If you haven't been following BMW's exploits over the past few years, we'd suggest you start now. The company has been aggressively chasing a younger market by branching into more sportbike categories with an increasing number of models, and spy shots floating around indicate that sooner than you think, your choices for a literbike may include one that has the Bayerische Motoren Werke shield on the tank.
This HP2 Sport, based on the company's R 1200 S boxer model, is not that bike, nor does the company intend it to be comparable to a four-cylinder literbike. But what the HP2 Sport represents is important in terms of BMW's future in that category: Packed with upscale components and the latest engineering know-how, this is the company's expression of the ultimate Boxer-a showcase, translated into metal and carbon fiber, of what a small group of talented employees is capable of. Were this technology proportionally invested into a more mainstream model-as it surely is with the four-cylinder literbike currently being tested and developed-the result would certainly be a bike to be reckoned with. Consider the HP2 Sport a glimpse ahead, then, even if it is based on an engine that can trace its roots back more than 80 years.
The HP2 is the third of the company's High Performance models, following the Enduro and Megamoto versions introduced in 2006 and 2007, respectively. All three are based on the venerable twin-cylinder Boxer design, as evidenced by the "2" in the moniker, and it doesn't take much imagination to extrapolate an HP4 into the future that is based on a new or existing four-cylinder model. The company is forthright about the opposed-twin's design limitations in the HP2's press kit: "Regardless of the limits for the engine output as a result of the principle and the aerodynamic disadvantages from the cylinder configuration of a Boxer, BMW Motorrad deliberately decided to further develop this historic engine concept for a road racer with racing circuit talent." To that end, the R 1200 S-based engine and chassis have been modified to essentially an endurance-racing specification, and while the company will enter select World Endurance events with a slightly massaged HP2 Sport, the bike you see here will be available at your local BMW dealer this spring, although in very limited quantities and at a price yet to be announced.
The complete changes are detailed in the accompanying sidebar, but the summary is as follows: The Boxer cam-in-head layout that incorporates short pushrods has been shelved in favor of a double-overhead-cam setup with four larger valves, radially arranged. This allows the engine to spin 700 rpm higher and boosts output to a claimed 128 horsepower at 8750 rpm, up from the S model's 122 horsepower at 8250 rpm. The chassis has been likewise modified with hlins suspension, Brembo radial-mount brakes, forged-aluminum wheels, high-end details that include many machined-from-billet parts specific to this model, a standard quickshifter and a 2D dash unit. Claimed dry weight is 392 pounds (30 less than the R 1200 S); wet weight with fuel is said to be on par with the Ducati 1098 at approximately 440 pounds.
While the HP2 Enduro and Megamoto are more individual models very loosely based on the R 1200 GS, the Sport can clearly trace its heritage to the R 1200 S. The bodywork-while not an exact copy and now fabricated in carbon fiber-gives the Sport a familiar silhouette, and another key element carried over is the Telelever front end. While a standard telescopic fork replaces the Telelever on the Enduro and Megamoto, giving them a distinctive look, the Sport retains the S-bike's setup-albeit with an hlins shock tucked up inside.
BMW introduced the HP2 Sport with a track day at the Ascari Race Resort in southern Spain. Situated in the hills above the Costa del Sol, Ascari's picturesque 26-turn, 3.4-mile layout and posh country club-like setting was the perfect venue for the BMW's intro. Walk around the HP2 and you can easily see the family resemblance to the R 1200 S, but the high-end components and nicely machined bits lend the bike a definite air of exclusivity. Hop aboard and the seating position is likewise familiar, with comfortable ergos thanks to the slim tank and plusher-than-expected seat.
It took a couple of sessions for me to learn Ascari's many blind sections, and during that time the HP2's user-friendliness came in handy. Steering is light and neutral, and changing line midturn is easily accomplished. Even with that light steering, stability is excellent, and at a brisk pace the chassis feels solid and planted. These are characteristics typical of the R 1200 S, and even though I've never ridden a BMW on the track it all seemed quite familiar during the first sessions.
The engine is definitely peppier than the standard bike's, however, and the Sport pulls harder out of turns and doesn't seem to run out of breath as the S model does. Power builds smoothly from very low in the rpm range, and there is plenty of overrev before the limiter cuts in, allowing you a choice of gears for any given turn. Even though peak power is still nothing to write home about-especially compared with the latest oversized twins available-the spread of power and its delivery is excellent. I never found myself up against the rev limiter or searching the dash to see how fast the engine was spinning as I usually am on a high-powered twin. At moderate rpm the engine is surprisingly smooth, but vibration increases with more revs to a pounding in the clip-ons at redline that can be distracting. Even though a counterbalancer is used, the vibes are worse than the standard bike's with the Sport's correspondingly higher rev ceiling, and this is one of the limitations BMW refers to that is inherent in the engine's layout.
