Well, I suppose I might as well start at the top. I can’t recall ever riding a K-series BMW, so when the BMW test-fleet rolled into town, I thought I’d go for the most powerful K-series BMW have ever produced. No, not the new 6-cylinder K1600, but the K1300S – which, due to its more sporting bent, is still the most powerful K-series Bimmer. In fact, until the release of the Superbike S1000R, it was the most powerful bike BMW had ever produced. Since its arrival in 1983 the K-series motor, often referred to with some derision as “the flying brick”, has enjoyed mixed success. The original R100 wasn’t bad really, but it didn’t sell well. BMW gave up in the mid 1990s, but in 2004 it was back for another shot at the lying-on-its-side four. They’d modernised the donk a bit and this time Bimmer buyers were more accepting. Then they mounted it transversely, clothed it with a more sporting creation, and dubbed it the K1200S. Derision suddenly turned to admiration – the BMW four was a hoot! In the more than 25 years since that first brick was laid in the BMW frame, the motor has come a long way. The original 66kW – which wasn’t too shabby, especially for 1982 – has almost doubled, to 129kW. The general technology, which again wasn’t too shabby, especially by 1980s standards (it ran fuel-injection even back then), has been appropriately up-dated. And Joe Public has stopped worrying about the pistons wearing out on one side! So what is the K1300S? Well, of course, the “S” stands for “Sports”. It’s BMW’s sports-bike. When it was introduced in 2008, BMW proudly announced it as, “The most powerful and fastest BMW the world has ever seen.” Giving itself a good pat-on-the-back, it said, “Launching this new model, Europe’s largest and most successful motorcycle manufacturer is once again increasing its leadership in the topmost class of sporting high-performance machines.” It was, and is, the successor to BMW’s first foray into this type of bike, the K1200S. To quote BMW again: “Like its predecessor, the K 1300S does not make any compromises, but rather brings together even more consistently than before all the virtues of the most dynamic motorcycle in the K-Series: sporting and dynamic performance combined with superior comfort, playful and easy handling.” Read that last phrase again (I've put it in bold). That bit about combining sporting performance with superior comfort is not just marketing spin, it’s a pretty good summary of what the bike actually is! It might be a sports-bike, but forget about comparisons with the likes of R1 and GSX etc; this is a different kind of beast. It’s almost in a class of its own, one you might call “supersport all-rounder”. A bit like the first model Yamaha FZ1 before they made it harder and sportier. You get a clue to where it’s coming from by checking the weight. At 228kg dry it’s in a different ball-park to the afore-mentioned Japanese sports brigade. It’s a sports-bike, but there’s more to it than that.
IN THE DRIVEWAY
Cast an eye over the K1300S and it looks pure sports; from the stylish swoopy fairing to the purposeful looking frame, low-set cockpit, huge exhaust can and minimalist rear end. But the first time I sauntered over to one and sat on it I was amazed; it was comfortable! The seat felt much more plush than that found on other much less sporting models. It’s more like one you’d find on a good sportstourer. The riding-position is lean-forward sporty, but not as much as you might expect. Forget the bum-in-the-air, head-between-your-knees position you are forced into on the usual super-sporties, this is much more ergonomically pleasing. Sure, during the ride I felt the weight on my hands, but not as much as I expected to. Similarly, the foot-pegs are quite high, as you’d expect on this type of bike, but not excessively so. You soon get used to it, and it wasn’t a problem on the ride. Controls are all where you’d expect them to be and are light and easy to use. Speedo and Tacho are both analogue, and there is a digital display next to them that tells you all the extra things you might want to know – like what gear you’re in, how much fuel is left, how far you’ve traveled, and other things that would probably just confuse an old bloke like me. I reckon there must be two entirely different design teams at BMW! There is one team that designs bikes that are stylish, functional, and hold fast to BMW traditions of comfort and good ergonomics. Then there is another team who’s mantra is “Symmetry is bad!” These are the guys who came up with the lop-sided headlights that adorn many BM’s, and who did the S1000R fairing with its slits on one side and gaping hole on the other side. These guys reckon that if the bikes are tough they’ve got to have tough seats. Well I want to tell you that it’s the first lot who designed this bike. This is a sports-bike as you’d expect BMW of old to design one – with comfort and long-distance capability high on the list of priorities. Of course the nerdy design team that comes up with computer-controlled aids for everything have been let loose on it too. Look through the specifications and it has almost half the alphabet listed there as electronic gizmos. There is ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment), ASC (Anti-Spin Control), RDC (not sure what the letters stand for, but it’s a system that monitors tyre-pressures), and ABS (you know what that is). ASC ensures the back wheel doesn’t spin faster than the front – thereby eliminating front-in-the-air wheelies and tyre-smoking burn-outs! (If you really have to be a hoon though, you can switch it off). Surprisingly perhaps, there doesn’t seem to be variable modes for the ECU. I suppose they’ve left that to SRC (Sensible Rider Control!).
