2017 BMW S1000R Sport first ride

Dowds simulates the ideal Sunday Blast, on a Monday
Dowds simulates the ideal Sunday Blast, on a Monday Picture: James Wright/Double Red

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Isn’t it funny how some classes of bike have changed over the years? When I were a lad, adventure bikes were more niche than a transsexual German rubber vomit-porn fetish. Sportsbikes were beige-vanilla normal. And big naked bikes were simple fellows, the white-bread everymen of biking. The likes of your Bandit 1200, or 600 Diversion would have about as much tech as a posh wheelbarrow.

Now though, naked bikes are top dogs, and they generally come rammed with all the toys a firm can offer. In fact, something like the KTM Super Duke is arguably the firm’s highest-tech performance machine, since the mad Austrians unaccountably dumped their superbike efforts (I burn a VR46 baseball cap before a shrine of Mika Kallio each night, in the hope of a road-going RC16 MotoGP rep).

Which brings us to the S1000R I’m about to ride in Spain. In the days of yore, a naked BMW roadster would be turgid stuff: entry-level, cheap (for a BM) and super-basic, something like a K75 or R100. Bing carburettors, single-piston Brembo calipers, 250kg and, like, 60bhp. In the late eighties, a spunky young SuperBike reader like me would no more consider a naked BMW than they would buy tickets for a Billy Joel concert.

Now though – not so much. The naked class has moved on so much that us jaded hacks have had to move through two entire levels of hyperbolic-prefix. We had supernakeds years ago, with the likes of Aprilia’s original Tuono Racer, Honda’s CB1000R and Kawasaki’s Z1000. Proper engines in decent frames with second-division performance suspension and brakes. Then we went to hypernakeds with Suzuki’s B-King, BMW’s K1300R and the RSV4 Tuono. And now we’re probably on the verge of ultranakeds, or something, with the Yamaha MT-10SP. And this – BMW’s S1000R. Genuinely, pretty much just an S1000RR superbike with the top fairing taken off. We’re a long way from the K75 kids.

The original 1000R came out a few years ago, and it was a big hit straight off. With just a soupcon of peak power lopped off the RR powerplant, wide flat bars and just-this-side-of-fugly styling, it made a fantastic urban and backroads weapon. Now, we get a little less weight (2kg), thanks to an updated frame from the latest RR, plus a bit more power (5bhp), in spite of fresh Euro 4 emission homologation changes. There’s also a new up- and down-quickshifter available, optional forged wheels and the latest ABS Pro leaning setup on the Sport. All the toys, plus 205kg kerb weight and 165bhp? Sounds perfect to me. Sadly, as noted in my RnineT Racer test, the Spanish climate today is not at all perfect. We’ve got about three hours of play time before the heavens open – best get on…

The weird thing today is that we’re jumping between the S1000R and a pair of RnineT models. Now the Boxers are very good bikes – but it’s hard for them not to be thrown into sharp relief by the monster-naked S1000. It’s a little like going for a drive with your mate: him in his nice 210bhp Mini Cooper S Works, you in your seven-gajillion-bhp Porsche 911 GT3, and you swapping round every 20 miles.

Even bearing that in mind though, the S1000 is incredible. The engine is everything you’d want from a big naked, and more. Fabulously clean fuelling of course, a phat bastard of a midrange shove, and enough of dat top end shiz to keep even the most bull-necked, motorway-Scooby-racing loon happy. Add in the new-normal safety nets of riding mods, traction control, anti-wheelie and (apparently, I couldn’t find it), launch control, and you’re able to stand in line with even the most advanced sportsbikes around.

The chassis has the cojones to cope too of course. We’ve got the Sport models today, which come with the DDC Dynamic Damping Control electronic suspension. This is less involved than the ‘Skyhook’ stuff on other bikes – you don’t get any spring adjustment, just damping tweaks on the fly, controlled by an ECU linked to the IMU Inertial Measurement Unit. So it knows when you’re leaning, or hard on the brakes, or wheelying, and can twiddle the compression and rebound according to what riding mode you’re in. Clever stuff, and it works a treat on the occasionally-shit road surfaces we’re riding on today.

