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Friday 21st October 2011

PH2 Tested: 2012 BMW S1000RR

The best just got better, as Japan's Euro nightmare returns with a vengeance



Despite a formidable reputation for performance in the car world, until recently BMW motorcycles (or Motorrad as they like to be called) was regarded by bikers as an old man's brand, a bit 'pipe and slippers.' Through the mid-2000s BMW started to alter this image with fresh looking new models then in 2010 they spectacularly changed people's opinion of the brand with the launch of the S1000RR.


Overnight the S1000RR changed the 1000cc sportsbike market. In typical German fashion BMW had studied the market, analysed the top dogs, noted their strengths and weaknesses and built a machine that could beat them all.

What made the original S1000RR so revolutionary was its electronics package. While Ducati had unveiled the first 'proper' traction control system on two-wheels on the 1098R in 2007 (yes I know the Pan European had one, Ducati's system was far more advanced), and Honda had 'race' ABS on its CBR600RR in 2009, BMW put it all together in the most electronically advanced motorcycle on the market. The BMW came with variable ABS that switched sensitivity depending on which power mode you had the bike set in (Rain, Sport, Race or Slick) and this in turn also altered the traction control, throttle response and fuel maps.

These electronics made average riders feel like heroes and when combined with a stunning chassis and class-leading powerful motor made the BMW instantly the top of the 1000cc sportsbike food chain. The Japanese didn't know what had hit them.


So, in its first major update, what has BMW decided needed changing on the 2012 S1000RR? The inline four engine has been left alone and still produces a claimed 193bhp with 112Nm of torque but the forks have been tweaked, an adjustable steering damper added and the bike's geometry altered to improve the handling. Racers (or just tech-geeks) will love the new instruments which come with a 'best lap in progress' warning. Working in conjunction with the inbuilt lap timer it assesses your progress every 100 meters, showing a green light if you are lapping faster in that section than the previous lap - this is as cool as it sounds and horribly addictive to watch. Other than the usual 'updates to fuel maps, traction control and ABS settings' plus colour and subtle styling changes the bike is pretty much the same as before.

So rather than a radical modification, the 2012 bike is a refresh and general iron-out of any teething issues. Not that there was much to sort out, since it was launched the S1000RR has ruled the track in 'production racing' Superstock form (but interestingly not World Superbikes) and generally emerged victorious in magazine group comparative tests against the Japanese competition. So what's the new model like? Unsurprisingly, still bloody fast and very, very good!


The S1000RR isn't a bike for a non-experienced rider. BMW hasn't pulled any punches and it is unashamedly aimed at grabbing headlines through dominating track tests, which can make it quite an intimidating machine to ride. When you take to the circuit on the S1000RR you just know that no matter how hard you are riding, the bike is capable of so much more. But this huge safety net of ability also helps give you confidence and the electronics package is so good that you get the real feeling that should you make a right hash of it, the BMW will get you out of jail. Probably...

When riding the bike the biggest difference that you feel on the new model is in the engine's power delivery. The outgoing 2010/2011 S1000RR could prove a bit of a handful and when the power chimed in at around 8,000rpm it did it with such ferocity (in full power mode) that the front had a nasty habit of trying to go upwards rather than forwards, something the anti-wheelie wasn't overly good at dealing with. By fiddling with the fuel maps, BMW have altered the engine's power characteristics and made the 2012 bike far smoother and stronger in the midrange while still delivering the same peak power. Exiting corners the updated BMW has much more linear drive without the nasty powerband of the old model. It's still horrifically fast, and swallowed up Valencia's main straight at a frightening rate of knots, but it did it in a more controlled fashion and although it will still rear up in second gear on the throttle (when in Slick mode which de-activates the anti-wheelie feature) it is far less ferocious. However I'm glad BMW have added some adjustability to the steering damper, if you watch the video you can see the bars twitching on the start/finish straight well into third gear...


