BMW Motorrad, the motorcycle division of BMW are currently celebrating 90 years of designing and manufacturing motorcycles. 2013 was BMW Motorrad’s best year for five years in Ireland, with sales in excess of 120 units. This year is a significant one for the German manufacturer, having just launched five new models worldwide including Ireland.
One of BMW’s all-new motorcycles is the R nineT, a motorcycle that encapsulates their 90th anniversary. Its styling is clearly a classic roadster café-racer bike that’s striking from any angle. There’s a mix of old school design such as the single circular headlight and classic instrument dials, combined with modern comforts such as radial brake callipers and upside-down front suspension struts borrowed from the S1000 RR superbike. Similar to BMW’s first motorcycle in 1923, the R32, the R nineT is powered by a flat-twin boxer engine. It produces a satisfactory 110hp and 119Nm of torque.
The riding position on the R nineT is low and extremely comfortable with upright handlebars within easy reach for all rider sizes. The suspension is set-up for more comfort than dynamic handling, it soaks up undulations in the road with ease. On the other hand, if you push the bike through twisty sections of road it’s capable of holding a tighter trajectory then you may foresee, it moves beneath you at a predicable pace. Above all the R nineT is genuinely fun to ride, it’s never going to be chosen as a daily commuter but any motorcycle enthusiast would love to have one in their garage for summer evening spins. The R nineT costs from €15,950 unfortunately with a production run of just 300 motorcycles they are all sold out. No doubt capacity will be increased to produce more in the coming year.
BMW’s S 1000 RR superbike has rocked the established Japanese and Italian superbikes since it was first launched in 2009. Now a naked sibling has been created, with the arrival of the S 1000 R. Despite its lack of full fairings the R is instantly recognisable as a close derivative of the RR. It shares many components, including the 999cc four-cylinder in-line engine. Power is less then the RR’s with 160hp produced, in comparison to the RR’s 193hp. Interestingly though the low and mid-range power and torque has been increased, resulting in the R developing ten Newton metres more torque up to 7,500rpm in comparison to its elder sibling.
The S 1000 R Sport is the sole variant on sale in Ireland. It comes as standard with a host of safety and performance features, including ASC (Automatic Stability Control), Race ABS, dynamic traction control, dynamic damping control, gear shift assist, riding mode pro, heated grips and LED indicators. You can select from four riding modes, rain, road, dynamic and dynamic pro. Dynamic damping control is an innovative feature on a motorcycle, it’s effectively semi-active suspension and it will automatically stiffen or soften the bike’s damping (rebound and compression) on the go depending on a number of variants such as acceleration, deceleration, speed and throttle position. Each riding mode changes the power delivery and throttle sensitivity, along with the varying levels of race ABS and ASC intervention. The result is a highly complex motorcycle that’s capable of adapting to each rider’s requirements in a fraction of a second.
The riding position is upright and secure although the footpegs are set quite high, with little or no fairings there’s no weather protection for the rider. As typical Irish weather would have it rain constantly appeared along my test route. Despite standing water on corners the S 1000 R felt stable, the reassurance of stability control and abs on a motorcycle in these conditions is highly valued. The bike changes direction rapidly thanks to the short upright handlebars, although fine on the road there’s an abysmal lack of steering lock for manoeuvring in and out of parking spots.
The S 1000 R is a thrilling motorcycle to ride, in dynamic mode it’s a riot but you need to have your wits about you. There’s a cracking sound from the exhaust when you lift-off the throttle on the overrun. It’s undoubtedly value for money retailing at €14,660 and is sure to rock the established Aprilia Tuono V4R and KTM 1290 Super Duke R.
The ever-popular BMW R 1200 RT has a fresh new look, along with a multitude of new technology to keep up with some of its key competitors including the Triumph Trophy. The key feature about this new RT is its new air and water cooled boxer engine, first introduced last year on the all-new R 1200 GS. This new engine increases power to 125hp from its predecessor’s 110hp. On the road this new RT feels larger than before, mainly by the presence of more fairings which improve weather protection for the rider. As before, it handles with impeccable manners in all conditions, the additional power is noticeable particularly at higher speeds where it’s eager to continue accelerating with minimal effort. A new feature is BMW’s gear shift assistant pro (standard on LE model), it allows you to make upshifts and downshifts without using the clutch. I’ve ridden motorcycles with a quick shifter before, it allows you to flat-shift as you change up a gear but changing down without de-clutching or blipping the throttle is a strange sensation at first. The bike automatically revs the throttle in time with the down changes, in car terms it’s similar to the auto-blip Porsche has on its new seven-speed manual transmission. Another unique feature is the hill start control which makes hill starts effortless, especially satisfying when carrying a pillion and luggage.
The RT has taken a step forward closer to its larger tourer relation the K 1600 GT, with the integration of a 5.7” colour display that houses the entire bike’s information and functions. You can quickly navigate your way through the various menus and settings through the twist wheel on the left handlebar, it works in a similar vein to the i-Drive in BMW cars. The RT SE costs from €19,450 we would envisage the majority of sales to consist of the LE model at €20,470 as the additional spend grants you an array of additional equipment.
The BMW R 1200 GS Adventure has also benefited from the fitment of the new air and liquid cooled boxer engine. Power is the same as the standard GS at 125hp, it has two riding modes as standard, Rain and Road, the optional riding mode Pro (standard on XE and TE models) features an additional three riding modes, Dynamic, Enduro and Enduro Pro. The intelligent semi-active suspension is also available for the GS Adventure. The Adventure has an imposing appearance due to its shear size, once you sit on it you feel secure and relaxed, the new seat feels like an expensive memory foam mattress, ideal for long journeys. It’s a motorcycle renowned for its globe-trotting ability, this new model is easier to ride and smoother then its predecessor, and the new engine is just what this GS required to tackle KTM’s 150hp 1190 Adventure. It’s my motorcycle of choice for riding in all weather conditions on any terrain. Prices commence from €16,950 and swiftly rise depending on specification.
At just under €30,000 the K 1600 GTL Exclusive is BMW Motorrad’s most expensive motorcycle, it’s also the most luxurious. With a 1.6-litre six-cylinder the GTL is more akin to a 3-Series BMW than a motorcycle. This range-topping GTL has been designed for those who wish to travel in style. The pillion passenger can relax with a heated backrest and armrests. There are far too many features to list, these include keyless ignition, hill start control, central locking and a xenon headlight.
The R nineT hints at BMW Motorrad’s past but their concentration is clearly on the future. They’ve successfully turned their image around over the past few years and attracted a more youthful motorcyclist. We will see more new models from BMW Motorrad over the coming months as they continually increase their expanding motorcycle range.
I’ll be riding BMW Motorrad’s new R 1200 GS Adventure over the next few months, below is a short video on the motorcycle.
Special thanks to Stuart Carrick for some of the photos above.