2014 BMW S1000R – First Ride

Just exactly who is the new S1000RR-with-an-R-missing for, and why would anyone want it?

2014 BMW S1000R Frozen Dark Blue (1)

Why the question above? Simple. We’ve too often witnessed a manufacturer offering a handlebar version of its open-class sportbike, only to be disappointed when we learn that the machine has also lost its character, performance, and smarts. So, getting right to the point, is BMW’s new 2014 S1000R just a denuded, detuned, and dumbed-down version of the RR?

The quick answer: No.

But there is a longer explanation. While it’s true that some people may think the S1000R is simply an RR with handlebars and missing bodywork, many differences have been made with good reason. And good results.

To this point, don’t cry over spilled horsepower. Many riders seem to forget that a motorcycle with a claimed 190 horsepower doesn’t have that power at every rpm. So, just because peak hp is reduced by 30 from the S1000RR to 160, that doesn’t mean that the S1000R loses a single bit of usable power. In fact, with its increased torque over most of the rpm range, the R has more usable power. And besides, as anyone who regularly rides a modern literbike well knows, actually experiencing a high-rpm 190-hp number, without doing jail time, is considerably risky. So the only tears this new BMW should cause are those of visceral joy.

BMW Lead Designer Evgeny Zhukov

Character
Lead designer of the S1000R is Evgeny Zhukov (pictured above), a Russian who learned his craft at a university in Moscow and now works under the leadership of Alexander Buckan, head of BMW Motorrad Design Department. But as with all BMW vehicles, a team of designers helped shape the S1000R during its three-year evolution, which began with Zhukov’s concept.

Zhukov says the S1000R is a roadster meant to be ridden. “The bodywork of the S1000R is dictated by function,” explains Zhukov, who adds: “All of its form follows function, with a bit of techno in its shape just for the motorcycle’s character.”

In simple terms, the tiny upper and mini side fairings, as well as the optional skirting spoiler, primarily serve technical functions. The bike’s aesthetic is derived from the needs of those functions, with a modern style of hard edges thrown in.

So, although the S1000R is considered a naked, it’s not. That tiny upper proved at high speed to lift much of the air over the rider. In addition to the asymmetrical upper of the S1000R—with mismatched eyes that are now a design signature of BMW motorcycles—this bike has asymmetrical bodywork on its sides: the left sports a single opening while the right has dual shark gills, revealing how the cooling and breathing needs dictated the shape, which hints of S1000RR DNA. Likewise, the tiny upper’s form is a complexly crafted solution that addresses air intake through the frame, wind protection, and those cattywampus headlamps. An all-new tailsection sports an S1000RR taillight, and the RR’s fuel tank is there with a new shroud.

BMW S1000R concept drawing from 2010As shown by the signature and date, Zhukov and BMW Motorrad Design have been working on the S1000R project for three years.

Performance
To optimize power at lower rpm, a few modifications were made to the S1000RR’s 999cc inline-4, which has had its redline reduced by 2,000 rpm to 12,000. Claimed horsepower has also been reduced, to 160. Torque, however, still peaks at the same 83 pound-feet, although the R has more grunt than the RR throughout most of the bike’s rev range. This gives the R great low-end and midrange response. To achieve this, BMW engineers redesigned the intake tracts, cam lobes, and cam timing.

Front braking is by 320mm dual discs with radial-mount four-piston calipers. Braided-steel brake lines resist pressure flexing at both ends of the bike, while Race ABS links both ends to the hand lever, with the foot controlling only the rear. Three different braking modes work in conjunction with the S1000R’s riding modes, discussed later.

As for chassis changes, there’s 0.8 degrees more rake, and the trail, at 98.5mm (3.9 inches), has grown by 5mm. In addition to more offset of the fork legs, the wheelbase has been lengthened by nearly an inch (22mm) for greater stability and comfort. This is partly due to the changes up front, but also because the axle has been moved farther back in the swingarm. Besides that, the swingarm pivot is 3mm lower, the footpegs have been moved lower and farther forward, and the seat has been made plusher. Lastly, the whole bike is 14mm lower.

A steering damper, under the lower triple clamp, is standard, and an extensive option list includes heated grips and cruise control. Additionally, three color choices are available: red, blue, or white, but with much fancier names than that.

2014 BMW S1000R instrument panel

Smarts
Automatic Stability Control (ASC) with two modes—Rain and Road—is standard on the S1000R, as is Race ABS. Both can be activated or deactivated while the bike is in motion. “Rain,” naturally, is recommended for wet roads, offering softer throttle response and a limit of 136 hp, along with ABS and ASC that intervene sooner. “Road” is, of course, for roads that ain’t wet. The optional Pro modes are Dynamic and Dynamic Pro. In Dynamic, ASC is replaced with DTC (Dynamic Traction Control), for “sporty” riding on dry roads. That is, dry roads without chalk. The throttle response is without inhibition and the Race ABS intervenes at higher thresholds in Dynamic mode. Rear-wheel lift detection is also disabled and DTC is delayed. In Dynamic Pro, you’re on your own, which is convenient for rear-wheel drifting, as the media kit kindly notes. So, have at it.

