Jun 01, 2023
2023 BMW M 1000 R Hyper Naked Ride Review
I should have tweaked when BMW told me that I’d need to pick up their new M 1000 R bike for review “after hours”. But I’m not a suspicious guy. I try to be positive and think the best of people. And
I should have tweaked when BMW told me that I’d need to pick up their new M 1000 R bike for review “after hours”. But I’m not a suspicious guy. I try to be positive and think the best of people. And I’m the same with bikes. Being totally objective about bikes involves you rejecting a whole bunch of marketing guff and the opinions of others. But that’s easier said than done sometimes. Middle of the road bikes – like the R 1250 R and its ilk – are easy as most manufacturers don’t push them too hard in their marketing. Thanks to their past experience, They know the bikes will sell. But it’s an entirely different story when it comes to top shelf beasts like the M 1000 R. They cost a bomb and convincing people to part with lump sums of cash this big requires more than a little marketing dark arts.
Being wintertime Down Under, the sun sets pretty early so by the time I arrive it’s already pitch black. And cold. As you do when you’re at a motorcycle dealership, I waste some time by browsing and drooling amongst the many other bikes (and brands; this dealership is not exclusively a BMW one). Next thing I know, it’s much, much later and the whole place is closing for the night. Worried they may have forgotten about me, I call out to no one in particular to attract some attention. Silence. That’s weird. Very weird indeed. But the cold, dark silence is brutally interrupted by the loud mechanical crash of an automatic roller door commencing it’s upward journey. With the light in the workshop behind the door still on, the contrast both hurts my eyes and makes it hard to see. But once they adjust, the silhouette is unmistakable. This is the M 1000 R.
Next thing I know, I’m standing next to the bike with the key fob in my pocket. The shop is shut tight and I get the distinct impression I need to get back home to the safety and comfort of my home. Besides, there seems to be a storm brewing off in the distance. Two young guys who’ve also clearly been ushered out into the blackness lay eyes on the bike and their eyes grow to the size of plates. Inextricably drawn to it like anyone with a beating heart and a passion for bikes would be, I quickly realise that they are on for a chat. We shoot the poop for 10 minutes or so before the thought strikes me that I’m standing in a car park with a bike worth a whole bunch of money and two strangers who seem to be very interested in it. Paranoid? Maybe a little, but whatever the case, I attempt to end our chat without being rude. “One last question,” one of them says. “Sure,” I say. “You said you are reviewing the bike. How did you end up doing that for a living?” “Punishment for past sins,” I joke. It doesn’t land and both of them just stare at me. I break the awkward silence by starting the bike and smiling at them. They walk off and relieved, I leave soon after.
The price of the bike plays on my mind on the way home. Sure, I’ve ridden plenty of expensive bikes in my time, but there’s something different about being able to take a bike home. To be able to walk into your own garage and see it sitting there in the darkness next to my own bike. Maybe I should have read the contract the dealership made me sign a little more closely. But who does that? If something bad befalls me on a bike like this, I’m thinking that a $1000 insurance excess will be the least of my worries. But what if it’s more than that? They’d have me by the proverbials for the rest of my life, wouldn’t they? Damn it. I’m overthinking things again. Here I am on a bike that makes people stare in wonder. Faster than fast and blacker than Satan’s velvet sheets. I should stop worrying and start enjoying it. And enjoy it I did…
I’ll state the obvious here. The M 1000 R is basically a stripped back version of the company’s very excellent S 1000 RR. I’ll try and detail just what has and hasn’t changed a little further down the page, but for now what you need to know is that it’s had its front fairing removed and its headlight swapped out for something that looks a lot like the unit off of the R1250 RS. Put simply, it’s an S 1000 R that’s more comfortable to ride thanks to its higher bars and lower pegs, but the trade off is less wind resistance and the absence of a few more racy track options. Having recently ridden the S 1000 RR, the mods make total sense to me. While it was an incredible bike, a full day in the seat results in comfort levels akin to medieval torture. OK, maybe that’s just me and my old-arse body, but still if you’re looking for a road bike that doesn’t make you curse out loud when you dismount at the end of the day, the M 1000 R is probably much more your kinda thing. BMW calls it “Superbike meets dynamic roadster.” I’d be tempted to add the word “naked” in there (or – dare I say it – Hyper Naked?) as I’m not sure I define a roadster as a balls-to-the-wall sportbike with the faring taken off, but your mileage may vary.
