Code Break - New Motorcycle Technology - The Future is Now

Up To Speed

I'm going to get my wish. This year at the California Superbike School, students will ride the new BMW S1000RR. While the world around us spouts off about speed being dangerous, you might recall my column about 1000cc bikes being statistically no more dangerous than 600s. Some readers took that to mean "liter-bikes are safer," which I didn't say. What I said was, there is no hard evidence that liter-bike horsepower, or their potential speed, is an easily identifiable cause of crashes. Then, as now, my theory has been the opposite: that riders tend to be intimidated by gobs of power and respect the bike. But theories are only as good as they hold up in reality. So statistically speaking, I'll have the grandest liter-bike vs. 600 experiment ever done on earth under "laboratory" (the tracks we run across America) conditions.

Earlier this year, I rode the new Ducati 1198, Suzuki GSX-R1000 and Yamaha YZF-R1 with the boys here at the mag, and now I've ridden the BMW S1000RR we'll use at the schools. It is impossible not to be impressed with these phenomenal motorcycles. Each has a definite character, each has stunning power and each has its own feel and handling. All have proven themselves in competition, all bring something to the table and none can be ruled out.

As time goes by, big bikes don't feel that big anymore. Pulling one of them off the sidestand isn't substantially different than a 600 of not so long ago. Between your legs, there is an immediate lack of intimidation-with the BMW, more a sense of security-because the weight and feel of liter-bikes is no longer proportionate to power.

Take a Yamaha YZF-R6 weighing in at 417 pounds wet with 109 horsepower and compare the S1000RR at 450 lbs. wet with 193 bhp. A scant 23 lbs. heavier but 2.3 lbs. per bhp compared to 3.8 on the R6. The question of what happens when you roll on the throttle shouldn't need to be asked, but go ahead. One answer is 1000s come away from a stoplight with a feather touch of the throttle. With fewer gear changes and far more linear power, there is no wait time for power. To me, that makes them more manageable than 600s.

Not to shamelessly promote our new bikes, but honestly, if I had been blindfolded and put on the S1000RR, I would not have been able to tell right away if it were a 600, 750 or 1000. The handling is that good and that neutral. I would compare it to a Honda CBR600RR, and that is a very nice bike to ride. It passed my personal test, which is: How many corners does it take for the bike to become less important than the riding; for it to feel like an extension of me; for it to disappear as an object and carry out my wishes? It's a lot to ask of a bike not built just for me, but they are out there and the S1000RR is one of them.

For me, it's all about training riders in their cornering skills. Having bikes that meet those criteria has spiked my excitement levels. Of course, that's all aside from the massive adrenalin wow factor that our students will experience on the straights. For the faint of heart, the answer is in the highly sophisticated electronics these bikes have. We can put the traction control in "rain mode," which limits the engine output and power characteristics to a very mild-mannered machine. Do you see what is becoming available to every street rider now? You can set the dashboard computer to have your bike behave the way you feel, or to comply with the conditions. Power is rising, but so is our control over it. Honda introduced ABS to its CBRs, and now BMW has upped the ante with "Race ABS." So will everyone else.

That is the future. Welcome to it.

Code Break - The Future is Now