More refinement equals more performance.
The Almeria Circuit in southeastern Spain has just about every type of corner and is an ideal place to test an open-class sportbike.
As I was riding along, I thought of Muhammad Ali’s often-quoted saying “Float like a butterfly. Sting like a bee.” Which was his own description of his fighting style. Those words really sum up BMW’s latest four-cylinder racetrack cruise missile. The new S 1000 RR’s amazing electronics provide the composure to float around a track, while the engine’s raw brute power delivers the sting.
It was just more than a decade ago that we here at Cycle World got our first really big dose of riding motorcycles equipped with electronic riding aids. In the August 2011 issue of the magazine, we pitted the Aprilia RSV4 Factory, BMW S 1000 RR, Ducati 1198, and Kawasaki ZX-10R against each other in “Electronic Warfare.” It was an eye-opener. As the first real generation of motorcycles as such equipped, it was a learning curve for us, while we tried to wrap our heads around if this was technology we really needed.
The 2023 BMW S 1000 RR was bred for the racetrack.
“Confidence breeds speed. Traction builds confidence.” That was the opening line to that story that I penned, and rings even more true today than back then. It should no longer be a secret that we can all benefit from today’s electronic rider aids. All those years ago, those systems were in their infancy, but the writing was on the wall, the electronic age had arrived.
Unless you’re a A-plus pro-level rider, managing traction on 200-plus horsepower trackbikes is definitely made easier by modern engine management. Case in point, the brand-new 2023 BMW S 1000 RR, which has received a host of updates and new additions that were conceived to make the rider better able to extract more performance without compromising safety. That adds up to quicker lap times at trackdays, and more confident riding on the street. But the new RR gets a host of other changes designed to work in concert with them to make this the best standard RR to date.
For 2023, the S 1000 RR gets upgrades to the chassis and suspension, gets new M-style aero winglets, and some new electronic assistance systems to further enhance the suite of rider aids. Many of these upgrades have trickled down from the homologation-special M 1000 RR, passing technology down through the lineup that was previously unavailable without spending a significant amount of money.
For 2023, the S 1000 RR gets a host of updates and refinements, many of them passed down from the homologation-special M 1000 RR.
Let’s start at the heart of this beast, because the RR’s potent engine is really what makes this bike so special. When the S 1000 RR first came out back in 2009, it sent shock waves through the class. And while peak power output hasn’t grown in leaps and bounds since, emissions regulations have, meaning that even to maintain that roughly 180 rear-wheel horsepower, BMW has had to pull out all of its technological know-how just to stay level with the past. But one of the benefits of launching out of the gate with big power back in 2009 is that the engine has been on a decade-long refinement cycle, and really hasn’t needed a total overhaul.
The S 1000 RR’s engine is a stressed member of the chassis and sits in the frame tilted 32 degrees forward.
Although the base architecture retains the same 80.0 x 49.7mm bore and stroke measurements and 999cc displacement as back in 2009, the compression ratio has crept up to 13.3:1 from 13.0:1. Over time the throttle bodies have grown from 45 to 48mm, and the valve train now has BMW’s ShiftCam variable intake cam control. Obviously there is a lot more to it than that, but the most recent M 1000 RR that we put on the Cycle World dyno produced 179.2 hp at 13,960 rpm, and 76.3 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 9,480 rpm at the rear wheel, and has identical claimed-crankshaft horsepower as this new S 1000 RR. Interestingly, our 2011 model from that test made 179.5 hp at 12,760 rpm and 79.1 lb.-ft. at 10,610 rpm.
Part of the Premium Package is the glorious sounding Akrapovič titanium silencer.