Through the bends the S1000RR feels stunningly good. I rode the new 2012 Yamaha YZF-R1 at the same circuit last week and while it is an extremely capable track bike, the BMW is in another league when it comes to handling and corner speed. The chassis on the BMW delivers such precise feedback that no matter how fast you go around a corner, you come out the other side thinking 'I could have done that faster.' Unlike the R1, which was quite a relaxing bike to ride on track, the BMW requires total focus, simply because it is so fast. The traction control system, which runs on gyroscopes as well as wheel speed sensors unlike the R1, calculates how far you are lent over, throttle position, speed and actually alters the amount of power depending on lean angle. So if you crack the throttle open at maximum lean it regulates the power and gently increases it as you pick the bike up and drive out. The result of this is not only a feeling of total safety despite the huge power, but also an exit speed that is considerably faster than you ever thought possible. As a result the next corner tends to appear a bit sooner than you were anticipating.


Handily BMW have also armed the S1000RR with ABS and an excellent set of stoppers. As with the bike's acceleration, you have to recalibrate your brain as to just how fast it can shave off speed. Some may argue that ABS doesn't belong on a sportsbike and while that was true a few years ago, modern ABS is so advanced it's hard to come up with an excuse as to why it shouldn't be there. Brake hard into a bend using the BMW's ABS and not only will it prevent the front from locking, it will also gently apply the rear brake for you, helping keep the back end from snaking around. Don't like the sound of that? Change to 'Slick' mode and it won't do it, allowing you to back the rear into the bend - should you have the talent.

Despite already being the best sportsbike on the market, BMW have taken the S1000RR and improved it even further. It is still insanely fast, but the refined electronics and midrange performance reduce a bit of its wild edge and make it more manageable for the 'average' rider. To get the very best out of the BMW you need to be a British level racer, if not higher, but to go faster than you ever have on track with a huge safety net of electronics to shield you from disaster you just need the balls to push the S1000RR harder.


When it comes to the annual magazine group test I have no doubt the S1000RR will retain its title as top dog on track (although the Aprilia RSV4 APRC could upset the apple cart) and for less than £13,500 (the current model is £13,275) it is quite simply mind-blowing just how much of a performance machine you could own. The only issue with the S1000RR is, ironically, also what makes it so good.

This is a track-focused machine and as such pretty extreme. It will wheelie on the throttle when you put the power down, it will shake its head a bit under hard acceleration and it is quite intimidating to ride. But what the hell do you expect from the best sportsbike on the market?

Jon Urry
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Author Discussion

Numeric

Original Poster:

360 posts

38 months

[news] 
Friday 21st October 2011 quote quote all
I'm a pipe and slippers BMW rider but I have friends with these and they adore them. We measure how quick they are by how much of their Marlboro has been smoked before I hove into view - and that is my only criticism....odd thing to say but does this just make them so quick that you can get in serious trouble with the law while other road users would never believe you will get there that quick and happily pull out on you....OK, I know, now where did I put that pouch of ready rubbed!!??

nightflight

684 posts

104 months

[news] 
Friday 21st October 2011 quote quote all
I just wish I was capable of riding like that.

SonnyM

3,119 posts

80 months

[news] 
Friday 21st October 2011 quote quote all
I am considering my first bike at 35 now that I have "slowed down" a bit. And this is the only bike on my list...

EPIC.

Stone Cold

1,105 posts

60 months

[news] 
Friday 21st October 2011 quote quote all
Good write up, thanks. Great to see so much 2 wheel stuff on the front page of PH smile I soooo want one of these and whilst I think I am reasonably sensible and careful I just worry this will get me an invite from Her Majesties B&B.........or worse! (yea I know the throttle goes both ways yada yada)

PATTERNPART

494 posts

88 months

[news] 
Friday 21st October 2011 quote quote all
SonnyM said:
I am considering my first bike at 35 now that I have "slowed down" a bit. And this is the only bike on my list...

