BMW strides into the super naked market, with its most powerful naked bike in this highly competitive class. The Germans are flexing their muscles, showing what they can do… Welcome to the BMW M 1000 R.
BMW’s standard S 1000 R is a great bike. I tested one for a whole year and loved its everyday versatility and ability on track. But when up against the more powerful Italian competition – the 200 bhp hyper naked beasts from Ducati and MV – it was, on paper at least, slightly lacking. Ducati’s Streetfighter V4 and MV Brutale 1000RR are both in the 200 bhp club, with Kawasaki’s supercharged Z H2 SE just a couple of horses shy. In the world, it hardly matters that the S1000 R makes considerably less power than the big boys, but sometimes the real world doesn’t matter. It’s the numbers that count. Hence the introduction of BMW’s new M 1000 R, with 205 hp.
BMW has taken the new ShiftCam engine from the 2022 S 1000 RR superbike and inserted it into the S 1000 R’s naked chassis. It has the same power and torque and the same gearbox.
BMW hasn’t stopped there. Aerodynamic wings help to reduce wheelies by adding 11 kg of downforce at 137mph. New stoppers, again taken directly from the S 1000 RR give improved braking. Chassis dimensions remain the same but the standard electronic suspension (DDC Dynamic Damping Control) has been recalibrated to deal with the increase in power. A manually-adjustable steering damper is also new.
Electronic rider aids also get a substantial upgrade and recalibration to deal with the improved engine and braking power and are linked to a 6-axis IMU. New for the M 1000 R and S 1000 RR is the new Brake Slide Assist system, which allows some drift on corner entry before the lean-sensitive ABS kicks in.
We headed out to southern Spain to see if the BMW M 1000 R lives up to the hype.
BMW hasn’t detuned or remapped the S 1000 RR ShiftCam motor, now used in a naked chassis previously. Usually, manufacturers will soften, or calm down their sports bike motor before transplanting it into a naked chassis. Even the gearbox and internal ratios are the same, the only difference is the final gearing, with a slightly larger rear sprocket on the M 1000 R. Compared to the S 1000 R 4th, 5th and 6th gear ratios are shorter, as it’s the same as the new S1000RR.
The standard S 1000 R motor is usable and easy to get along with and I was concerned BMW may have diluted that with the superbike’s ShiftCam engine, but they haven’t. To make a 205 hp superbike engine usable is a challenging job, but BMW has managed it.
In the standard Road mode with restricted torque in the lower gears, its ease of use compliments the rider. Fuelling is smooth, power is progressive, and the quick shifter is light and perfectly matched with each up or down change. Even in sixth gear, the motor pulls effortlessly below 30 mph.
The mid-range is equally noteworthy. Peak torque is a fraction down and higher in the rpm compared to the S 1000 R, but there’s no real loss where it matters. Drive is impressive up to 8000 rpm and it’s satisfying to short-shift via the smooth quick shifter, and enjoy an urgent and sporty ride, very much like the standard S 1000 R.
But the M 1000 R holds an ace card: from that relatively polite 8000 rpm it revs on to a redline just short of 14,600 rpm! It’s ludicrous to think we can now ride naked road bikes with 205 hp and spin to almost 15,000 rpm, feats and figures that were the preserve of World Superbike machines just a decade ago.
Fortuitously, BMW allowed us a few laps of the Almeria racetrack to feel the full potential of that engine and, wow, it delivers. It just keeps pulling and revving as if there is no mechanical resistance inside the motor. The top speed is a quoted 174 mph, 16 mph higher than the standard S 1000 R.
But, don’t think of the M as just a rev-happy superbike in a naked chassis. The ShiftCam engine is utterly usable in normal riding, limiting torque in the lower gears. Until, that is, you hit Race and Race Pro and all hell lets loose.
And it stops and goes around corners
The M 1000 R grows winglets that create genuine downforce at the front. BMW claims the winglets add 11kg of downforce at 137mph. In theory more stability, and fewer wheelies. Don’t worry it still wheelies, should you wish.
BMW’s electronic Dynamic Damping Control (DDC) is standard, not so on the S 1000 R, and works with the bike’s riding modes: Road, Rain, Dynamic, Race, and Race Pro. In Road and Rain settings, the damping is more road-biased towards comfort, with Dynamic, Race, and Race Pro for sporty/track riding. Modes can be customized to match the rider and conditions, even settings for a pillion.
You really notice a difference between the riding modes, which adjust not just the engine parameters but also the handling and character of the bike. Road is obviously set for comfort; there’s more movement and transfer through the chassis. You can feel the suspension working, while the ride is plush and very much that of a road bike. This is ideal for the city and running over road imperfections with relative ease. You can still have a spirited ride, but once into Dynamic mode, you feel the difference instantly as you have to work harder to make the suspension work. It’s not stiff like a race bike but there feels like less travel, and movement, which means you can ride a little more vigorously.
I did try Race mode on track, but only had a handful of laps and, anyway, Race and Race Pro are more suited to slicks or track-biased rubber than the standard Bridgestone RS11 tyres. For the majority of the ride, I simply decided on the standard Dynamic road, flicking to Road for town work in southern Spain.
