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BMW S 1000 RR

Future collectible – gen 1 BMW S 1000 RR

August 2020

BMW S 1000 RR

Bombshell Bimmer

by Guy 'Guido' Allen

Could BMW's first-series S 1000 RR ever make it to collector status? We reckon it will, eventually, and in the meantime it has heaps to offer as a used buy

Just over a decade ago in 2008, somewhat courageously, BMW announced it was going superbike racing the following season. Really? This was a little like your favourite aunt announcing that she’s taking up bullfighting. She might be light on her feet and a wonderful dancer, but had she really thought this through?

The announcement was of particular interest to Aussies, as 2008 was the year when the championship was dominated by two locals: Troy Bayliss on a Ducati and Troy Corser on a Yamaha. However there was a problem. Nothing in the then current BMW catalogue looked even close to managing in the viciously competitive ‘supers’ class.

At the time, the fastest motorcycle on the fleet was the 173 horsepower K1300S. It was a very capable and well-developed sports-tourer, something reflected by its still solid resale values, but hardly the basis for tackling (for example) the wickedly fast and ultra-experienced Ducati team at its own game.

BMW S 1000 RR

No, it was going to have to come up with something entirely new, and probably relatively conventional if it wanted to bring development times back to something reasonable. And that was exactly what it did a decade ago, unveiling S 1000 RR. At first glance, the spec sheet read like a lot of others out there: aluminium frame, USD front fork, monoshock rear, four-spotter brakes up front, four-pot powerplant with fuel-injection and a six-speed transmission with chain drive. Easy.

BMW S 1000 RR

Note there were no tricks in the engine configuration or orientation. Unlike the first K series, the powerplant was across the frame and not along it. There were no Hossack-style Telelever front ends, or Paralever rears. It had – shock, horror – a humble chain and sprockets.

Reuben Xaus and Troy Corser were to be the superbike riders and their early results were sometimes promising. However they never really became a full-time threat to the more experienced superbike players.

What was far more significant was how quickly the road bike gained acceptance. It’s hard to imagine a worse time in the last few decades to launch a new motorcycle. The global financial crisis was in full swing which meant that, for example, in 2009 the USA market sank 40 percent in one year to 520,000 or half what it had been a few years before. Other big markets such as the UK typically lost 20 per cent in sales in 2009.

There was BMW launching a super sports motorcycle – a market niche it hadn’t played in – at a time when overall sales were plummeting. It was probably a good time to take up drinking, and whatever they were selling had better be good.

I blundered into the Australian launch of the model in early 2010, at Phillip Island race circuit. One of the key attendees was former Aussie Superbike Champion Steve Martin, who by that time had enjoyed an extensive international career. He was one of the key development riders for both the race and road machines, which he said at that stage were a lot closer in spec than most people would expect.

There’s no question that chatting with the development rider gave you a little more confidence in this whole new model that you were about to throw a leg over. The bloke didn’t seem like a suicidal nut and there was no doubt he knew what he was talking about. Maybe it, the bike he regarded as his ‘baby’, would be alright. It was.

BMW S 1000 RR

Let’s take a closer look, with the help of my 2010 notes. BMW at the time said the engine management for the fuel-injected four was among the fastest/most powerful out there, adjusting fuelling for individual pots and running variable fuel pressure in the lines. The throttle itself was electronic while, at the other end, there were two sets of electronic valves operating the exhaust. The first, in the manifold plumbing, was designed to change the effective ‘shape’ of the system according revs and demand, while the second-stage was described as an acoustic valve.

The package was running 13:1 compression in the very oversquare cylinders, while the rev-limiter kicked in at a heady 14,200.

There was a six-speed transmission tied to a wet clutch (with slipper) and chain drive. In Australia, we got the electronic upshift assist as part of the stock package – it was an accessory in other markets.

The real showpiece for this bike was, however, the integrated dynamic traction control (DTC) and Race ABS. While dial-a-ride electronic aids weren’t new at the time (Ducati for example was an enthusiastic pioneer), they were thin on the ground. BMW’s version also raised the bar considerably for anything within a bull’s roar of the price range.

