While the motorcycling community awaits the impending arrival of BMW's new Superbike, the S 1000 RR, we take another look at a very substantial machine that may well suit some riders better than the new race bike; the HP2 Sport. A direct descendent of the R 1200 S, the HP2 jumped several stages of evolution in Darwin's theory of natural selection, morphing into quite an impressive motorcycle.
The HP2 (for high performance 2-cylinder) is an interesting amalgamation of old and new, utilizing a modified R 1200 S chassis laden with BMW's stalwart powerplant, the Boxer Twin. Many non-Boxer fans will be asking why BMW would create a serious sport mount around the old-school opposed twin. For fans of the legendary motor the retort will be, Why not? Thankfully there were enough people in high places at BMW that mirror that sentiment.
Wrapped up in wedged carbon bodywork and augmented with copious pieces of billet the aesthetics of the HP2 exude an aggressive sportiness. From the milled billet triple clamp to the 2-into-1 stainless steel exhaust system, every aspect of the machine has been breathed on with exquisite attention to detail. Chassis is a reinforced R 1200 S unit that, due to the strength of the carbon fiber tail section, completely does away with the subframe. Ditto for the fairing; no bulky mounting hardware, just a fully self-supporting single piece of carbon fiber.
With the license plate bracket and taillight easily jettisoned with the removal of just four bolts and a single electronic connector, and mirrors removed with just two bolts, it's apparent BMW intended this bike to be taken to the track. Turn signals are so thin and stylish they can be left on.
The stainless steel header pipes come together under the engine for maximum lean angle clearance, then snakes up through the center of the bike, exiting under the tail section-which is judiciously vented to dissipate heat. The muffler is bolted to the tail section via sophisticated thermally sensitive fasteners that allow for expansion and contraction during heating and cooling.
BMW has effectively quashed the after-market on the HP2, manufacturing the bike with beautifully milled billet aluminum, fully adjustable eccentric cam rear-sets and beefy gear and brake pedals (with adjustable toe tips for fine tuning the bike's fit). Carbon fiber covers grace the valve covers, protected by easy to replace hard plastic pads in the event of touching down the protruding cylinder heads. Beautiful forged wheels are surface-milled to reduce rotating mass for the ultimate race edge.
This isn't the old Boxer. Cylinder heads have been completely revitalized, with double overhead chain-driven cams rocking four larger flow valves per cylinder. Lighter forged pistons result in a quick revving motor that peaks out with 128 hp at 8750 rpm, and redline arriving at 9500. You can scream the Beemer and keep it in the power but the bike works best going in a gear high, using the healthy low-end torque to pull you out the other side.
The HP2 is equipped with electronic speed shifter that allows clutchless, full-throttle up-shifts on the close-ratio 6-speed gearbox courtesy an electronic sensor in the lever that automatically reduces injection, creating a momentary "low load" to allow a smooth gear change. The system is automatically overridden the moment the clutch lever is depressed.
Utilizing BMW's patented Telelever and Paralever systems for the front and rear suspension, the HP2 is augmented with fully adjustable Ohlins shocks at both ends. One aspect of the Telelever front end (a swingarm type system that transfers a majority of inertia directly to the chassis instead of through the steering stem) is that front-end dive is significantly reduced under braking. The result is especially advantageous when setting up for a corner, as the bike remains nicely settled, smoothing the transition from braking to getting back into the throttle.
Naturally BMW went with the gold standard in brakes; Brembo. Radially-mounted mono block four-piston calipers mated to dual 320mm discs on the front and a single 265mm two-piston Brembo on the rear deliver excellent stopping power. Controls are top of the line Magura. Ergonomics of the Sport, although geared toward an aggressive riding position, are remarkably comfortable. Body transitioning is an effortless affair.
Dashboard is a full blown, 2D Systems MotoGP-inspired unit with both a road and track mode. The track mode collects data with downloading capabilities to a laptop computer. The adjustable shift indicator light is easily seen with peripheral vision, climbing through a series of amber shades, graduating to red to let you know when it's time to grab the next gear.
The HP2 delivers its performance at a very manageable level, the predictability and relative sanity of the big twin power allowing the bike to be ridden closer to its potential than many of the liter bikes on the market. Although the HP2 is more than capable of spinning up in response to an over-zealous throttle hand, it doesn't spook the rider into tip-toeing around with concerns of getting spit off. This pleasant comfort zone and ride-ability results in a thoroughly rewarding track experience. The HP2 is refreshing in that there really is no comparable machine out there.
The HP2 is certainly not every sport rider's mount. If you're weighing out bottom lines and comparing horsepower numbers to make your decision on a bike-the HP2 probably isn't for you. That said, if you prefer to step to the beat of your own drum and can appreciate a superlative, unique sportbike that can respectfully hold its own at a track day, the HP2 might well be the bike for you.
2009 BMW HP2 Sport - Specifications
Engine: 1,170cc air/oil-cooled opposed Boxer twin, DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Bore x Stroke: 101 x 73mm
Horsepower: 128 (claimed)
Compression Ratio: 12.5
Transmission: 6-speed with Cardan shaft final drive
Front Suspension: BMW Telelever/Ohlin
Rear Suspension: BMW Paralever/Ohlin
Front Brakes: Dual 320mm rotors w/4-piston radial-mount Brembo calipers
Rear Brakes: Single 265mm rotor w/2-piston Brembo caliper
(BMW Motorrad ABS on request)
Front Tire: 120/70 ZR 17
Rear Tire: 190/55 ZR 17
Seat Height: 830mm/32.6 inches
Wheelbase: 1,487mm/58.54 inches
Claimed Dry Weight: 178kg/392.4 lbs
Suggested Retail Price: Unavailable at press time