I wear my heart on my sleeve here, as I’ve already gone on the public record as saying that it’s a hell of a thing. And watch me while I say it again right here. It’s a hell of a thing. Sportbike engines get more exotic than this and – if you go the forced induction route – more powerful than this, but boy oh boy, I’m not sure they get better. 210 hp from 999 cc. Are you kidding me? Hot damn that’s a lot. And it does it with an absolutely perfect balance of delivery, useability and sheer, make your mother cry, punch you in the gonads badassery. It’s a work of art is what it is. Sure, I’m as excited as the next motorcyclist about the coming electric revolution; once the tech hits the ground running we’ll no doubt have bikes that will equal or even exceed the M 1000 R. But that engine! How’s an electric bike going to top this snarling, insane, incredible power plant. Never say never, but I’d go as far as to say that long after internal combustion dies and goes to heaven, this engine – like the Moto Guzzi V8, the Honda 750 four and the Honda two-stroke 500 GP engines of the 80s and 90s – will still be talked about. It’s that good.
What allows this bike to pack 210 hp while also not instantly sending you to hell the first time you properly open the throttle is a massive armada of electronics that rein in almost every part of the riding experience. Specifically, it’s packing variable valve timing but it loses (If i’m not mistaken) the variable intake pipe like it’s S 1000 R sibling. Similarly, the M bike has the traction control and the slide control of the S. Both front and rear shocks have dynamic damping controls and the ABS is BMW’s “Pro” variant, but it again doesn’t have the settings that the S bike provides. And of course, it has riding modes to make sure you don’t soil your leather riding pants in the wet. Then there’s the huge TFT display, adaptive headlight, quick shifter, heated grips, cruise control, keyless fob and LED lights. Phew.
These lists could go on and on with this bike, but what struck me was the winglets and the avalanche of carbon fibre on the bike. The former are an item I’m still in two minds about; sure, they look kick arse and aerodynamics are always welcome on a fast bike. But are they all that? And how often will you get the bike up to a speed where they are doing anything of any importance? Still, I guess you could say the same for most four-wheel aero packages like boot spoilers and skirts, so make of that what you will. And as for the carbon fibre, the bike is literally swimming in it. And billet, too. That’s probably because it has both the carbon and billet “M Competition Packages.” As I sit here and look at the bike, I can see carbon on the front guard, to break the wind (quiet up the back!) for the TFT, on the tank in various locations, under the seat, on the chain guard. Hell, if you sprayed the bike with glue and crashed it into a carbon fibre factory, it’d have less of the stuff on it than it does now. And the billet stuff includes the bar levers, foot levers and foot rests.
The engine is a water/oil-cooled in-line four-cylinder, four-stroke engine with four titanium valves per cylinder and variable intake camshaft control. Compression is a brutal 13.3:1. The end result is a mightily impressive 154 kW (210 hp) at 13,750 rpm and a maximum torque figure of 113 Nm (83 lb-ft) at 11,100 rpm; both identical to the S 1000 RR. Top speed is 280 kmh (174 mph). The tank is a 16.5 ltr (4.4 gal) vessel with a reserve of 4 ltrs. Fully fueled and fluided, the bike weighs in at an impressive 199 kg (439 lbs) and the seat height is 830 mm (32.7 in). My bike was fettered with Bridgestone Battlax Racing Street RS11F rubber, with a 120/70 ZR17 on the front and an impressively wide 200/55 ZR17 at the rear.
“Evil” was my first impression. Not bad evil nor anything to do with whatever religious beliefs you may or may not hold. This was more of a wicked kind of evil. Hell, the dictionary defines “evil” as “immorality and wickedness, especially when regarded as a supernatural force.” Perfect. Especially the part about the supernatural force. It goes on to use the word in a sentence by way of demonstrating its use. “His struggle against the forces of good and evil,” it says. Perfect again. In black – the colour of my loaner bike – the thing really looks mean. This was backed up by a mate who I shared a photo of the bike with on our group chat. “It looks like Satan’s bike,” he quipped. Or was he serious? And I can see his point; from a side-on it’s not so out there, but from the front three quarter perspective (see the third picture from the top above) there’s definitely something about it that is unsettling or intimidating.
