Riding the 2016 BMW S1000XR

I finally had a chance to ride the BMW S1000XR.  There are plenty of reviews out there in formal and informal media formats about this bike to a point where I thought I would not have much to say, except to confirm what others have said before me.  Although I agree with most, if not all of the technical points raised by previous reviewers, I will add here my subjective opinion about it, as we know the connection between rider and machine is perceived in different ways from rider to rider.  It was great fun riding this bike!

The 2016 BMW S1000XR, September 2015

The 2016 BMW S1000XR, September 2015

When the guys at the European Motorcycles of Western Oregon told me they had the S1000XR available as a demo I found a window of time, got my gear together, and showed up at the shop.

The bike I rode had the Touring Package:

  • Heated Grips
  • GPS Preparation
  • Dynamic ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment)
  • Center Stand
  • Luggage Grid
  • Saddle Bag Mounts

And the Dynamic Package:

  • Cruise Control
  • Rider Modes Pro
  • Gear Shift Assist Pro
  • DTC (Dynamic Traction Control)

Some engine specs:

  • Motor is an In-line 4
  • Displacement: 999cc
  • Horsepower: 160 hp @ 11,000 RPM
  • Torque: 83 ft-lb @ 9,250 RPM

And some key dimensions:

  • Seat height: 33.1 inches
  • Wet weight: 502 lbs
  • Wheelbase: 61 inches
  • Fuel tank: 5.2 gallons

Warranty:

  • 3-year / 36,000 miles limited warranty
  • 5-year limited emissions warranty
  • BMW Roadside Assistance Program, 3-year / 36,000 miles

Taking a Closer Look at the Bike

First thing I did when I got there was to work with the bike’s settings.  It turns out they are easy and intuitive to operate.  We set the suspension to Dynamic, and the spring load for rider with gear. Riding mode was set to Dynamic.

Dynamic suspension, setting for rider and gear (you can also choose rider alone, rider and passenger, rider, passenger and gear).

Dynamic suspension, setting for rider + gear (you can also choose rider alone, rider + passenger, and rider + passenger + gear).

I appreciate BMW’s stubbornness in keeping analog tachometers on their bikes, as it makes it easy to see the motor’s RPM with a quick glance. On top of that, this bike’s tachometer is very nice looking with its white background with black and red numbers.

RP, speedo, riding mode, fuel level and gear indicator.

Nice instrument cluster

I did not try the cruise control, not on this bike not on any bike. Many times on long trips I wish I had this feature on my motorcycles to give a short break to my right hand or when  adjustments to helmet or gloves require the right hand. On the last three or four years a trend started and now every high end motorcycle comes with cruise control, even mid-size adventure bikes like the Tiger 800XCX has it, and I hear the 2016 BMW F800GS will have it as well.  It is one of the several benefits of throttle by wire systems. Yes, the S1000XR comes with cruise control.

Cruise Control on left grip

Cruise Control on left grip

The left controls include a trip meter button, the info button, the ABS on/off switch, and the Electronic Suspension Adjustment switch. ABS is standard on this bike, as well as Automatic Stability Control. On the right side you have the heated grips switch.

Trip and Info switches and ABS (on/off) and ESA.

Trip and Info switches and ABS (on/off) and ESA.

Similar to other BMW motorcycles, this bike has the “GPS preparation” option. It has everything you need to add a GPS: the wheel to operate the GPS from the handlebars, the wiring, and the above-the-dash GPS mount.  That wheel is a nice way to operate the GPS without taking your hands off the handlebars and without facing the challenge of using gloved fingers on a GPS touch screen. On the other hand, that means you have to get a specific GPS for this system to work (the guys at the shop installed the Navigator V to demonstrate its use).  Might as well plan to buy the Navigator V or not get this option.

GPS control wheel, installed GPS on the background

GPS control wheel, installed GPS on the background

The GPS is positioned where it should be, closer to the line of vision.

GPS mounts above instrument cluster

GPS mounts above instrument cluster

This bike also came with saddle bag mounts (bags sold separately).  We installed the bags to see what the bike looks like with them mounted.

