Up to Speed: BMW's 2002 R1150R

Boxing naked toward Lukenbach

Nudity is perfectly natural when you've been running around in boxers for 78 years. Still, the 2002 BMW R1150 Roadster shows little evidence of its austere ancestry. Only the headlight and instruments remain from the original R1100R. Starting with a stronger engine and all-new brakes, everything else adds up to a much more forceful presentation of the basic boxer ideal.

Think of the '02 Roadster as an urbane version of BMW's omnivorous R1150GS. The same 1130cc boxer that surfaced in the '00 GS--along with a shorter version of the GS Paralever driveline and its six-speed gearbox--makes a claimed 85 horsepower at 6750 rpm, which is five more than the previous 1085cc version. Revamped Telelever front suspension gets a new control arm and a shock with adjustable rebound damping. Five-spoke cast-aluminum wheels come from the R1100S.

Brakes are BMW's biggest news. The Roadster debuts the sportier "partial" version of BMW's new EVO linked braking as standard equipment and carries the long-awaited electrohydraulic Integral ABS system on its option list. Squeeze the brake lever and EVO cues all three discs: two 320mm front rotors and one 276mm in back. Only the brake pedal, however, actuates the rear disc. Meanwhile, Integral ABS monitors compare and modulate internal brake-line pressure for optimal braking at both ends.

The '02 Roadster's lower handlebar, more-rearset footpegs and 30.3-inch seat height chart comfortably sporty ergonomics if you're under five-foot-eight. Beyond that, the optional taller seat isn't quite tall enough; the R1100R's adjustable seat is absent.

On the bright side, the GS-derived boxer cranks out a steadily escalating torque supply between 3000 and 7000 rpm, with a giddy little rush at 6000 rpm to keep corner exits interesting. Progress through the six-speed gearbox is largely optional but noticeably smoother than with the previous five-speed. An overdrive top cog (standard in the United States but optional in Europe) lets the engine loaf at posted freeway speeds.

Now, punch the speedo needle into triple digits, check the mirrors for slackers and grab a large hand/foot full of brake. Once your eyeballs retreat to their sockets, it's clear that this chunk of technology will take some serious getting used to. While two fingers on the lever simulate an F-14 carrier landing, normal braking is a one-finger thing--wet pavement or dry--with none of the spastic violence BMW's second-generation ABS inflicted when its antilock computer kicked in.

The rest of the 559-pound (wet) package is considerably less surprising. As with the 1100R, steering is light and quick enough to avoid the inevitable bovine cross traffic. New shocks at both ends strike a better balance between comfort and control, and little niceties (such as the miracle of heated grips, an analog clock and a handy knob for on-the-fly rear spring preload adjustments) prove naked needn't mean stripped. A $9990 price tag (add $2200 for Integral ABS) parks the new Roadster right between Ducati's $12,995 S4 Monster and Yamaha's $8499 FZ1--though we doubt the Roadster will be cross-shopped with these nudie bikes. What's more important is that one of BMW's most elemental models has come in for comprehensive improvements and an elegant restyling that fairly shouts, "Let's be naked, it's fun." --Tim Carrithers

Facelift for an old friend
The new profile gets your attention first: a resculpted upper fairing with dual reflector-type headlamps, flanked by standard fog lights. A closer look at the most successful tourer in BMW history reveals five-spoke wheels from the R1100S and new linked-braking hardware with full Integral ABS control. Discreet R1150RT insignia above each 565cc cylinder tag the boxer-in-residence as a new six-speed GS-derived 95-horsepower unit, generating 90 percent of its claimed 74 foot-pounds of torque between 3000 and 6500 rpm.

As a result, there's enough off-idle torque to spin the rear tire on cold pavement. Adjourning to a swath of vehicular chaos Texans call Interstate 35, the new fairing's electrically adjustable windscreen does a much better job of ushering wind around the rider. A final-drive ratio slightly less than the Roadster's (internal transmission ratios are identical) parks the tach needle at 4000 rpm at a smooth 80 mph in overdrive, a.k.a. sixth gear. Drop to fifth gear and twist it. The bigger boxer easily overpowers an R1100RT brought along for perspective.

The full Integral ABS system cues all three discs via lever or pedal. Choose the lever. With practice, you get past its vague initial feel and warm up to the idea of a computer managing the most astonishing set of brakes ever bolted to a touring bike. The pedal turns that braking power on like a switch. Trail braking into corners is no longer an option. The price of all this is $16,290 including ABS III, an adjustable seat and levers, hard bags, and a luggage rack. More power, updated styling and higher-tech brakes...looks like the most popular BMW tourer ever will keep its title.--T.C.

BMW's Integral ABS
Grab the brakes on a 2002 BMW touring rig and it stops, despite white knuckles on the lever, slippery pavement and 279 pounds of Cousin Ida riding shotgun. You get the credit, but Integral ABS did the work, continuously computing the right amount of braking force for each wheel and compensating for the fuel, luggage and people on board.

That makes the pressure modulator housing the ABS's heart and brains a busy place. Inside, a pair of electromagnetic control valves (one for the front wheel and one for the rear) maintain optimal braking pressure when you can't. Once ABS III electronics sense a wheel locking up, the control valve in question cuts hydraulic pressure just enough to keep it moving in less than 80 milliseconds. On rough surfaces such as cobblestones, the computer can cut response time to 50 milliseconds.

Designing ABS function into the control valves themselves creates a nine-pound system (vs. 13 pounds for ABS II and 25 pounds for the first-generation '88 system) that responds more quickly. Additionally, each wheel's brake servo builds hydraulic pressure more quickly, with no creepy pulsing. According to BMW, lever/pedal effort is cut in half compared with ABS II. Sporting BMWs get a partially integrated version of ABS III. The handlebar lever still cues all three calipers, but the foot pedal controls only the rear brake. Even so, ABS III is officially listed as an active safety system, not a performance enhancement. --T.C.