2009 BMW K 1300 S | Motorcycle Review

High-Power Sport Performer

An updated high-horsepower engine, slick electronic wizardry, and deep metallic paintwork are only some of the attributes of BMW’s fast, sleek, and sexy K 1300 S. Yes, the improvements over the K 1200 S it replaces go much deeper than merely a 136cc displacement increase. Subtle but useful upgrades to the chassis and drivetrain have combined with the motor to develop the K 1300 into an elegant, high-powered sports performer that is just at home in the twisties as it is on the autobahn.

Lengthening the stroke by just over 5mm has helped the transverse-mounted inline four-which always possessed serious whoop at even modest throttle openings-feel noticeably more powerful. The cylinder head’s intake ports and exhaust valve timing have been revised to improve combustion, and those changes are coupled with a new shorty-style muffler (with exhaust valve to control back pressure) that also contributes to the midrange boost. Interestingly, although peaking with a whopping 103 ft/lbs of torque at 8250 rpm, more usefully, around 90 ft/lbs is found on a mere whiff of throttle between 3500 and 5000 rpm-and this is the part of the power band where most of the riding is actually done.

Smooth most of the time, over 5500 rpm (about 90 mph in sixth) there is a light buzz to the engine. But, since it is rarely useful to run at those speeds, I found it to be more of an academic irritation rather than a real complaint.

The new clutch and two-stage driveshaft damper system certainly contribute to the new-found drivetrain smoothness, but it is the redesigned six-ratio gearbox that is the most dramatic improvement, as the previously clunky shifting-especially annoying in the two lowest two gears-has disappeared. The optional Gear Change Assistant (quickshifter) works via a hall-effect switch (no moving parts), and it cuts both fuel and ignition for just a split-second as your foot lifts the lever, allowing smooth, clutchless upshifts without having to chop the throttle; I loved it.

The 175 horsepower peak is not only 8 horses up from the K 1200, but it is delivered 1000 rpm sooner (at 9250). The excellent BMW electronic engine management is an in-house development optimized for partial loads. Fuel is sequentially injected directly into the intake ducts exactly in line with the intake stroke of the respective cylinder, helping to create the smoothness and precise throttle connection I felt-the disconcerting surging at off-throttle that plagued the 1200 has gone. There is still a little hesitation when coming back on to the gas if the engine is spinning around 3500 to 4000 rpm, but it only happened after prolonged deceleration on a closed throttle; the glitch didn’t happen often and for me, did not affect how impressed I was with the K 1300 S.

The chassis has undergone changes, too. Although visually long, don’t be fooled; the K 1300 turns quickly and handles extremely well. A new lightweight aluminum lower control arm on the Duolever front suspension saves 2.2 pounds in unsprung weight and tightens the suspension geometry for quicker turning. The anti-dive advantage of the Hossack front end makes for not just an extremely stable machine in a straight line, but it is also confidence inspiring in tight corners too.

The ESA II (second generation Electronic Suspension Adjustment) allows for a combination of nine different thumb switch activated modes and, although it only operates on the rear shock, the difference in feel between the settings is now much more pronounced.

The rebound damping (Comfort, Normal, and Sport) is simply adjusted by a step motor on the damper, but the spring preload (Rider Only, Rider and Luggage, Rider and Passenger) and spring rate are adjusted differently.

An Elastogran (hi-tech plastic) bushing sits atop the conventional coil spring and works in partnership with it. Think of it like a rubber donut on top of the spring that squishes as it is compressed. Depending on the rider-selected ESA setting, a motorized metal sleeve moves up and down over the Elastogran donut, and that changes how much it can be compressed. Obviously, the more the Elastogran donut is covered by the sleeve, the less it can expand-and the harder the spring becomes.

In the Sport setting, most of the Elastogran bushing is covered, raising the spring rate and also raising the rear end of the motorcycle; this shortens front wheel castor and helps the bike turn quicker regardless of the load the motorcycle is carrying. Wheel load at the front also stays the same. This ensures consistent steering precision and stability under braking, no matter which mode you have selected.

In Comfort mode, more of the Elastogran element is exposed and this gives the cushier ride; it also eliminates any sagging at the rear, thereby preventing any change to overall suspension geometry.

Normal mode is obviously somewhere in-between. Riding hard, one-up, the Sport setting was firm, without being jarring. If the road gets really bumpy, help is merely a thumb push away. Although I found the Comfort setting to be soft enough to make the bike wallow a little when I really carried some speed, the extra plush was worthwhile and did not affect my confidence in the overall handling.

BMW has finally cried enough with its turn-signal switchgear and have adopted the more common single left-thumb switch. Actually, all the switchgear has been redesigned, and actuation of the heated grips as well as the on-board computer information is available by toggling the various switches at the handlebars without needing a hand off the bars and a stretch to the clocks. BMW’s excellent Anti-Spin Control (traction control) and ABS both work unobtrusively; the bike has to be standing still to disable the ABS, but ASC can be disabled on the fly if you deem it necessary (I did not).

The K 1300 series is available with several seat fitment choices, and across the range there is a no-cost one-inch-lower seat height option available. Whichever one you end up with, it is angle adjustable to suit your riding preference, making a big difference in comfort.

The K 1200 was a good machine, but BMW listened to its customers, and worked hard to fix the flaws. Now the K 1300 is available in both standard and premium packages as a powerful, flexible, good-handling sports machine that does everything well-and it does it in comfort, too. <<

Helmet: Arai RX-7 Corsair
Jacket and pants: Spidi R-Course
Gloves: Cortech Scarab R.R.
Boots: Sidi Strada Evo Te-por


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