How many times in a lifetime do you get to ride (flog)
the flagship model of a renowned manufacturer? A
huge name, established in motorsports and one that
recently debuted to a credible start in the World
A bike, with so many technological features, being
offered with almost ALL of the fancy gizmos (traction
control, race ABS, quick shifter, racing exhaust,
etc...) of racing at a price of the common offering?
Unless you’re set with fat bank account or are a
jet-setting bike journo travelling the world on
invitation, I don’t think the number will even reach
However, things were taking an opportune turn on
Sunday, February 28th. Why? BMW Malaysia had
brought in 14 S1000RR motorcycles with all the add-on
kits mentioned above. They were opening the
product launch and track test ride (dubbed “Welcome to
Planet Power”) not only to the media, but to racers,
ex-racers and also the general public!
Totally unheard of and I have never seen any
manufacturer promote an event like this for their newest
bike in Malaysia (Honda has on occasion, but only
for their small mopeds or Cub series bikes).
To top it off, it was done at the world class
facility of the Sepang F1 circuit, with a fantastic
lunch catered by the world class Concorde Hotel Sepang)!
There were even PlayStation consoles with MotoGP
games for participants to brush up on the Sepang
circuit. And there was more -- free-flowing Red
Bull was provided at no cost to keep the energy level up
(not to mention thirst quenching, it was 40’C during
that day) and the bikes were equipped with Metzeler
Racetec K3 tyres for, well, I guess, corner angle
enjoyment. What more can a non-bike journo guy
Having never ridden a BMW motorcycle of any kind
before, I was curious on how it would impress me -- and
I mean first impression. Is it really as good as
the hype by journos and mags the world over? Did
BMW manage to make a Supersports bike, bucking the
belief that they’re only capable of producing gentlemen
tourers -- sit-up-straight huge beasts that weigh more
than four of my closest overweight 6 foot friends put
together? I was skeptical...
Thanks to BMW Motorsports Manager Mr. Fadzly (aka
"Fastly"), who made it all happen (L).
Thanks to Chris Heng for the photos (R).
Prior to the track launch, there was a road test on
Wednesday, the 24th of February (which unfortunately I
wasn’t able to participate in) from Kuala Lumpur to
Johor Bahru at the southernmost tip of Malaysia.
Two of my pals, Zack and Adlie, were roped in to get
the job done. Both are racers in the Malaysian
Super Series Superbikes Championships and Adlie, a
riding trainer of a local superbike school, is the guest
instructor for BMW.
The journey was done on the North South Highway,
spanning 400 km and 800 km for a round trip.
Staring at 6 pm, the crew was supposed to leave with 14
riders, but only 8 turned up. At about 3:30 am I
received a text from Zack stating that they are back in
Kuala Lumpur but it was a bit late to call and seeing
the tone of the message shows that he was pooped, so I
decided to check with him later in the day.
Guest instructor Adlie and tester Zack
(L). BMW S 1000 RR Instruments (R).
Precisely after lunch I called up both my pals and
grilled them with the obvious questions. How was
it like to ride? How was the acceleration?
How was the ergonomics? Was the engine powerful?
How about wind protection? Looks? Fit and finish?
The answer from both was a resounding positive
emotion. They said that one notable trait of the
bike was the smoothness of the engine -- no sudden
spikes in power, a strong midrange and a stomping top
They also mentioned that the delivery was akin to the
benchmark in the one litre class, the Honda CBR1000RR.
It was really well behaved like a kitten in the streets
of towns they passed through yet had more than enough
horses to blur their vision once on the freeway.
Riding position was a mixed reaction. While the
feet were placed really comfortably, handle bar
placement were in a lean forward stance with a slight
longish reach to it, like a Yamaha R1. The tank
had the width and shape that match the CBR1000RR.
From their words, I learned how easy it was to ride
the bike, the engine being very well mannered and also
with comfortable ergonomics. In a tuck position
the wind protection was really good, deflecting not only
turbulence but also wind noise, resulting in a
relatively quiet ride, even at speeds more than 100 mph.
Fit and finish is definitely on par with bikes in
this category; although not up to Ducati standards, it
is really impressive to see BMW manage to get to this
level of quality at the first attempt for a Supersports
The guys also reported that the sound was well, ahem,
very Japanesey-Yamaha-R1 sounding (pre2009), with a
banshee like wail in the upper ranges of the RPM, which
was quite impressive. So I guess it’s a (two?)
thumbs up for the Beemer in this part of the evaluation!
BMW S 1000 RR Track Day!
Now we get back to the track launch. I was
really excited for the couple of days leading to the
event. My brother Sani and I were told of the
event by Adlie, BMW’s guest instructor for that day.
