The 2021 BMW S 1000 XR blends super sport performance with adventure touring capability making it one of the few bikes that might just be as comfortable crunching highway miles as it is setting lap times.
It’s fast, fierce and incredibly well specced, but what is it actually like to ride? Well, without any further ado, let’s find out!
If I could only use one word to describe the 2021 BMW S 1000 XR it would be ‘aggressive’. Unfortunately for my editor, I get to use a few more; fortunately for you, they’re all variations on the same theme.
Powered by the same in-line 4-cylinder engine from BMW’s flagship super bike – the S 1000 RR – the XR is an adventure tourer with a bias for speed. Sure, the 999cc engine has been tweaked with longer gear ratios, an increased mid-range and reduced power and torque, but don’t let that fool you – this is still one hell of a powerplant.
For 2021, the S 1000 XR remains more or less unchanged since the last major update back in 2019. That update saw the XR benefit from a newly designed lighter engine with increased mid-range, a 10 kg reduction in overall weight, LED lighting with adaptive cornering, and a new lighter exhaust that now meets Euro-5 compliance.
Have I mentioned that the S 1000 XR is aggressive? A hard revving engine, the XR always seems angry about something, as if it’s constantly mansplaining its performance figures.
Speaking of performance figures, the 999cc in-line 4-cylinder engine pushes out a very impressive 165 hp (121 kW) at 11000 RPM and an equally impressive 114 Nm of peak torque at 9250 RPM. With this sort of performance, the S 1000 XR is right up there with KTM’s 1290 Super Duke GT, Ducati’s Multistrada V4 and Triumph’s Tiger 1200.
Arguable overkill for the streets, where you’ll struggle to get it out of second, the S 1000 XR sure reveals itself at high revs through tight corners and flowing country roads! Power builds quickly, yet the torque curve is relatively flat, leading to rapid acceleration without sacrificing rideability. In laymen’s terms: the S 1000 XR builds speed quickly but smoothly, leading to an overall more enjoyable ride.
The silky smooth 6-speed gearbox is supported by a quickshifter and blipper, both of which are exceptional. The former is especially good, with ultra smooth shifting even from 1st into 2nd – something that I found to be a little rough on BMW’s other adventure tourer, the F 900 XR. This generation of the S 1000 XR also features engine drag torque control (MSR) for the first time. Electronically controlled, MSR prevents the rear wheel from slipping as a result of abrupt throttling or downshifting. I did my best to put this feature to the test with some really aggressive downshifts and can vouch for its effectiveness. In German, MSR stands for Motorschleppmomentregelung (no, I’m not kidding) but all you really need to know is that it means aggressive downshifts are rewarded, not punished.
Despite BMW’s efforts to somewhat tame the S 1000 XR, at low RPM the engine is prone to surge and the throttle can be a tad binary. Definitely not for pottering around town, this is a bike made for spirited sports touring.
I was blown away with just how well the S1000 XR handled. For a larger bike, it tips in effortlessly and absolutely corners on rails. The chassis on the S 1000 XR is brilliant and a perfect match for the fire spitting in-line 4 it enslaves. Not just a dab hand at the fast and furious stuff, low speed balance on the XR is exceptional, making manoeuvres around the garage, U-turns and filtering through inner city traffic incredibly easy.
The Marzocchi upside-down telescopic fork with electronic suspension adjustment does a good job of damping the bumps up front, but the central spring strut in the rear is just okay. Whilst the suspension in ‘dynamic’ is good, in ‘road’ mode it’s quite bouncy in the rear.
With twin 320 mm discs, floating, radial 4-piston fixed calipers up front and a single 265 mm disc and 2-piston caliper in the rear, braking on the S 1000 XR is very good . ABS isn’t intrusive, and with the inclusion of ABS Pro, the wheels will not lock up, even when braking fast through corners. The XR is also equipped with DBC or Dynamic Brake Control. DBC increases safety by avoiding unintentional accelerator activation. Essentially, once a sensor detects a certain deceleration value during braking, any simultaneous desire to accelerate is detected and the throttle valve opening is suppressed. This keeps the motorcycle stable and shortens the braking distance. A nifty feature.
