Pleasure Without Pain
22 April 2022
BMW’s S1000XR promises all the performance and agility you could ever want, but with the comfort of a tourer, says Peter Elliott.
There’s a strong trend to supertourers at the moment with both Ducati and KTM fielding some strong contenders in the segment, and BMW’s big R1250GS is, perhaps, the grandaddy of that market, but I think the XR is the best built and positioned bike to own that area, outright. Yes... it’s a bold claim.
Let me first state a caution - this tall bike is not for the faint of heart. I am 165cm tall with long legs and a short top-half, and manoeuvring 226kg of slightly top-heavy bike makes for some real focus on the job. While the seat height is not the tallest out there, it comes close, and the because the seat is wide for touring comfort it makes for tense moments when the ground is not where you expect it to be while parking. Having got that out of the way, there are very few negatives to be found with the BMW offering.
RIP YOUR EYEBALLS OUT
Let’s start with the noisemaker - the XR comes with an engine equipped from the mentally fast S1000RR racing stable. Detuned from 200 odd horses to 165hp, it is still a breathtakingly fast and exhilarating ride, particularly in the upper mind-bending revs that are north of 8000. I was reminded very quickly that this machine has a fiercely proud racing heart, and it’s still there, just beyond the polite, legal ploddery, lurking like the very Devil.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a Joe Bonamassa concert, but when touring he often does this melodic, charming, cool acoustic set; picking and singing and setting up the unwitting for part two, when the monstrous guitar maestro delivers totemic pounding rock that could rip the eyeballs out of your head. Well, it’s that sort of motorbike.
I adore this machine. As stated, it’s tall. It has a longer wheelbase than the R models, but shorter than the model we tested in 2016, and offers 150mm of fork travel up front, and 150mm at the rear, and coupled with three riding modes that affect ride, traction, and braking.
So, why is it so good? Well, all that tech works - of course it does, it’s a BMW - and it works superbly, and its all easy to adjust on the fly. Along with cruise control, and a superbly clinical clutchless autoblipper, both up and down the gears, the riding pleasure is little short of wizardry. The Brembos do an incredible jobon the front – linear, no surprises, and brutally, smoothly, efficient. With a two-position adjustable windscreen, rider comfort is assured with legs low and uncramped, and a touring-style rise to the handlebars with no weight-bearing on the wrists, I found myself doing a 400km day and got off wanting more. No headaches, less buffeting, great support in the seat, and superbike performance. Hell, yes.
Astonishingly, to me at any rate, it is more nimble in the fast twisting stuff than even my beloved speed triple, and that’s no idle statement. I find the drop-in to be effortless, and thrilling - as you move through quite a large arc compared to the reasonably low Triumph position, but I love quick back roads, and the BMW is a great way to play there, and its biddable behaviour belies its rather looming static profile.
It is true that the bike has the silhouette of the adventure bike stylings, and maybe that look doesn’t have as much brute sex appeal as, say, the Thruxton RS or a Panigale might, but knowing what it does and how brilliantly it does it, it elicits a real unflinching fondness for the machine.
A PAIR OF UNDIES AND A CREDIT CARD
Lockdown was cruel, particularly the second phase here in Auckland, which gave limited motorcycle use, and no touring. Every day I passed the parked bike, however, I fantasised about an upcoming South Island tour I have planned. I expect every northern rider was feeling the same, but it’s exacerbated by knowing that now I have the perfect bike to do it on. I’m not a great fan of boxes on bikes and it was the legendary Dick Driver who said to me “the touring kit should be small; one spare pair of undies and a credit card”, and there’s a certain allure to that, not least of which is not carting even more weight about. I do stow some light, wet weather over-gear, but if it’s that torrential I find a place to stop or stay. Simple. A helmet box might useful, and maybe even a tank bag, but personally, I prefer to be as unencumbered as possible. So, not for me.
I once toured the South Island carrying a tent and sleeping bag, air mattress, gas cooker, and utensils, spare rope, first aid kit and tyre repair kit, and never unpacked any of it in two weeks.
The S1000XR has not been the first choice of bike for the touring set, and I find myself wondering why not. On paper the bike does everything you want and more. On track, it’s a blisteringly fast inline-four race machine with a pedigree and superb mechanicals. I wouldn’t go searching out gravel roads on the, admittedly, tarmac-focused XR, but they would hold few fears for a rider. On road it can be used conservatively and calmly with considerable ease, but on the wide open roads of back country, when the vista opens up and the roads throw obstacles and tricky bits at you, this surefooted nimble tourer will have you grinning like Bonamassa himself. It’s very, very good - actually, it’s even better than that. It’s a bloody brilliant piece of engineering, and delivers ride-joy like three bourbons into a rock concert guitar solo.
NO PUNISHMENT: YOU DESERVE IT
If you, like me, have been harbouring the idea that a change to a more upright riding position might be an admission of defeat then the 1000XR is here to dispel your concern. This is no step back, or a retreat to sedentary riding – it is a cleverly conceived, superbly executed work by huge talents, that’ll take all your years of riding experience and reward you with feedback galore, while delivering a terrific sense of wellbeing when riding.
It does it all without the punishment, and I don’t know about you, but I bloody well deserve that. It’s certainly worth thinking about, if you haven’t before.
BMW’s best-kept secret. Have fun, see you out there.
Article kindly brought to you by Kiwirider
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