HomeFeatures & ColumnsBMW S 1000 RR US Press Introduction

BMW S 1000 RR US Press Introduction

Palm Beach International Raceway, February 2010

A German Superbike, lighter than a GSX-R with more power than a Hayabusa or ZX-14



Photo by Kevin Wing
-Click image to enlarge

Launching its first shot in a Euro-versus-Asian Superbike throw-down, BMW is out to prove that the Japanese don’t have a lock on producing 1000cc rocketships.

The all-new S 1000 RR has a claimed dry weight of 404 lbs., a peak power rating of 193 bhp @ 13,000 rpm (measured at crankshaft/no ram air compensation considered) and sports a 14,200 rpm redline. If you think your streetbike is fast, you’re in for a major surprise. After riding this new weapon at its press introduction, held at Palm Beach International Raceway, I can say that the very definition of fast has suddenly changed overnight.

After four years of working on its first true superbike, Vice President of BMW Motorrad USA, Pieter de Waal, (motorrad means motorcycle in German) was quick to point out that BMW probably knows more about the current crop of Japanese one liter sportbikes than do the Japanese, as a result of the S 1000 RR development process. This allowed the Germans to better understand the market before using the company’s vast engineering resources to create a better machine, not just a copycat with a different spelling on the tank. As some of you may know, BMW’s automobile program is a force in the Formula 1 car world, producing engines that can rev as high as 18K rpm. Product management engineer (and fast as hell road racer) Josef “Sepp” Maechler was eager to point out that they were not afraid to capitalize on their car knowledge in an attempt to produce a world class motorcycle engine. Here you see high-tech items such as light weight cam followers (14 grams) instead of the typical buckets (25 grams.) You’ll also find massive 33.5mm/27.2mm titanium valves settling on four copper-alloy based seats per cylinder with a 13.0:1 compression ratio and built in anti-detonation control system to round out just some of the performance features. Sepp has logged more than 37,000 miles on road courses and public streets aboard the S 1000 RR, and is VERY confident in its performance and design (Imagine, if you will, a German version of Keith Dennis when I say confident!).

Photo by Jonathan Beck

De Wall (left) pictured with Motorsports Heritage and Communications Manager Roy Oliemuller


Photo by Kevin Wing
-Click image to enlarge

Photo by Jonathan Beck
Josef “Sepp” Maechler (right) and Nate Kern 2008 ASRA Pro National Thunderbike Champion in the rider briefing before setting us loose on the PBIR racing surface

From A Drag Racers Point of View

Ok, I’m just going to be brutally honest here; as a 25-year veteran of motorcycle drag racing, and a “stupid fast” streetbike performance aficionado, I had never previously felt compelled to investigate the BMW brand. Quite frankly, if I have ever even driven by a BMW motorcycle dealership in the past, it’s news to me, and I know I certainly felt no urge to stop in and browse around. The last time I remember any interest, whatsoever, was a few years back when the mainstream bike mags claimed that BMW had a new K1200 they claimed was a “Busa beater” (yeah right). The facts that it was shaft drive, down about 40 horsepower at the rear wheel, and cost a small fortune weren’t exactly riveting to me–and what in the hell is a duolever front end?! To this day, I have never seen a K1200 go down a drag strip, and I’m sorry, but if it’s truly fast, it gets drag raced…period. Truth be told, I felt a bit discouraged for BMW after realizing they were certainly out of touch with ‘performance reality’ when the magazines could barely squeak into the 10’s in the quarter mile.

Hello BMW executives and welcome to your new drag racer customer base. I believe I can speak for us all when I say that we truly hope you give us no reason to be so hard on you in the future. We are in the business of going fast, and we are as loyal as the family dog if you treat us well. The 30-year-old Suzuki-Kawasaki rivalry in motorcycle drag racing is as strong as Ford-Chevy-Chrysler battle in the car world. We have simply been missing a third member. The S 1000 RR is a great start, especially for the younger crowd. Once again and sincerely, welcome.

