The 2019 BMW S1000RR superbike is the fourth generation of a machine that first arrived on the scene in 2010. At a time when its rivals could barely muster a rear-wheel 160bhp, the German wonder machine made 190bhp, had MotoGP-inspired electronics and race-ready handling - impressive for a company best known for sensible tourers and adventure bikes.
Refined in 2012 and updated in 2015, it’s a multiple TT winner, loved by racers and is the circuit weapon of choice for discerning track heads. Its long-awaited successor has been four years in the making and new from the ground-up.
From its sultry looks and electronic gadgetry, to its fresh new easy feel, the 2019 BMW S1000RR is a major departure from the previous model. Only the name remains the same. Agile, accurate and refined, it handles like a lightweight 600cc supersport racer with the grunt of a V4 and the manic top end power of a competition superbike.
Adding in a few trick options from Socal Superbikes, the gains are leaps and bounds even over the fantastic performance of the factory model. Sporting more carbon fiber trim pieces from the impeccable quality of Ilmberger Carbon Fiber, a Socal Superbikes ECU Flash, TWM Quick Turn Gas Cap, JL Designs Turn Signals integrated into their sleek Fender Eliminator, Lightech Chain Adjusters, and of course the massive gains and glorious sounds of the Akrapovic Full Titanium GP Style Exhaust System.
A tricky-to-reach back brake and its late arrival in dealers are the only downsides we could find. The old RR was rapid to the end, but with a decade’s worth of lessons learned from it, the 2019 BMW S1000RR takes the superbike game to the next level.
A new riding position is no less comfy than before, but the RR is more compact and airy light, like a 600. It makes the old machine feel like a fat tourer with a 40-pound bag of crap for an engine. Bars are splayed out further and you’re sat more in the RR, up against a taller, far slimmer tank.
All-up weight is reduced by 24lbs (32lbs for the M version) - the motor alone is 9lbs lighter and the exhaust weighs less than the single cylinder BMW G310R’s. Steering is lighter, crisper and BMW claims improved rear tire wear on track.
Gone is the old girder-stiff chassis that could make the S1000RR tricky to set up on track. A new ‘Flex Frame’ (with the engine as a stressed member), plush new Marzocchi semi-active suspension (replacing Sachs) and an underbraced swingarm, forcing the rear tire harder into the asphalt on the gas, all give more feel and confidence.
Powerful new Hayes calipers have a friendlier initial bite than the old designer Brembos and show no sign of fade under hard use.
This adds up to a significant leap forward in the handling department. The previous S1000RR was a formidable track weapon but pushed hard it would struggle to stay tight in a corner at full lean and be prone to understeer on a fast lap. It was never the easiest to set up for serious track day work or racing, either.
Being able to carve such effortlessly tight lines, you can attack corners faster, crack the throttle sooner on the exit and when you do the S1000RR treats you to another new trick – its advanced electronic riding aids.
BMW has refined its traction control to a pretty decent level since 2010, but this is next generation stuff. Now when the rear tire slips the electronics holds it in place, but still lets you drive smoothly forward at a ferocious rate. It’s like riding up against a soft, silicone berm.
Electronics on road bikes generally slow you down on track (and you end up switching them off), but now on the S1000RR you can use them to go fast in safety. The same goes for the anti-wheelie, which was never refined enough to set quick lap time, but now the electronics let the front wheel gracefully hover over the tarmac while controlling the anger of 200-plus bhp.
New Hayes calipers have a friendlier initial bite than the old designer Brembos, but they’re every bit as powerful. Just like the old Brembos they fade to a point after a few laps, then stay at a consistent level, so you’re best offsetting the brake lever span too far out to begin with.
"The main aim was to develop further enhanced riding dynamics as well as significantly reducing weight, compared to the predecessor model. We were able to meet this target by means of the new main frame: the engine is now much more closely integrated as a load-bearing element, and there are a whole range of optimized details," explained Marcus Mund, Project Engineer Suspension.
Dubbed the 'Flex Frame', the concept behind the frame is like before; a structure of four cast aluminum elements welded together using the engine as a stressed member and integrated at a 32-degree tilt. But in order to save weight, the top tubes, steering head and engine mounts are reduced in mass, relying on the engine more for an increased load-bearing function but with special effort for the load paths to the engine being as short as possible.
The new frame also benefits from being as narrow as possible, reducing the width of the bike by up to 30mm. All of this also reduces the frame weight by 1.3kg, which contributes to the claimed 11kg weight reduction of the new bike.
The S1000RR also boasts a new swingarm now with under-slung bracing. Superbike racing S1000RRs (which are allowed aftermarket swingers) have been using under-slung bracing for years and there are several advantages to it. Firstly, when it comes to packaging, there is more space below the swingarm rather than above it and this means there is more flexibility with bracing design.
Secondly, the way they flex allows a reduction of lateral tire contact patch movement during flex. The bracing below has also allowed more freedom in the placement of the damper and spring unit, which can now be further away from the engine unit for reduced heat transfer.
Amazingly, despite its complex structure, the new S1000RR’s swingarm is cast in one single piece before being machined for the chain adjusters and mounting points. It’s also 300g lighter than the previous bike’s swingarm.
BMW have also played with the new bike’s geometry, lengthening the wheelbase by 9mm to 1411mm (Superstock racers have traditionally pulled the wheel back as far as it can go for the same effect) in a bid to aid stability.