But is it a good looking bike? Again, my mate called a spade a spade. “It’s ugly,” he blurted. Now, I’m not sure I’d go as far as that, but I mulled over his remarks for a few days and came to the following conclusion. If you were to say to me “Panigale V4,” I can see the bike’s “face” in my mind’s eye. Same for the S 1000 RR and even something random like the latest Yamaha Ténéré 700. I could even draw them (however badly) for you and I’d like to think that you’d be able to name them or at least match them to photos of the real bikes. But for the M? At best, I think I’d say the bike’s front end is sporty with an aggressive edge. At worst, I think it’s overly busy and unlikely to win any “best looking bike of 2023” awards. So not ugly, but definitely not pretty or memorable enough for my (admittedly very subjective) eyes. Views to the contrary in the comments section below are welcome.
But standing back and looking at the bike as a whole package, it’s hard to deny that it’s a bloody impressive thing all up. I’d also be fibbing if I said that it didn’t boost my ego to ride it around in public; I mean just look at the thing! Yes, that probably jars against what I’ve just said about the bike’s looks. Psychoanalysing myself, I’d say that it’s a good indication that the bike does what its designers intended in this sense. It looks mean. The M Motorsport paint only adds to the effect. I have a theory that red and black on a bike (or a car, or a jet fighter) awakens some collective subconscious memories about snakes, spiders and wasps. “This is dangerous,” says our lizard brains. Objectively, the fit and finish on the bike is exceptional and any close-up inspection will impress. Not taking the M Motorsport branding lightly, It’s a level above even other BMWs. Although this particular bike is missing any kind of protection at the back of the tank, meaning that it will inevitably become scratched; why manufacturers still insist on doing this is beyond me. If I can scratch the hell out of my bike’s tank by doing nothing but riding it, there needs to be a guard there, please.
As someone who loves good design, I’ve always been a proponent of the “form follows function” theory. Put simply, the purpose of the bike should be the starting point for its design, and everything on it. Which brings me to the bike’s winglets. While I get what they do for race bikes and I agree that they look kind of cool, I’m a little bit dubious as to their usefulness away from race tracks. To be fair, M 1000 R owners might be track day regulars. You’d be missing out on a whole bunch of performance and thrills owning a bike like this if you didn’t. But are they really doing anything for the 99% of the time you aren’t on the track? I guess you could argue that – like ABS pro or slide assist – you’d rather have them there “just in case,” but software and internal mechanicals are a very different thing to having a small bookshelf bolted on to the front of your bike. No, it’s not some horrible addition that ruins the bike or gets other riders sniggering behind your back, but it does make me wonder.
Once on the road, the riding position is the first thing that you notice – especially if you’ve ridden the S 1000 RR previously. No, it’s not touring comfy, but it’s definitely taken away the yoga-like riding position of the S bike and replaced it with something way less drastic. There’s still some pressure on your hands and wrists. And your legs are still a little “up and back”, but overall I think most people would be happy to spend a day on it without too many complaints. Even when warmed up, neutral proves as tricky to find as it did on the S. So it wasn’t just me then. Good thing to know. It’s way too easy to jump between first and second, annoyingly missing the neutral midpoint that you actually want to find. It’s almost like the neutral position in the ’box is somehow less “sticky” than first or second, so you just end up applying too much force to get the bike out of first and you fly right past it to second. Maybe this would sort itself out once the box has some propper mileage on it, but for now it’s a common occurrence and a nuisance.
It’s a much better city bike than you may assume. This is almost entirely due to the black magic of the bike’s electronic brain and the myriad sensors and invisible hands adjusting and tweaking things behind the scenes. And while that description might make it seem like they are up to no good, the end result is nothing short of miraculous. Imagine, if you will, trying to ride a 90s bike with this much power around the city. The thing would be a stalling, overheating, angry dangerous mess that will most likely throw you under a bus the first chance it gets. And while the M 1000 R is still angry, it does it like a great actor would. The act is totally convincing and you really believe that it’s a badass. No questions asked. But in the back of your mind you know that nothing bad will happen. The hairs stand up on the back of your neck and the intimidation is real, but like watching Robert De Nero playing a gangster on set, you know that he’s not really going to paint the wall with his co-star’s brains.
And what with the monstrous abilities of the bike’s engine and brakes, there’s a strange flip that happens whereby you end up being quite delicate with the bike. Those massive M Motorsport callipers that are designed to haul the bike down from 280 kmh into a track’s hairpin corner unsurprisingly only need a single finger to stop the thing at a set of suburban traffic lights. Likewise, the teutonic amounts of torque on tap and the stratospheric redline mean that the bike doesn’t really care what gear it’s in or where it’s at in the rev range. It’s so all over this kind of riding you might wonder if it’s actually a little bored. Of course, you can’t get the thing too far up into the rev range thanks to the demonic howl it’ll emit. And as we all know, you can be going at half the legal limit but if the bike’s engine is roaring, Joe and Judy Public will complain. Honestly, there were times when I found myself cruising around in fifth gear at 60 kmh (40 mph) because the torque was there to handle it and the revs felt relaxed and comfy. I also noticed that the bike was less prone to stalling than the S 1000 R. I’m not entirely sure why this might be, but I note that the M’s rear sprocket does have an extra tooth and I suspect that the ‘box ratios may be different, too.
