The BMW S 1000 RR is arguably the most exciting new bike of 2019, with lots of interesting tech, so Bruce Wilson fulfilled our hunger for knowledge via an interview with the bike’s project manager
FB: What was the focus behind the new S 1000 RR?
JM: The real goal of the bike was clear; to reduce weight and increase power. And we're not talking small gains. You can feel five kilos on the racetrack, but if you can lose ten kilos, you can feel that difference on the road. We thought big, and managed to pull it off.
FB: The 2019 RR looks fundamentally different from its predecessor. What was the thinking?
JM: We wanted to make a statement. If we just stuck with the old look and style in the new generation, loved as it was, people would look at the new RR as a revision and not a revolution. We’re not dealing with the past anymore; this is a very special and fresh option from us. It’s also worth remembering that times have changed since the RR's debut. The asymmetric lighting of the predecessor was as much a feature as it was a necessity to keep the weight of the headlights minimal, but now we have LED lighting, we’ve made the most of it in the new RR, not just at the front, but at the rear too. Of course history is important, so we’ve kept the shark’s gills on the right side of the bike, which is great for cooling too.
FB: Is the package’s focus road or track bias?
JM: We had to get it right for both road and the track users. 65 per cent of our customers ride exclusively on the road, so we couldn’t overlook the importance of the bike’s usability on the street as well as on the circuit. The answer came from using the ShiftCam system, a key player in the RR’s all-new motor which alters the inlet cam’s focus at 9,000rpm, optimising performance both above and below this figure. This gives better low-to-midrange performance than the old RR, something that street riding is all about. You can’t always push a bike to the revlimiter, so offering strong torque and rideability is key. Compared to the older model, the throttle response in the first three gears has been smoothed out with less aggressive fuelling, and the ergonomics have been carefully considered to make sure the package is still comfortable, even if the machine appears smaller.
FB: How has it improved for the track?
JM: We did our research, asking track and race riders what they wanted from the RR. They said they wanted something that's not demanding, is easy to capitalise on and crucially, something that looks after tyre life. We tweaked the chassis a lot during development, changing it several times to deliver the best feel, agility and stability. For extra stability, we gave it an under-braced swinging arm, like on the superbike, which helps with support under hard drive out of corners. Altering of the monoshock’s pivot point also added to chassis performance. It may not seem essential, but the difference is huge. A shock’s proximity to a hot engine alters the fluid function of the oil, causing damping loss, but in a cooler running location, we can run more sensitive settings, giving the rider a better feeling. Some people get around this by side-mounting their shocks, but we like things to be asymmetric. For the sake of physics, it’s better to get things centralised. We’ve also made massive improvements with the DDC (Dynamic Damping Control) suspension system, which is now more track- capable. The older system was great for road use but had limitations on the track, whereas now you can dismount the system and adjust the shim pack with your chassis engineer or suspension guy – tuning it to suit your needs. Maximum damping works best for agility, which is where it sits, whereas the old model’s setup ran at minimum damping and so wasn't as effective as we’d hoped. The new model with a combination of all this is about a second a lap quicker over the previous model. Also, over 20 laps, the massive changes on the new bike offers big gains as it’s much more consistent and capable of maintaining a pace throughout the race distance.
FB: DDC vs standard; which performs best on track?
JM: The standard system with the exact spring setup will probably be faster, but that's difficult to achieve. Here, the DDC system has really taken a big step with the new generation RR as it adapts better, delivering a faster, easier ride for 95 per cent of riders, 95 per cent of the time. Also, small alterations are incredibly easy to do during the ride and you can change big settings too for the exact feedback you need.
FB: Why hasn’t it got wings?
JM: Wings, like spoilers on a car, have no real role for road use except for looking nice, and even on the racetrack, the difference isn't much. They also make the bike heavier and more fragile, due to the added material and bracing which you can easily catch on something and will need to replaced or fixed. We thought long and hard about it and didn’t put them on, keeping in mind the guys on the road. Honestly, it didn’t seem necessary, but if the customers want them, we may introduce them in the future.
FB: BMW now produces carbonfibre at an industrial scale, but there’s not much on the bike. Why is that?
JM: The M-Sport has carbon wheels, but anything more would make the bike too expensive. Carbon sub-frames save maybe 1kg, but push the cost up too much, something we didn’t want. The wheels are the biggest weight saving so they were the most important.
FB: Any plans for a homologation special?
JM: Not right now. The beauty of a production model is that people on the street can ride the same machine as superbike riders. Other brands may choose to build ultra-expensive, exclusive motorcycles, but BMW would rather concentrate on the everyday riders, providing them with suitable options at realistic prices.
FB: The engine is all new except the bore and stroke. Did you consider other configurations?
JM: Absolutely! We tried everything, even big bang, and counter-rotating crankshafts! Everything has its pros and cons, so we worked towards the best all-round option, and even considered an 1,100cc setup, which seemed silly due to racing rules. The BMW Shiftcam system we created makes the same torque and power as an 1,100cc motor, and showcases the new RR’s innovative identity.
FB: Is it Euro 5 compatible?
JM: The Euro 5 rules aren’t clear at the moment, even though it’s so close now (2020). It looks like non-switchable ABS will be standard, which is not a problem as our ABS is really good. Emissions wise, our bikes are ready to take it on. The new RR shouldn’t have a problem making the grade. We can adapt it to suit whatever challenges come our way.
FB: With the current market craze for insane power, did you feel like joining the fray?
JM: In a game of top trumps, we just try to find the right balance. Looking at Ducati's latest 214hp model, we thought, should we match it? It could have been a possibility, but chasing such a high-top-end figure would have compromised overall usability, as well as shot up the costs. Just to increase the rpm from 14,200 to 14,600, the rocking arms, along with many other components have been lightened and the intake valves hollowed out. Our race bikes will obviously have more power, but they are constantly worked on and maintained with fresh engine components. Performance always comes at a cost.
Click here to read our first ride review of the BMW S 1000 RR