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BMW S 1000 XR
Fast Bikes

BMW S 1000 XR

Posted Thursday, 21 May 2015   |   3257 views   |   Aviation & Transport   |   Comments (2) BMW bookends the 2015 launch season by releasing the S 1000 XR ‘Adventure Sports’ bike. But have the Germans saved the best for last?

If there’s one machine that we reckon is ripe for complete world domination then it’s this, the new BMW S 1000 XR. A nominally adventure styled bike powered by a missile of a motor could offer absolutely everything to absolutely everyone, sweeping everything before it this side of those triangular signs at tracks saying ‘Warning: Motor Sport Can Be Dangerous’...

With looks and practicality that appeals to the GS brigade, and a powerplant so desired by those of a more enthusiastic bent, BMW should have a sure-fire hit on their hands – so long as they get the execution right. With the second stab of the Multistrada, Ducati has proved that there’s a thirst for this combination of what is, given the decline of the sports tourer sector, essentially a sensible superbike.

The hint of adventure, as offered by the rugged styling of these machines, and taller stance hides very relevant performance as well as upped comfort levels for a clientele whose bodies are weary of pocket rockets – but whose wallets are still juicy and fat.

The XR’s motor comes straight from the S 1000 R, so we’re talking about a 160bhp lump that’s been honed throughout the midrange for a ballistic surge of power. The new can is the biggest change in the metal department, changed so as to make room for the panniers that are likely to be fitted at some stage. The chassis is new; the subframe more substantial and the suspenders now go all the way to the top, befitting the style BMW is aiming for. The other big news is the inclusion of a cornering ABS system (joining the rest of the smorgasbord of electronics), designed to stop the front tucking under braking. So far, the bike is ticking an awful lot of boxes.

But it’s hardly a thing of beauty, is it? Sure, it’s got an interesting shape, and the XR’s tattooed fruit loop of a designer, Andi Martin, has constructed some noteworthy lines, but the class dynamics don’t lend themselves to the catwalk. It looks aggressive from the off, though, and Martin is right when he says of his created shape, “It tells you I’m ready to go.” And after a breakfast and two cups of tar-like Spanish coffee on the terrace of a swanky Barcelona hotel, so am I.

It’s a beautiful day, and we’re heading towards the iconic mountains of Montserrat. I say heading, in truth it’s more like racing, as the infectiousness of the RR derived engine has quickly taken over proceedings. We weaved our way out of town in an orderly enough fashion, thanks largely to the impeccable behaviour of the motor and crsip fuel injection. The bike will pull away in top with a helping hand from the clutch, and in lower gears the fuelling is Teutonically precise, meaning a confident and predictable ride in these urban surrounds.

And until you stop, that could be the last time you use the clutch on any ride. BMW has developed the HP Gear Shift Assist Pro system, meaning that both upshifts and downshifts can be done without you being the one disengaging the engine via the clutch. It takes me a morning to stop my left hand instinctively reaching for the lever, and I was cynical about its inclusion (it’s an optional extra), but by the afternoon I was raving about it; pointlessly shifting up the gears so that I could then pointlessly bang down ’em again. The little blip and burp of overrun only encourages this behaviour more. But there is a serious side to its inclusion, and that’s to let your left hand stay focused on the bar – and given the number of turns we were to face today, we needed all the help we could get.
With the mountains looming large, we turned off the, to now, dull stuff, and headed up high. Of course, gaining height on a road always means corners, and we were soon inundated with turns, offering the XR the chance to shine. To be honest, it takes a little while to shake the lethargy that the bike’s comfort incites. The bike is like an armchair at normal speeds, with a big, soft seat and nice, wide bars, all leading to a laid back easy rider. But there’s no time to relax with a sea of bends before us, and that seat makes it all a bit of a struggle to hang off the bike.

It’s normally at this point that you back off on an adventure bike and suck in the views. But the XR’s ability and infectious engine means the onus is on you to tackle the challenges head on. With the riding mode and ESA suspension settings on their Dynamic level, any lethargy in the suspension (the shock, in particular) evaporates. 17-inch rims, Pirelli Rosso II tyres and a now poised chassis all add to the occasion, meaning you don’t feel compromised in any way. Yes, it feels a big bike, but it’s far from bulky as proved by flicking easily for corners that exit into yet another corner. An out and out sportsbike would be quicker here, but not by much and not with the secure feeling the XR is currently exuding.

Though stymied, through the addition of calmer cams and less aggressive porting from the RR’s engine, the motor still loves to spin. The redline is at 12,000rpm, but the real meat is available from 7,000rpm where the XR surges forward in the pursuit of another arc. This mountain section is all second and third gear turns, and each cog can’t come quick enough – especially when engaged through the ’shifter. Taking a break for a few miles, the bike is still as able just in top, pulling hard and effectively from 3,000rpm without ever bothering the clever cluch tech.

