Our BMW S 1000 XR racks up the miles and smiles.
It’s been nine months of living with the 2016 BMW S 1000 XR and in that time, our plans changed, somewhat.
I originally had plans to turn this thing into a full-on racer with lights, then I had plans to turn it into an off road-style ADV tourer in the same guise as its twin cylinder brother in the BMW R 1200 GS. In the end, I did neither. I left the bike stock.
Is this a cop out? Well, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking so, and to be honest, I struggled with that thought myself. But then I came to realize nine months and 5000 miles on a test bike with no mods was pretty close to what the average rider would probably do if they bought an XR, especially as I’d seen plenty such machines with high miles and no mods since my tenure with the machine.
Five thousand miles mightn’t seem a lot, and in the grand scheme of things it really isn’t, but since I took delivery of the BMW S 1000 XR back in July, I have tested roughly 22 more, new bikes, all requiring decent seat time to form a valid opinion. So five grand was OK for me.
It’s funny how your feelings change after a bit of time together. At the 2015 intro for the BMW S 1000 XR, I said, “the engine seemed to have a real vibey spot between 5-6000rpm, which is where you’ll be in sixth gear on the highway most of the time.” In the rapture of receiving a new testbike back in July, I thought I could live with this little idiosyncrasy. But since then, it’s become an annoyance like no other, with the vibes even rattling the trim loose around the key area.
Over time, however, I learned to live with it. The trick is to get the engine spinning low, below 5000rpm or above 7000, to have a near vibe free ride on the freeway. The freeway vibes mean next to nothing in the canyons, as the revs rise and fall and don’t allow for a constant engine speed, so in this area I have absolutely no issues.
The problem is, once above 7000rpm in sixth, you’re hauling ass. I got my first big ticket since arriving into the U.S. on this bike, and the cop was gracious enough to let me keep my license (just), but still slapped me with a whopping fine and traffic school duty. That is not the fault of the XR. It was the monkey behind the controls. But clearing its throat and letting the XR eat is a dangerous game at times, especially down the 5 Freeway to San Diego, such is the sheer speed of the engine.
Another area I simply hate is the screen
It’s positioned right at my forehead, so I get all the wind blast and noise and none of the protection. Lowering the screen (it’s a two position screen) to its shortest point somewhat cures this issue, but riding with both ears plugged is now a must if I don’t want to get off the XR with a raging headache.
But these two issues, called out when I first wrote a Long Term update last year, are still my only big gripes with the XR. Put simply, this bike is still a stunning machine to have in your garage. There’s power to absolutely burn (and bait police on, as it turns out), the long distance comfort with the standard seat is superb and the Gear Shift Assist Pro for up and down clutchless shifts is very good—but occasionally the system wouldn’t match the revs as I’d have liked and the downshift was quite harsh.
Another plus is the heated grips and the BMW cruise control system, a godsend when mindless riding down freeways.
I’ve ridden this bike to San Francisco, Arizona, Nevada, all round California, and done plenty of Sunday morning café runs with the wife on the back. Unfortunately, reports from the back seat tell me it’s fine for the first 30 minutes or so, after that the seat becomes unbearably hard and we end up stopping far more than we’d like just so she can get some feeling back.
As such, this would not be my first choice of machine if there was plenty of two-up riding in my near future that required big distances. Short trips, fine, but the side bags have enough room for a few days away as a single person and only one if the passenger has more than a pair of jeans with them. For that type of riding, I’d go looking at a R 1200 RT instead.
Loving the electronic life
The XR has taken a bit of time to find the right set up I like in the electronic suspension settings. I’ve now got them to the point where I have the bike on its stiffest possible numbers for canyon riding and armchair soft for long days in the saddle, and it can now be done at the touch of the Dynamic ESA button on the left bar. But I still for the life of me can’t work out the rolling dial on the left bar that works parts like the GPS. It’s a bloody confusing system, there’s too many switches and you need an encyclopedia to figure it out. So when I use the GPS, I lock in my map at the start and don’t deviate. It’s something I’ve promised myself I’ll learn; I just haven’t got around to it.
The XR has also proved remarkably good on tires. At just over the 1000 mile mark I fitted up a set of Pirelli Diablo Rossi IIIs and as you can see from the photo, they have worn tremendously well. I’m not sure if it’s solely down to the brilliance of the Italian rubber or the balance of the XR in that it doesn’t waste tires as quickly as I expected, but it’s a nice surprise, anyway. Maybe I just need to squeeze it a little harder, but as I said earlier, that’s a dangerous game on the XR.
I went riding with my former colleague Adam Waheed last week, chasing up Ortega Highway in SoCal. When I got off, I was convinced there was very few other bikes I would want for that style of riding than the XR. I had camera gear, a sweater, and other assorted crap in the panniers and totally forgot they were there. The XR carried all my stuff, allowed me the fun of a superbike with added comfort and I didn’t get embarrassed by the maniac ahead of me on a GSX-R600. That alone proves the worth of this machine. The fact I don’t want to give it back, even more so.