We waxed our gear (leathers!) till they shone and
prepared mentally going through Sepang’s turn over and
over again. Went to bed early but couldn’t sleep
thinking about traction control, quick shifters, race
The alarm of my mobile sounded at precisely 6:45 am
and I was up and showered in a jiffy. My gear,
already packed from last night, was ready to go and at 8
am we took off to Sepang. The registration was 11
am so we had plenty of time, even though the track is
about 70 km from where we live. On the way we
stopped by Zack’s house (he wanted to go together),
reviewed the bike some more, had chocolate energy drinks
and off we go again.
Reaching the track at precisely 11 am, we were
totally surprised at how many people were there.
BMW didn’t advertise the event (only through forums and
word of mouth) but it seemed that a lot of people caught
the news and spread it like wild fire!
Earlier that morning there was a track session from 9
am to 11 am and there were many Singaporeans just
finishing up and waiting for the S 1000 RR launch.
There were even spectators! Apparently those who
came to test the bikes also brought along family members
to shoot photos, and the grandstand was filled with
quite a few people.
Aerial view of Sepang Circuit.
Sepang Circuit diagram, North and South tracks.
SEPANG STATISTICS Pole Position : Left
Length : 5,548 meters / 3.447 miles
Width : up to 25 meters
Right Corners : 10
Left Corners : 5
Longest Straight : 920 meters / 0.572 miles
Track Day Briefing
At the registration counter, I registered under the
"Racer" category, which was to begin at 12 pm.
There were several sessions in the schedule, beginning
with the media, and there were six sessions for all the
other categories, consisting of racers and ex-racers,
advanced, pre booked owners, novices and the last
session was for the instructors.
Sani, who’s has never ridden at Sepang before, signed
up for the novice category. This would provide me
with useful feedback on how track newbies were to
evaluate the S1000RR.
Got our suits ready and warmed up, we were directed
into the pit media room 23 for a track briefing and a
talk on Metzeler Racetec tyres. The track briefing
was done by Adlie, discussing flags, basic gears and
speed on the track, and more interestingly, the traction
control, ABS and quick shifter settings.
We were given the RACE Traction Control settings,
with Race ABS switched on and the quickshifter with
street pattern shifting. Most bikes were equipped
with the Akrapovic slip-on.
Somebody mentioned about full SLICK traction control
settings, and Adlie said that Race mode was more than
sufficient for the kind of riding that we will be doing.
Apparently we’re still able to pull full power through
all the gears, only that the traction control will cut
in at more than 48 degrees lean angle. Slick will
come on at 52 degrees, so I don’t think anyone is going
to get that far over, especially with the condition that
we cannot overtake the instructor for our group.
Another thing is that we won’t be able to
wheelie (wheelie sensor) for more than 5 seconds, should
the front wheel claw the air at 23 degrees or more
angle. Again -- is this a road or race bike?
BMW S 1000 RR Tyres
The Metzeler technician, Frank, came all the way from
Germany to brief us on the tyres. He briefed us on
the history of Metzeler, that they only make tyres for
two-wheeled vehicles, and being a German company has
very close ties with BMW while building the S1000RR.
He talked about the zero degree belting and how it
affects the tyre. By applying differing tension
strengths to each individual spiral, they achieved
different levels of grip and durability instead of using
different compounds on different sections of the tyre,
thus taking out the stepped feeling going from straight
He also mentioned that the tyre was impervious to
heat cycles and operate on a broader range of
temperatures. Finally, to reassure us, Frank said
these are the same tyres used in the Superstock category
in the British Superbike Championships. That’s
An officially imported BMW staffer from
On the Track
Finally it was time to ride the bikes! Headed
to the pit and there they were -- everything was
shining, even the tyres, and it was all radiating a
World Superbike presence!
Put on my helmet, and wait, the media is going out
first! We have to wait for five laps of the
journos riding! Took off my helmet and sat on the
display bike in the middle of the pit. At least
we’re getting the tyres scrubbed in for us!
About ten minutes later the media group was back in
the pits. Hooray! The first group of four
following an instructor went off. My group,
identical in arrangement, was to go next, one lap later.
They called my name and I was assigned a black beauty!
First things first, we were given 5 laps, and it was
around the North Track, meaning that they have closed
turn seven, therefore turn six turns back in to the main
grandstand straight through the pit entry road,
rebranded turn seven and eight. Total distance is
2.7 km. They also have the South Track, meaning
the other half of the track, also about 2.7km.