You can change the suspension electronically, by changing front damping, rear compression, and rear rebound electronically. Pre-load is manually adjusted, not electronic. You can change the suspension to match the way you ride and your weight.
The steering is easy; eminently flickable for a powerful bike. BMW has worked hard to maintain the BMW S 1000 R’s 199kg wet, which is class-leading and the same as the standard S 1000 R. Only Ducati’s Streetfighter V4 SP is a few kilograms lighter, while the M is 40 kilograms lighter than Kawasaki’s supercharged Z H2 SE.
It’s not all praise. I never fully connected with the standard Bridgestone RS11 rubber. To be fair, the roads in southern Spain were cold and far from perfect, but the Bridgestone’s took a while to warm up and didn’t offer the feedback that converted into confidence. Absolutely, I could scrape a knee-slider for the photos, and I never felt the DTC or ABS kick in (unless deliberately provoked) – but the confidence to lay the M 1000 R on its side or brake deep into a turn remained just out of reach. I didn’t really feel I could the limits on the road.
A practical naked superbike
The bars are slightly wider and more aggressive, but certainly not extreme. As mentioned, the suspension can be softened on the move (into Road or Rain mode) but, even so, the seat isn’t the most luxurious – simply comparable to other naked sports bikes in this class.
During the test, I managed 6.5l/100km, which is not far from BMW’s claim. On an S 1000 R which I’ve ridden extensively in the past, I’d usually see the fuel light coming on slightly early at around 120 to 130 miles. Again, I’d expect similar from the M 1000 R, which is impressive for a powerful naked superbike. Under WMTC standard testing conditions, the M 1000 R is rated at 6.4l/100km fuel economy.
BMW hasn’t lost any of the standard bike’s usability. Cruise control is still included as standard, as are three-stage heated grips used in the morning on test. The same informative 6.5-inch dash remains, with the BMW navigation wheel on the left side. If you’re not used to BMWs then it takes a while to click with but once you’re familiar with the setup, the information is almost never-ending. I particularly love the optional race dash, which clearly shows lean angle, brake pressure, and TC intervention.
The brakes feel like a big upgrade over the standard bike, which are the same as the S 1000 RR, a big upgrade over the S 1000 R. They are phenomenally strong. On the road, you only ever need one finger on the adjustable radial flip-up lever, designed to flip up and not snap in a low-speed crash.
As you would expect from BMW, the brakes are linked to BMW’s ABS Pro system, which is lean-sensitive, due to the six-axis IMU. Furthermore, as like the new 2023 S 1000 RR, the naked M gets the same Brake Slide Assist system. Once selected (ABS Pro) the BSA works with multiple sensors and parameters, like brake pressure, to allow the bike to slide or ‘back-in’ to corners.
That ABS is recalibrated for the more powerful calipers. Stability during high-speed braking has also been boosted by the downforce of the new wings. The M feels incredible on the stoppers and could well turn out to be the best in class.
It’s not just the brakes that could be class-leading, the rider’s aids are remarkable. Along with the new BSA (Brake Slide Assis), there are multiple rider modes that change the power and torque, plus other rider aids like the standard traction control, (DTC Dynamic Traction Control system). It doesn’t end there, wheelie control, hill start, even a pit lane limiter, not forgetting the Shift Assistant Pro (quick shifter). As like the S 1000 RR, it takes less than a minute to reverse the shift for race/track use.
There are so many rider aids and options we didn’t have enough time on the day to try them all. But those we did play with worked to the highest level. Everything can be personalized to taste, from Rain mode will full rider aids acting as a safety net, to very few riders aids with ABS active on the front wheel only. One button on the left cluster turns off the TC and anti-wheelie control allowing you to loft the front end should you wish.
BMW M 1000 R – Verdict
BMW didn’t have to produce this 205 hp naked superbike, but thankfully they flexed their muscles to show what they can do. It’s the German’s most powerful naked bike to date, while its electronic package of rider aids and riding modes are class-leading. Add lightweight handling and awesome braking power – not to mention the ‘M’ style and a high level of finish – and the competition should be worried. At $21,345 (base model), it’s cheaper than the 200 bhp Italian super nakeds, too.
For myself, I would want to change the M’s Bridgestone RS11 rubber for something more track-focused. And there’s a little bit of me that wonders if BMW could have done more! I know, that sounds ridiculous. But the M is so wonderful, usable, and easy to ride that perhaps they could have gone even further – produced something a little more radical. It’s almost too good. I know I’m possibly going crazy.
The big ask will be when it goes up against the competition, especially from Italy. I predict that it will be the calmest of the super nakeds to ride ‘normally’ and will it cut on track. The standard S 100O R was down on lap speed compared to the competition, but now I expect the M 1000 R to be on top of the leaderboard – it will be close. Arguably the BMW may not offer the character and desirability of the others. It’s tough, because the M-Sport is desirable, as it’s versatile and bloody fast. The group test is going to be interesting. But finally, BMW has a bike that should match or top the competition on the track, without losing any of its versatility.
Images: Markus Jahn, Jorg Kunstle