Finding a closed private motorway (well, that’s how it looked to me), some impromptu speed testing found the bike was fast. Really fast. I got the bike up to a GPS reading of 252kph with a little bit more to go. A lot of adventure bikes develop a wobble or weave at silly speeds, nakeds too, but the aerodynamics here are cock on; it’s a solid as the Montserrat rocks themselves and a breeze to pilot thanks to the cossetting ergonomics. What it’s like two-up and with luggage remains to be seen, but this is a stellar start. Here is also a good chance to play with the two position screen. Instead of parking up, or possibly having to get some tools out, the cleverly designed pentangle frame that the screen sits on means that you simply pull it up or push it down. That’s it. Genius. And it works, too, largely because it changes angle when you pull it up, thus deflecting the wind more effectively. There’s a tingle in the rubber pegs at around 9,000rpm, but that’s it for the bitching.

Of course, all this enthusiasm has an effect on the bike’s efficiency, and I rolled into the designated fuel stop with just a solitary kilometre remaining on the range. Although it doesn’t look like it does, it somehow hides 20 litres (2.5 more than the R), and the computer calculated that I was consuming fuel at the rate of 32 miles per gallon. Given the abuse it was dealing with, that’s not bad going, and sure to be better with a less twatish rider...
Speaking of which, on about the 1,282nd corner of the day, I strayed onto some bitumen fixing that they use over here to repair the roads. Just as the front started tucking I cursed the new cornering ABS. This wasn’t supposed to happen. But just as I resigned myself to whatever fate awaited, the Rosso II regained its composure, and as I regained mine I realised that the ABS Pro system wouldn’t have been active here – I wasn’t on the brakes! This system is all new, and reacts to those moments when braking and cornering don’t mix. Here wasn’t the time and place to be trying it, and it’s hard to replicate that cold morning/car pulling out on you situation, but we’ll be trying it out at a proving ground to try and catch it out/see if it works. In the meantime, it’s one of those nice to haves working away in the background.

The other nice to have elements are the Dynamic modes and the ESA suspension system – all available to be switched while on the go. Cough up for these (as over 90 per cent of GS riders and 99 per cent of RR riders do), and you get the bike interfering less or more, depending on the system’s settings. In terms of the ESA, it’s more, as the computer works out on the fly how the suspension should be behaving given the feedback it’s getting. It offers a magic carpet ride on admittedly smooth roads, and on the motorway miles we got under our belts it ensured all stayed relaxed on board.<br><br>As for the Dynamic modes, here you get the switch from the more rudimentary ASC traction control system to the sophisticated DTC package. Add the plug for the Dynamic Pro setting, designed for warm summer days and sticky tyres, and you get hardly any interference from the system as you exit corners; it turns the Wheelie Assistant system off and the ABS right down. There’s the implication that all this makes the XR wild and unrideable, but switching the ABS and TC off for big portions of the ride demonstrated the XR’s inherent manners with no hint of any untoward behaviour (plus this offers the opportunity to wheelie the cock off it...).

Perhaps because of its categorisation, I wasn’t really pushing the front, trying to expose a weakness that tall bikes tend to engender. I wasn’t ten tenths riding, but even at nine and a half the feedback from both ends was all good. Slow switchbacks were where the bike was least confident, but through quick flick-flacks the bike turned quickly and positively, thanks largely to the wide bars and the laws of physics. The softness so desired on long rides is un-ironed out on the Dynamic mode, meaning that you can get on with tacking any arduous task ahead. The electronics prohibit it, but had I been able to fiddle with any more specific settings I wouldn’t have changed a thing.<br><br>

As we neared the end of our 250km ride, that incorporated almost everything (apart from really rough surfaces), my mind raced to ponder what bike I would have rather ridden these roads on. I couldn’t come up with an alternative. This thing is epic. It’s got the power, the poise, the sophistication and the build quality that discerning riders are after – all with a silver lining of hooliganism thrown in for good measure. Perched high, with a fine view of the vistas, but still able to chuck a knee down if so desired, the XR is a Jack of all trades, and master of a fair few, too. Despite all the star-spangled superbikes that have been released this year, the XR has a decent chance of being our new bike of the year if this sort of form continues.

But who is going to buy it? BMW hopes the XR attracts a new breed of customer in the showrooms, no doubt with a nearly new Multistrada to part exchange. But I can see a fair few GS and RR owners being tempted to come in – only for a look, of course. R owners with sore necks will also be sniffing around it. GS owners will find a bike better suited to many, what with its rocketship o

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