It’s the brakes which really make me stop(!) and take notice though. After a half-hour blat on the RnineT Racer, I’m used to the steady, progressive stoppers there, and the firm squeeze needed for a big stop. Jumping on the 1000 for the first time, I nearly do the proverbial forward flip on the thing at the first bend. Of course, the ABS Pro and my well-worn sense of self preservation quickly step in, but it’s fair to say the brakes on this thing are wondrously good – fearsome power at your fingertips, yet once you dial in the finesse, supremely controlled.

The great thing about a big bike on the road is that you’re raised above everything else. The huge overmatch in motive firepower may look dangerous – but it also adds safety in several areas. Overtaking on single-carriageway roads happens in the blink of an indicator, you never need to fish about for gears to keep up with your pals, and the giant rushes of power on tap can, paradoxically, relax things. I’m feeling that today while buzzing around Almeria’s back roads. It’s never a chore to catch up with the lead rider if you get caught at a red light, and you can pass the tractors, local busses, and ancient smoky SEAT Ibizas with utter ease. While away the (admittedly short) periods between hard cornering playing with the riding modes and traction settings on the LCD dash, and you have all the ingredients for a completely optimal fast Sunday Blast, with Cheeky Wheelies and Knee Down Action all thrown in. Fantastic. Is there a downside? Well, the LCD dash is a little crowded, and the full colour 46” widescreen TFT Dolby Surround options available on other bikes make it look a bit 2012. Something for the 2020 update no doubt…

The rain’s come now though, and the first chance I get, I’m straight onto an S1000R, despite the option of the RnineT Racer’s small windscreen. The rain is so bad, we’d have made more progress with Jet Skis at times, but the S1 is as good as you could hope for (in the absence of a nice little car). Those brakes are every bit as controllable when you’re tickling them through standing water as when you’re hammering them onto smoking hot Tarmac, the ‘Rain’ mode offers a bit of a comfort blanket, and the Bridgestone S20 tyres work as well as any rubber could, short of a set of racing wets. Heated grips keep the blood running in my fingers, and we make it back to the hotel unscathed, if utterly soaked through.

I’ve had a great day though, and it’s clear why bikes like the S1000R are so popular. It’s an incredible performer in all conditions short of an extended 160mph Autobahn blast, it has all the toys you’d want, the riding position is more comfy than a committed sportster – and it’s decent value for money too. A basic model with ABS, traction, riding modes and that sweet Akrapovic can, is £10,705. Not a budget buy of course, but for what you get, with the current Euro exchange rate, it’s a solid deal. And that should leave you some spare cash for a new wheelbarrow, plus all the transsexual German rubber vomit-fetish porn you could want…

Specs

Price: £10,705 otr (base model), £12,365 otr (Sport model, comes with DDC damping, Pro riding modes, Pro blipping quickshifter, cruise control, hot grips and bellypan)
*There are plenty of options including 2.4kg lighter forged wheels (£1,250), and an alarm (£210), carbon panels, satnavs, and much more. All the stuff on the Sport is also available as an option on the base bike.
Get on the BMW Motorrad configurator page for all the details: www.bmw-motorrad.co.uk

Engine: 16v inline-four, DOHC, liquid cooled, 999cc
Bore x stroke: 80x49.7mm
Compression ratio: 13:1
Max power (claimed) 165bhp@11,000rpm
Max Torque (claimed) 84ft lb@9,250rpm
Transmission: six speed, slipper clutch, chain drive
Frame: aluminium twin spar
Front suspension: 46mm USD forks
Rear suspension: Monoshock
Brakes: Dual 320mm discs, Brembo radial four-piston calipers (front), 220mm disc, single-piston caliper (rear), ABS
Wheels/tyres: Cast aluminium (optional forged alloy) 120/70 17 front, 190/55 17 rear
Rake/trail: 24.8°/98.5mm
Wheelbase: 1,439mm
Kerb weight (claimed, full fuel tank): 205kg
Fuel capacity: 17.5 litres

Those clouds gave us a proper kicking later on. Bastards.
Those clouds gave us a proper kicking later on. Bastards. Picture: James Wright/Double Red
You could grow to love that wee face couldn't you?
You could grow to love that wee face couldn't you? Picture: James Wright/Double Red
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