Now I’m in the forested curves of the Royal National Park south of Sydney and the bike wakes up like a black panther recovering way too quickly from a tranquiliser dart. I push on and the goading starts. Corners taken at what I might consider daring speeds are consumed so easily and quickly by the M that it makes me look a bit simple. So up and up the speeds go. Soon I’m doubling the speeds displayed on the advisory signs placed before the curves and I’m mentally picturing my licence being fed through a paper shredder by a frowning policeman. But the bike’s not troubled in the slightest; if it had arms it’d be doing a crossword right now, such is its capabilities. I had arrived here with the thought in my head that the more comfortable riding position given to the M might have had an adverse effect on the bike’s cornering abilities as compared to the S 1000 RR, but I’m happy to report that if this is a thing, it’d be happening at or near the bike’s physical limits – and that’s not something that’s ever going to happen on a public road. Not without you being placed in handcuffs.
The bike’s own soundtrack seems to consist of equal parts engine/intake noise and exhaust note, although it’s surprisingly quiet at reasonable corner speeds and gear choices. Give it a little right wrist rotation, and the induction howl rises in equal concert with the Akropovic’s devilish opera voice to give you a very pleasant performance. Despite the bike’s looks, the exhaust note never becomes too ecstatic or outlandish. Me thinks that some trick butterfly valves might be at play here to make sure the bike isn’t refused governmental road approvals. But with that said, I never got within cooee of the redline either. It’d take a very quiet, very lonesome country road or a racetrack to accomplish that. If I’m doing my sums correctly, the bike would quite easily break Australia’s national speed limit of 110 kmh in first gear and not even break a sweat. Dear BMW Motorrad Australia. Please let me ride this thing on track. Pretty please?
It’s about now that I start to see the police. As a uber popular motorcycling road, there are weekends when the boys and girls in blue really do over represent. On some Sundays, the road more closely resembles the car park of the local police station than it does one of Australia’s best riding roads. But trying to be positive about the experience, it was probably for the best. Resisting the temptations of speed with a bike like the M 1000 R is a true test of responsibility; after my initial flirtations I wasn’t too sorry to see them. Better now than 20 minutes ago. I roll up behind a bike cop who is obviously sitting on the road’s very conservative speed limit. Naturally, I slow down to match. “Game over,” I think to myself. I follow him for less than a minute until we pass a small parking area in the middle of the forest where bushwalkers and hikers often leave their vehicles. With butt-clenching surprise, a car pulls out onto the road dangerously, cutting off the motorcycle cop. There’s a brief moment of disbelief as nothing happens and I think to myself, “Surely he’s not going to let that slide!” Then like he’s done it 100 times before, he pulls over to the edge of the road and waves me past. I thank him as I pass and see him in my mirrors as the blue lights explode into action and he performs the most perfect 180 degree turn I think I’ve ever seen.
Clearly someone up there (or down there) was looking out for me. Thankful for small mercies, I decided not to press my luck and kept things quiet for the rest of the ride. Luckily I did, as this was one of those “car park” Sundays. Inadvertently, it also proved one additional difference between the M and the S 1000 RR. The S 1000 RR’s mirrors were (as with many sportbikes out there) next to useless, thanks to the vibes they suffer from and the fact that the only thing you can see clearly in them is your own damn elbows. But that’s not the case with the M. While the vibes are still there (but to a lesser degree), their placement on the top of the M’s much higher bars means you can actually see what’s behind you. Unlike the S, I’m much more confident that had the motorcycle cop I just mentioned been behind me instead of in front of me, I would have seen him.