Bags mounted

Bags mounted

The bags fit the bike well and are easy to install.  They are a bit on the wide side of things, though, extending a couple of inches from the handlebars on each side.

Bags viewed from the back

Bags viewed from the back

There is a reason for how wide they are.  I want to make two points about these bags and their width:  1) the bag on the exhaust side does not have a cutout for the exhaust; which 2) for their size and with no cutout, they allow for not one, but two full face motorcycle helmets to be stored inside these bags (one in each bag, of course).  We tested it by placing a Schubert C3-Pro helmet both sideways and standing and it fits perfectly inside the bag.

Full face helmet

Full face helmet

The saddle bag has a nice shelf making it easy to place and remove your travel gear in/from the bags without having to do the three-hand maneuver where you work the lid with one hand, shove the gear inside the bag with the other hand, and with the third hand you adjust anything that might be falling off while you operate the latch.

Will it fit?

Will it fit?

For a brief moment we thought it would not fit, but with enough clearance the bag closed with the helmet inside.

Full face helmet inside, exhaust side bag (same size as the other side bag).

Full face helmet inside, exhaust side bag (same size as the other side bag).

There is also a nice insert bag you can purchase separately.  It looks like a stand alone bag, with a semi rigid side to it and a handle making it easy to be carried to and from the bike.

Inner bags in the shape of the saddle bags

Inner bags in the shape of the saddle bags

It will probably rob you of some space but having these inner bags make it a lot easier to load your travel gear, then take it to the bike when it’s time to leave. Same when arriving at the destination. It is touring made easy.

Inner bags fitted. Notice the shelve again, very handy!

Inner bags fitted. Notice the shelve again, very handy!

Did I say something about this bike not being sexy? Not yet? Well, this bike is definitely not a looker… but check that friendly face.  Also notice how the United States version does not have the LED light bar in the middle of the two headlights as is available in the European versions. The two headlights are not LED either in the US version.

A friendly face. Not sexy, but a nice a smile.

A friendly face. Not sexy, but a nice a smile.

One more thing to note, the bike comes with a standard steering damper.

Steering Damper (non-adjustable)

Steering Damper (non-adjustable)

I think I covered everything…  now it is time to take it for a ride.

Going for a Ride

Although the bike’s key has a transponder, you have to insert it on the ignition and turn it… yes, one day we will need instructions for how to use a traditional key, and it will happen soon after all bikes and cars come with keyless systems like that on the Multistradas.

Once I started the bike I immediately felt the vibration on the handlebars people talk about when they rode this bike.  Yes, it is there.  I would say, however, it is nothing different than any other in-line four motorcycles I’ve ridden before.  Maybe slightly amplified by the broad, adventure-style handlebars.  As soon as I started riding the bike, though, I completely forgot about it. Gone just like that. Maybe it was there but it no longer registered or bothered me while in city traffic.

To get the bike in motion I was expecting a release of the clutch would suffice with minor throttle input.  Instead, I was surprised by how much throttle input (twist) you need to give for the bike to start moving.  Is it a throttle-by-wire setting to prevent the 160 hp motor from detaching a distracted rider’s arms from their sockets at a first go on this bike? More likely it is there to make it more maneuverable at slow speeds. And that it does well.

As matter of fact, I felt it needed too much throttle input for a dynamic mode (I did not try the road and the rain modes, but they probably require even more throttle action). But it is a question of perspective, in my case I like a crisper throttle action. It took me some time to adjust and find the right dosage of throttle and clutch release to get the BMW S1000XR going from a stop without looking like I had never ridden a motorcycle in my life.

The sound of the motor is exactly what everyone says, a very nice in-line four even keel growl at low speeds turning to GP bike sounds at higher revs.  Very nice indeed at all RPM levels.  The 4-inline engine stability at low RPM, together with the soft throttle action and the sound of the motor as feedback makes maneuvering in tight places and riding in stop and go traffic very easy on this bike (after you learn the friction zone / throttle input level, that is). The slow speed ridability of this bike is a nice feature for people who ride often in busy urban environments.

