My initial reactions weren’t too far from what Evan had expected. “Almost everyone who’s ridden the bike comes in completely exhausted,” he admits once I finally manage to wipe the sweat beads from my face. “Except Yates,” he continues, “Aaron didn’t really have a problem hustling the thing around the track. I don’t think his heart rate even climbed during the whole race.” As a hardly in shape journalist who sits behind a keyboard more than clip-ons, however, I found it difficult to wrap my head around how difficult it would be to run an entire race at AMA Superbike-level speeds. I didn’t do myself any favors of course by asking the ESP crew to leave Yates’ setup on the bike, which was much too stiff for my slower pace.
The ESP crew installed softer fork springs for my second session out and the changes were immediately noticeable, although I still felt like the bike was on the stiff side through the entrance of the corner. “The gas cartridge kit’s initial feedback is a bit stiffer for sure,” admits Evan, who goes on to add that, “the gas cartridge doesn’t move as much once the bike is on its side. It’s much more stable, more consistent.” The ESP crew goes on to confirm that most of its riders typically go back to a standard front end in search of that initial compliance, but ultimately go quicker on the gas cartridge kit. I can see why too; the bike feels extremely planted once banked into a turn and provides a good amount of feedback through a corner.
The Brembo monobloc calipers only add to the experience at the entrance of a turn, and are among the strongest brakes I’ve personally tested. Convenient, especially considering that the ESP-built engine is similarly one of the strongest I’ve ever thrown a leg over. The power doesn’t feel like it’s isolated in any part of the rev range, either. It’s everywhere. And it comes in abundance to boot. Put simply, I’m not surprised that the ESP BMW is continually in the upper end of the AMA’s trap speed charts, nor was I surprised by the bike’s willingness to wheelie off the exit of every single corner.
It’s not all about outrageous horsepower figures though. One of the big complaints we’ve had with the S 1000 RR over the years is that it steers a bit sluggish in comparison to the competition, but the ESP BMW is lighter on its toes, especially through a faster transition, like that between turns 12 and 11 at Chuckwalla Raceway. Credit here goes to the ESP BMW’s reworked geometry and forged aluminum wheels, which lighten the steering effort and contribute to a significantly lighter package. The bike is still heavy by AMA standards however, and weighs around 382 pounds after a race. Compare that to the factory-backed bikes we’ve tested in the past, which weigh right around 370 pounds when the checkered flag drops.
What impresses me more about the ESP BMW is the amount of grip that it offers out back. It still spins the tire with ease, mind you, but I went into the day expecting the 204 horsepower to all but spin the Dunlop tire on those Carrozzeria wheels. That was hardly the case though, and I was only left checking my pants on a few occasions, which I believe is a direct benefit of the ESP link. “I don’t think it’s perfect, and there’s definitely some stuff we’d like to try, but it’s not bad,” says Evan.
A lot of those superhero sensations came from having a properly tuned traction control system beneath me, I’ll admit. The ESP’s system feels much more manageable than a stock BMW’s, and its intervention is smooth enough that you can step the rear end out but continue driving forward. I’ll admit that I was unable to switch through the bikes multiple ride modes and see how the different TC intervention levels affected corner exits. “Aaron is the only rider who’s been able to switch modes on the fly,” says Evan, reassuringly. “In one of the races actually, when he was looking to get by one of the EBRs I think, he switched to the mode with less TC and used the extra bite off the corner to make the pass. When he went by he went back to riding with a bit more TC, since it made the bike a bit less work to ride.” Riding this S 1000 RR is hardly as simple as Steel and Yates make it seem, I can assure you.
Evan Steel Performance is the first to admit that there weren’t enough hours in the day or enough dollars in their budget to further develop its bike, but that being said, I can’t help but be impressed with the package that they showed up to the final races of the 2012 season with. Proof is in the pudding; the team topped the trap speed charts on more than one occasion, and finished near the podium in just about as many races. Its efforts and abilities haven’t gone unnoticed either. Erik Buell recently invited Aaron and the ESP crew to race under the EBR canopy in 2013. And if I were a gambling man, I’d bet my money that the results will be just as sweet.