On May 21, 2000, the author, Brock Davidson, piloting his nitrous-assisted Suzuki Bandit, entered the history books by recording motorcycle drag racing’s first official seven second run in a quarter mile on a street legal motorcycle- 7.97@179.21MPH


Photo by Kevin Wing

After spending a full day at the track (where I saw 170+ MPH on its ½-mile back straight) I can tell you just as honestly that the new S 1000 RR is the REAL DEAL. It’s fast, and I mean REALLY, REALLY FAST! And it’s priced within MSRP: $1000 of the Japanese competition with BMW finance backing responsible purchasers. BMW financing alone is a big deal these days since most banks won’t loan easily after seeing that the guys who opted for MSRP: $69.95 initial bike payments (which jumped to hundreds of dollars after 24 months) now aren’t paying their bills…surprise!?

Photo by Kevin Wing
I am a drag racer; so turning used to be a bad thing. The S 1000 RR makes cornering safer and more fun than any other bike on the market today.

When I think of motorcycles in the past that ‘raised the bar’ in pure performance, my list begins with the ground breakers who made the competing brands either step it up, or simply bow out. Kawasaki had its Z1, Ninja series and more recently the mighty ZX-14. Suzuki had its GS, GSX-R, and of course, the performance bully Hayabusa, all of which set the standards for others to follow on drag strips, back roads, and highways across America. The new BMW S 1000 RR officially sets a new standard. From its incredible power plant to its amazing rider control system, this machine is certainly the new kid who will be challenged at the Hess station proving grounds from Bike Week 2010 and beyond.

Photo by Kevin Wing
Does anybody reading this care what my lap times were at PBIR???…I didn’t think so, so I won’t bore you with numbers you don’t understand.

That’s the beauty of the ¼ mile; it’s been the SAME measurement we can all relate to since the muscle car days. Regrettably, drag racing was not on the schedule during the U.S. press introduction of the S 1000 RR, but the fine folks from BMW allowed me to launch/dry hop the bike on pit lane to get a feel for how it leaves in stock form.

Photo by Jonathan Beck


Clutch Advice
for Drag Racers interested in the S 1000 RR

Like most literbikes and true to its road race focus, this one has a super-tall first gear and a very effective slipper clutch that makes drag style launches a touchy, if not potentially parts-harming, proposition. The bike will need to be re-geared and the slipper disabled disabled for any serious full power drag-style launches to keep from frying the clutches.

We had the same issue in 1999 with the Busa and in 2001 with the GSX-R1000, so it’s fair to say that this is normal with some brand-new models. Launching this all-powerful Beemer from a dead stop in stock form is like dropping the clutch pedal on a high-end Ferrari or Lamborghini. It’s just not what they are designed to do from the factory.

New, stock clutch packs won’t be available from BMW until April, so I would suggest roll-ons for a while. No doubt that the aftermarket world will be all over this situation. There is no way a bike this fast, with so much potential, will go unnoticed by the go-fast drag race/performance world. In fact, I’ve been doing a little investigating of my own on the S 1000 RR, and a Brock’s Performance clutch mod will hit the strip in a matter of weeks.

It’s really a hell of a machine, but if you get in a hurry to drag race it—you might end up parking it until replacement clutches arrive if you decide not to heed my advice. Once the new Beemer is rolling, every killer on the street better watch out. No sh*t! This thing moves out. And I would highly recommend the addition of the optional factory-installed gearshift assist… although it will need to be disabled for AMA Dragbike SuperSport competition.

With your sound turned up, the new Beemer sounds like a muffled race bike quickly clicking through the gears. – Click here for video

For those who have never experienced an air shifter or properly configured quick shifter, the smile on your face as the bike effortlessly jumps away from your foot-shifting buddy by a bike or so – – on every wide-open throttle gear change – – is something to behold. I also suggest the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) for any rider who likes to turn. I believe the base model with shift assist will be fine as a straightliner’s choice. With the stock engine, I can easily see 8-second runs for all but the largest riders (lowered, with an extended swingarm, of course). I typically try to steer 200+ lb riders away from the smaller-displacement machines, and I personally feel like a bear riding a tricycle on every 1000 I have ridden in the last couple of years. But, the S 1000 RR ergonomics and foot peg configuration (which is lower than most 1000’s) felt good to me. My neck/shoulders didn’t start immediately aching with my short arms reaching for the bars.

Photo by Jonathan Beck
I get bigger…bikes get smaller. When will the madness end?