Despite the 840 mm seat height, I didn’t find the S 1000 XR to be a particularly tall bike. The seat is really sculpted, putting you in a position that feels like you’re in the bike as opposed to sitting atop it. Whilst on the hard side, it’s certainly not uncomfortable, and despite the sculpted nature of the saddle, there’s enough room to stretch out should you become uncomfortable.
A true mishmash of BMW Motorrad’s adventure, touring and sports bike line-up, the S 1000 XR’s styling is a reflection of the bike’s multiple functions. The pointy nose, high screen and exposed forks are pure GS, the comfortable yet canted forward riding position a nod to the R 1250 RS, whilst the seat and tail section are more in-tune with the S 1000 R.
Available in two colour options: Ice Grey with contrasting black and grey features, and my favourite – Racing Red/White Aluminium. In red and when coupled with the carbon package that I had on test, the S 1000 XR looks absolutely mint. The carbon package swaps out the aluminium side covers for carbon fibre, whilst the front and rear mudguards are also given the carbon treatment.
As with most new BMW’s, the controls and dash are first class. The 6.5-inch colour TFT screen is probably the best in the business and allows for phone connectivity through the BMW Motorrad Connectivity App as standard. One could lose a day going through all the features and display options on the S 1000 XR, so let’s just say there’s not much you can’t view and adjust. From lean angle, to deceleration, rider modes and everything in between, if you can think of it, you can look at it and probably adjust it.
As a package, the S 1000 XR looks incredible, is finished beautifully and is unmistakably BMW.
- Such an aggressive motorcycle!
- Full colour TFT is the best in the business
- Quick-shifter and blipper are mint
- Cornering and handling is top shelf
- Did I mention it was aggressive?
- Around town, you won’t get out of second
- Sculpted saddle can force you into one position
The 2021 BMW S 1000 XR is an absolute howitzer.
The aggressiveness that makes the S 1000 XR a difficult beast around town, also makes it a weapon for sports touring, the very purpose for what the XR was designed for. Hard-revving, quick-shifting and well equipped, it’s not hard to see why this bike has been such a fan favourite.
If you’re looking for something to handle the Monday to Friday commute, then hit the open road at weekend, there are other bikes for the job. However if you’re after a dedicated tourer with genuine sports bike performance, the S 1000 XR is an excellent choice.
2021 BMW S 1000 XR Specs/Features:
- Engine displacement: 999cc
- Power: 165 hp (121 kW) at 11000 RPM
- Torque: 114 Nm at 9250 RPM
- Engine type: water-cooled in-line 4-cylinder engine
- Clutch: self-reinforcing multi-plate anti-hopping wet clutch
- Gearbox: 6-speed
- Final drive: chain
- Fork: Marzocchi upside-down telescopic fork, slide tube diameter 45 mm, Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA), damping electronically adjustable with 150 mm of travel
- Suspension: aluminium underslung double-sided swinging arm with central spring strut, Dynamic ESA, damping electronically adjustable and 150 mm of travel
- Front brake: twin 320 mm disc brakes, floating, radial 4-piston fixed calipers
- Rear brake: Single 265 mm disc brake, 2-piston floating caliper
- Wheels: 17 inch front and rear with Metzeler ‘Roadtec 01’ tyres as standard
- Weight: 226 kg (wet)
- Fuel tank: 20 litres
- Seat height: 840 mm
- Ride-by-wire throttle
- BMW Motorrad ABS Pro as standard
- 6.5-inch colour TFT screen
- LED lighting all round, with self-cancelling indicators
- Riding modes: Rain, Road, Dynamic and Dynamic Pro
- Price as tested: $28,757.53 AUD (ride away – based on postcode 2000 and fitted with optional Carbon and Dynamic Packages)
- Options include:
- Touring Package: Preparation for navigation unit, luggage bridge, centre stand, hand protector
- Dynamic Package: Dynamic ESA Pro, Shift Assistant Pro, Keyless Ride, heated grips, cruise control.
- Carbon Package: M Carbon front mudguard, M Carbon rear mudguard with chain guard, M Carbon side parts, left/right
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