EPIC.
Not sure if this is a good idea!
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Steve Evil

9,293 posts

116 months

[news] 
Friday 21st October 2011 quote quote all
Clocks look like they've changed a bit.

The Danimal

177 posts

42 months

[news] 
Friday 21st October 2011 quote quote all
PATTERNPART said:
SonnyM said:
I am considering my first bike at 35 now that I have "slowed down" a bit. And this is the only bike on my list...

EPIC.
Not sure if this is a good idea!
he he. If that's a joke it's a good un! If it isn't, can I put my name down for your kidneys now?...

Dagnut

3,369 posts

80 months

[news] 
Friday 21st October 2011 quote quote all
SonnyM said:
I am considering my first bike at 35 now that I have "slowed down" a bit. And this is the only bike on my list...

EPIC.

I never understand how people do this...there is now way you would drive a mid engined super car as your first car, what makes you think you can drive a 193bhp superbike?

spareparts

5,054 posts

114 months

[news] 
Friday 21st October 2011 quote quote all
The review makes the BMW sound like it's almost the perfect sportsbike and would have me looking at it except for when it says -

PH Article said:
what has BMW decided needed changing on the 2012 S1000RR? The inline four engine has been left alone
So the biggest weakness/concern has not been addressed.

There's a chap on here loves his S1000RR and praises it as the greatest thing on 2 wheels, but his S1k is back with BMW for the 2nd time getting it's second new camshaft... luckily it's under warranty, but what a ball ache.

Steve Evil

9,293 posts

116 months

[news] 
Friday 21st October 2011 quote quote all
spareparts said:
The review makes the BMW sound like it's almost the perfect sportsbike and would have me looking at it except for when it says -

PH Article said:
what has BMW decided needed changing on the 2012 S1000RR? The inline four engine has been left alone
So the biggest weakness/concern has not been addressed.

There's a chap on here loves his S1000RR and praises it as the greatest thing on 2 wheels, but his S1k is back with BMW for the 2nd time getting it's second new camshaft... luckily it's under warranty, but what a ball ache.
The camshaft was already changed for the 2011 model.

SonnyM

3,119 posts

80 months

[news] 
Friday 21st October 2011 quote quote all
Dagnut said:
SonnyM said:
I am considering my first bike at 35 now that I have "slowed down" a bit. And this is the only bike on my list...

EPIC.

I never understand how people do this...there is now way you would drive a mid engined super car as your first car, what makes you think you can drive a 193bhp superbike?
I drive a mid-engined sports car as my second car - though it may not be "super".

I take note and will have to undergo extensive training before buying one. The second thing that attracted me to the RR is the "safety" options, but I understand it is quite a powerful bike...

smile

btdk5

1,479 posts

77 months

[news] 
Friday 21st October 2011 quote quote all
Dagnut said:

I never understand how people do this...there is now way you would drive a mid engined super car as your first car, what makes you think you can drive a 193bhp superbike?
Its a comment made by someone who is 'considering' getting a bike.

Course you are.

Riknos

4,370 posts

91 months

[news] 
Friday 21st October 2011 quote quote all
Sounds very impressive. All this fancy electronic aids they stick on bikes these days may just save quite a few bikes from being binned on tracks by novices.. which is always a good thing! Maybe in 5 years time when I can afford one I'll get one smile

Benbay001

3,744 posts

44 months

[news] 
Friday 21st October 2011 quote quote all
At times, my old 33bhp restricted 220kg bike felt like more power than was really needed for road riding. So what this feels like!? Goodness knows..
As for a first bike.. (wheres that "Not sure if serious?" picture?)

montyvr6

89 posts

71 months

[news] 
Friday 21st October 2011 quote quote all
Love mine to bits! Looking forward to a test ride on a 2012 model smile

Its great having the electronics underneath you, but even with then its not a first bike. Even after nearly 18months of owning it the acceleration is a total assault on the senses. The electronics will help but they can't re write the laws of physics so best to work your way up to one of these.

sprinter1050

11,304 posts

114 months

[news] 
Friday 21st October 2011 quote quote all
A bike that is more capable on the road than almost any normal road riders ? (paraphrasing BN I believe?)