The system allowed you to dial in four levels of performance: rain, sport, race and slick (as in race slicks). The mildest level dropped the horses back to 153 (114kW) -- you got the full 193 (144kW) back with sport mode. However the alterations were far more subtle and comprehensive than just reining in the power. As you moved up the electronic stages, the throttle response became more aggressive. At the same time, the level of intervention from wheelie, ABS and even lean angle sensors became progressively lower.

BMW did however resist the temptation to throw a version of its electronic suspension at the S. The reasoning was the additional complexity and weight didn’t fit where the bike was going. Fair enough.

What that amounted to was a huge surprise. It was bloody good. Now that may sound condescending, but bear with me on this. When you’re confronted with a whole new model in an area where the manufacturer has no previous history, like BMW doing super sports bikes a decade ago, you’re inclined to go a little easy on them. There will be the odd flaw on a first attempt, which is to be expected.

I wandered away from that launch a little baffled and concerned. Everything I’d experienced at the Island said not only was the thing damned good, it was more than competitive with anything else out there. A big statement? Yep, and that’s what worried me. What had I missed? As the reports from other riders on the day rolled in, I started to feel some relief – that was pretty much their impression, as well.

In retrospect, it was a remarkable achievement. While BMW had built fast motorcycles in the past, and some of them could even be accused of being sporty, this was on a whole new level for the company – effectively taking the fight up to the likes of Honda, Ducati and the rest. And pricing? Coincidentally it was pitched right in the middle of those two brands, at $25,000 for a bike with all the electronic aids. That was seriously good value.

BMW S 1000 RR

So how has it lasted? Very well. There were a few cases of a serious engine breakdown (camshafts) quite early, usually just after the first service, which caused quite a stir on the web and were quickly dealt with by the factory. However I would expect anything still in the second-hand fleet will be sorted by now.

There were breakdowns with race bikes – particularly in superstock- in the early years (generally gearboxes) and these were often confused with road bikes, so read any online alarmist forum postings with a large dose of scepticism.

With that knowledge, I would not be afraid of something that now has a few miles on it, so long as it has been serviced. What you will get is a motorcycle that has quite phenomenal performance and was a true ground-breaker for the brand while having an influence on the market as a whole.

These aren’t really on the collector radar, yet. But eventually, several years down the track, they will be. For the time being you’d buy it for fun.

BMW S 1000 RR

My pick would be a first model in Motorsport livery (white with the red and blue stripes). However reader Richard Fitzgerald points out you might wish to consider the Acid Green, as this was used in much of the launch and marketing material, plus it was a one-year-only colour. Prices vary very much according to condition, with what look like very workable examples around $10-15k. That’s a lot of bang for your buck.

BMW S 1000 RR

Landmark model
Electronic aids

Not so good
Forget your pillion

See the Video

bmw spandau

See the factory tour which follows how the S 1000 RR comes together at the Spandau factory.

BMW S 1000 RR

Next gen
The S 1000 RR had a refresh for 2012, including updates to the engine, chassis and electronics.

An HP4 version (above) was released in late 2012 for the 2013 model year, including semi-active suspension, lighter wheels, launch control and other goodies.

The RR received a significant update in 2015, with changes to most major areas of the design.

A track-only HP4 was released in 2017.

The RR underwent a major rework for 2019. That included a new engine.

BMW S 1000 RR

BMW S 1000 RR first-gen (2009-2011)

TYPE: Liquid-cooled, four-valves-per-cylinder, inline four
BORE & STROKE: 80 x 49.7mm
FUEL SYSTEM: Fuel injection

TYPE: Six-speed, constant-mesh

FRAME TYPE: Cast aluminium bridge
FRONT SUSPENSION: 46mm USD fork, full adjustment, 120mm travel
REAR SUSPENSION: Mono shock, full adjustment, 130mm travel
FRONT BRAKE: 320mm discs with four-piston calipers
REAR BRAKE: 220mm disc with one-piston caliper


FRONT: 120/70 ZR17
REAR: 190/55 ZR17

POWER: 144kW @ 13,000rpm
TORQUE: 112Nm @ 9750rpm

PRICE WHEN NEW: $24,400 + ORC ($21,900 + ORC with no DTC or ABS)


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