Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A day with the BMW S1000XR

Herro! This week the GS dash told me the 20K service was due despite sitting on just a touch over 18,000km, so abiding by the dash master I booked it in for said service requesting an overnight loan bike, because Postie hours.


Imagine my surprise when I was handed the keys to an almost new 2017 BMW S1000XR?!

This is going to be fun I thought, snapping a happy snap for igers.

Perfect Winter's day with no rain forecast, I caught up with Wombat in the city for lunch then took off for a squirt along a few favourite roads that test a bike several ways from Sunday.




I didn't spend a whole lot of time on it, a few hundred kays but I gave it my all. I rode it in the traffic, I rode it in the city, I rode it down the twisties and back out the other side.

I hammered it in first through to fourth with as much throttle as I could muster, I split traffic legally because I can (now), I roared down the freeway and I putted through the suburbs then I rode it into my shed and then rode it back out to work the next day, on the way back to the shops I rode it on the back wheel past a work mate just for kicks, totally by accident of course.

Here is my second, first impressions.

The BMW S1000XR in 2017 is a spectacular motorcycle. Spectacular. When I first rode it in 2015 I was seriously hyped for it's arrival and ready to pull the trigger and trade my S1000R on one. Then I rode it, and the vibration in the bars totally put me off. It was well documented at the time and I guess some people were willing to look past it but for me it was a deal breaker.

To me, it was pronounced enough that I couldn't look past it despite all the other good things I thought about it. Sitting on the freeway for a few hundred kays of vibrating would definitely piss me off.

Enough of that. Jump forward to now and here I am with a brand spanker, a 2017 plate that has had the benefit of almost two years of improvements. And it shows. 

THIS is the motorcycle I wanted to buy back then.

THIS is a special and magnificent beast.

Ok, it's still the same bike it was in 2015 in that is a sports-tourer that has the most incredible engine that inhabits the most amazing sports motorcycle available today.

Yeah I like it that much.


So why? Grab the popcorn, I can't shut myself up.

Overall First Impressions

From the moment you buzz that button you can tell something special awaits you.

This engine graces three BMW motorcycles, all tuned and mapped differently for different rides - the S1000R a naked weapon with the tuning tweaked for mid range punch, the S1000RR with the tuning tweaked for serious top end madness, and the S1000XR with the tuning somewhere in the middle - the best of both worlds I'm guessing!

Anyway, being somewhat familiar with it I feel instantly comfortable - big wide bars, nice upright seating position, zero lean angle, comfy fat ass seat that seems to lock you in place more than my GS (I have added a Sargent World Comfort Seat to mine so it's really wide and extra comfy).

The XR definitely pushes you forward more and it also allows less free movement on the seat forward and back than the GS, but its a sport tourer so it works. I feel immediately connected and I barely need to change the mirrors or adjust anything before I'm disengaging the clutch and rolling out the drive from the shop. That's the first thing I notice, the clutch feels heavier. It's a cable so there is no hydraulic assistance. No biggie.

The engine is completely strange to me however. It's high revving silky smooth power spinning up completely differently to my big twin. I feel for it while clicking through the gears with the quick shifter, momentarily forgetting that it does both up and down for me without the clutch,  and I'm a little out of sorts. I can't work out where to release the clutch and with how much throttle.

I tip in to a big right hander ready for the torque to lift me back up as it would on the GS but it isn't there. I'm in the wrong gear and the revs are to low so it kinda burbles a bit sluggishly up into the revs, as I feed it more guts.

It doesn't take much input to steer this bike. It's big in size visually, but the size completely disappears when you are moving and it feels light and nimble and despite my initial fumblings it is very easy to ride.

I adjust quickly and start feeding more berries, and the big read beast responds agreeably. It seems to be egging me on but it feels grumpy and a bit sluggish so at the next set of lights I start flicking buttons to see where I am at and KAPOW - there it is, the damn thing was set to Road mode cutting the power to 100hp or thereabouts and mapping the throttle to a more gradual dial than my snap happy wrists wants.

Punch in Dynamic Mode, flick the button up and we are away, in full power mode.

Just quickly before I get to that exciting moment, I must add that there is a chip available that unleashes even more power - up around 180bhp I believe but they aren't allowed to include that in a demo bike. Bugger.

Never mind, Dynamic Mode engaged, and 150bhp is all I need to start smiling like a man possessed. All of a sudden dropping the clutch and rolling on a nice smooth amount of throttle and we are seriously moving.