Changes for 2023 include a new airbox with shorter variable-intake funnels borrowed from the M 1000 RR and are optimized for top-end performance above 11,900 when they are reduced in length to increase intake velocity. The cylinder head’s intake ports have been revised and also aligned with the M’s head. Unlike the milled ports on the M, the S gets cast surfaces. Included in our bike’s Premium Package was the Akrapovič M titanium exhaust silencer (you’ve got to hear it!). Although it doesn’t sound like much, final-drive gearing is altered with an extra tooth on the rear sprocket up to 46 from 45. Power passes through a wet slipper clutch and six-speed transmission.
Like other aspects of the S 1000 RR, the electronics package has evolved over the years, benefiting from the march of technology and boosted by knowledge gained in Superbike racing around the globe. It’s also perhaps the most intimidating aspect of the bike, until you sit down and teach yourself how to navigate the menus, and learn how various systems react when riding.
A view of the command center. On the left bar are controls like the click wheel and toggle switches for navigating menus and for changing DTC settings on the fly.
Before we get into specifics, let’s do a quick rundown of what electronic systems the S 1000 RR has on it. Standard features include: Integral ABS (with Race ABS, ABS Pro), Dynamic Brake Control, Dynamic ESA, Dynamic Traction Control, Hill Start Control, Gear Shift Assist Pro, ride modes, Torque Control Assist, and an Electronic Immobilizer. If the buyer intends to ride on track, there are some additional and new features that are included in the optional Premium Package ($3,890), such as: Ride Modes Pro, Dynamic Damping Control, Pit Lane Limiter, and Launch Control, while heated grips and cruise control are also in the pack.
Included as standard is the Gear Shift Assist Pro that allows clutchless up- and downshifts. Look closely and you can also see how the shift shaft can easily be moved to change the shift pattern from standard to reverse. The shaft is set for standard shift in this photo.
Within the new Ride Modes Pro tier, there are some new extensions that were created to further enhance the track rider’s experience. First up is Slide Control that is associated with the DTC system. Basically Slide Control allows powerslides exiting corners on the throttle. Two drift angles are stored in the system, and when the slip angle arrives at those presets (depending on the TC setting), the DTC system intervenes to keep the slide from snapping out too far sideways.
On the braking side, there are multiple new systems. The first which is tied to the engine drag torque control (MSR)—electronic engine-braking control—called Brake Slide Assist, which allows the rider to step out and slide the rear end of the bike into the corner. Like the version for corner-exit acceleration, this system allows preset drift angles determined by a steering-angle sensor and rear-wheel slip, and then allows the predetermined angles to be achieved before intervention (MSR determines the angle of slip). Additionally, there are a few other new settings, the ABS Pro now has a “Slick” tire setting that has an even more aggressive algorithm for the lean-sensitive ABS on track. Lastly, there is a new Stoppie feature that will allow the ABS to permit rear-wheel lift in a controlled manner as the bike is decelerating aggressively.
This shock is the DDC version with electronic damping.
We’ll talk more about the semi-active suspension below, but there are some additional things you need to know about in terms of ride modes. The standard model trim comes with four modes, including: Rain, soft throttle response and reduced torque; Road, direct throttle response and reduced torque in lower gears; Dynamic, direct response and maximum torque in all gears; Race, direct response and max torque in all gears. Upgrade to Ride Modes Pro and there are three additional modes, Race Pro 1 through 3, that allow total customization of all parameters including power, throttle response, engine-braking, wheelie, DTC, DDC, and ABS settings. Most importantly, in these latter modes, the rider can then use the left-handlebar-mounted DTC switch to change those settings on the fly.
The 6.5-inch TFT display can be changed to multiple views.
You’ve probably gathered by now that with so many electronic features to choose from, that a well-designed interface is necessary to navigate the menus. The large 6.5-inch full-color TFT display not only helps you do just that, but it also gives you the option to choose from four different layouts with various displayed info depending on your preference. For street riding you can select an option that displays normal data like the odometer, tripmeter, and items like that. For the track you might want a larger tachometer and lap timer to be visible. There should be an option for just about any situation, and if you want to totally geek out, you can display an almost overwhelming amount of info to review later.
