even an expert rider must work hard to fully engage the traction control.
In fact, it's at this point where the benefits of the BMW's well-developed traction system are fully realized-and where the debate about traction control in racing is founded. The DTC allows you to hang the rear end out just enough to pivot the bike and keep it there without requiring precise throttle control, and the S 1000 RR continues driving off the corner hard. It's basically electronic cheating, although it should be remembered the DTC is not a fail-safe; get it wrong, and you can still end up on your head. And it's no band-aid for poor chassis and suspension setup-if your settings are off, all it will do is keep you from going slower.
The Slick mode will allow wheelies-to a point. As long as you aren't leaned over more than 23 degrees, it won't intrude on the proceedings. But it will only permit the show to last for five seconds, at which point it reminds you that forward progress is better made with the front wheel in contact with the pavement.
Following the same progression with the previous riding modes, the ABS system is pulled back further as well, with the intervention threshold raised substantially. We were able to get the system to engage just a few times in Slick mode, and that was only during very aggressive braking. The rear ABS system is disengaged, allowing the rider to use the rear brake to help back the rear end into a corner if desired. As with Race mode, the rear lift-off detection is system is also disengaged.