When we tested the original BMW S 1000 RR superbike, we couldn’t help but be impressed by the engine. It remains, perhaps, the horsepower king of the production Superbike category. BMW has decided to take this ferocious beast and tame it. “Tame” might not be the correct word, but they have tried to massage this awesome track weapon into a more usable, but still fiercely powerful street machine.
The easier way would have been to take the S 1000 RR, remove the fairing and leave the standard 200 horsepower engine unchanged. This is what many enthusiast riders claim they want, after all, never really thinking that they can’t use the upper reaches of the tachometer on public roads (unless, of course, they have access to the autobahn). Instead, BMW has reduced the peak horsepower to 160, still a very healthy number, in order to move the powerband lower, where street riders can actually use it. BMW claims the naked S 1000 R has 7 more foot/pounds of torque than the superbike below 7,500 rpm.
Although the BMW is still ridiculously powerful for a naked, it looks like the KTM 1290 SuperDuke R, which claims 180 crank horsepower (as well as a higher torque peak) will rule the roost in the Naked category when it comes to brute force. You can read about our first test of the nasty KTM here.
BMW began this project 2 years ago with the idea of creating a fun, fast and easy to ride naked, potentially having a much wider customer base than the intensely focused S 1000 RR superbike. The object was to change the engine, as well as the chassis geometry to make the bike more suitable for day-to-day road use. Despite the reduction in peak horsepower, torque increases to provide a stronger mid-range where the tachometer will undoubtedly reside most often on the road. All the electronic gadgets found on the S 1000 RR remain, including ride-by-wire, selectable power modes (including a Rain mode), and you can get the options as well, such as quick shifter, traction control, electronic suspension adjustment, and more sophisticated, selectable driving modes.
To optimize street handling, the aluminum chassis had to be re-engineered with new geometry. Wheelbase was increased by 22 mm, and the steering rake is more relaxed. Despite this, with the new ergos, and the wide bars for leverage, BMW intended the naked to be nimble at lower speeds. The brakes are radial-mounted Brembo 4-piston calipers in front grabbing 320 mm discs. In back is a smaller disc and a single piston caliper. Defeatable ABS is standard.
Instrumentation is very thorough, as you might expect, including all of the now-expected features, as well as all the information about the current status of the electronic gadgetry, including drive mode selected, suspension settings (where electronically set) and a lap timer.
The more relaxed ergonomics are quickly appreciated. Knees, elbows and the rest of the body assume a balanced, comfortable position that is nevertheless ready for aggressive riding. I found the seat comfortable for highway cruising, with a relatively low height of 814 mm (32 inches).
Our test included a variety of road conditions, including wind and rain. Although perhaps not the ideal for pushing the limits, it did help reveal the true nature of this machine. Despite the weather, I began by choosing the least intrusive electronic aids in order to fully judge the abilities, and balance, of the S 1000 R. With full power mode, and traction control turned off, I set the bike to permit wheelies.
The first part of ride included roughly 32 miles of twisty, ascending mountain roads. It took me a while to understand the bike, and I used the first open straight to fully explore the powerband. With strong drive from 6,000 rpm, at roughly 9,000 rpm the front wheel left the tarmac and it continued to pull hard through redline.
With my tires as warm as they would get, despite the cold weather and snowy peaks, as well as dark clouds approaching, I aggressively attacked the corners. I was rewarded with huge grip and confidence. The handling was sublime and corner exits offered all the forward thrust I could ask for. When I spun up the rear tire, I had no trouble controlling the spin, and I was able to continue steering the bike toward the desired corner exit. The stock Pirelli tires handled the acceleration, braking and corner forces well. I was having a blast!
As we started to descend on the same mountain road, the turns became tighter and traction was deteriorating, At this point I had great confidence in the S 1000 R, and the same dance continued. The flexible engine allowed me, at times, to stay in the same gear from corner to straightaway to corner, yet still enjoy adequate acceleration. It was then that the rain began and the road became extremely treacherous. I finally switched to “Rain” mode and leaned more on the electronic “saviors”, which allowed me to again relax. With the electronics on my side, I was able to increase the pace. I was having so much fun I was able to largely ignore my frozen fingers and the torture of the cold. Entertainment can do this. In fact, I had forgotten I had heated grips available, but it was too late as our ride came to an end.
The 2014 BMW S 1000 R naked will be available in the first quarter of 2014. I want one. For further details and specifications, visit BMW’s web site.