THE S1000XR IS ABOUT AS MUCH FUN AS YOU CAN CRAM INTO A SINGLE MOTORCYCLE
When the BMW S1000RR first broke cover in 2009, no one could have predicted the versatility the platform would bring to BMW's two-wheeled division.
Now in 2016, we have three distinct S1000 variants using the same 999cc inline 4-cylinder heart, but each with a different soul.
Though you can ride the S1000RR (RR) on long journeys, no one can say that it is comfortable for the purpose. With that in mind, BMW brought out the S1000XR in 2015 to use the powerful engine from the RR, and put sport in the sport tourer category.
The engine remains the same in terms of layout as the RR, but on the inside a few things have changed to make the motor more street-friendly. Bore and stroke remain the same as the superbike, but the compression ratio has been dropped from 13:1 to 12:1, and, with a few other internal alterations, the S1000XR puts out 28kW less than the hard-core RR, now 118kW at 11,000 rpm.
But make no mistake, this bike is still a missile on the street.
Up front the brakes are the same as the RR, with twin 320mm discs with floating 4-piston calipers, but in the rear the brakes have been upgraded to a 265mm disc clasped by a 2-piston caliper. This is to help with the heavier 24 kilos the S1000XR (XR) carries over the RR, but is also needed because of the pillion and luggage-carrying capacity this bike has.
With long-range touring in mind, BMW made sure the XR was ready to take on the other hi-tech bikes in the segment (I'm talking mostly Ducati's Multistrada here). Apart from the huge 20-litre fuel tank, which gives a range of well over 250km, everything you could want is at the touch of a button on either side of the wide handlebars. At the left hand you have controls for the cruise control, ABS, traction control, and most importantly for the tourer, the switch for BMW's electronically controlled suspension system.
This switch gives the rider the option to alter the suspension settings between solo riding, solo riding with luggage, riding with a pillion, and riding with a pillion and luggage. This means there's no confusing fiddling around with screwdrivers to set the suspension up for your ride of the day.
One area that felt like an oversight however, was the clutch lever. Whereas the brake lever is adjustable for span, the clutch isn't and is positioned just a little too far away for comfortable use. I found it most difficult to use when trying to perform tight right-hand turns when my average length fingers struggled to keep the clutch under control. It's a good thing the XR comes with an excellent quick-shifter that can shift both up and down, essentially making the clutch necessary for moving off from a stop.
Despite the massive radiator residing behind the 17" front wheel, in typical Auckland traffic the XR does get hot without constant air flowing over it.
I saw a peak of 103 degrees on the digital temp gauge, while it normally sits at around 75 degrees on the open road. You can feel that 28-degree difference on your legs.
But the city isn't where this bike was destined to spend most of its time. The highway and backroads are where you can make the most of what this bike has to offer. And man, does it deliver.
Setting the six-speed gearbox in top gear gets the engine humming along just over 4000rpm on the motorway. There is a slight vibration noticeable through the handlebars, which I imagine could become tiresome on longer trips. That said, it's hardly noticeable in the twisties when you're hanging off the side with a massive smile on your face. Pinning the throttle slingshots the bike forward at a rapid pace with the bright shift light mounted above the analog tachometer letting you know when to upshift.
Surprisingly for a big bike, the XR is nimble. Between the electronic suspension and the wide handlebars you can carve corners. Depending on which of the three rider modes you punch in the throttle delivers the power to suit. Rain dampens throttle delivery to a much softer level than either Road or Dynamic, but if you switch off the traction control it is still more than enough grunt to lift the front wheel no matter which rider mode you're in.
Keep the TCS on and the XR lives up to the S1000 name. It's mindblowingly quick. This bike has got more than what it takes to be fast enough on the road, with the technology to back it up.
With a huge range of optional accessories backing up the XR's impressive factory spec (BMW-Motorrad NZ spec all their bikes to the nines from factory) you can essentially tailor the XR for any situation. Want a track bike? Chuck some grippy tyres on and away you go. Want a tourer? There are multiple luggage options to take all of his and hers travel kit away for the weekend as well as BMW's Navigation kit that clips into the cockpit right above the dash.
I haven't even touched on the adjustable windscreen and heated hand grips the bike is already spec'd with. The S1000XR is one hell of a versatile machine for the $29,990 asking price.
BMW S1000XR PRICE: $29,990 + On roads ENGINE: 999cc S1000RR derived 4-cylinder POWER: 118kW/112Nm PROS:Endurance, slick electronics, fun factor CONS: Non-adjustable clutch lever, vibration at 100km/h