Bikes > Ride

12 hours, 500km and the BMW S1000 R

Who ever said you couldn’t tour on a hyper naked bike?

Now, that's a handsome BMW. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

No, that’s not a typo. I didn’t forget the X in front of the R or the second R. And neither is that an F900R, although it looks quite similar, especially in this shade of red.

This is, in fact, the S1000 family’s middle child: the BMW S1000 R. The RR (affectionately referred to as the “Double R”) is the single R’s fully faired, track-oriented bigger brother. The XR, on the other hand, is its tall, adventurous, go-anywhere younger sibling. As is stereotypical of most families, the eldest and the youngest garner most of the admiration, while the middle child gets slightly less attention.

So, what is the S1000 R?

Well, it is basically the naked, street-oriented version of the S1000 RR. It runs the same buttery-smooth 999cc in-line-four engine found in the double R and XR, albeit slightly detuned to a more pedestrian 165hp at 11,000rpm, and 114Nm at 9,250rpm. I say pedestrian with the Double R’s 205hp at an ear-shattering 13,000rpm, and 113Nm at 11,000rpm in mind.

This bike is loaded with riding and suspension modes, a lean angle sensor, and this beautiful TFT screen. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

Upon picking up the bike, what immediately jumped out at me was that while it traded clip-ons for a handlebar, the ergonomics remained to be very aggressive. The bars were low, the seat was 32.7 inches (830mm) off the ground, and the foot pegs were set high toward the rear. All this hunches the rider over the tank and puts a lot of weight on the wrists.

I rode the S1000 R to and from work for a few days, and the riding position could get tiring, but it was not impossible to use in the city. In my daily commute, I was barely working the bike.

All it needed was 1,500rpm above idle to get ahead of traffic. With the suspension and the driving mode in Road, it was incredibly supple and docile at low speeds, and masked its true power very well. On the highway, speed came effortlessly. Making the speedometer read like the blood-pressure monitor of a man with severe hypertension is no big deal—mundane, even—to this bike.

The quick shifter works quickly and seamlessly with the engine to take you up to triple-digit speeds in an instant. It may look like a naked motorcycle, but I found it to feel and behave like a true-blue super sport—because, on both street and highway use, I was nowhere near the real potential of what this bike could do.

And so, I just had to ask some questions.

What is this bike really for?

Is it just for the track?

If it’s this sporty anyway, why not get the RR instead?

The author looks like he's having a hard time hunching forward with his belly in the way, don't you think? PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

To answer this, I decided to go on a quest to find out what exactly this bike was made to do.

I called three of my riding buddies to go on a breakfast ride to Caliraya Lake. We met at 5:30am and set off. I wove the bike left and right a couple of times on the empty highway, and was surprised by how light the bike felt leaning from one side to the other. I could barely feel the weight shifting beneath me.

We blasted through the zigzag roads of Cogeo and Tanay, and arrived at Caliraya at around 8am. As I sat with my thoughts while waiting for breakfast, I realized that I still didn’t have the answer to my questions. There was too much traffic on the way and not enough open road to really stretch the S1000 R’s legs.

These Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires never let up—not even in the wet. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

I then planted the idea of going straight to Infanta into the conversation. As dark clouds loomed over the mountainside, one of my friends answered me by saying, “Uulan ah.” To which I replied, “E di masaya.”

And just as he predicted, it rained cats and dogs on the way to Infanta. I put the suspension in Road, the driving mode in Rain, and turned the heated grips on. As my friends moaned about the slippery surfaces and the cold hands over our comm system, I was toasty and thoroughly enjoying myself.

Rain mode never allowed me to overpower the rear tire, and the bike felt perfectly planted under acceleration or hard braking. There was a moment when the front lost grip for a bit in the middle of a corner due to a combination of water and gravel, but the electronic aids stood the bike up right away before I could do anything to correct it.

I was also worried about being on the almost treadless Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires in the wet, but they proved me wrong. The guy behind me remarked that he could not follow closely due to the amount of water spraying off my rear tire, assuring me that the tires were displacing water effectively.

The rain got so heavy, though, that visibility was becoming an issue, so we had to take shelter in a gas station and wait for the rain to subside.

This bike is very capable in the rain, but it's a monster in ideal conditions. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

Once we entered Infanta, the sun was back out, the roads were dry, and the S1000 R began showing off.

I set the suspension back to Dynamic, and set up Dynamic Pro to give me the sharpest throttle response and maximum engine braking. To be safe, I set traction control and ABS on full alert as well.

In this configuration, the bike came alive and everything started to make sense. The hunched riding position gave me so much leverage over the motorcycle. It gracefully transitioned between left and right-hand corners and tipped in at the slightest hint of countersteer. Power was available at any point in the rev range, making it easy to find a rhythm through the twisties.

The quickshifter also gave immensely satisfying blips on downshifts. The bike was sharp, responsive and extremely fun.

What a view. What a machine. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

After a very late lunch, we started our descent. The dual 320mm front discs mated to four-piston calipers, and the single 220mm rear rotor were forceful and gave me enough feedback while trail-braking through corners.

And though I was starting to feel tired from doing almost 300km at that point, the S1000 R never prodded me to go faster. If I wanted to push hard, I could. If I decided to slow down and enjoy the scenery, I could, too.

It was just as manageable to ride in either scenario. We arrived at the intersection of Masinag 12 hours after we had taken off at 5:30pm.

The author's crew for the day. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

What started out as a quick blast through the twisties ended as a 500km tour through Rizal, Laguna, and Quezon Province. “But what about the riding position?” I hear you ask.

Of course, I was exhausted after basically doing half the distance of the BOSS Ironman Challenge. I may not have been as comfortable as I would have been on a more upright naked bike, but again it’s not impossibly difficult to bear.

Do be aware though that the S1000 R is quite low to the ground, and the oil pan protrudes about half an inch below the exhaust, making it prone to scraping. Don’t ask me how I know this. Let’s just say I had to learn it the hard way. Also, it is a thirsty little thing, doing just 10km/L during our trip. Par for the course, however, with liter bikes.

The single R left everyone in its dust through the straightaways of Marcos Highway, kept me comfortable through the bumpy roads to Caliraya, and hugged the corners tight on the mountain passes of Infanta.

Rain or shine, this beast of a motorcycle is willing to go wherever you want to take it. The only question is: Can you handle it?

Simonn Ang

Simonn is just a regular guy who happens to love cars and motorcycles. He also loves writing about them, too.