2012 BMW S1000RR | First Ride

More Than Skin Deep

Step one: Activate heated grips," says Nate Kern, BMW's official "track liaison," to begin our pre-ride briefing. Kern isn't kidding: It is chilly at Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain, and the S1000RR now offers optional heated handgrips. This is a BMW, after all! Toasty fingers aside, there's no confusing this superbike with the German manufacturer's other, more touring-oriented offerings. This was already one of the most effective pieces of sporting artillery from any manufacturer. Now a comprehensive facelift makes it even more potent.

BMW didn’t need to update the S1000RR. It was already the most powerful production motorcycle available, and one of the bestselling, too: 24 percent of all sportbikes sold worldwide in 2010 were S1000RRs. But just two years after its debut, the model has been given a significant revision. The awesome, 193-horsepower engine is unchanged, though electronic reprogramming makes power delivery punchier at low and mid rpm, while numerous chassis changes driven by two seasons of racing make the bike more agile and responsive. These changes are subtle—evolution, not revolution—but significant in number, and address all our criticisms of the first-generation machine.

The S1000RR still offers four drive modes—a reduced-power Rain mode (now increased from 152 to 163 bhp), plus full-power Sport, Race and Slick modes. The throttle-response curve has been recalibrated for more immediacy in all three full-power modes, and the power curve has been boosted for stronger acceleration in Race and Slick. A lighter throttle spring and new, quick-turn twistgrip make engine response feel more direct, while a larger air intake and longer velocity stacks, along with a redesigned exhaust, produce a slight torque increase between 5000 and 7500 rpm.

Added midrange power, coupled with a larger, 45-tooth rear sprocket make the already über-strong RR rocket off corners even harder than before. The Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) has been retuned to allow more slip in Race and Slick modes, softening electronic intervention and actually making the bike easier to ride at an elevated pace. Wheelie control has also been altered to activate more gently, addressing a major annoyance on the old bike. This is improved but still somewhat abrupt, even in Race mode—a newly available Race Calibration Kit that allows fine-tuning of all DTC parameters, including wheelie control, is worth investigating.

Choosing Slick mode deactivates wheelie control, rear-wheel ABS and now also eliminates overrun fuel cut-off to minimize engine braking. Sport and even Race modes can seem like all intervention all the time, as the electronics strain to rein in this beast. Slick mode, on the other hand, unleashes der Monstrum's full force. The bike now spins and slides frequently, stressing even the excellent Metzeler Racetec K3 tires, with DTC intervening only at near-heroic slip angles. It wheelies everywhere, too, but flat torque and flawless throttle response make these so manageable that the wheelie nanny seems unneeded. It's a thrilling, Dial-a-Slide ride, especially along Valencia's deceptive final "straight"—actually a long, knee-down, fourth-gear, constant-radius left-hander. This is exactly how we want DTC to operate.

Valencia’s tricky final turn—a downhill, decreasing-radius hook—spotlights the chassis improvements. Considered separately, these tweaks seem inconsequential: Rake was reduced by .1-degree. Trail was increased by 2.6mm. The wheelbase is 9.3mm shorter. Longer fork legs raise the front 5mm. And the swingarm pivot is 4mm higher. As a result, the bike is shorter with a higher center of gravity to improve turn-in and less tendency to squat under acceleration. The first-gen’s sluggish steering and reluctance to finish corners has been banished without sacrificing stability. The 2012 stocker handles as well as our 2011 long-term testbike after nearly $2500 in suspension mods.

New springs front and rear offer a wider range of useful adjustment. Fork valving has been recalibrated to make the compression circuit more responsive, and the shock gets a larger, 18mm piston to speed up compression reaction. The shock also gets new needle geometry on the compression and rebound valves for more linear response, and a new check valve keeps rebound and compression adjustments from influencing one another. A new adjustable steering damper, now offering 10 levels of resistance, completes the chassis upgrades.

Instrumentation has been optimized with a more legible tach face and dimmable LCD display. Our favorite new feature is the Best Lap in Progress (BLP) indicator, a green lamp that glows whenever the integrated, GPS-enabled lap-timer records a faster segment time than any previous lap (sampled every 100 meters). Never throw away another lap! Even cooler—but optional—is a USB-equipped Race Data-logger that lets you compare corner speed, rpm, lean angle, brake pressure and too much other data to mention lap-by-lap.

And did we mention heated grips? The most potent superbike on the planet is now the most posh, too. Bravo, BMW!

tech Spec

BMW's second-gen superbike gets more responsive chassis geometry and more aggressive engine programming.
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Price na
Engine type l-c inline-four
Valve train DOHC, 16v
Displacement 999cc
Bore x stroke 80.0 x 49.7mm
Compression 13.0:1
Fuel system EFI
Clutch Wet, multi-plate slipper
Transmission 6-speed
Claimed horsepower 193 bhp @ 13,000 rpm
Claimed torque 82.6 lb.-ft. @ 9750 rpm
Frame Aluminum twin-spar
Front suspension Sachs 46mm fork with adjustable spring preload, high/low-speed compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension Sachs shock with adjustable spring preload, high/low-speed compression and rebound damping
Front brake Dual Brembo Monobloc four-piston calipers, 320mm discs with optional ABS
Rear brake Brembo one-piston caliper, 220mm disc with optional ABS
Front tire 120/70ZR-17 Metzeler Racetec K3
Rear tire 190/55ZR-17 Metzeler Racetec K3
Rake/trail 24.0°/3.9 in.
Seat height 32.3 in.
Wheelbase 56.0 in.
Fuel capacity 4.6 gal.
Claimed curb weight 449 lbs. (454 lbs. with ABS)
Color Racing Red/Alpine White, Bluefire, Sapphire Black Metallic, Motorsport red/white/blue
Available Now
Warranty 36 mo., 36,000 mi.
Contact BMW of North America P.O. Box 1227 Westwood, NJ 07575 800.831.1117 www.bmwmotorcycles.com
Verdict 4.5 out of 5 stars

Still ungodly fast, now with less-invasive electronics and more intuitive handling.

They say: The ultimate RRiding machine.
We say: "Significantly RRefined.
The S1000RR's bodywork has been “edited” for 2012. The tail section is slimmer, the asymmetric sidepanels are simplified and larger winglets re-route air around the nose.
A featherweight upper triple clamp grips updated fork legs featuring a revised shim stack and new “mid-speed” valving to deliver better compression response.
BMW-specific Brembo radial-mount brakes are still the strongest on the market. Race-grade ABS makes all that stopping power easy to exploit.