BMW K1300R Review  | By Trevor Hedge (2009)

BMW broke the mould when they first introduced the K1200R. While its brutish looks were a bit hard to take at first glance back in 2005, its hard edged Germanic take on nakedness eventually won many over.

Those that like their naked Germans even more aggressive are going to love the makeover that BMW have given their stripped K bike for 2009.

And like its predecessor, the R model is the most rewarding of the K bike family when it comes to riding pleasure.

It is also not only the fastest accelerating motorcycle BMW has ever made, but also one of the quickest accelerating standard road going vehicles ever produced.

That’s a big call but I am not just relying on my seat of the pants to make it.

German magazine Motorrad has the most thorough and scientific testing procedures in the automotive testing field. They recorded consistent 0-100km/h times of 2.9 seconds for the K1300R, 0-140km/h in 4.3 seconds and 0-200km/h in 7.9 seconds. BMW themselves claim a 0-100km/h figure of 2.8 seconds.

Not bad for a bike tipping the Motorrad scales wet at 252kg but it’s actually that weight and the resistance to squat of the rear suspension that helps the rider to keep the front wheel down to a manageable level and achieve such magic numbers.

The K1300R is one of the easiest to launch bikes I have ever ridden, which is really quite amazing considering the claimed 173hp (127Kw) and 140Nm of torque.

Just make sure you have the optional ASC system switched off though as it only allows the front wheel to rise a few centimetres off the deck before cutting the fun, and any really hard launch has the front hovering a good 30-50cm off the ground.

Like its K siblings, the touring oriented K1300GT and fully faired sporting K1300S, the K1300R has swelled its manhood from 1157cc to 1293cc thanks to an increase in both the girth and length of stroke that its four pistons slide through.

The engine acts as a stressed member and is tilted forward at a fairly extreme 55° angle, which does look quite strange, but allows the engine to remain low in the chassis while opening up plenty of room for the dry sump, quartet of 46mm throttle bodies, ten litre air-box and generous 19 litre fuel cell.

The optional ‘gearshift assistant’ fitted to our test machine certainly aids in making smooth shifts. A sensor on the shifter cuts the engine momentarily while the shift is completed. This means the rider does not need to back off the throttle when changing gears.

I have ridden some race bikes and custom bikes with aftermarket race shifting systems before and while they shift quicker than the BMW system, they were certainly not as impeccably behaved as the BMW device.

What really makes BMW’s take on the electronically assisted shifter really stand out from the crowd is the fact that it is very useful on the road in all situations, and at any point of the rev range.

Once you overcome your ingrained habit of momentarily rolling off the throttle between changes, and learn to actually tweak the throttle on a little as you shift, then the process becomes truly sublime.

It is seriously ace and despite costing $700, for me, it would be a no brainer tick in the box. It is that good, and adds greatly to the riding pleasure. In fact, I reckon a K1300R without the ‘gearshift assistant’ would really be missing something.

A deep bellow resonates through the air box when winding on the throttle and the short and sharp pops out of the vastly improved standard muffler when flat-changing gears is truly wonderful. With the optional Akrapovic muffler it would border on orgasmic.

In the city the beefier clutch is kept manageable by an increase in slave cylinder diameter from 32 to 34mm.

Like the new shift system, the thoroughly revised engine is also not all about wide open throttle performance.

While the K1300R does have a healthy 10 more neddies up top than its predecessor, that maximum figure arrives at 9250rpm, a full 1000rpm earlier than the K1200R.

The peak 140Nm of torque arrives at 8250rpm. Throughout the 2000-8000rpm range the K1300R has 10% more torque than the machine it has replaced. By 3000rpm the K1300R is already making 100Nm of torque which along with a shorter final drive ratio than the K1300S or K1300GT, further strengthens the roll on performance of the K1300R.

I can only really level one small criticism of the new powerplant across all three models and that is a little vibration at higher revs. It’s not enough to become annoying, but nevertheless it is there.

