BMW S1000RR: Marauder from Munich!

The one-eyed BMW S1000RR is out to redefine modern litre-class superbikes, without reinventing the wheel. Sopan Sharma takes a quick look at the stunning new motorcycle and asks, "Why didn't the Japs think of this before?"

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The world of superbikes has set, sorted niches, built over decades of work and ponderous brand building. The Italians have their fixation with form, where aesthetics and exotica are as important as acceleration and excitement. The Japanese have always focused on getting most from less, something that fits the premise of a sportbike to the T - no wonder then that the Jap 4 have dominated real-world sales since they hit the scene some twenty years back. What about the Germans though? Too uptight to please the loose characters of high performance motorcycling? Or too obsessed with mechanical perfection to be able to deliver the inexpensive heaps of thrills that only a superbike can offer?

Justifiably then, BMW Motorrad, the motorcycle division of the Bayerische Motoren Werke and the sole major German bike maker never quite tried to answer the question in the past. Hyper-sport tourers, enduro-adventurers and manic streetbikes, yes, but never a full blown litre-class track assailer. When the powers that spin the white-and-blue BMW propeller decided to make a bike to unfurl the BMW flag on World Superbike podiums, it had to be an all-new motorcycle that rethought the way modern motorcycles were made, and would portray the German way of doing things the perfect way, costs notwithstanding.





Sounds grand and cliched? That's because as believable as it sounds, that's a lie. Das Motorrad's approach towards the S1000RR was almost incredibly simple, sorted out and minus any sort of ego that a long tradition in sportbike making might bring (hint: Ducati). While considering engine layouts, for instance, twins were completely ruled out thanks to the pain it is to get WSB conquering power out of them with reliability. Inline triples were thought of, but dismissed on account of their heavy counterbalancer weights, and Vee-fours were dropped for their complexity. By the rule of elimination, the only sort of engine left was the sort that Japanese have used for decades to rule racetracks and hearts for years - with four cylinders, all in line. A regular twin spar frame, telescopic forks at the front and a conventional boomerang swingarm at the rear were employed, so was chain drive. With every passing moment of initial development, the S1000RR was looking exactly like the bikes it was setting out to beat. The cheapest way to go fast was being re-employed.



To defeat motorcycles refined over generations of racing championships and thousands of kilometers of track time at first strike needed for something to be done differently. More power, and usable power. The engine of the S1000RR may carry the same layout as its fellow Japanese, but on the inside lies the stuff that helps it churn out an outclassing peak power of 193bhp, at a stratospheric 13,000rpm - with the redline screaming up to 14,200 revs. The peaky, high-pitched nature of the engine is on account of the shortest stroke in the 1000cc category, abare 49.7mm. F1 style finger-followers for the cam reduce the risk of valve float at the high revs too. Smart. Any true-blue track samurai would be proud.





Ask any racer worth his salt though, and he will most likely say that power is no good if it cannot be put down. Yamaha tried the same with the MotoGP influenced cross-plane firing order with the new YZF-R1 - the same bike that led Ben Spies to his stellar season in WSB. Wild wheelies and powerslides may look spectacular, but the end result is a slower lap - and we haven't even started speaking of the ramifications of this sort of hooliganism on real world streets. In came the smartest electronics yet on a streetbike to not just control the power at the peak by cutting ignition off, but by taming it through the powerband. The subduing and harnessing of power on the S1000RR begins from the variable length intakes itself, which meter the fuel going into the cylinders. Electronic control also directs peak power depending upon the gears - since a full wallop of 190bhp in second gear will send any bike looping over, full power is obtainable only in the 4th, 5th or 6th gears. An advanced dynamic traction control that judges the amount of power to put down depending on lean angle and ABS brakes contribute to more safety on the street. Add to that selectable ride modes ranging from a 150bhp-restricted rain mode to the full-race-style Slick mode, and you have electronics that will work most unobtrusively, and most delightfully.





The BMW S1000RR is staring the competition squarely in the face. For those who subscribe to the "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday" philosophy, the bike has already started its 2010 WSB campaign in convincing form, finishing in 7th place piloted by Troy Corser - ahead of both the Yamaha R1s. At a retail price much closer to anything else from Europe before however, the true testament of success of the S1000RR will most likely come from the street which ought to make a dent in the Japanese superbike market around the world. Refreshing to see new blood, isn't it?