Change is inevitable. The original BMW S 1000 RR set new standards in the world of street legal superbikes over a decade ago with its 190 horsepower engine, industry leading electronic rider assist technology and angular, stealth-like bodywork, all at a price that was less than many of the Japanese superbikes of the time. It may have looked funky to some, but there were those die-hard superbike fans that had no qualms with the asymmetrical lights, pointed fairings, rigid frame, and peaky power delivery.
There was no denying that it was an exciting beast to ride but BMW knew it could be better so they set their engineers out with the task of compiling all the data and lessons they acquired over the past decade and use that information to create the next step in the evolution of the ultimate riding machine. What they came up with is the all-new 2020 BMW S 1000 RR.
Every piece of this motorcycle has been refined, lightened, and built precisely to address the needs of the racers among us. According to BMW, the goal of this redesign was to reduce weight by 25-lbs and cut a second off your lap time on any track. I love hearing a mission statement like that because it means they are talking about us, the trackday junkie, the street rider, the superbike fan and, obviously, the BMW superbike racers. We all want to go fast.
The first order of business was to fine-tune the handling. This new S 1000 RR starts with a completely redesigned aluminum frame known affectionately as the BMW Motorrad FlexFrame. It uses the engine as a stressed member and has a trellis-style subframe with every incremental change intended to give the new RR the ability to flex under load and provide improved the coveted feedback that the fastest of the fast could never squeeze out of the last model.
Along the way it shed three pounds off that 25-pound benchmark. The swingarm features an under-bridge design that emulates the equipment used on the BMW World Superbike racers and this, combined with the minutiae of other weight shaving effort across the frame, suspension, and assorted components results in a total reduction of over 11 pounds. The M-Package, which includes the carbon fiber wheels, sheds another seven pounds off the bottom line.
Part of those weight savings are attributed to the new fully adjustable 45mm Marzocchi fork and shock which replace the Sachs suspension components. The base models are equipped with traditional suspension while the M-package features semi-active Dynamic Damping Control. On the track it does feel light and nimble, responding to inputs a bit better than the first generation RR which liked to be manhandled more than coaxed. The new cockpit even fits me better than before with a riding position that no longer feels splayed-out like a little kid riding their dad’s chopper.
This new chassis ticks all the boxes on paper and was excellent on the track in the hands of a scrub like me. Now we just have to see how it fares in the hands of race technicians around the globe. Combine the new chassis, more powerful engine, updated ergos—including a slimmer tank, taller, wider bars, more comfortable seat—and better wind protection and you have a track bike that feels easier to change directions, is easier to crawl around on, holds lines a little better and accelerates even faster than before.
Another big component change are the Hayes brakes that replace the Brembos. The new radial-mount four-piston calipers bite down on a pair of 320mm rotors that are connected to the latest in BMW’s ABS technology. I would be lying if I said I got anywhere near taxing them but I can hold my own on the brakes. The new brakes are powerful, precise, and more than capable of dealing with a track like Barber. They rewards riders with a smooth, flowing braking approach more so than butt-puckering, aggressive, late-braking moves. After riding my brains out in the Alabama heat and humidity, it is clear to me that BMW has done an excellent job with this second generation Bavarian superbike.
The force behind that increased acceleration is an all new 999cc inline four-cylinder engine that is almost nine pounds lighter, a half-inch thinner, and pumps out 204-horsepower at 13,500 rpm. The way this bike delivers its power is in a slightly more usable fashion than the peakier delivery of the old bike. With 83 pound feet of torque at 10,500 rpm, the S 1000 RR pulls more fluidly through the critical 5,000-8,000 rpm range as the dyno numbers support what our gut was telling us throughout the day. Filling in that dip in the power curves was made possible through the use of BMW Shift Cam technology (also referred to as variable cam timing) which optimizes mid-range before shifting into high-speed mode around 9000 rpm.
Once we reached our final few sessions with the bikes in Race mode, things really started to get fun. It still accelerates like mad, it still emits an intense howl as it spins up the rpm, and it feels good doing it. The faster riders felt a lag which I assumed was the Shift Cam taking over so that will be a hot topic among the racers. I have a feeling that I was rolling on the power instead of just whacking the throttle open and maybe that had something to do with it not being an issue for me. Maybe I’m too old and slow?
Maybe not. Either way, it seemed like a kick-ass superbike making loads of usable power that had me wanting to ride harder lap after lap. Unfortunately, we had to stop riding at some point and I was happy to finish the day unscathed with a positive feeling about this motorcycle. I’ve always been an S 1000 RR fan and this version is better in every way.
Tech and Options
I do wish I had more time to come to grips with everything this baby has to offer, because with just one day in the seat it’s tough to wrap your head around it all. For example, the new 6.5-inch TFT screen looks like an iPad but there is so much information at your disposal it will take a while to test each setting out completely. BMW had a plan to get us to check out the bike in its four primary mode options by sending us out in Rain-mode for our sighting laps, Road-mode for our first session alone, and then Dynamic- and Race-mode so that we would be familiar with how the settings affected power, suspension, and throttle response before we were free to fully uncork the RR on Barber’s 16-turns.
