I had years of riding experience and some legitimate miles under my belt before I moved back East, but had only ridden a couple of different bikes, since my slightly uncool motorcycles didn’t allow me easy, automatic access to any hip riding fraternities and my somewhat wallflower nature combined with my relative newbieness to keep me watching from the sidelines.
But when I returned to the East Coast, one of my gearhead buddies found out about the demo rides that were held at a local BMW/Ducati dealer in Jersey.
So now I’ve ridden modern Ducati Monsters, Diavels, and 1198’s, Triumph Thruxtons, Speed Triples, and Rocket3’s, the BMW K1300S, and the slightly ballistic 1000RR.
Prior to the Keith Code School, a demo day was my first encounter with the ballistic RR.
The first time I rode the RR, prior to the Keith Code School, a huge transport truck showed up in Metuchen full of new bikes and BMW support staff.
I signed up to ride the new 1000RR because I kept hearing so much about it in the motoring press and, hey: how often do you get to ride a 450 lb, 193hp motorcycle dripping with superlatives like a race-replica with sponsor stickers?
Especially one that you don’t own?
I had just one question: “Do you have one in Acid Green I could ride?”
The 1000RR is not pretty, for sure. Purposeful, weird and asymmetrical, you’d never mistake it for a Japanese bike. Actually, you’d never mistake it for a BMW, except by process of elimination, since it couldn’t be anything else.
A hyperactive, middle-aged track-rat gave us a walk-through of the bike’s starting procedure and features. A buddy of mine had noticed her slugging her third can of Redbull earlier. She scowled at him when he suggested she maybe had a bit of a problem…
I noticed the bike started you out in Rain mode, which reduces horsepower to 150, sets the bikes ride-by-wire throttle at a more gentle setting, and has the ABS and traction control settings at their most conservative.
So of course I asked, “Will you be letting us use Sport mode?”
“Oh sure,” she says.
And launched into a description of each mode and their steadily reduced levels of electronic nanny-ing. Honestly, I was fine with the ABS and traction control. I just wanted the full 193hp and the razor-sharp quarter-turn throttle setting.
She also warned us about the quickshifter. “Don’t use the clutch, don’t let off the gas. Just bang it through. It’s smoother than you are.”
And she was right.
The motor was way more raucous than I’d been expecting: it rattled and grumbled at idle. With no counterbalancer at all in a big motor, it was surprisingly vibrate-y for a four, but in a characterful way. Very German. And the stock muffler was pretty loud.
We took the bikes out in a pack, four of us on 1000RR’s, the rest on a variety of other sporty BMW’s.
Apparently, there’d been a spate of warranty claims when the bike was released: idiot owners working the motor before the break-in period was over. So new bikes have a governor that keeps revs below 9000rpm for the first 800 miles or so. My bike had about 650 miles on it, but it didn’t matter: there was no way I was getting near the 14k rev limit on that ride. I barely got over 7k and at wide-open-throttle, the power at that point was savage: your eyeballs squish and that traffic that seemed way in front of you is suddenly right there. I kept trying to hold the throttle open and see more revs, but I kept running up the backside of riders/cars/trucks in front of me.
There’s footage on YouTube of some guy running one WOT somewhere in New York State. Pretty wildly stupid, but the video is also hypnotic. Even on track, it was basically impossible for me to use all of the available power…
Overall, the bike was amazingly confidence-inspiring, with brakes that made the ones on my Ducati Monster feel like I stole them off an old Schwinn; first time I grabbed them at a light, I almost sprawled myself across the tank.
The bike was surprisingly comfortable and, with all the electronic gizmos, you could easily make this your only, all-weather bike. Just buy it in your choice of color.
I still want a Ducati Panigale, just because it’s wilder and I love the cruelty of it, want the surging push of Ducati’s V-twin. But it’d be very tempting to just get that BMW…