It was only when getting to the roads outside of town, when I got the bike at proper speed that I felt the handlebars vibrate again.  It starts at about 5K RPM and disappears by 6K RPM.  I did not take the bike on highways where you may get stuck for many miles on the very speed that turns the engine at 5,5K RPM which actually happens to be around regular cruising speeds in 6th gear.  For country riding and sport rides, when you will be changing speeds often, this is definitely not an issue. For highway riding? Not sure. I would put this in the column of “maybe it is an issue that needs to be addressed” for the riders who ride on highways often.  Certainly not something you want to experience on long distance touring.

I took the bike to my usual testing grounds on the back roads just south of town.  The quick shifter pro is a joy to use.  After I used it for a file I realized I didn’t care much to use it on up-shifts – I used it for a while, but I eventually turned back to do doing the clutch work myself, especially considering the gear box actuation is very smooth.  Where I felt the quick shifter being really useful was on downshifts.  A typical very useful scenario is when coming to a sharp turn after a long straight and you have to quickly go down from 6th to 2nd or 1st gear.  You just close the throttle and modulate the front brake as needed while your left foot takes you down, gear by gear while the quick shifter blips the throttle for you in between shifts.  I can see how this can be very useful on track riding – you just modulate the time for downshifting based on how much engine braking you want or need to use.  Very useful also on city riding and you have to stop at a red light.

Check those grapes, they are almost ready to be picked to become a nice Pinot Noir wine.

Check those grapes, they are almost ready to be picked to become a nice Pinot Noir wine.

When the road opens up the bike will quickly show you what it means to have 160 horses at your disposal at 83 lb-ft of torque.  The speed will sneak up on you, although it seemed like there was a very slight disconnect between rider input and motor response. Coming from a V-twin, I do think this is just an in-line four characteristic, where you reach  horsepower and torque figures at high RPM numbers (peaks at 11,000 and 9,250 RPM respectively).  Either that or it is that throttle input situation I identified at off idle speeds manifesting itself at higher RPM levels as well. You gain something with throttle by wire, you may lose something. In any case, this bike will take you to lose-license speeds quickly and the motor is an absolute gem.

It feels nice in wine country

It feels nice in wine country

In terms of handling, this bike is amazing. In my perception it was the best characteristic of this bike by a great margin. I found myself delaying corner entries with the confidence this bike inspired, a guarantee that once the commitment to the curve is made the bike will follow through without complaints. It is a point and shoot motorcycle. And once you are leaned, it remains on your selected line without wanting to drop you down or standing you up.  This nice stability could be coming from this bike’s long wheel base (61 inches, longer even than the Multistrada, although by less than one inch) together with the steering damper and other geometry measures I confess I didn’t research.  Then there is the semi-active suspension and the automatic stability control. Add to this formula the great engine stability and broad torque curve and you have a great recipe for great fun on curves of all kinds.  To sum it up, this is the best handling motorcycle I’ve ever ridden.

Radiators gallore

Radiators gallore

One thing that bothered me about this bike is the windshield.  For my current height, 5 foot 10 with a tall torso, wind was not clean at helmet height on either position of the wind screen (screen has only two positions, up or down, and I decided to keep it down after truing it on the high position).  This is always a sore spot for adventure styled motorcycles. I’m sure the aftermarket will help riders find a solution.  I would attempt making it smaller (cutting it down to a smaller size) before going the other direction and trying a barn door, Sheriff style screen.  But it depends on how you plan to use this bike, as an upright sport riding machine or for touring?

Windscreen has two positions, up or down.

Windscreen has two positions, up or down.

By the way it was not easy (and probably not meant to be done that way) to adjust the windscreen while riding. I would recommend you stop to adjust it.

Overall Riding Impression

Let’s start with the motor.  I can’t find anything wrong with this in-line four motor. Some people love the smoothness of in-line four motors, others claim a lack of character, others complain about its high pitch vibration.  In the end, I believe this is all about personal preference.  Although the motor needs to be revved like a proper sport bike motor to deliver its top performance, if you are just having some regular fun on regular roads, which is how most people will probably ride this bile, you won’t miss a thing at lower RPMs.  It will provide plenty of fun at any speed you decide to ride, and that is a virtue of this motor and this motorcycle. Perfect for urban settings, for relaxed riding on the hills around town, and when you want to go fast, twist that throttle with abandon…

Not the best looker out there.