I shift quickly, 2nd, blip, 3rd, blip, 4th and in a few seconds I am sailing straight past 60kmhr leaving everyone in my wake at the lights and seriously questioning whether my license can handle this kind of crazy.

I try it again a few times and find the short, sharp quick shifts into 4th at about 3,500rpms to be the sweet spot for city traffic, and it is glorious.

I PHWOOOOONG my way out of the city like a lunatic possessed and onto some 100km roads, out of some merge lanes into the urban jungle with gusto, and I am starting to really feel the immense power of this bike and my god is there oodles of it.

I do my exit merge, enter merge double back onto the freeway, big long sweeping right hander followed by a big long sweeping right hander and I am amazed at just how easy it is to ride. Fast.

Roll-ons in fourth are ridiculous. High revs in 2nd are insane, lofting the front wheel easily with sheer power - it's like nothing I have ever ridden before. No effort required.

I head out into some tight twisties that wind down hill quite nicely and then pull up hard after a creek and a rise even more nicely - quite a well known spot in the biker fraternity for erm... going fast.

I'm super surprised again by how little effort it takes to point the big girl into a 45km corner and wrap it on out again. It literally does it all for you, you barely even have to tip, you just sort of look and lean a bit and feed the throttle appropriately, madly if you prefer secure in the knowledge that some state of the art traction control will help pull you back in line if need be.

I didn't have the time, space, place or right mindset to do any sort of top speed test but I can tell from my experience this bike would be quite comfortable in the high twos.


Enough said.

The Good

The quick shifter on this bike works better than the R1200GS, part of me wonders if that is because of the engine being an inline four offers a smoother, linear torque than the big twin, so it just clicks together easier, or it could simply be better now, after a few more years tweaking.

The engine is insane. It revs beautifully with an instant snappy throttle response that combines with an incredible mid range - and once it gets up to 8k RPMs the magic starts to happen. There is something going on up high in the revs that is just so intoxicating, license shredding-ly intoxicating, yet it feels safe and controlled.

Everything is easy to access, the controls, the bars, the pegs, the brakes, everything is just where I want it to be and I love that. If I had to be picky I'd probably rotate either the bars or the switch blocks and levers a little further back towards me, just because that's how I like it and we are talking millimetres of personal preference - making a bike fit me is important to me, not something that is at fault with the design.

With three ride modes on offer, Road, Rain and Dynamic  at the push of a button(and Dynamic Pro with the addition of a chip), selecting a Ride Mode is easy. Punch it in and shift up a gear - voila, you're done.

The brakes are so damn sharp I had to adjust my naturally ham fisted approach to ABS braking. They're actually just a tad too sharp for me and I couldn't quite get it right on my one day ride, I kept punching it too hard resulting in skippy the kangaroo style stopping.

I'm so used to the GS and para lever front ends now that the old telescopic fork approach and really touchy front brakes feels strange to me. But I've only just started feeling this comfy on the GS recently, so it does take me a while to really get settled into a bike (like a year or more lol!).

Maybe I just need more time to adjust.

<-h2>Handling 

The handling of the big XR is sublime. It takes very little steering input to get this bike going where you want to go. The suspension is managed electronically and dynamically at the push of a button.

Unlike the GS which has more of a preset approach, the XR seems to work best just left to do its business in Dynamic mode. I find it really hard to comment on small changes in dynamic suspension, I think it's a fine line between some of the settings when you don't really know how to adjust your own compression damping.

That said, it just floats along like a marshmallow unicorn, as comfortable as any bike available until you start to give it the beans.

It stiffens up in all the right conditions and blimey, I don't know what else to say but job done.

The electronics

So many electronics... so many gadgets.. so much goodness!

There's the electronic engine management system with it's push button modes that not only control and change HP output but maps the throttle response accordingly, then there is the Shift Assist Pro a little piece of wizardry that I have already mentioned that electronically shifts for you without using the clutch.

The dash is a piece of art. I mean, just look at it.


The luminescent white on the main dial is artful at day, and something else to behold at night.


There is a big Shift light just like on the S1R and the various standard dash bits and pieces including Tacho, Speedo, Trip meter, Fuel gauge, Ride Modes etc. It's all well placed, thought out and functional. I couldn't find some of the additional things I have on the GS such as external temperature or tyre pressure sensors but then I am a little spoilt when it comes to the GS :0)

Perhaps I just didn't spend enough time with the dash to really find the bits and pieces I am sure are there (maybe not tyre pressure sensors?). There is a whole other section for race times but I'm not quite sure what you'd do with that? 

