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2015 S 1000 RR: First Look

Friday, May 1, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Neale Bayly #196896
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2015 BMW S 1000 RR launch

Photos by Kevin Wing

In late 2009, BMW shocked the world with the release of the new S 1000 RR in Portugal. A clean sheet design, it was an incredible achievement to come out of the box with a world-beating superbike, especially as it arrived at a time when most manufacturers were upgrading their superbikes almost yearly. Over the past five years, the BMW S 1000 RR has remained the class of the field. Its advanced electronics package, allied to its superior power to weight ratio and handing package have won it more shootouts, comparison tests, and accolades than any other motorcycle in this class. So when I got the invite to ride the new 2015 S 1000 RR at the Circuit of The Americas, and learned BMW had made some serious improvements to the beast, my bag was packed a day early for the test.

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Hitting the starter button and heading onto a racetrack I don't know on a 200 horsepower motorcycle I've not ridden before could make for some levels of intimidation. Not so on the new S 1000 RR.  I simply adjusted the engine's power map to sport mode, slipped the bike into gear, and took off to learn the track. BMW claims a six horsepower increase this year, with increased torque around the 5,000-rpm mark. This has been achieved by fine-tuning the cylinder head and intake system and reshaping the intake and exhaust ports, updating the intake camshaft profile, and by removing weight from the valves and springs. Velocity stacks are shorter, although still variable, and the engine is now even more efficient at ingesting and digesting fuel and air, as well as doing a better job of expelling burned gasses through a new exhaust system.

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The latter has a newly shaped twin-pipe design with no canister under the engine this year. Resulting in lower backpressure and more torque in the mid-range, this new system is also a substantial 6.6 pounds lighter. The canister is still very large, especially when compared to an aftermarket unit. But what it loses in size and looks it certainly makes up for in sound, as it seems substantially louder that most stock systems found on modern superbikes.

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Riding position is very neutral and certainly not as extreme as you might expect from a fire-breathing superbike. Short-shifting through the gears, the changes to the bike's chassis geometry instantly make it feel lighter and quicker steering than its predecessor. This is partly achieved by increasing ride height in the front and rear with a combination of increased preload, a longer shock body, and stiffer springs on the DDC model. Frame rigidity is also increased, while rake and trail have been changed to 23.5 degrees and 95mm. This equates to half a degree less rake, and 1.5mm less trail, which when added to a 3mm lower swingarm pivot, gives the new S 1000 RR more rear grip and better front end feel. The bottom line of all these revisions? The bike changes direction with such minimal effort that we'll hear plenty of clichés flying around about how it feels more like a 600cc Supersport than a 1,000cc Superbike.

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Big news for 2015 is the auto-blip technology. I've experienced this before when I rode Valentino Rossi's Moto GP bikes, but never on a production motorcycle, and I have to say it's incredible. Entering a corner at speed, you simply downshift without the clutch, and the electronics blip the throttle to match the engine and rear wheel speed. Add in the assistance of the slipper clutch, and you make the perfect down shift every time. I heard a couple of the faster journalists talking about missed shifts, but in four sessions I didn't have it happen once. Allowing more of your grey matter to focus on the upcoming corner, this new system is going to save valuable time when you are making fast laps. I had a front row seat to see how well the system works when my test bike's GP shift pattern resulted in a mistaken shift from second to first (instead of third) It thankfully saved me from a very unpleasant experience without any drama. There is no need to use the clutch when up shifting either. Like the previous model, you just keep the throttle pinned and tap the lever.

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Another nice feature of the 2015 S 1000 RR is the gear position indicator, and the easy to read gauges have only received minor updates this year. There is a digital speedometer and a nice, large analogue tachometer to keep track of the engine's progress. A white shift light helps you shift at the optimum point on full acceleration, and a yellow light on the other side lets you know when the traction control is working. The level of sophistication available with all the lean angle, lap time, and other technical information will require some quiet time with a cup of coffee and the owner's manual to fully understand all the BMW can do for you.

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Another area where the new 2015 BMW S 1000 RR will eliminate drama is under heavy braking. Here the DDC (Dynamic Damping Control) keeps the bike so stable that you can brake as late as you dare. Also knowing that the racing ABS is there to further help if you squeeze the lever a tad too hard, you can push your limits with confidence. The brakes themselves are stronger than I will ever need. Entering turn one up the hill at COTA from over 170 mph, the forces generated by the Brembo two-piece, four piston calipers were enough to knock the air out of my lungs as the bike dug down into the tarmac. Super sticky Pirelli race tires kept us glued to the track throughout the day, and pitching into a tight left-hander allowed me to marvel at the front suspension, as the bike tracks evenly and smoothly through the turn.