Another track-oriented view.
A minimalist view with bar graph tach.
As mentioned, the S 1000 RR also has some pretty big changes to the chassis. The aluminum bridge “Flex Frame” has been further developed to optimize lateral flexibility for better compliance over rough surfaces. The frame is constructed with four gravity die-cast pieces that are welded together and then use the engine as a stressed member. New openings in the side spars create the desired flex that engineers were looking for.
More obvious changes come in the form of revised chassis geometry. Rake has been mellowed out slightly changing from 23.1 degrees to a slacker 23.6, while trail has increased from 3.7 inches to 4.0. Along with all of those changes comes a 0.7-inch longer wheelbase that now measures 57.4 inches. Another cool feature for track riders and racers is that the frame gets the M Chassis Kit, which allows the swingarm pivot to be adjusted for different geometry options.
Shock height is adjustable on the S 1000 RR for better track settings, while revisions for easier wheel removal have been applied.
The swingarm itself is made from gravity-cast aluminum and allows the shock height to be altered. Other changes were made to make removal of the rear wheel easier. The rear wheel’s axle bushing on the caliper side is mounted so it won’t fall out during a wheel change, while the rear brake pads and brake anchor plate are chamfered for better wheel ingress.
The M Chassis Kit allows adjustment of the swingarm pivot point.
Suspension is provided by a 45mm upside-down Marzocchi fork in the front, and a linked monoshock of the same make at the rear; both are fully adjustable. Our bikes at the press launch were fitted with the optional Dynamic Damping Control (DDC) that is part of the Premium Package. The system takes information from the selected ride mode and determines the ideal compression and rebound settings for the selected choice. With that same package however is Ride Modes Pro, which also allows you to go in and alter damping settings in the Race Pro modes. Preload is still set manually. Wheel travel measures 4.7 inches front and 4.6 inches at the rear.
Nissin radial-mount, four-piston caliper with 320mm discs are fitted up front, and are amazing.
We’ve already gone into the electronic aspects of the RR’s braking system, but from a hardware standpoint, the bike uses a pair blue-anodized, radial-mount Nissin four-piston calipers up front biting down on 320mm rotors, while a single-piston Brembo caliper and 220mm disc reside out back. Our bike was fitted with standard brake and clutch levers, but there are some really trick billet-aluminum levers available in the M Billet Package ($475).
These trick billet aluminum rearsets are part of the M Package.
Standard wheels are die-cast aluminum, but when you opt for the M Package ($2,495) you can choose from either forged aluminum or carbon fiber wheels (same price). Our testbike for this intro was fitted with the beautifully finished carbon wheels, which also have the M Motorsport livery around the edges. Another piece of the M Package that makes an instant impact is the lightweight M lithium battery, which knocks quite a few pounds off and benefits handling. Included in the M Package are the billet fully adjustable splined rearsets, which are super trick in appearance and offer a ton of options for peg placement. Those who want to change the shift pattern from one down/five up to reverse shift for the track will like that it literally takes five seconds and one bolt to do so.
Buyers upgrading to the M Package can choose from these beautiful carbon fiber wheels or forged aluminum.
One of the very first things that you notice when seeing the new RR are the pair of aero winglets that have sprouted from the front fairing. Like the M 1000 RR’s, from which they are derived, the winglets are incorporated for improved performance and not just a visual novelty. On the racetrack, wheelies hamper drive, and with so much power on tap, taming them with electronics has been one of the only options, which further reduces acceleration. But BMW has applied the lessons learned in World Superbike racing and transferred it to the track-oriented RR, as well. At speed the winglets can generate as much as 22 pounds of downforce on the front end and therefore reduces the amount of DTC/DWC that needs to be used.
Handed down from the M 1000 RR, the new S 1000 RR gets aerodynamic winglets that provide up to 22 pounds of downforce at speed.