That is a simplified version of the adjustability offered with the M-Package we rode with. There are two packages available, both of which offer control over specific functions. The $3,700 M-Package is only available on the white/blue/red BMW Motorrad livery. It includes the most sophisticated Ride Modes Pro, Carbon Wheels, Sport Seat, Lithium Battery, and Chassis Kit which includes the rear ride height adjuster and swingarm pivot kit. Ride Modes Pro allows you to tune nearly every aspect of the bike’s electronics from the traction control and ABS on up to wheelie control and even the suspension.
The next option is the $1,400 Select Package (the best you can get on the Racing Red version, but also an option on the Motorrad) which includes Next Gen DDC, TPM, Heated Grips, and Cruise Control. A third version of the S 1000 RR is scheduled to be released in July at Motorrad Days, and it will exclusively be available with the $1,600 Race Package that includes Ride Modes Pro, forged wheels, lightweight battery, and chassis kit.
Behind all of these important technologies is an all-new six-axis IMU that, according to BMW, elevates the traction control, ABS, electronic suspension, wheelie control, and the other rider assist systems to a whole new level. Every OEM has improved their tech over the years so it was finally BMW’s turn to up the ante. While I wasn’t setting any record breaking laps out there it was obvious the entire system is well sorted. The traction control indicator light was flashing often enough that I knew it was working but it never felt abrupt, intrusive, or annoying. As I got my shift points down later in the day it was common to see many of the riders hard on the gas, leaving beautiful darkies from the Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SC2 rear tires.
From my perspective, my TC light was blinking like crazy and the digital speedo blurring into triple digits as we accelerated as hard as we dared out of every turn. Only the roughest portion of the track at the summit of Turn 4 ever rumbled through the suspension and into my mind for a second or two, otherwise the suspension felt spot-on all day. As we moved up the modes, throttle response became more precise and th suspension was more taught. This was a huge benefit as it took a couple sessions to get comfortable enough to start hauling ass anyway. The entire afternoon was spoon fed to us a few extra horsepower and a little less assistance at a time. It was reassuring, it helped me go faster sooner than I would have without the help and the entire time I was thinking about how much fun it is to ride a superbike like this.
Everything about the S 1000 RR is smooth, easy and exciting, Sure, there was some buzz in the bars which is sure to be a bone of contention for some people but it seems logical that the lack of a counterbalancer would have this side-effect. Personally, I couldn't care less. You don’t buy an inline four-cylinder liter bike because its smooth and vibration free, you buy one because it’s a thrill ride.
Now let’s discuss the appearance of the new and improved S 1000 RR. There are traces and hints that this is a BMW but it is not as unique looking as the original. The most conspicuous change is the matching dual LED headlamps in place of the asymmetrical units. Beyond that, I think the new look is as sexy as any modern superbike with a wide front cowl to help split the wind, narrower tank, clean side panels, short tail section, and a decent looking exhaust. The bodywork is much more subtle, less angular and more similar to the other bikes on the market these days so it doesn’t stand out too much. Personally, I think it looks great in person when you can really get up close and see the attention to detail.
Some of the not so conspicuous updates include a tail light section that incorporates the brake and running lights into the LED blinker stalks which, as a complete unit, are supposed to be easy to remove when you are ready to play on the track. The foot pegs are milled and tacky and the standard issue BMW dial selector on the left handlebar continues to be easy to use when navigating the various options at your disposal.
As with most BMW motorcycles, the $16,995 base model will be the unicorn. In reality, you should expect the majority of these bikes to be equipped with some level of available options beyond the base bike. Simply adding the optional equipment one at a time would add thousands to the price so it seems logical to assume that the majority of these motorcycles will be equipped with the M-spec package we tested at the press intro. That brings the overall price to $22,095 so don’t freak out when you see the sticker price on these at your local dealership.
So, what’s the verdict? Well, there are a few perspectives we can take here: Change is inevitable. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Sometimes, change is good. Sometimes, change sucks. No matter which mantra you follow, you will have an opinion about the 2020 BMW S 1000 RR. From my point of view, this change was good. BMW did an excellent job of retaining the essence of the RR series while infusing it with the modern accouterments that this constantly evolving class of motorcycle is expected to deploy.
Make no mistake, the liter bike class is a showcase for electronic wizardry just as much as it is about pure power and every manufacturer is on the same path. Companies continue to build lighter, faster, better handling superbikes crammed full of the latest state of the art racing and riding technology. Because of that ongoing war for track and showroom superiority we, the riders, are the beneficiaries.
I had a great time getting acquainted with the new Double-R and it seems like BMW Motorrad has, once again, managed to create a world class superbike for the modern rider. Now, if you are one of the few who can push a bike like the S 1000 RR to the point where you are out riding the electronics, the brakes, or the engine, then I bet you’re going to have fun tuning this bike to your will. On that note, I suspect that the rest of us will have an ear-to-ear grin while shredding laps at our favorite track days or strafing canyons on this motorcycle exactly as it comes off the showroom floor. Whichever category you happen to fall into, I guarantee you will find the 2020 BMW S 1000 RR is one hell of a fun bike to ride.
M-Package - On Two Wheels
Lighter, Faster, Better
M-Package is Expensive
More Gizmos Than You Can Imagine
You don’t own one
- Helmet: Shoei X14
- Suit: Alpinestars Atem
- Gloves: Alpinestars GP Tech
- Boots: Alpinestars GP Tech