Under brakes the K1300R remains composed and surefooted at all times. Particularly so with the optional ABS system that in this latest incarnation is barely perceptible in the way it goes about its business.

Even when performing maximum effort stops, at the front the ABS can be heard more than felt. Plenty of power and feel is available at the lever and there is never any shortage of stopping power from the 320mm discs and four-piston calipers.

The EVO brake system available on the K1300R also calls on the 265mm rear disc when the front brake is applied but still offers independent control of the rear brake when using the rear brake pedal in isolation. Simple really, and in my opinion exactly the way brakes should be linked.

The lack of front end dive inherent in the Duolever front end makes it virtually impossible to lift the rear wheel off the deck. If it did happen though, the ABS system would react and save your bacon but, trust me, you won’t be having problems with the rear lifting under brakes.

The ASC system comes in handy on slippery surfaces but is not as smooth in its operation as the amazing system Ducati uses on its high level sportsbikes. It is also quite abrupt and is clearly devised as a safety feature rather than a variable assistance to improve lap-times and should be seen as such.

Of course, should you so desire the ASC can also give you the confidence to simply whack the throttle wide open on the exit of turns and rely on the system to save your bacon if things go pear shaped. Just make sure your mate isn’t following close behind when the system starts cutting the power…

At Phillip Island I enjoyed the K1300R much more than the fully faired K1300S. Both machines share identical trail, castor and head angle figures but the S felt more cumbersome compared to the R. Sure, the R does carry a little less pork, 11kg less to be exact, but that’s not enough to explain such a difference in feel. At first I put it down to the ergonomics of the R, as the machine just seems to shrink around the rider more than its supposedly more sporting sibling. But in fact, after later consulting the technical literature, it turns out the R machine has a completely different front end geometry to the other machines in the range.

During the two weeks I enjoyed the K1300R on the road, I really became quite attached to the big German and have to list it as one of my all time favourite rides. Even two-up on a 20km dirt section that I was sternly warned to avoid by a motorcycle riding local, was still enjoyable on the K1300R.

The K1300R rolls on a 1mm longer wheelbase than its predecessor due to the lower mounting point of the revised Duolever front end. A new lower longitudinal arm and pivot point has reduced the steering head angle from 61° to 60.4°. Correspondingly, the K1300R has 104.4mm of caster compared to the 101mm of the K1200R.

When discussing how the K1300R handles tight terrain the engine braking characteristics of the four-cylinder mill must be mentioned. The engine braking is absolutely spot on and combines with the lack of backlash through the shaft drive system and negligible dive from the Duolever front end, to make for a wonderful dance partner through your favourite set of tight bends.

Those traits actually made me feel so comfortable that I found myself pushing the front ContiSport Attack front hoop more than would be advisable on public roads. The stability and lack of fore and aft pitch change when riding aggressively lures you into faster and faster entry speeds. Thankfully my testicular fortitude ran out before the tyres could cry enough and pitch me down the road.

Aiding that sense of invincibility is the light and precise steering that when aided with a bit of peg pressure makes the K1300R far more agile than a 217kg (dry) machine has any right to be.

At the rear of the machine things aren’t quite as great.

No matter whether set to sport, normal or comfort the rear struggled to cope with a continuous run of bumps. It felt as though there was perhaps not enough compression control and the rebound perhaps a little too slow which prevented the system from responding quick enough to a series of quick hits. It certainly isn’t bad and is probably only shown up by the rock solid front end more so than any inherent deficiency in the design. I would like to try a K1300R on different tyres than the Conti’s our testbike wore. These tyres have quite a hard carcass with little give and I would like to see if different hoops help the rear suspension to shrug off irregularities.

Our test bike was fitted with the optional ESA II system which adds a plastic element called an ‘Elastogran’ to the rear shock which in conjunction with the conventional spring takes up the forces transmitted through the inbound stroke to help, BMW claim, to reduce any sagging motion at the rear of the machine. This plastic sleeve is adjusted remotely through the ESA system and changes the amount of resistance by the positioning of the sleeve being adjusted by a small stepper motor. Perhaps it is the characteristics of this new system that gave me the impression of the rear suspension struggling to control a hard succession of hits. The machine never became unruly so obviously the rear end was still fulfilling its intended purpose but it just feels, well, different.