The variable intake stack configuration aids in torque delivery from the highly over-square engine and produces good ‘seat of the pants’ mid-range grunt for a 1000. Don’t get me wrong, we are not talking Busa or ZX-14 torque/drivability; the RR only has 1000 cc’s, you know. But it is definitely the best 1000cc power dispenser in the class, so we might just see bigger guys on slammed and stretched Beemer’s getting paid at Myrtle Beach in the near future?

The technical details of this machine are a bit overwhelming at first, but are quite simple to use and seamless as you ride. All you really need to know is that unlike the A/B/C power mode selector switches on some Japanese machines which kill power to make the bikes more rider friendly on the road race course, the heart of the BMW’s ABS & DTC system is a Bosch gyroscope mounted underneath the rider’s seat.

This gyroscope (shown behind the battery above) measures the lean angle of the machine and delivers power accordingly depending upon the mode you have selected: Rain, Sport, Race or Slick Mode.

I became so intrigued with how well the Sport mode performed that I actually went out on the track and intentionally whacked the gas wide open in the middle of the corner to see if the bike would allow 193 HP to spin out and crash me?! It wouldn’t. This would also be an excellent time to mention the confidence I had in my Vanson Leathers!

Photo by Kevin Wing
Nate Kern instructing journalists on the fine art of turning… Thank you Vanson!

Instead of spinning out, the throttle-by-wire system would apply more power as I became vertical and more tire was available to provide additional grip to match the available power. It’s amazing. I will be the first to admit I have no business on a road race course. I’ve never had any lessons; I don’t know when to turn, brake, etc… During the course of the day, I did many things which I truly believe would’ve ended up scratching up the plastic on other machines. I put the bike in Race mode and went twice as slow; I was terrified, and just knew I was going to crash. I put it back into Sport mode, and by the end of the day I was convinced that the only way I could possibly go any faster was to take formal lessons. I had an absolute ball, and intend look into attending a Keith Code California Superbike School this year since the BMW S 1000 RR is now the school’s primary teaching tool. I have got to feel my knee touch the pavement (and stay on the bike…), it’s now officially on my ‘bucket list’.

Photo by Jonathan Beck
Keith Code explaining how 600s are no longer the preferred machine to train novice road racers

(for most sportbike drag racers)

If you are like me, you probably scrolled straight down to this section hoping for drag strip results. Sorry, we just don’t have any yet, but here is a list of comments I would like to leave you with until we get one of these new killers to the drag strip, properly set-up.

If you:

Prefer the drag strip

  1. It’s FAST.
  2. It will not launch properly in stock form due to very tall gearing and a slipper clutch configuration similar to an R1 (rated “most horrible” by anyone who has ever tried to launch one). As drag racers, we know this is not a new situation, so clutch mods and replacement sprockets/gearing are in process.
  3. It can quickly turn into a 100+ mile per hour unicycle. Standard aftermarket suspension mods such as front end lowering straps and rear lowering links will be mandatory for quick drag strip times, especially with the stock wheelbase. I expect the extended swingarm business to be brisk for this bike.
  4. No kidding, it’s REALLY FAST!
  5. The ability to hop up the engine is similar to the GSX-R1000 and ZX-14 since it has an integrated top case and cylinder. Sadly, you won’t see the assortment of go fast goodies sitting on shelves ready to quickly sneak in… like you do with a Hayabusa. Most guys will require an engine builder if they decide to dive into the engine.
  6. It’s light weight. The S 1000 RR comes standard with an aluminum fuel tank! The engine only weighs 132 pounds, creating the best power-to-weight ratio in its class (2.33 lbs per hp).
  7. A reverse shift pattern can only be accomplished via a shift drum available directly from BMW dealers in April. At this time, the degree of difficulty for this exchange is not completely outlined. Aka: you can’t just reverse the lever.
  8. No, for real IT IS CRAZY FAST! Most 1000’s will walk off from Busa’s and ZX-14’s set up apples to apples (pipe, Power Commander, etc…) on the highway. The S 1000 RR will walk off from those guys STOCK. It could get really ugly once these bikes are set up for the quarter.

Here are a couple of video links showing irresponsible and illegal examples which are in no way condoned by Dragbike.com (Thank you Khaled ;).