But today for the public it’s the North Track, while
pre-booked owners of the bikes will get to do full
track. Oh well, free bike, free track, free tyres
(and lunch), it’s more than what I could bargain for!
Mounting the bike, I felt my way on it. The
feeling immediately seemed to cue with what Zack and
Adlie said a couple days back -- a tinge of R1-like
wrist extension, with seating, tank width and position
of the CBR.
I switched on the engine and two symbols on the
clocks lighted up, quickly catching my eye. One
was a handbrake sign (a car?) while the other was a
spiral symbol. I raised my hand to the BMW
personnel and he informed me that it is the Traction
Control and Race ABS indicators, which will shut off
once you start riding.
Blip the throttle and yes, it sounds like I was on a
pre-2009 R1, blipping it higher in the rev range, it
still sounds the same. Hmmm...the one I was on
didn’t have an Akrapovic slipped on, but even the bike
beside me sounded similar.
OK so here we go! Clunk the really smooth
gearbox into first gear with the light, very good
feeling clutch and we headed right into Turn 1.
Good thing the tyres were still warm! Coming
into the entrance I was expecting maybe a little heavy
steering and cumbersome tank sizing resulting in a
not-so-agile feeling in the S bends of 1 and 2, but how
wrong I was! The Beemer turned in so effortlessly
and neutrally, at a gradually quick rate that leaning
was a breeze!
Flicking it left into turn 2 proved so agile and
light, belying its size and power! The engine was
so smooth and jerk free that you would swear this is a
sports-tourer engine. No excess power and spikes
that would upset your line or catch you by surprise.
However flicking it up and right into the ultra fast
downhill section of turn 3 proved that BMW did not
release the bike with a dud engine.
Shifting into 3rd and immediately into 4th, the
engine roared to life with such a strong midrange and
before I knew it, the shift light is blinking at the
entrance of turn 4, indicating 220 kmh on the speedo!
Another note here, many bikes that I have ridden at
this very section would tend to drift to the left under
the downhill acceleration heading to the right into the
ascending turn 4, but on this bike there was none!
The excellent chassis and suspension really did their
job. The ergos were well designed to let you move
your body around and I felt comfortable positioning
myself to tackle the corner.
A short burst of speed and we’re into turn 4.
As I mentioned, a glimpse at the speedo showed 220 kmh
and I two fingered the front brake, while downshifting 2
gears into 2nd gear.
Here I have to give any potential buyers a warning:
even at the middle setting of the lever pull, it felt
like I almost hit a brick wall! Or is it the other
way round! The rear wheel went up slightly in the
air and I slammed into the tank (OUCH!)
What I’m trying to say is the monobloc Brembo
calipers are not toys -- they’re serious equipment to
let you leave your braking as late, precise and strong
as you dare and able to, and then a bit more. The
brakes had great feedback and feel, but the initial bite
was so strong and sudden that for mere mortals like me,
was almost overkill!
Into turn 4, a 90’ positive camber right hander
ascending slightly into turn 5, a lefthander so blind
you have to jump in with a huge dose of faith due to the
short but strong acceleration burst from 2nd gear to 3rd
gear. Again I praise the engineers for such a
stable and planted front end.
Turn 5 lasts for approximately 5 seconds before
flicking it into turn 6 and holding the apex into
another slight right into turn 7. The suspension
were almost spot on, just needing slightly more preload
for the front to stop excess diving, but the rear was
behaving really well, letting me dig in to turn 8,
another right hander at about 80 degrees, leading into
the 920 meter long main straight.
Holding third gear proved there was plenty of torque
to pull the bike even in slow corners like turn 8, and
as soon as the bike was upright I whacked open the
throttle, sticking to the inside line to maximise grip
and drive. Before you know it, the shift light was
blinking, asking for another gear, while the bike just
gobbled the near 1 km straight like a hungry sumo
wrestler at the local KFC!
I didn’t imagine that such a docile bike can be so
brutal and fast revving in the same engine map!
Everything was in space warp mode and a few seconds
later, I was at the 200 m braking mark. Again
taking a glimpse at the speedo, it showed 250 kmh in 6th
gear, and I two fingered the front brake.
Nope, still too much power and as I pressed the rear
pedal for traction feel, unfortunately there was none as
the rear wheel was in the air again! I found that
I had wayyyy too much space entering turn 1! This
meant I had to get more speed in the front straight or
brake later, in the preceding laps.
As I got more laps in, my confidence in the whole
package allowed me to go faster and deeper in every
turn, with surprisingly not as much anxiety and wear and
tear, due to the ease of operation of the engine, the
extremely neutral and stable handling and telepathic
braking capabilities of the bike.
