Japanese manufacturers have long dominated the literbike category, although it was Suzuki who walked away with the crown in the majority of our past literbike comparisons. Kawasaki would steal the limelight on occasion (namely in ’04 and ’08), while Honda and Yamaha would always put in a good showing. The true shift in tide would come in 2009, when BMW introduced its S 1000 RR to the 1000cc class. With its unrivaled power, sophisticated electronics and well-sorted chassis, the S 1000 RR walked away from the competition in both our 2010 and 2011 literbike shootouts (“Europe Invades,” June ‘10 and “The Empire Strikes Back,” July ‘11). Just like that, the Japanese manufacturers’ reign on the class came to an end.
Given its success (not only in magazine shootouts, but on showroom floors and at racetracks around the world) and given the gloomy state of the motorcycle industry, we assumed the BMW would go another year — maybe two — without being updated. Just when we thought we knew it all, BMW announced its reworked 2012 S 1000 RR, dubbed the “facelift” model. You know what they say about assuming.
In Search of Perfection
Don’t let the term “facelift” fool you either; the 2012 S 1000 RR is quite different than its predecessor. Four riding modes are still offered (Rain, Sport, Race and Slick), but the bike’s throttle and power curves have all been drastically reworked. Rain mode now offers 163 horsepower instead of “only” 152 horsepower and has been bestowed with its own throttle curve. Sport, Race and Slick modes share a second curve, which provides a more direct and spontaneous response (note that in the past, each mode had its own throttle curve). There are now three power curves instead of just two; Rain and Sport get their own, while Race and Slick share a third. Final gearing ratio has been changed too, from 17:44 to 17:45, for improved throttle response and acceleration in any gear.
The S 1000 RR’s throttle valve now features a softer return spring to offset the changes to the power delivery programming and the twist grip has a shorter pull for a more sensitive and quicker actuation. The 2012 RR’s engine is structurally unchanged though. That’s not to say the bike is lacking in power; the 2012 RR is claimed to produce the same class-leading 193-plus horsepower (at the crankshaft) as the previous generation. A reworked stainless steel exhaust with a redesigned catalytic converter and headpipes is fitted and the airbox has been modified. The velocity stacks are reshaped as well, and the ram-air cross section is 20-percent larger for improved airflow. What the aforementioned changes equate to is an alleged boost in midrange power, especially between 5000 and 7500 rpm.
The BMW has consistently delivered knockout punches in comparison tests, although that’s not to say it was dominant in every aspect. The S 1000 RR was criticized in many tests for its slower steering characteristics, especially when compared to bikes like the lithe CBR1000RR and Aprilia RSV4. BMW engineers have addressed those concerns for 2012 by modifying the S 1000 RR’s geometry. A new forged and milled triple clamp provides a 2.5mm-shorter offset; trail has been duly increased by 2.5mm and grows from 96mm to 98.5mm. The wheelbase has been shortened 9.3mm — a thankful change considering the BMW previously had one of the longest wheelbases in its class — and front ride height has been increased 5mm by dropping the front fork through the triple clamp. Turn exits were also an issue for the S 1000 RR, which would transfer most of its weight rearward when hard on the throttle. BMW has offset this issue by raising the swingarm pivot 4mm, which increases anti-squat. The one-tooth-larger rear sprocket also helps.
A new forged and milled triple...
A new forged and milled triple clamp with a 2.5mm-reduced offset is fitted, increasing trail accordingly. Rake has been changed just slightly as well.
The 46mm Sachs front fork...
The 46mm Sachs front fork has been fitted with a mid valve for more direct compression damping and dropped through the triple clamps 5mm.
A reworked front fork and modified rear shock complement the bike’s geometry changes. A mid-valve in the front fork is intended to provide more direct compression damping and changes to the compression adjuster are now more linear, according to the S 1000 RR Chassis Project Manager Ralf Schwickerath. The rear shock is now 4mm shorter to offset the increased swingarm pivot height and features a larger 18mm piston (compared to the previous model’s 14mm example) for increased oil flow through the compression adjuster. In addition, a check valve has been utilized so that the compression damping isn’t negatively affected when rebound adjustments are made. The needle geometry has been modified on both valves and the shock’s top-out spring is both longer and different in terms of stiffness.
The tail section of the ’12...
The tail section of the ’12 RR is lean and mean, yet the seat still offers plenty of room for larger riders to move about the saddle.
With so much attention paid to the S 1000 RR’s revised chassis and electronics, it’s easy to overlook the smaller tweaks that have been made for 2012. You’d hardly notice, for instance, that the tail section has been trimmed down for improved aerodynamics, or that the asymmetrical side panels have been nipped and tucked accordingly. Those side panels have also been outfitted with winglets, which BMW claims “boost its aerodynamics by dissipating the wind pressure on hands and arms at high speeds.” We were minus a wind tunnel at the S 1000 RR launch to test that statement.
A new mechanical ten-way-adjustable steering damper is tucked up under the front fairing and out of eyesight, but is intended to provide more appropriate damping depending on whether you are at the track or riding around town. The RR’s LCD panel is also updated and can now be dimmed to five separate levels, plus provides even more functions than before (track-day enthusiasts will enjoy the fact that, from the LCD panel, you can deactivate the lamp fault display if you unplug the headlamp). The tachometer display has also been redesigned for easier viewing.
Heated grips will come as...
Heated grips will come as an option for 2012. Yes, we’re serious.
Affixed to the nipped and...
Affixed to the nipped and tucked S 1000 RR asymmetrical side panels are a pair of these winglets, which BMW claims improves aerodynamics.
The BMW’s analog tachometer...
The BMW’s analog tachometer readout has been revised and is much easier to make sense of when barreling down the front straight at speed. The green lamp in the left corner is the best-lap-in-progress lamp, which indicates to the rider if he/she is on a flyer.