2009 BMW K1300R launch test review

Surely one of the most technically advanced motorcycles on the market, the K1300R is a bike that does its best to do everything, brilliantly. And, quite honestly, pretty much nails it...

Click to read: BMW K1300R owners reviews, BMW K1300R specs and to see the BMW K1300R image gallery.

If you’ve only really been into bikes for the past three years, your perception of BMW is probably exactly as the marketing types in Munich would like it. They have a world stuntriding champion in Chris Pfeiffer, an enduro die-hard in David Knight, a worldwide bestseller in the GS Adventure and a range of bikes that would surely whet the whistle of any biker.

What more would you need to know? Those who have been around a little longer will probably be of the opinion that BMWs are more suited to MPG fanatics and those who are fat in the pocket but a little skinny in character. The 2009 range of K1300s should silence the critics though, and add meat to the bones of a vibrant, forward-thinking BMW skeleton.

For those who have been losing sleep wondering, I can now put your minds to rest by letting you know that, yes, these bikes now have standard Japanese-style indicators. Although don’t turn over now that you know, as there is so much more to these bikes than just a contemporary indicator switch.

The K1200R, that this bike supersedes, was a bit of a white elephant, never really selling in huge numbers as nobody really knew what it was intended for. BMW wanted everyone to know it was the most powerful production naked bike ever produced, and that it definitely was, with 163bhp and 90lb-ft of torque. But it had little else going for it, and at the time seemed to be going against the BMW grain of bikes. The 1293cc 1300R is up 136cc on last year’s model, bringing another 10bhp and 9.6lb-ft of torque with it.

First off, I feel compelled to mention the visuals, or lack thereof. How weird does this thing look? Part GS800, part Severn Bridge, part Patrick Moore. I won’t lie, it looks horrid. Luckily, this bike compensates with a bucket-load of techno function. Of all the changes to the new bike, the choice to change the lower arm on the Duolever suspension at the front from steel to forged alloy feels like one of the biggest improvements. It only equates to a saving of 1kg of unsprung weight, but it transforms the feel of the front end. Where the old one felt wayward, cumbersome and inconsistent when riding fast roads, the new version is the polar opposite. It gives a really stable platform to work off when trying to ride fast.

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K1300R Overall and specs

Turning the bike doesn’t feel as compliant as, say, a Speed Triple or even a B-King, but once the bike is settled in a corner it feels lovely. Getting the line right is still very much up to the rider but the bike will stick to the one you pick to the letter. Changing the throttle midway through a turn doesn’t upset the balance of the bike at all. The R does feel a tad long though: 1,585mm is barge like, a centimetre longer than a Hayabusa, for example. This goes some way to explain the great stability once the bike is in a bend coupled with a slight reluctance to turn in. For that reason I wouldn’t go for the optional sports wheels, which come with a 190/55 tyre, rather than the 180/55 that comes as standard.

BMW have done a cracking job of integrating great features from other bikes in the BMW range into this new machine. The quirky quick shifter I first experienced on the HP2 Sport has found its way onto the accessory list for the K1300R and the S. It works in the same way, allowing the rider to change gear without full throttle or shutting off; just applying a little pressure to the lever is enough. The system worked best if you made the change deliberate but unhurried - not always easy to do at full throttle.

You can also tick the box for the second generation Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA), allowing the rider to adjust the spring rate and preload for either solo or pillion model, all at the push of a button. It performs well, but to be honest in any mode the suspension did an admirable job of putting up with me at all speeds in any mode. The other significant addition is the option of adding BMW’s Anti Slip Control (ASC). Designed as a touring aid rather than a sporting aid, the system cuts power if the rear spins up or if the front wheel lifts. It’s a weird sensation having control taken off you and handed back in measured doses. Have a look at the video on visordown.com for a visual demonstration. It’s a good system, but cuts in a little late. If you were to exit a wet corner and give it a big handful the bike will have stepped out too far for most riders to bring the thing back before the system assumes control. Just remember that this aid isn’t designed to cope with the same stresses as track-focused traction control systems like those found on Ducatis and Kawasakis and you won’t go far wrong.

Riding one stunning piece of fresh Spanish tarmac (even though it was slightly damp in places) was the perfect second and third gear playground. With the longest straight found in the 45km road just 200 metres long, the bike was pushed up and down the rev range constantly. When the chance was there to bang it all the way round to an indicated 10,500-rpm red line the bike really flew. It wasn’t as much of a sensory overload as a B-King, but it is faster in a straight line than any other streetbike. The feeling of moving a lot of mass that you get on the other two models just wasn’t there. It felt light and very thrashable, emitting the closest sound to a rally spec MK2 Ford Escort this side of, well, a MK2 Escort. Especially when changing up on full throttle with the quickshifter cutting the spark just long enough to dump a lungful of unburnt fuel into the exhaust, a real treat to hear.

This bike will do a genuine 160mph and generates more power than a Ducati 1098S. But ride it sensibly and you’ll achieve fuel economy that would keep the wallet watchers out there happy. This won’t be an easy sell to the old-school BMW rider. But then, this isn’t an old-school BMW...


Price: £9,500
Engine: Liquid cooled, 16 valve, inline four, 1,293cc
Power: 173bhp @ 9,250rpm
Torque: 103 ft.lb @ 8,250rpm
Front suspension: BMW Duolever
Rear suspension: BMW Paralever
Front brake: 320mm discs, four piston calipers
Rear brake: Single 265mm disc, two piston caliper
Dry weight: 217kg
Seat height: 820mm
Fuel capacity: 19 Litres
Top speed: 165mph
Colours: Silk metallic, Lava Orange and Light Grey Metallic

Visordown rating: 4/5