Not only has the front of the bike received improvements, the tailsection has been revised and features a new pillion-seat cover. Another cool change is that the new shorter license-plate bracket, which also incorporates the turn signals (that pair up to act as the taillight and pulse under hard braking) can be cleanly and quickly unplugged and removed for trackdays.
Long gone are the asymmetrical headlights of old, but time and styling must march on.
The day before our track sessions around the Almeria Circuit in southeastern Spain on the S 1000 RR, we were lucky enough to spin a few laps on BMW’s new M 1000 R (story coming soon) to get familiarized. What’s ideal about the circuit is that it has a bit of everything, including a variety of fast sweepers, a tight chicane, cambered turns, a few off-camber curves, and a near-kilometer-long back straight to really get a sense of the RR’s speed.
After pulling the tire warmers off of the Bridgestone Racing Battlax VO2 slicks BMW had mounted for the test, I headed out for a handful of laps behind BMW’s Nate Kern to get reacquainted with the proper racing line. With five sessions planned for the day, there was plenty of time to mess around with settings, build confidence, and then allow the electronics to do their job.
It doesn’t take long to realize that the S 1000 RR makes going “fast” easy.
Even after my first session, in which I was clearly still not even close to being up to speed, I pulled back into the pits feeling fresh and relaxed. There is no question that the S 1000 RR is a total beast, providing acceleration that only a few production bikes on the planet can match, but at the same time, I was instantly blown away by the bike’s composure. As I started to get into a groove and push my braking marker deeper into the right-hander off the back straight, routinely seeing around 280 kph (175-ish), I realized how relaxed I was snugged in behind the tall windscreen bubble.
Each lap I would work on picking up the throttle sooner and trusting my DTC setting, and then just staring at the dash waiting for the shift light and timing my upshifts to perfection with the quickshifter. Not only was the bike the epitome of stability at speed (winglets at work?), but under hard braking while making three downshifts for the corner, the RR was amazingly predictable and stable. I could vaguely feel the ABS, set in ABS Pro Slick mode, at work at times with the front tire squirming on some minor undulations, but the bike’s rear end followed in line precisely with the combo of the electronics and slipper clutch working perfectly.
At the other end of the spectrum at Almeria is the tight chicane that precedes the back straight by a few corners. The corner leading into the chicane is an off-camber left over a rise, which took a bit of time to fully feel confident through. The quick left/right flick through the chicane required a lot less effort than I anticipated, most certainly aided by the ultralightweight carbon wheels. On approach you have to let the bike run out to the right while trail-braking as you exit the rise, and then flick it in. Once I trusted the grip across the chicane’s paint, I started pushing a bit harder each lap. The bike could have cared less, and clearly wished someone faster was behind the bars to challenge it a bit more.
I tried a session without ABS, and decided that it wasn’t for me! Back to ABS Slick mode.
As the day progressed, I started messing with the settings a bit more. I played with DTC settings, which can be done on the fly in the Race Pro ride modes. I then tried a session with the ABS off, which only messed with my head, as I had felt the ABS in action in an earlier session. To be honest, the ABS and its Slick setting was in no way intrusive at speed. Maybe Canadian Superbike champ Ben Young or former World Superbike rider Brett McCormick, who were on track as well, can do without, but not me. ABS back on. Combined with the awesome power and feel of the Nissin brakes I wasn’t going to brake any harder or any later. As a note, the only two places on the track where I didn’t use just a single finger on the front brake lever was into turn 1, and into the corner off the back straight, where I added another digit. No Brembo Stylemas needed.
As much as I’m old-school and enjoy setting up a bike’s suspension and fine-tuning it to perfection, I have to say that just riding the thing and barely putting a thought toward that is kind of nice. BMW’s test riders put base settings on my bike, that I shared with another rider throughout the day, that neither one of us ever touched. In reality, once the preload is in the ballpark, the DDC does the rest, and I have to say that I didn’t have a single complaint. It’s just another feature that allows the rider to focus on the riding and not having to micromanage suspension settings.