The standard K1300R is a $22,700 ask and comes standard with heated grips. $700 more will get you the SE model with sports wheels, on board computer and a tinted sports windshield. The sports wheels option changes the standard 180/55ZR17 rear hoop to a 190/55ZR17.

If you want the convenience of remote controlled adjustment of both preload and damping at both ends with the ESA II system, then add a further $1300.

With the optional ESA II fitted a press of a button at standstill, with the engine running, is all it takes to adjust the spring base and rate through ‘solo’, ‘solo with luggage’ and ‘with passenger and luggage’ settings that are represented by a single helmet, a single helmet with a suitcase or two helmets with a suitcase symbols on the LCD situated between the conventional speedometer and tachometer. Changes to the damping are made on the fly and are displayed on the LCD as ‘Comfort’, ‘Normal’ or ‘Sports’.

Ticking the box for the optional traction package that adds stability control, anti-lock brakes and the tyre pressure monitoring system whacks on another $2235.

Tick all of the above options and you’re looking at $27,635. By the time the dealer has added some delivery costs and your State government robs you blind with stamp duty you won’t see much change out of 30k. And that’s before you option in the fantastic sports cases that really round out the K1300R as the most versatile and well appointed nakedbike on the market. Add the Akrapovic muffler and you will be presented with an all up bill of over $30,000 before you can ride away on your new pride and joy. Compare the K1300R to Ducati’s Streetfighter however and suddenly dropping 30k on an optioned up K1300R doesn’t seem all that unreasonable…

And that really is the crux of the matter. The K1300R is the best all round nakedbike package money can buy, that is an almost undisputable fact. It’s just very unfortunate that it prices itself out of the market to so many.

BMW K 1300 R above Lake Eildon during drought
BMW K 1300 R above Lake Eildon during drought

Specs – BMW K1300R

  • Engine – 1293cc, liquid cooled, DOHC, in-line four-cylinder
  • Claimed Power – 173hp (127kW) @ 9250rpm
  • Claimed Torque – 145Nm @ 8250rpm
  • Compression Ratio – 13:1
  • Induction – BMW-K Electronic engine management, 46mm throttle bodies
  • Transmission – Six speed, shaft drive
  • Brakes, Front – 320mm discs, four-piston calipers, semi integral ABS (BMW EVO)
  • Brakes, Rear – 265mm disc, twin-piston caliper, semi integral ABS (BMW EVO)
  • Frame – Aluminium bridge with load bearing engine
  • Suspension, Front – Duolever, central suspension strut
  • Suspension, Rear – Paralever, shaft drive integrated with swingarm
  • Suspension Travel, Front / Rear – 115 / 135mm
  • Tyres, Front / Rear – 120/70ZR17 / 180/55ZR17
  • Wheelbase – 1585mm
  • Length x Width (Including Mirrors) x Height (Excluding mirrors) – 2228 x 856 x 1095
  • Castor – 104.4mm
  • Steering Head Angle – 60.4°
  • Seat Height – 820mm (Optional Low = 790mm)
  • Dry Weight – 217kg (Claimed)
  • Wet Weight – 243kg with all fluids and fuel (Claimed)
  • Fuel Capacity – 19 Litres
  • Average Consumption on test – 6.1 litres per 100km
  • Range – 310km
  • Warranty – Two years
  • Price – $22,700 ($23,400 for SE version)

Positives

  • + Fantastic powerplant
  • + Great electronic shifter
  • + Heated grips
  • + Optional Anti lock brakes
  • + Optional Electronically adjustable suspension
  • + Optional Stability control
  • + Optional tyre press monitoring
  • + Optional factory side cases

Negatives

  • – Pricey
  • – That the optional features aren’t standard
  • – The cruise control from the GT would aid licence preservation