I loaded my gear in to what was, rather ironically —as you’ll discover later—a Renault crossover test car as I knew that later that day a two-wheeled product from a certain Bavarian marque was set to arrive at the Autodealer office.
I was distracted the entire morning, until I saw a car arrive, through my office window. Strapped to the back of a rather fancy trailer was a motorbike. I didn’t hesitate to sign my life away in waivers to claim the keys. I waved goodbye to the fleet manager and as that car disappeared from sight I sprinted to my office and suited-up for a ride.
I approached the white machine. It was a BMW S 1000 XR. From what I could surmise it is the love child of an S 1000 R and an R 1200 GS as it has an adventure bike vibe to it, with the heart of a superbike. I sat on the bike; I was relieved to see that my hobbit-esque frame was able to fit on the bike as I have had trouble with these adventure-style bikes before.
I put the bike in neutral and fired it up. It certainly sounds like a superbike, which is strange when you’re sitting on something quite tall, with wide handle bars and a large seat. The bike has the same 999cc motor and basic chassis as BMW’s S 1000 R, which is somewhat of a monster although in this guise it produces ‘only’ 118kW/112Nm in a machine that weighs 228kg with a full tank of fuel.
Don’t for a second let those adventure bike looks deceive you; the XR is exceptionally adept at covering ground at what is quite an alarming rate. I was quite shocked at the level of performance on offer. From idle to around 7000 rpm it feels fairly docile as you flick up through the quick-shifter however it’s after that where the bike starts to really move with a grin-inducing crescendo which all comes to an end at around 11 000 rpm.
The bike is of course made to compete with the Ducati Multistrada and compete is most certainly will. I would be very surprised if the Ducati could sniff this XR in a straight line. I am sure that the Italian has its merits however it would have to be very competent indeed to beat-out this BMW.
Riding the XR is a fairly fuss-free affair; it never feels heavy or too big and provides some comfort on the highway with relatively large wind shield. The one thing that I noted on the freeway was the fact that the bike does vibrate quite a bit, my hands tingled after a longer ride, which I didn’t expect.
I also found the fact that the bike was fitted with adjustable ABS brakes in addition to Brembo calipers quite reassuring. There is also a rather clever traction control system that can be placed in modes that range from ‘Rain’ to ‘Normal’ and ‘Dynamic’ depending on which mood strikes.
At the time of writing I hadn’t even finished my week stint on the bike but had ridden it at every opportunity and had enough to form an opinion of the product. The way in which BMW has blended the usability and finding comfort of an adventure bike with the performance of a superbike is impressive.
The S 1000 XR won’t do what an R 1200 GS can do off the beaten path nor will it be as at home on the track as the S 1000 R. But, as with the car industry, people want crossovers, modes of transport that are the proverbial ‘Jack of all trades’. On that front the XR provides a compelling compromise between performance, handling and comfort. My first ride in a few years was certainly a memorable one. I look forward to further reigniting my passion for two-wheeled objects in the near future.
Price: R226 990