Just as I was enjoying the bike some more, the five
laps ended and we were directed back to pit lane . I
took some feedback from other riders and all commented
on the same thing, ease of use of the engine, confidence
inducing neutral handling, agility belying a 1000 cc
fire-breathing World Superbike contender and stonking
They also agreed that BMW had built a bike that is at
least on par with Japan and Italy Inc. production, with
a trick or two up its sleeve such as Traction Control,
Race ABS, quick shifter and some other features that
I’ll explain later. They also agreed with me on
the good manners of the bike at low rpms, docile and
tractable, while at higher rev ranges it was an absolute
It was all thumbs up so far but I still wanted to
find out more, so I haggled for one more session, and
they included me in the five o’clock instructors’
session. Thanks Adlie!
Flash Slide Show: BMW S 1000 RR Launch in
The clock shows 1 pm and it was lunch time! The
organisers had prepared a sumptuous spread of local
cuisine and delicacies, pastries of all kinds, varieties
of cakes and juices galore, pumping our fuel back in.
I had to watch what or how much I ate though, didn’t
want a full tummy spoiling my next ride. It was a
wonderful lunch complete with waiters and servers,
conveniently organised in the air conditioned media hall
on the 2nd floor above the pits. Kudos to Concorde
Hotel Catering for the delicious menu.
We had our fill but the clock is only showing 2:30
pm. While I have to wait about 2 ˝ hours, Sani’s
session begins 1 hour earlier at 4 pm. I consider
him lucky, as I mentioned that Sepang was under 40
degree C temperature!
I have to reiterate here the excellent Metzeler
Racetec K3 tyres performed flawlessly after 10 laps on
the scorching track. By 4 o’clock the temperature
should go down substantially, with a possibility of
rain, as is usual here at this time of year.
Perhaps we’ll be able to test WET mode?
While waiting and chit-chatting, we headed over to
the make shift ABS testing facility. Located at
the parking lot near the entrance to the last pit, it
was a rectangular area made up of two run-off strips.
One was splashed with soap water and the other a dry
Riders are to run through the slippery soapy water on
the first run then go to the dry strip at a fast pace
and apply the brakes as hard as they dare . It was an
impressive sight to see how hard they were braking, with
some riders hoisting the back wheel and almost bottoming
the front inverted forks, with not even a slide!
To top it all off nobody even overshot the strip.
Very impressive indeed!
ABS testing. Incredible control and
The clock is now showing 3:30 pm and Sani geared up.
Saw the excitement in his face as he mounted a
blue/white World Superbike S 1000 RR replica and thumbed
This group had seven riders and one instructor,
making it eight all together. Out they all went
and I waited for 5 laps for him to come back in.
Once back I could see a big grin on his face through the
helmet, raving exactly what the other testers had gone
on about. Very smooth power delivery, neutral
cornering and overkill brakes!
Yet even for a novice track rider, Sani explained
that the whole package delivered an unintimidating ride
and he had plenty in reserve to push more. The
feedback from the six other novices emitted the same
Back to the Track
5 o’clock finally! Guest instructor Adlie fired
up the lead bike while Zack, Lan and I followed suit.
We headed out of pit lane, intending to give a harder
beating of the bike. Zack stalled the bike before
the pit exit, and here’s a feature, it won’t start
unless you’re in neutral gear! Leant into turn1, I
followed Adlie into turn 2, sped into turn 3 and the
tyres felt good enough to go faster.
My intention in the next few laps is to test the
traction control, so concentrating on my lines until the
main straight; I recapped on-bike quickly the session
Reaching turn 1 after blasting through the main
straight, I leant more and more until my right knee puck
started digging and grinding deeply onto the asphalt.
The thing to note here is that the bike leans in
gradually and neutrally. While taking it lower
required a bit more muscle, it was still agile and
BMW Traction Control
Gauging it at about 40 degrees over, I opened a
significant amount of throttle (read huge) and surprise!
Expecting an uncontrollable lunge, the bike did nothing,
except a gentle push forward. Hmmm, is this the TC
kicking in? Actually it was and this is what I
think every manufacturer will follow; gradual traction
The traction control -- get this -- comes in GRADUALLY up to 48 degrees
in race mode and 52 degrees in slick mode, and recedes
the same way as the bike straightens up! BMW
designed a system with a “centrifugal sensor” under the
seat, sensing lean angle and applying engine retard
gradually to stop intrusive/obtrusive feeling according
to lean angle. Talk about intelligent! To
confirm I took another shot at testing this in the fast
approaching turn 2.
Laying it deep and countersteering the bars while
digging in the left foot peg, I ground my left knee puck
really hard while hanging my bum way off. I waited
for about 2 seconds to assure a good lean angle and just
whacked open the throttle.
