S 1000 RR 2023

S 1000 RR 2023 – First Ride Review

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BMW has upped their superbike game with the 2023 S 1000 RR. Showcasing significant upgrades and more sophisticated electronics, the 2023 machine will have the competition worried.

The 2023 BMW S 1000 RR adopts the steering geometry, adjustable swing-arm pivot and ride height adjustment of the M-Sport, plus a few more top-end horsepower from the excellent ShiftCam engine along with a pair of distinctive aero wings. Electronics have taken a significant step forward with a new DTC Side Control, MSR engine brake torque control system, BSA Brake Slide Assist, ABS Pro which is cornering ABS for use on track with slicks fitted, and even an ABS Stoppie feature. Many of these new features are due to the new steering angle sensor.

We headed to Almeria in Spain to see if the 2023 BMW S 1000 RR can make you ride like God, or at least make you feel like you can.

S 1000 RR 2023

Around the track 

Changes to the chassis are essentially stolen from the proven M 1000 RR. The 2023 S 1000 RR gets the M chassis kit, with an adjustable swingarm pivot point, while BMW has revised the rear shock and 45mm USD forks for 2023. As fitted to our test bike, electronic damping adjustment is an optional extra with the DDC ‘Dynamic Damping Control’ package, (Dynamic Package heated grips, cruise control, dynamic damping, riding modes pro) altering the suspension settings to suit the selected riding mode.

Quoted weight remains the same, 197 kg fully-fuelled for the standard bike, 195.4kg with the optional Race Package that adds forged alloy wheels instead of die-cast rims, and 193.5kg with the M Package option that switches them for lightweight carbon wheels, which were fitted to our test bike, (M Pack carbon wheels, M colour, M Seat).

The Flex Frame uses the ShiftCam as a stress member, the wheelbase has increased and the chassis dimensions are more casual, the steering head angle is shallower, again very similar to the M 1000 RR. Wing emerge for the first time, generating up to 17.1kg of downforce at 300kph, or 186mph, 7.6kg at 200kph, 11.9kg at 250kph.

We had the perfect conditions in southern Spain in Almeria, at a track I first rode in 2003, as well as pre-heated Bridgestone slicks. BMW fitted the M-Sport carbon wheels and set the DCT suspension to match the high-grip tyres and track temperatures. Conditions could not have been better. If the 2023 S 1000 RR was going to shine, it would be now.

S 1000 RR 2023

The changes are not gigantic but are significant. Within a few laps, you feel at home on the S 1000 RR; like a bike you’ve been racing all season. You instantly click and recognize how the new chassis translates to the rider. 

The BMW isn’t a merciless sports bike as its aggressive winged looks suggest. Instead, it’s its ease of use that shines. The steering is beautiful: look where you want to be and you’re there. Apexes are hit with perfect accuracy lap after lap and with little effort. You don’t have to force it; everything is met with a natural response.  

Mid-corner grip and feedback are superb, and body position changes don’t appear to upset the chassis or grip. Get on the power early and, instead of drifting wide, the BMW continues to hold a line like it’s in an invisible berm. 

Stability, is implacable. Towards the end of the Almeria lap, there’s a tight chicane where you make some time by clipping or riding over the kerbs. I was hitting the kerb harder and harder, leaning over further, even braking deep over the first kerb – yet the S 1000 RR never skipped, slid or showed any indication of disobedience. 

S 1000 RR 2023

With the large TFT dash reading just over 280kph at the end of the long straight, high-speed stability wasn’t in question either. The new, larger screen takes most of the wind blast so you can get tucked in, relax and release your grip from the bars, which remain unflustered. It’s hard to be certain but this may in part be down to the new aerodynamics as well as to chassis changes like a longer wheelbase.

ABS Pro is new for this year and is essentially cornering ABS designed to work with slick tyres (with optional Pro mode). Combine that with the new MSR engine brake control, and BSA Brake Slide Assist (in optional Pro mode) and it’s a fearsome braking package.

It almost takes the calculation of braking out of the rider’s hands, it’s that good. The ABS Pro is designed to work with slick rubber and allows you to brake astonishingly deep and late without fear of locking the front tyre. 

The new BSA works with the ABS and the MSR and is for track use. The clutch must be engaged, revs need to be very high, and deceleration needs to be rapid, think race levels. This new clever system works with the new steering head sensor, plus other parameters like brake pressure, and again information from the 6-axis IMU.

S 1000 RR 2023

The system can calculate how much you are steering into a slide when braking heavily and the rear end starts to come around or ‘back in’. It took me most of the day before I could jump on the brakes (front and rear) and allow the system to bring the rear back in line with the front. I’m no AMA rider, and it took me a while to activate the system and then trust it. But when the system kicks in, it’s extraordinary.  

