A buying guide to the BMW S1000R — an "everyday awesome" sport bike that can do everything. Including analysis of model changes over the years, factory options, spec changes, designs, colours, what can go wrong, and maintenance.
A few months ago I bought a BMW S1000R, after a very careful and exhaustive analysis of what motorcycle to buy (using something I call the "regret avoidance framework").
In doing so, I had to learn everything about the S1000R. Everything! It was a little hard piecing all the information on the internet. So I'm putting it together in this used buyers guide for other people who want to buy a used BMW S1000R.
Whether the BMW S1000R is right for you depends on a lot of things. Do you like naked bikes? Do you like BMW? Do you like inline four-cylinder engines? If the answer to those three things is "yes", it's likely to be it.
But regardless, you are probably wondering:
- How did the S1000R evolve over the years, and which one is best? (And do the 2014-2016 S1000R handlebars really buzz?)
- What are some of the options the BMW S1000R came with?
- What are the differences between the S1000R and S1000RR?
- How is the BMW S1000R vs the alternatives, like the Yamaha MT-10, the Ducati Streetfighter, Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX, and so on?
- What are some common problems with the BMW S1000R?
- And finally, what does the maintenance of the BMW S1000R look like?
I'll try to go over each of these in detail.
Brief history of the BMW S1000R
The S1000R was released first in 2014, five years after the BMW S1000RR thundered onto the sport bike scene in 2009, suddenly changing many things for BMW.
Before the BMW S1000R, the closest parallel was the K1300R. The K1300R shared some features with the S1000R — it was an inline-four motorcycle with a large-displacement engine and 127 kW/173 hp — a bit more power that the S1000R's detuned engine when it was released in 2014 (118 kW/160 hp).
But the K1300R was a different kind of bike. It was fast, but it was more "muscle" than the S-series bikes were.
Here were they key differences, from both a consumer and a rider's perspective:
- The K1300R (and K1300S) had dual telelever suspension, different to the forks on the S1000R (and nearly every other motorcycle)
- The S1000R is quite a bit lighter at 207 kg/456 lb (wet); the K1300R is 243 kg/536 lb
- The K1300R has a bigger engine at 1298cc; the S1000R's is 999 cc
- The K1300R has a sweet single-sided swing arm; the S1000R has a conventional swing arm
- The S1000R has much more tech in it — active suspension, cornering ABS in later models (which BMW calls ABS Pro), and cruise control.
In a nutshell, while both are fast naked four cylinder bikes that will handle well, the S1000R is a more lightweight sport bike, while the K1300R is a more heavyweight bruiser.
They're dissimilar enough that the K1300R was still sold until 2017, when it was discontinued — though I'm certain BMW will replace it at some point.
The BMW S1000R was first introduced in 2014, then revised in 2017. It hasn't been revised since 2017.
In the original 2014 spec, the BMW S1000R had a 999cc 4-cylinder in-line liquid-cooled engine producing 118 kW (160 hp).
The engine was based on the incredible S1000RR, which at the time produced 144 kW (193 hp). So the S1000R was down on peak power about 20%. But it was done so that there'd be more torque available down low. And indeed, looking at a dyno chart, the S1000R has about 10 m (7 lb-ft) more torque along most of the torque curve, up to 7,500 rpm. (More on this on comparing the S1000R with the S1000RR below.)
Revisions to the 2017+ BMW S1000R
In 2017, the BMW S1000R was revised. Even though it wasn't extensive, it still means that the 2017+ is the only model I'd recommend. For one reason — better handlebars!
Changes to the 2017+ BMW S1000R include
- Increased power to 121 kW/165hp (up from 118 kW/160 hp)
- Slight weight reduction of 2 kg to 205 kg unladen
- Standard HP titanium rear silencer, designed by Akropovic — looks cool, sounds better
- "Vibration-free" handlebars, to reduce the buzz everyone complained about on earlier models
- ABS Pro as a new element of the optional equipment item Riding Modes Pro
- Reduced fairing
- Improved instrument cluster
There were other aesthetic changes, like colour options, too.
A few tiny things changed since 2017 (e.g. support for the app, or tweaking of the self-cancelling turn signals), but nothing major.
Do the 2014-2016 BMW S1000R's handlebars really buzz?
There's a lot of... buzz... about the buzz in the handlebars of the 2014-2016 BMW S1000R.
Like with many aspects of motorcycles, it's hard to figure out how much of this was just sensationalism by moto journalists, and how much was real. So I had to try it out! I went and test rode a 2015 S1000R and a S1000XR too (both suffered from the same problem).
