I had never really ridden a modern sport bike before we suddenly found ourselves in possession of the new BMW S1000 R. Having this bike in the stable isn’t entirely foreign, though. A member of the crew - Mike - is an experienced sport bike rider having spent years in a stunt riding group. But not me. I’m used to flogging float bowls, overheating aircooled’s, duct taping exhaust burned fuel lines, and email haggling over half rotted barn trash on Craigslist. So what was I going to do with a bike that had 160hp, ABS, traction control, driving modes, heated grips, and looked like it fell off the back of a Michael Bay prop truck? Carpe Diem, that’s what.
Initially the aesthetic design was jarring and I have to admit that it hurt my eyes. I just didn’t understand it. It looked like a praying mantis crossed with a Transformer that turns into a Lamborghini Aventador. It’s angular, aggressive, and it even has a rear tail light shaped like a stinger - to add to the overall insect like appearance. The asymmetrical design approach threw me. The headlight gives the face of the bike a very confused look (I can almost feel my own face contorting to mimic it’s expression as I write this). Slowly I began to understand, this is what happens when the principal design impetus is function. Each side of the engine is unique and by the principle of function alone demands different approaches to enhance that function. By that logic, the bodywork reflects this in it’s profile and apparently that’s why there’s gills on one side. After taking a step back and letting this sink in, the aesthetics of the bike actually started to appeal to me. It’s unapologetic and there is an inherent charm in that.
Once I rode it, the satin blue mantis immediately grabbed me by the balls. It was fast. Very fast. This and the RR (the S1000 R’s big brother) represent the culmination of decades of race-tested technology. With that said, it was easy to ride. The clutch and throttle were smooth and predictable, the riding position was aggressive yet comfortable, and the handling, well…you can slap it back and forth like an analog metronome. The acceleration was thrilling but felt very natural around town, carving back roads, and devouring highways. I even rode a very tolerable seven hours up to Maine’s Acadia National Park on it.
Of all the loaner motorcycles that have come and gone, this one will be missed. Is it the only experience that I want to have? Am I a squid now? Hell no! I still want to hammer on an old 360 in the backwoods of NH, slog an 80’s KZ around the city, and eat up the miles on a GS1200, but my mind has been opened. The world of motorcycling is a big one and we’ve got big appetites. My palate has been broadened, so who knows what kind of machines I’m going to start writing about in the pages of Iron & Air. If you happen to find yourself staring this naked cockeyed shark in the face and have the nuts to take it for a spin, do it. My only gripe is that it didn’t call me Michael… - Gregory
Photos by Iron & Air & Daniela Maria