Do the winglets work? I’m going to have to trust BMW’s development team on that one, but they assured me that they wouldn’t be there if they didn’t work.
Later in the day as the excellent Bridgestone slicks started to show signs that they had served their useful duty, I was able to finally get a sense of the Slide Control in action. Exiting the right-hander onto the back straight in second gear and with the DTC at -2 (settings range from -7 to +7), with the tire getting a bit shabby, I spent the session working up the guts to really whack the throttle open at the apex and see if I got catapulted into the orchards adjacent to the track, or not. I didn’t, and got a nice sensation that Kern had described as the rear tire stepping out just a touch and catching a berm that keeps it from stepping out too much and simply drives forward. As a guy who spends a lot of time off-road, I wish I would have had the confidence to do that earlier in the day. So fun.
So flashing back to the statement: “Confidence breeds speed. Traction builds confidence,” I’m so much more convinced of this now than when I wrote the “Electronic Warfare” story more than a decade ago. Back in 2011, I was riding on track on a far more frequent basis, and even tested each and every World Superbike at the end of the season at Portimão including Leon Haslam’s S 1000 RR. But after a stupid five-year hiatus from Cycle World riding primarily enduros and streetbikes, getting back on track on a liter-class sportbike should have been a re-babtism of fire. It wasn’t at all. I’m definitely in need of a lot more track time to feel anything like I did five or six years ago, but I honestly didn’t think that the BMW was going to be so easy to ride.
Throughout the day at Almeria, I thought long and hard about what the rear tire was doing, what the front tire was dealing with, and if there was any chance that I was currently capable of beating the systems if they were all disabled. You can easily guess that I’m going to say, no. I may be track rusty, but I also have spun laps on racetracks around the world for more than 25 years. I’m not saying that any ol’ Joe can jump on a 200-plus horsepower S 1000 RR and feel confident and relaxed right away, but for experienced riders it’s one hell of an excellent bike that offers a level of refinement, performance, and speed that breeds confidence far quicker than I could have imagined. Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee? Most definitely.
2023 S 1000 RR at Almeria.
2023 BMW S 1000 RR.
The M Package includes a lightweight lithium battery.
2023 BMW S 1000 RR In Racing Red.
2023 S 1000 RR in Black Storm Metallic.
2023 BMW S 1000 RR Specifications
|MSRP:||$17,895 / $23,425 (as tested)|
|Engine:||DOHC, liquid-cooled inline-four; 16 valves|
|Bore x Stroke:||80.0 x 49.7mm|
|Claimed Horsepower:||205.0 hp @ 13,500 rpm|
|Claimed Torque:||83.0 lb.-ft. @ 11,000 rpm|
|Fuel System:||Electronic fuel injection w/ 48mm throttle bodies|
|Clutch:||Wet, multi-disc back-torque-limiting; cable operation|
|Front Suspension:||45mm Marzocchi inverted fork, fully adjustable; 4.7 in. travel / DDC|
|Rear Suspension:||Marzocchi shock, fully adjustable; 4.6 in. travel / DDC|
|Front Brake:||Nissin 4-piston Monoblock calipers, dual 320mm discs w/ ABS|
|Rear Brake:||Nissin 1-piston slide-pin caliper, 220mm disc w/ ABS|
|Wheels: Front/Rear:||Cast aluminum; 17 x 3.50 in. / 17 x 6.00 in. / M Carbon Fiber|
|Tires: Front/Rear:||120/70ZR-17 / 190/55ZR-17 (200/55ZR-17 M wheel)|
|Ground Clearance:||4.7 in.|
|Seat Height:||32.8 in.|
|Fuel Capacity:||4.4 gal.|
|Claimed Wet Weight:||434 lb. (427 lb. M Package)|
Keyword: 2023 BMW S 1000 RR First Ride