Admittedly, I went in knowing that the handlebars buzzed. So I had some expectation that coloured my opinion. But at the same time, I really wanted to buy that bike. I was trying to talk myself into it.
I really liked the BMW S1000XR in particular. It was very nice to look at, and well-priced. But in the end I didn't buy it because a) the position was a little too gentlemanly, and b) I just had to admit that those handlebars were too buzzy.
Look, buzziness is relative. All motorbikes vibrate. I should know, I've ridden my share of Ducatis. Those things vibrate so much that they vibrate out fairings in the bolt, loosen the engine mounts, and one day even caused my shift lever to fall off the bike (I didn't tighten it enough, though).
Other motorbikes all vibrate, or buzz. Harleys vibrate, and it's called "character". Kawasaki Ninja 1000s have a buzz around 6,500 rpm that's well known. Does any of it matter? It depends entirely on your expectations. When I bought a BMW, I did so because I wanted 100% smoothness everywhere — just as I'd expect from a Honda Goldwing or a Yamaha FJR. So a little buzz is OK, but my threshold of tolerance on a BMW is a low lower because I expect (and pay) more.
That said — the 2017+ BMW S1000R (that I bought) is not vibration-free, but it never bothers me.
Standard S1000R vs "Sports" Package and Options
A question I had — and which people often have on the forums — is what is the difference between the standard BMW S1000R and the "Sport" package?
Luckily, this has remained consistant since 2014 (through 2020 so far).
Standard, the BMW S1000R is equipped with:
- Two ride modes — "Rain" and "Road"
- Heated grips
- Automatic Stability Control (ASC) — Traction control
- Race ABS — essentially linked ABS that adjusts based on various conditions (but not lean angle)
The Sport package includes "Pro Riding Modes". This includes
- Quickshifter (Gear Shift Assistant)
- Two more riding modes — Dynamic and Dynamic Pro
- Dynamic traction control — Traction control whose intervention level is modified by lean angle
- Dynamic Damping Control — Active Suspension
- Cruise control
- ABS Pro — Retrofittable to the 2014-2016 model, and from factory in 2017+.
If you're after cornering ABS, then I'd advise you to buy a 2017+ model with the sports package. Many owners with pre-2017 models didn't retrofit it.
How to tell if a S1000R is the "Sports" package
This was a difficult one for me. But there are a few ways you can tell.
Here are a few tell-tale indicators. Any one of them is enough, but you might not have a lot of information if you're looking at an advertisement with not enough photos.
- Cruise control on the handlebars. If it has cruise, then it's the Sports package.
- On start-up, it says "ABS Pro" on the dash as the first thing.
- Gold forks. The sport package includes DDC, and those forks are gold. The non-sport package has black forks.
- The little engine spoiler. This also comes as part of the sport package.
Of course, beware of people who've sourced the spoiler or forks, and not fit other parts of the sport package. Due your due diligence. Watch for that ABS Pro on startup.
Confused by Race ABS vs ABS Pro? So was I! Here it is, explained.
Differences between the S1000R and S1000RR
Aside from the fact that the S1000RR is the more "iconic" of the two bikes, being the sportsbike, there are three primary differences between the S1000R and the S1000RR:
- Engine power and torque curve (the big one!)
- Handlebars and riding position (the other big one)
- Racing-oriented factory options on the S1000RR
S1000R vs S1000RR power and torque curve
Let's start with the power and torque curve.
Firstly, it should come as no surprise that the S1000RR overall makes more power. Both motorcycles have had power bumps since htey were first launched, and this remains the case.
The reason the S1000RR makes more power is that it revs higher. It makes less torque for most of the lower rev range, but then maintains its torque levels into higher RPMs, beyond teh S1000R's redline.
According to BMW themselves in their 2014 press release (and every magazine article that's just a re-write of the press-release), for the S1000R "up to 7500 rpm, this engine version develops 10 Newton metres (approx. 7 lb-ft) more torque than the S 1000 RR."
To verify this, I took the liberty of compiling data from a few different public dyno chart torque curves I found on the internet of the 2017 models S1000R and S1000RR.
Even though there may have been some small (+/-2%) errors in my transcription, at first blush the difference in the charts supports BMW's claim, roughly matching their published charts in shape.
What does this mean in reality? The S1000R has more torque along most of the curve, but then redlines more quickly.
So is the S1000RR "weak"? Is that what it feels like to ride? No!! In fact, in almost any forum thread of people talking about using the S1000RR as a daily rider, nobody complains about it having poor road manners in traffic.