Not the best looker out there.  But go ahead and twist its throttle.

As I mentioned before, I do think the handling is the best characteristic of this motorcycle. The bike can be ridden slowly in town and it can be pushed when out in the hills out of town. It is comfortable and stable everywhere. It will certainly help you ride faster, so beware of your license when you twist that throttle.

As an overall package, I would say this bike is a great upright sport bike first, then urban and/or touring second.  At 502 lbs wet and that round and stable motor at low RPM, you can make it into your urban machine, although it really excels when you take it for some sport riding fun.  And it will do well on long distance travel.  The sport component is its best attribute when we combine motor and handling.

The touring component is the one where this bike misses a few points in my opinion.  It is not about the vibration, although it is there, and it certainly contributes to lower its touring rate for highway riding. It is just that when compared to other touring motorcycles you will want more torque perhaps, or a more relaxed feel from the motor for long distance travel.  Or better wind protection, although we know that can be fixed.

Having said that, 20+ years ago I used to travel cross-state (okay, it was only one state over) on my little Honda XL 250 with gear and all and I thought it was the best bike in the world for such travel. Perspective, that’s where this is:  if you are coming from a sport bike and want more comfort for long distance travel the S1000XR will feel great and it will be a lot more than enough for touring and on top of that you will feel at home with its motor.  If you are coming from a Multistrada or a large touring machine, and you want to downsize some but still have some power for spirited riding fun, this machine is also for you.  But you might just miss a relaxed pace from a V-twin motor, for example, and perhaps some more wind protection.

Would I buy it?

Although it performs better than my Multistrada in many levels, this bike does not make me get ride of the Ducati for my touring needs.  In that case, if I would acquire the S1000XR, it would need to be as an addition to the stable. And if that’s the case, what role would it play? Perhaps it would be my urban and sport bike, where I personally think it does shine the best?

Maybe I should take it for another ride… Which I want to do. Alternatively, I should check what are the other options out there.  I’m scheduled to ride the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce next weekend, for example.  Eventually I will ride the new Ducati Multistrada DVT, which is the bike journalists have been comparing to the BMW S1000XR. I think when that time comes, and I happen to like it, the new Multistrada will be the natural upgrade to my 2013 Multistrada. The preference for a V-twin manifests itself here, I admit. In that case I should mention I’m in no hurry to upgrade my Multistrada, as it still delivers plenty of fun and it still looks good to me.

On the other hand, the BMW made me want to look at something smaller, a sport bike with upright touring ergonomics that would sit side by side with my Multistrada in my shed. It would be a more nimble sports bike, still adventure styled.  The BMW S1000XR is such a fun and nimble motorcycle with a great motor in a very elaborate package.  You should take it for a ride.  Visit the guys at the European Motorcycles of Western Oregon and schedule a ride on this wonderful machine.  As always, don’t tell me I didn’t say so, you might just find it irresistible.

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17 Responses to Riding the 2016 BMW S1000XR

  1. danielacroft says:

    How on earth is cruise control in the “Dynamic Package” and not in the “Touring Package”… O_O

  2. Good review Cesar. I own a multistrada PP likes yours and have been following your posts for some years now. Thanks for all the interesting reviews. I had SF1098 and moved to a multiPP with BMW R1200GSA as the off road touring machine. I happened to test ride the BMW S1000XR and to be honest, I didn’t like it at all. There is no fun riding it. It was like a Learner bike around town, not challenging at all. I know riding is subjective. The guy who brought it for a test ride jumped on my multi , stopped a 100 meters down the road and said “I can’t ride this multi. It’s jumping all over the place”. He just could not handle the torque. He jumped back on again, rode the multi around the hills for 30 mins and returned the S1000XR to the dealership. He is getting a multi soon. I didn’t feel the punch in the XR. More torque than the S1000RR but not compare dto a multistrada. I felt more like riding a GS with an in-line 4 engine. Also, why would you call it a sports bike when Multistrada excels in that class being a sports touring machine? Thanks. And when you ride the DVT, please do compare the engine response and handling compared to your multistrada.