I thought the video looked like a quick, but not a too quick lap or 2 & is Valencia bumpy between turns 2 & 3 or is there a lot of front chatter?

I'd have a go on one but doubt I'd want to buy (specially at that cost)

It's still strange that as powerful & capable BMW have made it it's still just not in the same ballpark at Superbike level as others. Maybe they need a factory backed independent team to make that last leap- like Crescent,HM Plant,GSE, Swan have done for Suzuki, Honda & Yamaha.


Edited by sprinter1050 on Friday 21st October 12:48

PaulMoor

1,653 posts

50 months

[news] 
Friday 21st October 2011 quote quote all
I'm not realy sure what the point is in these bikes. Good numbers and good to show off, but I'm sure the avrage rider would be better off and faster on a 600 (less intimidateing and easyer to handle) or something like a K1300 (more usefull on rode 99% of the time and not exactly slow).

As for a first bike... Well, I would not go near one as yet, after 5 years and 50k miles of rideing. If nothing else you will not learn how to ride fast with too much power. I can keep up with allot of people on liter sports bikes on my 50bhp 600, because they slow down so much at every corner through fear.

Steve Evil

9,293 posts

116 months

[news] 
Friday 21st October 2011 quote quote all
PaulMoor said:
As for a first bike... Well, I would not go near one as yet, after 5 years and 50k miles of rideing. If nothing else you will not learn how to ride fast with too much power. I can keep up with allot of people on liter sports bikes on my 50bhp 600, because they slow down so much at every corner through fear.
All depends on the person, I've got one and have only been riding 2 years, with about 12,000 miles under my belt, I have done a lot of training in that time though. You could have ridden for 50 years and 5 million miles, but if you're still riding with bad habits then you're not going to be as good as someone who has addressed those. The California Superbike School use these in the 'States and they've found that accident rates have dropped by 60% since their introduction.

Schnellmann

1,698 posts

91 months

[news] 
Friday 21st October 2011 quote quote all
Not sure where I stand on the "electronics or not" debate. On the one hand, having that safety net would be useful (I once locked the front wheel braking on the main straight at Brands and that was pretty buttock clenching). However, I fear that all the electronics actually makes you a worse rider, in that you don't have to be as smooth with your inputs, you don't have to think ahead or be as careful. And possibly, when you do run out of electronic assistance the speed (and hence accident) is going to be bigger.

Similarly, I wonder whether the power of the S1000RR is too much and too easy, in that to get a good track time you don't need to have high corner speed because you have all that to blast down the straights (and ABS to help out at the other end). And on the road, it must be difficult not to be permanently in the "straight to prison and do not pass go" zone...

Don't get me wrong, I think the S1000RR is a fabulous, technical achievement and the acceleration must be great to experience. But overall I think a sports 600 without electronic aids is fast enough and mastering it would likely make you a better rider.

dapearson

2,163 posts

111 months

[news] 
Friday 21st October 2011 quote quote all
SonnyM said:
I am considering my first bike at 35 now that I have "slowed down" a bit. And this is the only bike on my list...

EPIC.
LOL. Buy a "slower" bike first like a Bandit/Fazer/CBR600-F. Nothing too crappy, but something to get used to the performance first.

I've ridden many different bikes over the last 15 years...been knocked off a couple of them. Fastest thing i've had was a Blackbird, but one of these BMWs would blow that away. The Blackbird was too fast. I've now settled for a Fazer 600, which is still quick enough to out-gun 99% of cars.

I had a new Fireblade on loan for a day and it was mind-bogglingly fast - F1 car levels of power-to-weight (well, almost). Very easy to get into trouble with though.

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