I have occasionally read of people describing the S1000RR as a little weak in low RPMs, but that must be in comparison to any more road-oriented bike, or a big super-naked (like the S1000R). In my personal experience, either bike has a basically unusable amount of torque for launching on public roads, and both benefit greatly from the electronic controls to help me when I accidentally grab too much throttle. (Doesn't happen 99.9% of the time, and it's possible to train this away with much more experience, but last week in the city when I was jumping between lanes a little too actively, I was really glad it was there or I'd have wheelied right into a taxi.)
Recent S1000R and S100RR models have the same gearign of 17/45. They thus apply torque in the same way. (The S1000RR has a higher top speed becuase its redline is higher.)
But in summary, both the S1000R and S1000RR can be ridden on the street. Both come with heated grips, cruise control (if you have the Sport package), and ABS — all of which are street-oriented options.
S1000R vs S1000RR riding position
Second comparison point between the S1000R and S1000RR is the handlebars and riding position.
On the S1000R, you're more upright. The posture is definitely still forward-leaning — you're not stock upright like on an adventure bike, nor are you even mostly upright like you are on a Triumph Bonneville. The position is aggressive, like on a Ducati Monster or Triumph Speed Triple. When you hunker down onto the tank at high speeds, it doesn't feel ridiculous like it does on an adventure bike (where I suddenly feel like I have ape hangers).
On the S1000R, there's also more room for your feet to flex — the footpegs are a bit lower.
Have a look at this comparison from Cycle Ergo. I'm 6 foot tall with a standard 32 inch inseam (183 cm with a 82cm inseam), which makes me very average. I encourage you to try out Cycle Ergo yourself and see how you might fit the bikes.
Racing options on the S1000RR
The final comparision point, an important one for track riders and racers, is that the S1000RR comes with racing options in the computer.
Both the S1000R and S1000RR have lap timers and shift indicators.
The S1000R has four riding modes (assuming you have the Riding Modes Pro option) — "Rain", "Sport", "Dynamic", and "Dynamic Pro". There's also a "User" mode.
Dynamic Pro mode on the S1000R is designed for "situations in which the rider has an open view of the road ahead and the surroundings, and is for riding on dry surfaces with the high level of grip generally encountered only on race tracks" (p126).
In Dynamic Pro mode on the S1000R:
- ABS support is reduced to a minimum, intervening later.
- Lift detection for the rear wheel is deactivated — it can lift off the ground.
- ABS for the rear wheel is deactivated.
- ABS Pro is not available.
The S1000RR has four as well, but they're called "Rain", "Sport", "Race", and "Slick" (and also a "User" option).
Note: You only get "Slick" on the S1000RR if you have a special coding plug, which comes with the Sport package.
On Dynamic Pro option on the S1000R, only the suspension and ABS/TC intervention is adjusted.
In Slick mode on the S1000RR, you get the following (per the manual)
- Engine output, increase in power and response are designed for maximum "sportiness" (not sure what that means)
- Overrun cutoff (RPM limiter) is deactivated
- The behaviour of the ABS system matches that of RACE mode (intervening later, and de-activating rear-wheel lift-off prevention), but with one difference — if you use the footbrake lever, there'll be no ABS on the rear-wheel - meaning you can lock it up.
- Longer wheelies and wheelies at small angles are also permitted - meaning it's possible to flip the bike.
So the difference between Slick mode on the S1000RR and Dynamic Pro mode on the S1000R is that Slick mode improves engine output, power and response, and removes the RPM limiter.
On forums, people say they prefer Slick mode because it is more "responsive", but they get better times with either Slick or Race modes.
There are also a few racing-specific features on the S1000RR — probably more than I can find, but there's at least
- Customisable shifting lamp
- A customisable speed warning/limiter
- More easily removable mirrors
But overall, both the R and the RR share a lot of race-oriented technology, like lap timers and advanced data logging, supporting an infrared receiver, and so on.
BMW S1000R vs Alternatives — Yamaha MT-10, Ducati Streetfighter, etc.
We live in a golden age of motorcycling, shortly before internal combustions will become illegal.
The competitors to the BMW S1000R are formidable and awesome. It's such an incredible list, and I'd be happy with any of them as my only bike, honestly.
It's such a formidable list it's impossible to do it properly justice, so I'll give a very quick one-paragraph overview of each one and why you might choose it.