OUT ON THE ROAD
What’s it like on the road? Well, here I am ready to find out! But why is the BMW sales-manager looking so worried? Was he pondering the consequences of letting an old bloke loose on this 175 horsepower $26,000 sportster? Well, if he was, he needn’t have, because the K1300S is a superb bike and very easy to ride. Yes, it is supremely powerful, but it is also very tractable; a real superman who is still capable of being a Clark Kent. So it’s well able to be ridden in suitable Old Bloke style. Now, first up I have to start with a disclaimer; this was never going to be a proper road-test of the K1300S. For that you’d need a race-track, or at the very least a long stretch of unrestricted open road. It was also a group test, thereby further restricting how far it could be put to the test. But, perhaps more importantly, it would be a test as to how well it handled real-world day-to-day conditions like city traffic, bumpy back-roads and so on. The test-route was a good one. It was the same route used for the F800R, R1200R, as well as for a few Triumphs such as the Tiger 800, Street-Triple, and Bonneville etc. It begins with a bit of urban traffic, proceeds up a narrow winding and at times bumpy back-road mountain pass, opens up through some interesting back-roads through the bush, then joins a main highway back to town. On first start-up the motor sounds a bit rattley, but then smoothes out. And once on the move it is an amazing engine! It is supremely tractable, pulling away from under 2,000rpm without complaint. I mentioned the Yamaha FZ1 earlier, and it’s similar to that in the sense that you can ride it in “old-bloke” fashion, toddling around at low revs like a mild-mannered sportstourer, and it feels fine. But then if you build the revs and give the throttle a twist it really begins to show its true colours. I got it up around 7,000 – 8,000rpm and, surprisingly, it did start to get a bit vibey. I expected it to be even happier at higher revs (like the FZ1 – why do I keep mentioning that?), but it wasn’t exactly. With 175 ponies straining at the leash, I don’t need to say it goes well, but it does. Go well. I didn’t have much opportunity to try it, but a couple of times I dropped back from the riders in front and gave it a squirt. Given some throttle (I never got to full throttle) and a few revs it surges forwards very energetically – and soon caught the riders ahead. (Damn! Button off again!). The gearbox is very smooth. I tried a clutch-less up-change, with accompanying momentary rolling-off the throttle, and the result was a totally imperceptible change. Try again, this time without rolling off the throttle. The change wasn’t quite imperceptible, but it was still very smooth. Hmmm, how about a clutch-less down-change? Yep, that was smooth too. Does this have a quick-shift? I checked the specs later, and yes it does. Gearing in top runs at about 25kph per 1,000rpm. As I’ve mentioned already, I didn’t get a chance to give it a decent run at high speed, but it sat on 120kph (at a bit under 5,000rpm) smoothly and effortlessly. Now, even though it was nowhere near the red-line – the tacho needle wouldn’t get there until the bike was doing over 250kph! – I would still prefer the gearing to be slightly higher, just to drop the revs a bit at high speed cruising. And it’s not as if it needs the low gearing to deliver good performance! One of the surprising things about this bike is how easy it is to ride. Okay, perhaps I should clarify that. I'm not suggesting it'd be a good thing to get your "Ls" on! With this much power you could very easily get yourself into trouble! But if you are an experienced rider, and show restraint in how you approach a bike, it is easy to ride and non-threatening. It feels light and easy to manage. The steering is light and positive, but not at all flighty. Despite the type of bike it is (and despite what might appear to be a worried look on the BMW man’s face!) it inspired confidence almost immediately. That doesn’t always happen – especially with sports-bikes. Often they take a little while to get used to and build up your confidence. With this I felt confident and very much “at home” almost from the moment I left the driveway. Handling is great. Okay, you might expect that, but it was good for an old bloke riding up a winding narrow mountain road too! Turn-in is smooth, accurate and progressive. Gentle counter-steering has it tracking exactly where you want it to go. It’s easy to change your line through corners, and it was totally stable everywhere I went. The ride was surprisingly comfortable. The electronic suspension adjustment is a handy feature here, allowing you to change settings depending on the conditions. Martin, the BMW man who I’ve jokingly been describing as looking worried in the photo above, set it to standard for me before I left. I didn’t touch it during the ride. So, presumably, it could be made even more plush if that was your preference. Okay, it’s all well and good for a sports-bike to go well and handle well, but you’ve got to be able to stop it too! Well, no problem here; again from what I was able to establish anyway. It probably says a lot about the brakes that I made no notes about them after the ride. You might expect the brakes to be over-sensitive, having an initial bite that was too strong; or conversely, to be a bit wooden until you were really going and grabbing them hard. They were neither. With two 320mm discs up front, being grabbed by a pair of 4-piston calipers, along with a single 265mm disc at the rear that has a 2-piston caliper, it’s not lacking in braking specs. How they’d be heading down the straight into that tight sweeping first turn at Eastern Creek I don’t know. For the Old Bloke, riding through the country and city traffic, they were fine. So there it is. I got back from the ride thinking, “This is a superb bike!” I’m guessing that it’s a good sports-bike – I didn’t get to try it much at that, but you can kind of tell from the way it feels when you do start to try – but it’s way more than that. Simply, as a bike, it is superb! SNAPSHOT This is a superb bike! It looks great and it’s surprisingly comfortable to sit on. The hands might start to feel the weight a bit on long rides, but in every other sense it would tour easily. It’s great for a blast on the highway and great for a blast through the twisties. It’s surprisingly easy to handle and it gives a comfortable ride over our lumpy real-world roads. The engine is happy to lug away from low revs, and then it can be screamed all the way to 11,000rpm. It’s just a superb bike. Oh, and apparently it is also very fast!
Engine: 4-cylinder, 1293cc. Power: 129kW at 9,250rpm. Torque: 140Nm at 8,250rpm.
Suspension: Front: Duolever. Rear: Paralever.
Fuel capacity: 19 litres.
Weight: 228kg (dry).
Seat height: 820mm.
Wheels / Tyres: Front: 120 X 17, Rear: 190 X 17.
Brakes: Front: Twin 320mm discs , Rear: 265mm disc.
There have been a couple of styling tweaks with the fairing and front mudguard. Nothing too extreme. Specifications remain the same. There’s a new sports-tourer model added to the range for 2015. But it’ll cost you an extra $5,000 over the S.
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