2009 Most Important...BMW K1300R

Not many bikes manage to change people’s perceptions of an entire factory. But BMW engineered a seismic shift in attitude with this big-inch brute, the machine that put the tonic into Teutonic. Believe

Why’s it so important?

Only around five years ago there was a real sense of ‘us and them’ when it came to BMW riders. Groups of sportsbike riding mates swarmed through the bends like an escaped World Superbike grid, clad in race leathers and garish helmet designs. The BMW faithful pottered along in textiles and flip-fronts, mindfully watching their speeds, exercising good sense and advanced riding techniques.

The usual comrades-in-arms nod of the head shared between most riders seldom passed between these two motorcycling cliques. But then BMW discovered the fountain of youth and let it piss all over their design department so attracting a whole new clientele with an impressively fresh range of motorcycles.

Unconventional to the last, the K1300R is as quirky as they come. The much-maligned Telelever/Paralever suspension finally evolving into a system that offers a rider feel instead of guesswork. The dry sump, canted-forward motor receiving the simplest of tuning mods – bored out from 1200 to 1300cc with a whole host of electrickery including a quickshifter and traction control. Direct performance enhancements offsetting typical Beemer super-sensible stuff, like ABS and the de rigueur heated grips.

There’s a new twinkle in the K1300R’s asymmetric stare, a wild side that, dare we say it, borders on pure hooliganism with this, the most muscular of muscle bikes.

Along with many of the BMW new breed, the K1300R has bridged that gap between motorcycle riders and BMW riders, removing the terrible stigma attached to the older generation machinery. While cleverly opening the marque up to a fresher, younger audience. Removing people’s preconceptions is never easy – but in 2009 BMW has convincingly done exactly that.

And what’s it like to ride?

There’s no escaping the fact BMW weren’t too worried about class-leading weight and dimensions when they designed the K-series. The K1300R is a big bike and for smaller riders quite intimidating, initially at least.

Once you get going though, the weight is hidden pretty well with a low centre of gravity making the bike feel well balanced and as easy to ride slowly in town as it is hammering down the motorway. The tiny screen deflects wind-blast surprisingly well over and around the rider. As long as the rider isn’t seven feet tall or the same again wide.

It even won our big naked test earlier this year. Up against stiff competition from Ducati, Honda and Triumph we discovered a side to the BMW that had us all more than a little surprised. On the fast sweeping roads of the South Downs, the BMW was in its element. Where we thought the lighter, quicker steering bikes would have an edge, the K1300R’s sheer refusal to be compromised by bumps and knackered road surfaces was more than a revelation.

Switch the slightly intrusive traction control off (brilliant in the wet, nothing short of annoying in the dry) and simply focus on joining the dots rather than worrying about being kicked out of the seat or being sent into a thumb-wrecking tankslapper and the BMW’s weight and weirdness starts to make a lot of sense.

Carrying high corner speed does take some getting used to though. Despite fairly decent ground clearance, getting the big German right on its ear never feels too natural and there’s always a sense that something quite catastrophic is about to happen – while the telelever front-end has come a long way, there’s still a nagging lack of feel compared to conventional forks – squaring the corners and using that power-laden lump is most definitely the safest option.

And that motor is nothing short of brilliant. Super smooth in its delivery, a real Jekyll and Hyde character lies just a short yank of the twistgrip away, morphing from gentle, lazy torque monster into a demonic, wailing, neck-straining banshee that even legally-silenced sounds more like a World Championship rally car than any motorcycle ever built.

It’s got personality at long last, albeit a split one. BMW has managed to retain enough practicalities to keep the diehards happy while injecting a brand new sense of mischief.

Five years ago I just wouldn’t have believed that on a warm, sunny day in August, I’d be wheelying and generally hooning a BMW across southern England, giggling into my Arai as I held the throttle pinned, swapping ratios via a quickshifter. Well I did and now I’m a believer. Pass me the Gore-Tex dungarees please.

Rating: 4/5

  • FOR: Ridiculous engine, top noise and comfy ride
  • AGAINST: Weird feel on limit, physically huge and take it or leave it looks

2009 BMW K1300R Specs

Price: £9,745
Top speed: 165 mph
Engine: 1293cc, 16 valves, liquid-cooled, in-line four
Bore and stroke: 80mm x 64.3mm
Compression ratio: 13:1
Power: 173bhp @ 9,250rpm
Torque: 103ft/lbs @ 8,250rpm
Front suspension: BMW Duolever
Adjustment: BMW ESA II (optional)
Rear suspension: BMW Paralever
Adjustment: Preload & rebound or BMW ESA II (op)
Front brakes: Four-piston calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake: Twin-piston caliper, 265mm disc
Dry weight: 217kg (478lbs)
Seat height: 820mm
Fuel capacity: 19 litres
Colour options: Silk/Lava Orange/Light Grey