FIRST RIDE | New BMW S 1000 XR tourer has the heart of a superbike

The S1000 XR is a superbike in a touring suit, and is now 10kg lighter.
The S1000 XR is a superbike in a touring suit, and is now 10kg lighter.

When BMW created a superbike in a touring suit, some wondered whether it was an answer to a question nobody had asked.

But the S 1000 XR has gone on to become one of the firm’s most appealing all-rounders, blending scorching pace with long-distance comfort. This adventure sport bike uses the high-powered 1,000cc engine (albeit somewhat detuned) from the S 1000 RR superbike, in a more touring-oriented sports machine with an upright, body-friendly seating posture and decent wind protection.

For 2020, BMW has revamped the S 1000 XR by putting it on a 10kg diet to improve agility.

The kilos have been shed by slimming down the suspension and redeveloping the inline four-cylinder engine. Outputs are the same as before at 121kW and 114Nm but fourth, fifth and sixth gears now have longer ratios to reduce noise and fuel thirst.

In addition to a smoother slipper clutch, the new S 1000 XR also adopts engine drag torque control (MSR) for the first time. The electronically controlled MSR prevents the rear wheel from slipping as a result of abrupt throttling or downshifting.

BMW’s new bikes have TFT digital instrument panels.
BMW’s new bikes have TFT digital instrument panels.

A revised frame layout provides improved knee grip, and BMW has revised the bodywork and ergonomics for more wind protection and comfort.

A suite of electronic systems help keep the powerful bike gripping the road, including ABS and traction control. These settings, along with the throttle response, are differently configured in four Ride Modes — “Rain”, “Road”, “Dynamic” and “Dynamic Pro” — and wheelie control can be configured separately.

ABS Pro takes braking safety a step further by working when the bike’s in a banked position.

Other standard features on the latest S 1000 XR include electronic suspension adjustment (ESA).

The S 1000 XR swaps its old analogue clocks for a modern TFT multifunction digital instrument panel, offering tailor-made displays. The front and rear lights are LEDs, and an optional Headlight Pro offers a cornering function for the headlight.

Other factory options include cruise control and an HP Shift Assistant Pro which allows clutchless up-/downshifts. The latter feature and was fitted to the bike I rode at the South African media launch in Gauteng last week, and being able to keep the throttle pinned open while upshifting ramps up the enjoyment.

It’s an appealing all-season bike. The power’s addictive, and the smooth ride and comfortable seating position are a boon to riders who have outgrown crotch-rocket superbikes.

The S 1000 XR has a starting price of R240,000, and if that’s too rich for your blood BMW Motorrad has also launched the less expensive F900 in SA.

Its outputs of 77kW are more restrained but it’s still plenty fast and the inline twin-cylinder engine makes an entertainingly hoarse sound.

This middleweight sport bike is available in two versions, the naked F900 R “roadster” and the more touring-friendly F900 XR which comes with a windscreen adjustable to two positions.

Different flavours: the S1000 XR (centre) is flanked by the F900 R (right) and F900 XR (left).
Different flavours: the S1000 XR (centre) is flanked by the F900 R (right) and F900 XR (left).

The F900s are aimed at newcomers and motorcycle returnees due to their low seat heights and easy rideability, though I found the gearshifts rather clunky.

The high-specced bikes come standard with TFT digital instruments, smartphone connectivity, LED lights, Rain and Road riding modes, slipper clutch, ABS brakes and stability control, plus a wide range of optional extras including an adaptive cornering light, keyless ride, electronic suspension adjustment, additional Dynamic and Dynamic Pro riding modes, and engine drag torque control (MSR).


BMW F 900 R: R164,700

BMW F 900 XR: R169,100

BMW S 1000 XR: R240,000

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