Words and Photography: Jared Solomon
The new apex predator from Bavaria defies logic and physics leaving us wondering just how much better can a superbike really become.
Recently, I had attended a press conference for the launch of LG’s latest OLED TV’s. Very rarely do consumer electronics interest me, but these TVs blew my mind away. Technology seems to have taken a giant leap and the things that engineers and scientists keep coming up with is almost frightening. The new 55-inch OLED TVs from LG are only 2mm thick – yes, that’s right! They can be placed on a wall and it will seem like there is nothing even there. Now, these are not small TV’s. They are just super thin, equivalent to a couple strands of hair, but they have unbelievable picture quality. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
The same goes for the technology we see in automobiles. Fully autonomous vehicles are already upon us, and we have seen some marvelous advancements in racing technology that have been brought over into road going vehicles. This transfer of technology is most noticeable in superbikes especially. The Aprilia RSV4, Kawasaki ZX-10R, Yamaha R1 and the Ducati 1299 Panigale are just a few examples, and they are among the best supersports bikes available in the world today. However, the boys from Bavaria have taken superbike technology to a whole other level with the new 2017 BMW S 1000 RR.
I recently got my hands on their latest apex predator, and I have to say that I have never ridden anything like it before. Let me also just say that the first generation S 1000 RR has been my dream bike for a while now, and having ridden it on a couple of occasions, never in my wildest dreams did I think that it could be made that much better. My first run in with the S 1000 RR was back in 2012 and I never had the chance to ride the 2015 updated version, so I basically skipped one generation of the bike, and it’s really incredible how much the bike has improved in just five years.
Let’s start with the tech that has gone into the latest version. I rode the Sport version of the bike and it comes with some extra goodies over the Standard version. There are five riding modes – Rain, Sport, Race, Slick, and a self-configurable User mode. Depending on the mode you select the computer will control the total power output, electronic throttle response, lean angle-sensitive traction control and other functions from the ABS Pro system. I had never heard of ‘Slick’ mode before and found out that this mode allows for minimum computer intervention because it assumes you are on a race track and you can handle yourself well.
The Dynamic Traction Control and ABS systems come as standard for even greater riding dynamics and road safety. There is also Launch Control, which allows you to pull the throttle wide open at a standstill and disengage the clutch when the revs hit peak torque. It might seem suicidal to do that on a powerful superbike, but the system works well and you won’t find yourself in a position where you are hanging on for dear life.
There is also a Pro Shift Assistant and this allows you to shift gears – up or down – without using the clutch or throttle. This can be very useful when on the track. The Sport version also gets Dynamic Damping Control. This system is quite amazing as it continuously adjusts the suspension settings. The control will automatically tweak the forks and shocks in response to your lean angles, road conditions, and throttle and brake inputs. The system works 100 times a second and can make changes within a tenth of a second. So basically, you can eliminate the need to use your brain and just let the bike handle it for you.
Even though this technology is far advanced there are still many more complex features. Still, it’s the engineering that really makes the S 1000 RR the ultimate sports bike. The 999cc four-cylinder in-line engine is breathtaking and ferocious. It’s good for 199bhp and 113Nm, which makes you wonder why the hell is this bike even allowed on public roads. The electronic throttle makes sure that the bike’s immense power is unleashed on demand. The acceleration is scary – there is no other way to describe it – especially since I was riding on narrow city streets. However, even though the S 1000 RR behaves like a cheetah in pursuit of its prey, it still has very good road manners. You can easily ride within the city comfortably as it’s somewhat smooth in the low revs. The engine is also rather quite when you are coasting, but once you open the throttle it screams. The engine does feel a lot rawer and I rather enjoyed that, because you get to feel the mechanical parts working. Sometimes super smooth engines just suck up all the fun.
The riding position is obviously aggressive but you don’t really feel much weight on your wrists and there seems to be good enough room for your knees. It might be comfortable in the city for short stints but this is no highway tourer. There are also a lot of switch controls and it takes some getting used to initially. The Sport version we had also comes with cruise control and heated grips for added comfort.
I didn’t get to push the bike to its limits because I only got to ride it in the city, and so I couldn’t really make out if the electronic suspension was working, but the bike handled the road conditions pretty well and didn’t feel too stiff. The ride quality is phenomenal and the chassis really gives good feedback. The bike certainly feels light when you are moving and turn in is very easy, but like all supersport bikes making a U-turn takes some effort. Using the Shift Assistant was also quite nice, so good in fact that when switching gears with the clutch it felt a bit rough. The Brembo brakes also had a hard snapping bite and it felt good to know that you actually had some way of controlling that absurd amount of power.
It may have been just a brief ride but I could easily make out that the little added details to the design and chassis, and the new technology, has made the S 1000 RR a sublime machine. I can’t even begin to imagine what improvements will be made in the next generation. But, besides the engineering quality and brilliance, the new design also makes the bike look more menacing and true to its character. Even when it’s parked it looks like it is speeding at 200km/h – it can do that without even breaking a sweat. The new BMW S 1000 RR really is the total package when it comes to supersports and it continues to be my dream bike. Unfortunately, with a price tag of Rs 18.5 lakh just for the Standard variant, that dream doesn’t look like it will become reality any time soon.