BMW HP4: Niall Mackenzie's verdict

Three-time BSB champ swaps S1000RR for HP4

Like most Superbike fans I have been reading with interest how technically clever the BMW HP4 is and how incredible it is to ride.  And when it was launched last year I had every reason to believe the hype because I’ve covered many miles on standard S1000RRs and they delivered everything BMW claimed they would on the box.

That said, I have learnt from past experience not always to take manufacturers claims as complete gospel.  One example for me was the 2009 Yamaha R1. It looked fantastic, sounded awesome but contrary to what I was told at the Eastern Creek launch presentation it didn’t deliver seamless, smooth power from its clever crossplane crank motor.  After a few warm up laps at this familiar circuit I found myself spinning up and sliding around as I tried to control the rush of torque and mid range power that was anything but linear. 

After the presentation I had been under the illusion that I could do anything at any time with the throttle and never get in trouble. 

The cross-plane model R1 is actually a brilliant bike and great fun to ride but effective round a race track in standard trim it is not.

In 2009 it had a round one spike of success in British Superstock racing but since that day they all but disappeared from the grid in a class that always favours the best standard bikes.   

So back to the HP4 and with the 2009 cynic in me still lurking I had no pre set expectations.  Embarrassingly, I got off to a bad start after sitting on the bike and commenting the suspension felt ‘a bit hard’. 

I soon found out this solid feeling immediately disappears when the ignition is turned on and the electronics are brought to life.  Straight away I noticed the engine has a nicer growly, burble than the standard S1000RR so first impressions were good.  

Heading out onto the Silverstone circuit in 'Slick Mode' the HP4 immediately felt light and nimble and this continued as I built up my pace particularly through the lower speed chicanes and hairpins.  Without logging over most of the lap it is difficult to tell what the fully active suspension is doing and when it is doing it but it certainly inspires seat of the pants confidence. 

The only time I could tell something was going on was during braking.  The initial feel when the brakes are applied is gentle weight transfer but when you begin to pull hard the front support increases rapidly to compensate.  This felt weird but I was loving how late I could brake at the end of the Hanger and Wellington straights without any fear of forks bottoming out. 

I was nowhere near race pace so although the braking part was good I’m not sure how the suspension would cope while turning in still hard on the brakes when the rider needs full control of what is going on.  The HP4 also felt super stable through the high speed Maggots/Becketts sections, however, the traction control might have needed some fine tuning as I was having some high speed rear end twitches over a damp patch heading out through the mega fast Chapel left hander. 

It comes a a price (£16700) but over a lap the HP4 felt more rapid, delivered better rider feedback and was physically less tiring than most bikes I’ve ridden on the Silverstone GP Arena circuit.  The old cynic in me didn’t expect the HP4 to sound better, feel more rapid or out handle the standard S1000RR.  It did and now I want to ride it more, lots more!