More tech than before 

New for BMW is the introduction of the Slide Control function which allows the rider to preselect one of two possible drift angles that can be achieved before the Dynamic Traction Control system intervenes. The clever system uses the prementioned new sensor on the bike’s steering angle to work out how far out of line the rear wheel is. Think of a Speedway bike steering into the slide as an extreme example. The BSA Brake Slide Assist uses the same sensor, along with other data, including information from the IMU. In theory, you can now truly power slide and steer from the rear.

However, this will be relevant or useful to only a small majority of riders. For starters, you must turn down the DTC (traction control) enough to get the rear spinning because you can’t power slide unless the rear is spinning and has lost grip. To make a rear Bridgestone slick spin faster than the front, in perfect conditions in sunny Spain requires skill and bravery, and after six long sessions on the same rear tyre, I still don’t think I managed to provoke a true power slide that activated the system. But it’s nice to know it’s there when that mistake does happen and the rear does start spinning, perhaps after clipping a kerb or just giving it too much on a worn tyre. Can’t wait to try it when there’s less grip on a poor tyre or surface.

S 1000 RR 2023

Power 

Torque remains unchanged at 83.3lb-ft at 11,000rpm but they have added an extra tooth on the rear sprocket to give the sensation of more drive. Peak power is 205hp at 13500rpm, no longer 13000rpm. (The bike tested is the 210 hp European version not the 205 hp US model. Power is slightly less due to noise regulations)

I’m sure the clever Germans could have matched or even surpassed their superbike rivals but, bluntly the S 1000 RR didn’t need any more horses in the first place. The ShiftCam engine is the key element to the BMW’s overall package and ensures the S 1000 RR is ultra-versatile. The S 1000 RR shares the same engine and power and torque curves as the naked M 1000 R, all be it with different gearing, and is able to pull from 30mph in sixth gear.

Engine performance on track is incredible but comparable to the old bike. Power delivery is anything but peaky; you don’t need to be in the last 20% of the rev range to get the party started. Instead, the RR pulls cleanly through its midrange, and you can even afford to short shift to give the electronic rider aids an easier time. Equally, you can bounce the S 1000 RR off its soft rev limiter and make it scream. Still pulling at 280kph at the end of the straight, before jumping on the brakes. 

S 1000 RR 2023

Fuelling is excellent, amongst the best I’ve ever experienced on a 1000cc sports bike. You can be so precise with the throttle, getting on the power sooner and sooner. The usability of the motor, backed up by new and advanced rider aids, means you can use every horse in the stable, and nothing goes to waste. For a 205 hp rocket, the RR is incredibly easy to use and probably the least intimidating bike in this class. 

Dare we say practical 

We didn’t manage any road miles on test but the Dynamic Damping Controlled suspension allows the suspension to change automatically for road conditions, and despite its track capabilities cruise control, heated grips, and even hill control are still available. You could even go one stage further and fit genuine luggage from BMW. Yes, you can use this superbike every day.

The rear seat unit is new, with the integrated GoPro mount but the seat height remains the same at 824mm. We obviously didn’t test fuel consumption on track, but BMW’s official fuel consumption numbers for the S 1000 RR are unchanged for 2023 6.4l/100km.

S 1000 RR 2023

2023 BMW S 1000 RR Verdict 

The 2023 BMW S 1000 RR isn’t vastly separate from the already excellent 2022 machine. On-paper performance is or should be about similar as the old bike… But that doesn’t tell the complete story. 

The S 1000 RR didn’t need any more power. What counts is the ease of use of the horsepower it already possesses – and in this respect, the RR feels friendly. It’s so unintimidating you can just jump on and hammer it.

S 1000 RR 2023

The changes to the chassis, even the addition of new aerodynamic wings, aren’t ground-breaking, but undoubtedly, make a difference, dependant on speed, and are proven to work on the M-Sport. We had the perfect conditions in Spain on slick pre-heated Bridgestone rubber but, wow, what a handling package. The chassis’ feedback, stability and huge stopping power are staggering. It’s so easy to pilot you can cut fast laps all day long without feeling exhausted. You never feel like you’re in a fight with a 200-plus bhp angry animal; only that the RR working with you. 

Electronic rider aids have upped the Beemer’s game to the point they are not merely on par with the competition, but questionably above. Some of the rider aids may only appeal to highly skilled riders, but the traction control is superbly effective and the updated quick-shifter is near as dam it, perfect which even ‘normal’ riders will feel. The engine, chassis, and rider aids are so good, it’s so rewarding and easy to ride, the RR really feels like an arcade game. However you can still get it wrong – and it will hurt, unlike the arcade game. I’m running out of superlatives for this very special BMW. It’s not just good. It’s excellent.

S 1000 RR 2023

Images: Markus Jahn and Jorg Kunstle


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