    • cesardagord says:

      First of all, Thanks!!!

      In my view the BMW S1000XR is a perfect machine, all the pieces are there to make it a fast motorcycle. But I agree with you, something is missing. And like you, I believe it is something about torque and how it is delivered, something related to in-line 4 motors and how they deliver the power. There are many riders who love that type of engine response, though. So yes, it is a subjective… In the end, I could not get rid of my Multistrada for the S1000XR. Nor the Turismo Veloce. But I would like to have these three bikes in my garage. And that Turismo Veloce is one fun motorcycle!

      About calling it a sport bike, yes I know it is not. It is a touring bike. But if I ever acquire it, and still have my Multistrada, the Multistrada would be my bike for touring and I would use the S1000XR as a sport bike, one that has comfortable ergos. Same as I would do with the Turismo Veloce. Did I mention how much fun that bike is?

  3. Your review is the only one that I have read that addresses the vibration issue:

    “It was only when getting to the roads outside of town, when I got the bike at proper speed that I felt the handlebars vibrate again. It starts at about 5K RPM and disappears by 6K RPM. I did not take the bike on highways where you may get stuck for many miles on the very speed that turns the engine at 5,5K RPM which actually happens to be around regular cruising speeds in 6th gear. For country riding and sport rides, when you will be changing speeds often, this is definitely not an issue. For highway riding? Not sure. I would put this in the column of “maybe it is an issue that needs to be addressed” for the riders who ride on highways often. Certainly not something you want to experience on long distance touring”.

    This is actually the exact reason i did NOT buy this bike. It is very bad at highway cruising speeds and surely on this type of bike you will want to do some long distance miles. However, in its current set p there is no way I would do that. I have ridden many other inline fours that didn’t have this issue so I don’t think it is just an engine configuration issue.

    Overall, I loved the responsiveness this of this bike but I found the gears are way too low for a sports tourer. This creates the vibration. Not sure if it could be changed by changing the sprockets.

  4. Your review is the only one that I have read that addresses the vibration issue:

    “It was only when getting to the roads outside of town, when I got the bike at proper speed that I felt the handlebars vibrate again. It starts at about 5K RPM and disappears by 6K RPM. I did not take the bike on highways where you may get stuck for many miles on the very speed that turns the engine at 5,5K RPM which actually happens to be around regular cruising speeds in 6th gear. For country riding and sport rides, when you will be changing speeds often, this is definitely not an issue. For highway riding? Not sure. I would put this in the column of “maybe it is an issue that needs to be addressed” for the riders who ride on highways often. Certainly not something you want to experience on long distance touring”.

    This is actually the exact reason i did NOT buy this bike. It is very bad at highway cruising speeds and surely on this type of bike you will want to do some long distance miles. However, in its current set p there is no way I would do that. I have ridden many other inline fours that didn’t have this issue so I don’t think it is just an engine configuration issue.

    Overall, I loved the responsiveness this of this bike but I found the gears are way too low for a sports tourer. This creates the vibration. Not sure if it could be changed by changing the sprockets but I am not willing to buy it just to find out!

  5. Mark Ramsden says:

    All I can say is it’s a good job all bikers are not the same. I have rode the multistrada and the bmw Xr and the Beamer ticks far more boxes.

  6. Wally says:

    I have the XR now. A $90 HVMP bar end weights fixed most of the vibration issue. I rode it on a 1000 miles trip and my only complaint now is the seat. I am upgrading it soon. I test rode the multi and there is some weird mid range power flatness to it.

  7. John Watt says:

    I’m one of the people that have ridden both the new DVT Multistrada and the BMW S1000XR and made a decision. The BMW is a bomb, no doubt. I’ve never shrieked with pleasure inside my helmet at the acceleration of this thing. You sit behind a car at 50 mph, crack it and within 10 metres, the clock says 90. Probably not but it feels like it. Fantastic! Then, when you regain your senses, you realise the brakes are ace, the steering light and precise and the grin gets wider. Then you remember the road tests and slow to 70 and sit cruising. And, sure enough, the mirrors blur and your hands and arms tingle. Edinburgh to Italy like this. No thanks.