The Bad

What's possibly bad about this bike?

Truth be known, not much really.

And what I am about to outline fades into insignificance the minute you take off. But I'm picking here, or being picky, so...

It's way too easy to ride way too fast.

The end.

The Ugly

Ok, so there is a bit of ugly to talk about.

The plastics for example, specifically the faux carbon bits that seem to adorn the sides. I am not quite sure why they made it through R&D phase to still look so ugly when it is really obvious, but there it is.

I also see the same ugly in the sub frame. A cheap looking square tube that grates on me, I just don't like it. Technically it's called the aluminium composite bridge frame, but to me it looks like an afterthought. Why not stick with the sleek looking tubular frame of an R nine T?

The luggage. Ugh.

I hate luggage period. I resisted with all my other bikes, even opting for a Kriega 30L roll-up on the Multistrada over their horrid shiny boxes and I don't really even like the GS luggage I got it anyway, I went for the Vario cases because they do the magic shrink and expand thing, and by losing my pillion seat and flipping the top box around backwards I can live with it's lessened ugly. If I have a longer interstate trip on, then and only then I might put the side cases on.

The XR also has those flash glossy looking cases that are too ostentatious for my liking. Slick they might be, practical they could be, usable I am sure they are, but like them I do not. I can't change what I do and don't like, but maybe I could learn to live with it? 

The key. It has a key.

I have become so used to the idea of a fob that acts wirelessly within a short range of the bike and I really like it.

Even after such dilemma with losing one for the Multistrada... sticking a key back in the ignition seems redundant, and the position of this one is central to the bars, and kind of recessed beneath the centre position, which I found just a bit fiddly to easily insert and remove.

Meh. No biggie.

The wrap

This is one-hell-of-a-fucking-gorgeous motorcycle, there I said it. Even with my niggling pathetic complaints nothing distracts long enough from the overall experience that is just something sensational.

If you like literbike performance but enjoy sitting up straight with some nice big wide bars and an unimpeded view of the world then you simply can't ignore this motorcycle.

It's big, comfy, has power oozing from every pore of its being and being BMW it carries that feeling of being something extra special.

It handles like its on rails, goes like a mental cut cat and looks like an angry shark on steroids, what's not to like?

The dilemma

In my never ending search for awesome motorcycles, I had all but given up on the big girl and it seems I have made a potential mistake by overlooking it so easily. If you've been following along for some time now you might know that I have been edging toward a new bike for some time now and this just confuses me even more.

I was pretty sold on the idea of the Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled as my intermediate bike, because in my head it went something like this; GS, big bike - Desert Sled,  mid sized bike - Grom, mini bike.


It sounded pretty reasonable in theory but then I realised that, well if I'd saved that much to get the Ducati, I'm not far off getting the XR, and if I'm not that far off getting the XR, what do I really want?

I think Chris from Twitter summed it up well when he said, "my lust for motorcycles drove me crazy years ago". Nothing could be truer right now. So a couple of weeks back when I first started thinking this I started to  widen my considerations and included the idea of getting rid of the Grom and just having two completely awesome motorcycles.... Sounds great right?

Well there are other considerations too.. such as insurance, registration and servicing.

An XR will hit me hard in the pocket for two of those, and servicing well that's just running costs so I can't really take that into account too much, but the Desert Sled, the Urban GS and even a Husqvarna 701 Supermoto I tested recently cost comparatively bugger all to insure compared to the literbike XR with its sporting prowess.


Such is the way of insurance and motorcycles. The faster they go, the more fun they are the more the cost to buy and insure.....

So I'm putting everything on hold for now as next week I am away for 5 weeks in the UK, Spain and Amsterdam (how terrible), and as per usual overseas jaunt I have decided to hire a motorcycle and tour some of Scotland and England while I am there.... which lead me to Rent A Motorcycle in Dalkieth.

Dalkieth is about an hour from where I am staying in Motherwell, just outside of Edinburgh but they have .... wait for it.... an S 1000 XR. YAAAS!!

A couple of emails back and forth with tour manager Amy and I have him booked in for 7 days of blissful pavement bashing around the UK. Now that's exciting and what better way to see if you really like a bike than live with it on tour for a week?

Until next time, take the twisty bit every time.

*This post is in no way endorsed, promoted or supported by BMW.