BMW stock vs. 08 Busa with pipe:

BMW S 1000 RR stock vs. 09 GSX-R1000 with pipe:


Prefer to street ride/twisties/highway/land speed

Photo by Kevin Wing

  1. Have I mentioned that it’s fast?
  2. The optional Race ABS & DTC (MSRP: $1480) system (available combined only) is a must. Either can be easily turned on/off at any time with the press of a switch on the left handlebar control.The race ABS & DTC systems are confidence inspiring on the street, especially in Sport mode. As an added bonus, novice riders can benefit from the built-in wheelie prevention system which can prevent high-speed loop over’s (I “accidentally” tested it at about 130 MPH, and it worked very well?). YES, if you dump the clutch at wide open throttle you could still flip over, especially in Race or Slick mode, but this machine makes it difficult. The system also incorporates a ‘stoppie’ control, and it works great also — just in case you forget where you are on the track (and realize that you just accelerated when you should have been braking) and decide to panic stop instead of destroying someone else’s bike… don’t ask.
  3. For the serious ‘go fast’ crowd, the aerodynamics look pretty good and I can’t imagine that BMW did all of their homework in so many other areas without addressing such an important issue of performance. I’m certain that we will see results from Maxton and Bonneville telling the tale very soon. Special note: the BMW is internally restricted to 299 KPH (186MPH) on the speedo.

The Gear Shift Assistant (MSRP: $450) a FUN and FAST option.

Prefer Road Race/Track Days

If you road race, or you like to go to track days, the control system on the BMW is simply cheating and will piss off your buddies.

Also, just exactly why are you reading this on Dragbike.com?! Just kidding. I’m generally not the guy to ask about road racing, but I’m learning quickly and having fun doing it. I must admit we have a large gathering of Brock’s Performance customers who split their bikes race usage between track days and tune and test at the strip, especially up and down the east coast since drag racing is so popular, inexpensive and convenient. It certainly is safer and easier on your license than trying to use any of these missiles wide open on the street, that’s for sure. I believe everything you need to know about the S 1000 RR road racing prowess is far better explained by the fine folks at BMW themselves.

BMW technical presentation, specifications and suggested pricing (very detailed and informative) click her:

Of course, everyone knows that I love Japanese engineering and raved about the ZX-14 and Gen 2 Busa, especially after they were properly set-up for the drag strip. This was my first exposure to German quality and engineering, and I must say that I was definitely impressed. Even their riding apparel has a two year warranty — no kidding. That’s confidence in craftsmanship.

For those of you who like to fly colors, BMW has a vast array of accessories including leathers and stylish Kushitani jackets.

Naturally, I can’t like everything about every bike, and the S 1000 RR is no exception. I’m simply not a fan of small-motored bikes; I personally enjoy the torque and drivability of a larger engine. From a mechanical and engineering standpoint, this bike is difficult to beat, and my only real complaint is that I found the mode text in the instrument cluster a bit difficult to read/distinguish while busy attempting to navigate PBIR.

On the street, this is not necessarily an issue, but on the racetrack where the difference between Sport mode and Slick mode could mean busting your ass, I would prefer the text to be a bit larger and bolder (note the dinky little Sport text above). That’s my only complaint, besides the weak, clutch and I’m confident that I can cure that.

In closing, I am very impressed with BMW’s first attempt at world performance domination. I would have never imagined that a machine would come out of the blue and peak my personal, “can’t-teach-an-old-dog-drag-racer-a-new-corner” mentality enough to finally enjoy turning as much as I did on this bike. That being said, now comes the real test. Can we get it to travel 1320 ft. faster than the other bikes that we already know so well? What other challenges may lie ahead? Can we simply lower the chassis without encountering clearance issues? Does anyone make a front sprocket with the correct spines, or will a task so simple turn into a long wait? So many questions… so many impatient racers. Either way, we will eventually prevail, and it looks like our new German friends gave us a fantastic platform to work from. Hopefully we can get one of these killers to the drag strip soon, dragging the ground and set up right.

Good Luck and Go Fast!
– Brock

Click Here to View More Photos from the BMW S 1000 RR US Press Introduction

To comment on this article, click here

To Download a PDF File of this article, click here

Drag Racing Tshirts

Dragbike.com Partners

Support the companies that support motorcycle drag racing by shopping with the companies below.

- Advertisment -

Most Popular