    So over to Ducati to check out the DVT Multistrada. No doubt a lot prettier than the BMW with the sense that every detail has been honed not just for practicality but beauty. Check out the pannier mounts on the BMW and then the Multi. This detail says a lot.

    Then, out on the road, another difference surfaces very quickly. They both are alleged to have 160bhp but there’s no way they used the same horses to reach this number. The Ducati just doesn’t have the tarmac-rippling thrust. It’s quite marked. Somewhere from the spec sheet to the back tyre, the Ducati sheds horses like a abattoir on fire. Still fast, mind. Just not manic.

    But apart from a floatier more cosseting ride, the Ducati has a subtle trick to play. At lower revs, the DVT magic smooths out the huge pistons leaving a subdued rumble rather than a buzzy rasp which gives you the option of flowing around on the torque, relaxed and soothed rather than feeling like a wasp on Redbull. The speed is there but it’s a choice. It’s an Aston Martin to an Ariel Atom. This is a bike that adapts to your mood. Luxury or hard-edged? Flick a switch.

    And that was enough. The cheque went to Ducati. Just one gripe – the gearing is too high as standard so the thing lots of people do is to change the front sprocket down one tooth for acceleration rather than top end. You’d think this would ruin the relaxed feel but all it does is make the bike a bit sharper and eager but not less cosseting.

    It’s early November in Scotland now and 4 degrees C. I’m not sure how I’m going to manage this winter without the deep pleasure of riding this great bike.

  8. Kevin dentith says:

    Great to hear all your views…I’ve just swapped my R1200 LC GS for the 2017 XR and was told the vibration had been cured. On riding home from the showroom I covered 30 miles at 6k rpm and my right hand was tingling like mad. I spoke to BMW who claimed thus should go as the engine loosens up, if not they will look into it at the 600 service.
    Despite that I have to say I am falling in love with this bike…I ride the 15 miles to work everyday in all weathers, which has been wet and wetter this last week, but the bike makes you feel totally safe, even with new boots. I commute through traffic for 10 minutes each end of the day and it is easier to handle than the GS, then tonight for the first time in a week since owning the bike the roads dried up……bloody hell, this is a rocket ship, the quickshift is awesome and with each change the bike takes off into warp factor speed….it us awesome, I hope I can keep my licence
    The only problem I have found do far is the height if the side stand, bike leans alarmingly over and if on a camber could fall over I am sure. There is an after market extender for £70

    • cesardagord says:

      Congratulations on your XR purchase. It is quite the machine, BMW has really done right to attach a more leisurely riding position to this gem of a motor. Hope the vibrations on the handlebars go away. It did not bother me, but I was not touring or cruising on my test run, but I could see it becoming a potential problem. Love the quick-shift, want it on my next performance motorcycle!

  9. The Berber says:

    Hi. I’m switching from a Monster to a more faired bike for occasional touring. I took out a S1000r which was a fun hooligan ride but I need more wind protection now. I had a K1200s for a while and have been trying to decide if I go back to a K1300s or find some middle ground with the Xr. Your review has inspired me to definitely take one out and see if it ticks my boxes. A great read and all the key points we care about are covered. So thank you. I will also try the strada and veloce though just to be sure.

  10. Ken House says:

    Thanks for the great review. You covered some issues that I hadn’t read yet, and you weren’t trying to write a puff piece. I’d never heard of the differences in the lights on the Euro version, for example.
    I’ve ridden several ride-by-wire bikes now, so I’m aware of the vague relationship between the wrist and the motor. For me, it detracts from the riding experience. Feels sort of robotic, and for me makes the pilot seem more of a passenger.
    I’m also familiar with needing rpms for takeoff. My old FZ1 (“ride-by-cable”) is the same way. It’s a bit tiring, particularly in stop-and-go traffic. It’s easy to slip the clutch too much.
    I have heard that the vibes in the bars decrease over time, but that, combined with the problematic windscreen, does add up to a degradation of touring performance.
    People rave about this bike, so the downsides mustn’t be all that bad! My hope is that I can ride it all day, enjoy its creature comforts, and then have a blast in the twisties.

  11. John P Van Schie says:

    Great report Best I have read

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