Unlike many aftermarket add-on quickshifters that work their best only under full throttle and high-rpm applications, the BMW's unit shifts smoothly at practically any speed and load. During a shift, both fuel and ignition are cut to the engine, and both are brought back on-line gradually once the shift is complete, restarting the engine and reversing the load smoothly. Different mapping is used for each gear, and if the clutch is used the quickshifter is bypassed, leaving control with the rider. The end result is slick shifting almost every time, especially for a bike with shaft drive and its accompanying driveline lash.
Other details on the Sport are equally well sorted, and the add-ons decidedly improve performance. The hlins suspension easily soaked up all three of the bumps I could find on Ascari's beautifully finished pavement, and the radial-mount Brembos are powerful and progressive. While the bikes we rode were not equipped with ABS, it is an option on the HP2 Sport. In keeping with the bike's racetrack intentions, the system has been modified accordingly with an additional front pressure sensor and different control parameters; it can also be switched off. One characteristic inherent in the bike's Telelever front end is the antidive effect, and this certainly affects braking performance. On the one hand, the antidive lets you hold the binders hard right to a corner's apex, but on the other it requires a lot of faith as there is not much feedback under braking.
That is one aspect of the HP2 I struggled with in the later sessions at Ascari: Whether it was because of the Telelever layout or the Metzeler Racetec tires, I didn't get a lot of feel from the front end. The bikes at the intro were configured with street-based suspension settings, and while I was able to make some adjustments to improve things I really wanted to add some rear ride height to put some more load on the front end. Unfortunately, the BMW people said that is a half-hour modification-despite the rear shock and its ride-height adjuster being right out in the open-and they were unable to change it. Hopefully we'll get a chance to try the bike again on some familiar turf to make that adjustment ourselves.
In any event it's clear that the HP2 Sport is the ultimate Boxer, exactly as the company intended. For some time now it has seemed that just as we're ready to put the first nail in the Boxer coffin, BMW comes up with something to make us think differently. The R 1200 S was a big step in performance for the R series, and the HP2 Sport is yet another; it's an impressive piece, whether you're riding it or simply admiring the exquisite details. Better put the hammer away for a while longer.
BMW HP2 Sport Tech
The HP2's 2D dashboard features a number of programmable features and modes. In street mode, speed is shown on the top right, while gear position is smaller and inset into the block in the lower right. In race mode, the two are reversed. The shift lights across the top are fully programmable, a lap timer can be operated by the switchgear or a trackside beacon, and the system is expandable to include GPS tracking and datalogging.
The valve pockets in the forged flat-top piston clearly show the radial arrangement of the valves. The new valves are 39mm (intake) and 33mm (exhaust), up from 36mm and 31mm, respectively. New rods are correspondingly updated to cope with the engine's increased power.
A chain drives the double overhead cams, with drag levers actuating the valves themselves. The camshaft lobes are ground spherically to attain the radial layout, much like the cams in MV Agusta's F4 models. The new layout means there is no need for two spark plugs in each cylinder as used on the R 1200 S.
The rear Ohlins shock has adjustments for spring preload, compression and rebound damping, and ride height. The front shock is adjustable for spring preload and compression and rebound damping, and ride height is changed by sliding the lower outer tubes in the bottom triple clamp. On the Telelever setup the inner top tubes serve only to locate the front end, and the individual fork tubes are not functional in the conventional sense.
Multi-adjustable rearsets are beautifully machined, and the shift shaft incorporates a switch for the quickshifter. Using an optional switch the shifter can be easily reversed for race pattern. Inside the engine, first and second gear are taller, closing up the overall ratios.
The HP2's frame-what little there is of it-is identical to the R 1200 S with the exception of mounts for the self-supporting tailsection. The stainless steel exhaust's catalytic converter is underneath the engine, helping to lower the center of gravity compared with the R bike, and a servo-controlled exhaust valve is used. An 02 sensor in each headpipe monitors air/fuel ratios.
BMW HP2 Sport
Type: Air/oil-cooled, DOHC opposed twin, 4 valves/cyl.
Bore x stroke: 101 x 73mm
Compression ratio: 12.5:1
Induction: BMS-K EFI, with 1 injector/cyl., 52mm throttle bodies
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Metzeler Racetec K3
Rear tire: 190/55ZR-17 Metzeler Racetec K3
Rake/trail: 24 deg./3.4 in. (86mm)
Wheelbase: 58.5 in. (1487mm)
Seat height: 32.7 in. (830mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.2 gal. (16L)
Claimed dry weight: 392 lb. (178kg)