There was a slight tick, tick sound coming louder and
harder as I opened the throttle more, and that’s it!
Under normal circumstances, it could’ve been an
ambulance ride home, high side time!
There was a lag but the engine still had slight drive
and as I pulled the bike up for another right entering
turn 3, the engine picked itself up as though nothing
had happened! I replicated the sequence in the
next lap and yes, exactly the same rescue operation on
the part of the engine happened. The TC not only
works, but worked intelligently, coming in gradually as
the lean got deeper and going off gradually as the bike
straightened up. Marvellous BMW, this system is so
seamless and almost transparent, it’s so easy to
Most important of all, it may say save your skin in
many rider induced error or emergency/unpredictable
situations. Confirming this feature I decided to
concentrate on the Race ABS, where on the main straight
for the next few laps, I exited turn 8 as fast as I
could, and blasted through the tranny for maximum top
Remembering my lesson in the first session, I one
fingered squeezed the front lever with control and
authority, later and later each preceding laps, but
still found that I have acres of space to enter turn 1.
I guess the brakes won’t be on the limit today, maybe a
racing situation will (or wont) see to it. Not a hint of
fade and the lever was still as firm as when we started
the first session!
Another thing that nearly slipped my mind was the
slipper clutch. I have to say that this is one of
the best set-ups I have ever sampled. Banging down hard
any number of gears from any position, the rear tyres
never fish tailed or even moved -- throttle blips to
downshift are totally unnecessary.
Coming down from 250 kmh to 80 kmh from 6th gear to
2nd on the nearly 1 kilometer main straight entering the
180-degree turn 1, it was just so seamless and smooth
The quick shifter was in the same league as the ABS.
Just hook up the gear lever (as easy as riding a
clutchless moped), no clutch pulling and throttle
closing action needed whatsoever. Also
noted, in a tucked riding position, BMW has managed the
aerodynamics well. It was calm and relatively
quiet under the screen and chin on the recessed sloping
tank. Almost relaxing!
Yours truly (The
Author!) on the left.
By now the six laps were up and I turned into the
pits. Upon parking the bike, I took a look at the
tyres . Usually a rider who likes late braking and
ham-fisted corner exits will get the tyres bruised and
chunking. The inspection showed the tyres were
almost smooth and had plenty of rubber left even after
close to 50 laps around Sepang, both North and full
track in flaming hot and humid conditions for the whole
I have more respect now for the BMW engineering team
and Metzeler’s technical capabilities in producing such
excellent products. Both these brands have left a
good impression not only on me but also everyone who
rode them today.
To top it all off, all racers and ex-racers were
handed a special goodies pack consisting of an exclusive
S1000RR Planet Power T-shirt and, get this -- S1000RR
titanium cam follower key-chains!
There you have it. Opinions from experts, racers,
newbies and the general riding public. This bike
doesn’t cater for the usual experienced riders and power
hungry racers only; it also fits newcomers to the sport
Not only does it help with its easy-to-use power,
predictable and neutral handling, it will give more
confidence in skill building with technological
automation and error correcting features that will get
them out of trouble.
Aesthetics wise, everyone agreed the S 1000 RR is a
handsome bike, with fresh design angles and non
conformist asymmetrical look concept. The sounds
it produced are typical in line four rumble but the note
is pleasingly wailing as the revs climb.
If you wanted something that truly fits the notion of
form follows function, and vice-versa, look no further,
maybe just as far as your favourite BMW dealer.
Now what can I mortgage for the RM110,000 asking
Comments are ordered from most recent to oldest.
Not all comments will be published (details). Comments may be edited for
clarity prior to publication.
From "J.H." (5/10): "I loved the
great reviews done on this bike. Fantastic.
It truly is an amazing accomplishment by BMW.
Congrats to them.
I'm a Hayabusa owner myself and while I would never
change from that I am very pleased to see someone come
along and up the stakes a little in the super bike
arena. I think that's great. Its like the
old saying goes, competition breeds innovation, lack of
competition breeds complacency.
Can't wait to see what Suzuki and the others do to
answer this, admittedly, enormous challenge.
Congratulations BMW. You deserve a lot of praise for
From "J.C." (4/10): "Hey Yahaya,
great article! A fantastic account of a great day.
I had a blast too - check out my "First
Impressions" piece from the same event. Full
road test in the works!"
From "D.W." (3/10): "Wow, simply
wow. Love the looks of the bike, and that sounds
like a heavenly day. Now if I could just mature
enough to have that bike and a license at the same
time.... ;) "