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Flicking the bike side to side through the flowing corners that follow turn three, it's incredible how easily the new S 1000 RR transitions from full lean to full lean on the opposite side with such low effort. As the day continued and I pushed harder, the bike just felt more composed and was probably laughing at my attempts to cut a fast lap. For me personally, the BMW is absolutely the best track tool available, and one of the many reasons is the mental buffer it gives me. No matter how hard I ride, the bike always has so much in reserve.

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Thinking of the brain as a computer, it's no coincidence BMW brought Keith Code out to the launch to join us. His school uses BMW S 1000 RR's exclusively, and since converting his fleet, the number of student accidents has been drastically reduced. In Keith's best-selling books he talks about our dollar of attention on the racetrack. These days we might think memory or hard drive space. What the electronics on the S 1000 RR do is free up space on your drives or give you money back on your dollar. This adds up to a safer experience for the user, which is not a bad thing when the bike is also the fastest, or one of the fastest, Superbikes ever made.

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The S 1000 RR is equally impressive exiting corners, and here all I had to do was learn to trust the electronics. After decades of using my right hand for traction control, it took a while to get comfortable trusting that the DTC (Dynamic Traction Control) would let me pin the throttle and take care of any wheel spin or wheelies. I think it would take a few more track days to fully let go and let it do its thing. This was an area I couldn't free up as much of Uncle Keith's dollar as I should have. As many times as I told myself to let go and trust the electronics I was still managing wheel spin and wheelies with my right hand. Maybe more laps, more seat time, or more coaching would help me get over it? Or perhaps BMW should start a support group for those of us who come into this new relationship with trust issues.

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If you purchase the base level S 1000 RR, it comes with the usual Rain, Sport, and Race modes, but you can add on the new Race package at time of purchase to give you two extra modes, Slick and User. For 2015, Slick mode is even more track focused within its setting parameters. User mode allows you to set the Race ABS, DTC, DDC and engine response to your personal preference. The DTC is now adjustable on the fly, with seven settings in either direction from most to the least intrusive. This gives you the option of adjusting your settings during a track day or race as track conditions change or your tires start to wear.

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Watching the Go Pro video of my last session illustrated how seamlessly the electronics work, whether arresting a small wheelie (evident by movement in the bars) or maximizing traction through a corner (DTC light blinking). Exiting slower corners fully leaned over you can feel the bike flattening out in the power as you accelerate, which lets you know it's working, but it's much harder to feel in the faster corners.

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Some recalibrating is needed with the fly-by-wire throttle for me, as it is very sensitive. The operation feels more linear and progressive than before, but it is so much lighter that I made a couple of mistakes with unwanted throttle inputs on corner entry until I figured it out. With all the electronics options these days, I wish there was an "old guy" setting, where the throttle tension emulated pulling a throttle cable and carburetor slides.

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Leaving COTA, it was clear the new BMW S 1000 RR is better, lighter, and faster than before. It's incredibly easy to ride and comfortable at speed, which reduced my fatigue at the end of the day. If I was really spending a lot of quality track time on my own personal bike, I would opt for the Giles rearsets though. My boots were dragging in some turns, so having my feet further from the floor would help. That would be my only change.

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For road riders, you can add soft luggage and a tank bag and go sport touring. The S 1000 RR has even got cruise control for this purpose. It will take some time to fully understand all the programmable functions available from the traction control to the suspension and power modes, and you can further tune the bike with the new ‘User' mode when you are at the track. But this will be an enjoyable part of ownership as you continue to improve your travel experiences, lap times, or race results. 

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Color choices are Black Storm Metallic, Racing Red/Light White or BMW Motorsport: Light White/Lupin Blue Metallic/Racing Red with the base price of $15,500. The price increases to $16,759 for the standard package, which includes Gear Shift Assist, Pro Race and heated grips. Lastly, the Premium Package the price jumps to $18,695, giving you the Race package, Dynamic package and forged wheels.

I'm sure most new owners are going to opt for all the bells and whistles as BMW's have such great financing these days. You can even add your BMW riding gear to the purchase price without penalty if you want to update to the latest gear from the BMW catalogue. For your money, you get an unparalleled level of sophistication and technology blended with the most horsepower yet seen in this class in a package that is as easy as it's exhilarating to ride.


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