Optional DDC (Dynamic Damping Control) on the forks allows adjustment of preload as well as damping. The shock is fully adjustable. DDC, developed for the HP4 two years ago, has various damping stages linked to the riding modes. It also adapts dynamically to the riding conditions, responding to braking, accelerating, and cornering. It’s plush in “Rain” and “Road” modes, tauter in “Dynamic” and firmer yet in “Dynamic Pro.” Another option is the HP Gear Shift Assistant, allowing smooth, clutchless upshifts. If you order the optional Sports Package, you get: Dynamic Traction Control, Riding Mode Pro, (Dynamic, Dynamic Pro), Gear Shift Assistant, and cruise control. The Dynamic Package includes Dynamic Damping Control, heated grips, LED indicators, and a color-matched engine spoiler.

The S1000R dash has a bright-white giant analog tachometer, and an easy-to-read digital display for the riding modes, plus all the usual information. In our photos the bike is in Road mode, with the other three modes showing up in the additional three boxes. A quick glance is all it takes to identify the mode the bike is in, while a redline light lets you know when your engine is going too fast. Shift, please.

2014 BMW S1000R action left-turn view

Riding
Empires fall, ships sink, and motorcycles tip over. But literally, in the case of the new BMW S1000R with its numerous adjustable rider controls, where exactly is its tipping point? Despite all these attempts to assist the rider, there still remains some point of input indiscretion where the bike will succumb to operator error. I didn’t go there, but I believe this is true.

I also believe in rider assists. They’re like losing weight without dieting, earning a degree without studying and riding well without talent.

But how can testing rider controls be adequately accomplished without scratching the bike, or at the very least, scaring the crap out of yourself? And on roads paved in a matrix of gravel and chalk, which is slippery even when dry, the project is particularly delicate. But considering the lack of traction on the roads where we tested the bike, and where myself and every journalist I spoke to had heart-racing moments that we all mastered, I have to believe that it was mostly the bike that saved us, not our “professional” riding skills. I often felt the vibration of ABS on these greasy and tight mountain roads, and both ends swam around many corners. I disbelieved in the roads, and suspected myself, but I quickly came to trust the bike. I might never have been at one with the S1000R, but only because it’s better than me. That’s acceptable. That’s also enjoyable.

2014 BMW S1000R static right-side view

Although some might point out that the S1000R has less horsepower than the S1000RR, it fully makes up for it with its broad range of increased torque. If you’ve ever put handlebars on a literbike, you already know the smarts behind this; a sit-up riding position puts the rider’s weight farther back and peaky power becomes unusable. Additionally, 160 hp is nothing to get depressed about; it’s still a damn good bit of power and it’s still nearly impossible to legally take the throttle on this bike to its stop in any gear. And if you can’t do wheelies effortlessly on this bike, you can’t do wheelies.

The S1000R has nicely neutral steering, and it finds its way around the tightest corners without any negative tendencies. The smooth brakes can be comfortably trailed to midcorner. Rolling on the power shoots the machine out of the turns, yet this BMW holds its line. There’s no compromise found here.

All things considered, BMW has created a 455-pound motorcycle, with 160 hp, that is remarkably easy to ride. That’s saying a lot. I mean, 20 years ago an AMA Superbike barely had 160 hp. From the thicker seat to the throttle-by-wire to the brakes and dynamic suspension, the S1000R provides comfort and confidence from slow, tight turns to racetrack speeds. It’s easy to ride this bike well, which is a tribute to the seamless melding of its mechanical achievement and technical programming. Every input takes a soft touch, from the switches to the levers to the throttle, requiring barely any movement for instant response. The transmission is so notch on, it just might be impossible to miss a shift. One day of riding was not enough.

From RR to R, gone is the scream, replaced by a grunt. For the street, that’s nothing but good. With the BMW S1000R, it’s not about how fast you can go, but how quickly you can go fast.

SPECIFICATIONS
2014 BMW S1000R
ENGINE Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, inline-four
DISPLACEMENT 999cc
BORE & STROKE 80.9 x 49.7mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 12.0:1
INDUCTION EFI
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 160 hp at 11,000rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 83.0 lb.-ft. at 9,250 rpm
TRANSMISSION Six-speed
CLUTCH Wet, multi-plate, slipper
RAKE / TRAIL 24.6 degrees / 3.9 in.
FRAME TYPE Aluminum, twin-spar
FRONT TIRE 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
REAR TIRE 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
WHEELBASE 56.7 in.
FRONT SUSPENSION / WHEEL TRAVEL 46mm inverted fork with compression and rebound damping and spring preload adjustability, elec adj damping / 4.7 in.
REAR SUSPENSION / WHEEL TRAVEL Double-strut swingarm with central spring strut/ adjustable rebound, elec adj damping
/ 4.7 in.
FRONT BRAKES Dual 320mm rotors with radial four-piston calipers, ABS
REAR BRAKE Single 220mm rotor with single-piston floating caliper, Race ABS
OVERALL LENGTH 81.0 in.
OVERALL WIDTH 33.3 in. (with mirrors)
SEAT HEIGHT 32.0 in.
CURB WEIGHT 456 lb.
FUEL CAPACITY 4.6 gal.
COLOR CHOICES Racing Red, Light White, Frozen Dark Blue Metallic
CLAIMED PERFORMANCE
0 to 100 KM/H (62 MPH) 3.1 seconds
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