- Ducati Streetfighter (S or V4) — You'd pick the old and Streetfighter S (up to 2012) if you wanted a formidable, raw bike, with a brutish 116 kW/155 hp v-twin package pushing through a dry clutch and relatively tall gearing. You'd pick the modern Streetfighter V4 (2020+) if you don't mind the premium cost of Ducati valve maintenance — even more expensive than BMW's. You'd also forego heated grips and cruise, but you'd still have cornering ABS. Streetfighters are very good-looking bikes.
- Triumph Speed Triple — You'd pick the 2016+ Speed Triple if you wanted a howling triple that pushes 100 kW (140 hp) and a really attractive design, including a single-sided swing-arm. You'd have ABS and traction control, and cornering ABS/cruise from 2018 onward.
- Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 — Aprilia has been doing the V4 for much longer than Ducati, and it has always been awesome. You get a bonkers engine with more power than the S1000R (175hp total), and later models come with all the tech you want, including ride by wire, cruise control, launch control, etc. Your only limitation with the Aprilia is a bit less dealer support.
- Kawasaki Ninja 1000/1000SX — I'd consider this the "reliable alternative". I quite like the 2020 Ninja 2000SX and considered it, but couldn't get a test ride. It has everything — cruise, traction control, a quickshifter, cornering ABS — and a bit of bodywork to keep the wind off me. It's comfortable and very reliable, and has a raucous intake howl that I love listening to.
- Kawasaki Z H2 — This is maybe the most insane bike on this list, deserving its own entry. A naked bike with a supercharger from the factory, from the same line as the Kawasaki H2 superbikes. It's insane, but it's also fairly new and ... 197 hp (147 kW) pushing a 527 lb (239 kg) wet weight chassic almost puts it in another category.
- Suzuki Katana — The Katana is an easier pick than the GSX-S1000, as it has higher tech and retro 80s styling, just like I do. But it's still pretty old-school in a couple of ways. The Katana has cornering ABS and a full bevy of other rider aids — but no cruise control. It doesn't even have ride-by-wire! It's cheap though and still high-tech (and cool-looking) enough to be worth a look.
- Yamaha MT-10 — Last but not least, the MT-10 gets you the Yamaha Crossplane inline-4 from the R1, but tuned for low-down torque. It grumbles a bit at low RPM, but is otherwise well-loved for being rich with character. The MT-10 also has cruise, TC, and ABS, but no six-axis IMU with cornering ABS from its bigger brother.
- Honda CB1000R — The Honda lacks a lot of tech, and isn't that powerful at "only" 122 hp (91 kW) for the 2019 model. No cornering ABS, no cruise control... there are few reasons to pick the CB. The only reason I would is that you get Honda's reputation for reliability, and a platform that has been producing easy-to-ride, nice-looking bikes of this generation for decades. But otherwise, it's the least exciting bike on this list. (Note — 2020 sees throttle by wire including traction control, so maybe it'll get more tech soon.)
Common problems with the S1000R
If you're buying used, then you need to know what problems lie in wait for you!
Here are the most likely things to happen to the S1000R. These are usually things that happen in the first 20,000 kms.
- Noisy cam chain tensioner — The tensioner gets noisy on these. BMW replaces it at 15,000 kms. But many owners opt for a manual tensioner.
- Microswitch failures — there are several small switches that tend to fail on the S1000R. They're cheap to fix, but they can be annoying. These are on the clutch lever, and there's one in the ignition barrel — when it fails, your bike will stay on, even after you remove the key! (Tip — to turn it off, you have to disconnect the battery.)
Of course, you do need to do a proper inspection on the bike. It won't be that old, but you still need to make sure the tires aren't too worn, that the chain and sprockets work, etc. Check out my full used motorcycle inspection checklist.
And that's it. Aside from making sure the 10,000 km maintenance intervals are respected, you're good to go.
BMW S1000R Maintenance
The BMW has two major service intervals — minor and major.
Minor service is every 10,000 kms, and involves
- Changing the oil and filter
- Changing the air filter
- Checking and changing (if necessary) the brakes, brake frluid, steering head bearing, coolant, clutch lever/mechanism, chain, tyre, side stand, and lights.
The BMW S1000R has major maintenance every 30,000 kms (18,000 miles).
In addition to the minor things, you have to do
- Valve clearances & timing
- Changing the spark plugs
- Changing fork oil
Minor service is about US$500, and major service is about the same on top of that.
You can do most of the minor service (probably all of it) yourself. But you won't get that pretty stamp in a log book, and you'll need to have a BMW tech do the reset for you.
The S1000R is the newest, shiniest bike I ever bought. I'm going to have this one done by the mechanics. I usually do all my older bikes myself — they don't have a service history, and cost me very little, so it doesn't matter as much.