And then I park the bike in my regular Sunday cafe and grab a coffee. It’s here I see how other riders react to it and gauge their thoughts with some brief moto geek conversations. I’m hoping that the big “M” on the side of it and its mean, aggressive looks will spark some keen debates. But no. Standing back and observing, I see plenty of people look at the bike, but no one seems to stop for a look. This surprises me. I know I’d give it a once-over if I’d never seen one in the flesh before. I wonder if the bike looks too flashy for its own good? Aussies will happily stand around a classic car or bike and shoot the shit for hours, but they can be self conscious about doing the same for (say) a Lamborghini Huracán or a GT3 Porsche. Tired of waiting, I decided to start my trip back home. I walk up to the M and start it up. Within seconds a guy approaches me with raised eyebrows and a smile on his face. Expecting a chat about top speed or winglets, I greet him with hello. His Eastern-European-accented response is short and sweet. “How much did it cost?” he asks. Okay then…
Like the S 1000 RR it was spawned from, the M 1000 R is as close to perfect as fast motorcycles in 2023 can get. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s basically just a naked version of the S bike but with a more comfortable seating position and less protection from the wind. And being more comfortable is a very good thing. I can see more than a few people who are attracted to the brilliant S 1000 RR opt instead for a M 1000 R (or indeed an S 1000 R) just because it’s a more rideable bike on the road. My only real complaints with the S 1000 RR were that neutral was hard to find and that the mirrors weren’t really that useful. The M 1000 R sees the mirrors issue largely fixed but sadly, I was still having issues finding neutral, no matter whether the bike was hot or cold.
As mentioned, I was concerned that the added comfort with the M 1000 R would be something that had a negative effect on the bike in terms of going fast. And of course it does, but only when the riding conditions allow you to push both bikes to the point where these things matter. On track, for instance. There, the S bike will no doubt lean over farther, better protect you from the wind once you really get going and top out down the main straight at a higher speed than the M. But unless you plan on riding track days on a weekly basis, the M 1000 R will be a better bike to ride for the other 90% of the time.
“But I thought you didn’t like the bike’s looks!” I hear you scream in a raspy voice from the peanut gallery. In closing, I think it’s best summed up like this – while I’d prefer the bike to look more memorable and be “its own thing” rather than looking like an S 1000 RR without the fairing, it does succeeds in turning heads and no one would ever mistake it for anything else than what it most definitely is. And that’s an eminently capable, immensely powerful and very fast naked sports bike. No, I wouldn’t call it pretty. But then again I guess neither are similar offerings from KTM or Yamaha. Of course, there’s no accounting for taste and a bike I see as looking a bit too bitsy and plain you might gaze upon with the loving eyes of a giddy teenager as they spy their first real crush walking towards them. And as I always say with a healthy dose of sexual innuendo, you can’t see the bike once you’re riding it. If I did have the garage space, dollars, and need to own such a pure, focused bike as this, you can bet it’d be somewhere near the top of my list.
Now it’s late at night again. I’m sitting in my working-from-home office/garage and I’m staring at the M. Sure, It’s bitsy. And expensive. And evil. Its shadow bulks the space like some demon that’s decided to take up residence. I’m entranced as I notice goosebumps on my neck and the small hairs quilled up over my scalp. There’s something wicked about this bike; I find myself checking my calendar to see if I can ride it again during office hours when by rights I should be doing something more productive and making the rent. Or taking the kids to school. Or doing chores. But no. I won’t. I want to ride it again. Who cares about things like family and responsibility when temptations like this await. Like a lightning rod, it attracts a dark energy that you can’t ignore. Outside another storm seems to be approaching…
The sales pitch for the M 1000 R is as compelling as it is basic. It’s a more comfortable S 1000 RR with a big M Motorsport logo on it. It’s the same technique BMW uses to sell their luxo-barge X Series SUVs. And while I’m not quite sure the M branding belongs on two tonne trucks or two-wheeled motorcycles, it’s hard to deny the attraction. The racing cred. The history. The great reputation. As someone who’s well past putting up with sportbikes that hurt to ride for more than an hour or two, the M 1000 R is definitely a very tempting proposition. You get the demonic performance of the sportbike but without the pain and overt track bias. And you don’t have to spend most of your Sundays in racing leathers, too. Bonus.
If you put weight behind my argument that the bike isn’t that attractive, then I guess it’ll be a Ducati V4 Streetfighter for you. And while I haven’t ridden one, it’d also mean giving up the precise German-ness of the M for the passion over precision that Ducati is famous for. No, the Streetfighter isn’t unreliable; it’s more of a state of mind thing. Like the difference between a Ferrari and a Porsche. But if I was in the market for a hypernaked or a S 1000 RR but I was worried about not being able to put up with it on long rides, my (imaginary) money would be dropped on the BMW sales counter. And may God have mercy on my soul.
See Also: 2023 BMW Model Lineup