First Ride

Niall Mackenzie's BMW S1000RR superbike test review

Visordown’s road test editor is also a three times British Superbike Champion. So who better to sample the most eagerly awaited bike of 2009? Niall Mackenzie takes BMW’s S1000 RR to the edge...

Session One

Click to read: BMW S1000RR owners reviews, BMW S1000RR specs and to see the BMW S1000RR image gallery.

Session One

Just sitting on the new BMW S1000RR makes me think of my long-term R6. I’m five-foot eight and it just fits me really well - everything is really light and compact. It’s a pretty amazing piece of packaging, really. Check out the exhaust for proof of that, it’s beautifully neat and tucked away, something some of the Japanese manufacturers should be envious of. Just moving it around on pit lane here at Portmão makes it feels like someone’s nicked the engine. BMW claim a dry weight of 190kgs and I wouldn’t dispute it, they’ve even managed to make that feel less than it is.

The BMW bloke in the pre-ride press conference encouraged us to do the first session in sixth gear at 2,000rpm for a whole lap as a way of demonstrating how smooth and tractable this engine is. Personally I think it was just a way to ensure that none of us did a Casey Stoner on the out lap. Plumbing the depths of my will-power, I did my best to try this technique but it only takes one person to come past me before I revert to type. Once a racer, I s’pose…

But for the few corners where I did muster up enough self control, it really did show up the engine’s super-tractable, electric motor-like torque delivery and flexibility. It reminded me of a big twist-and-go scooter the way you can just roll off the power and roll it back on again. It also makes you realise how smooth and refined the whole transmission is.

The sensation of pared down weight is just as evident when you’re hustling the S1000 RR round a track.  It’s really easy to flick from one bank angle to another – handy at this circuit because one corner just flows into another and high speed direction changes are crucial.

Accuracy is key at Portimão, too. The bike runs massive (biggest in class) 46mm Sachs forks. and steers neutrally with pinpoint precision.

There are four map settings and they set us off for this first session in rain mode which gives 150PS. It doesn’t feel strangled, it’s very rideable, very linear and predictable.When it’s in rain mode the traction control kicks in sooner than normal. It’s so clever. You can open the throttle and it does nothing, The more you pick it up the more it accelerates. It does it so smoothly. It’s also got anti wheelie and it’s brilliant here with high and low speed crests, you can feel the front coming up as the road drops away and the front wheel gradually gets put back down even though the throttle’s still open. It’s mega.

The traction control system uses a gyroscope to monitor lean angle. The other three settings offer less intrusion at greater angles. More of that later. Gotta dash, need to find me a suspension man…

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