These bikes are completely different animals, and that should not be a surprise to anyone. I've ridden and owned many motorcycles and none of them were supersport/superbikes. For perspective, I started riding when I was 15 years old in South Carolina on a 1972 Yamaha U7E that was a gift from my grandfather after I found it in a shed. The tired old "If you can get it running, you can have it" story.
Jump to 2016 when I picked up a Triumph Street Triple in July. I blame this amazingly fun motorcycle for starting my sporty itch. It wasn't to be a long relationship though. Only 31 days into ownership, a 2007 Buick Century zagged instead of zigged and rammed my rear shock with his front bumper. Yes, the maneuver necessitated crushing the rear wheel completely and hitting the underside of the subframe hard enough to break it completely. This also gave me an unpleasantly short flying lesson.
November 2016, I got the all clear from the docs. Physical therapy was complete, no complications and full recovery. Hallelujah! I was shopping and looking at another street triple, triumph tiger or maybe a supersport. Then I saw an ad for a leftover new 2015 FJ-09 for 6,995! Holy sheet! I rushed down, test rode it and fell in love with the CP3 engine and I had fun. Lots and lots of fun over the last few years.
Over the nearly 3 years though, that sport bike itch began to creep back in. Memories of the light flickable handling of the Street Triple and a desire for a more aggressive riding position itched in the back of my mind. I began modifying the FJ-09. First, I dragged the feelers so I removed them, and also the centerstand for good measure. I installed a Higdonian cage, but it too dragged. I still had 1/2 to 3/4 inches of chicken strips so I knew there was room to play. Rearsets incoming! Now I was able to get to the edge of the tire, but this is where the suspension starts to push back, no matter how well set up you have the settings dialed in. The constant line corrections and mild but predictable wallowing were desperately whispering to my wallet, bank account and anyone who would listen that it needed replacement.
So, it came down to a choice. Spend the money on a new suspension which would have me go all-in and get an ECU flash and exhaust with it. I had plans for this route that included relocation of the ignition and buying the front headlight and windshield assembly bracket and modifying it to drop about an inch or two. This would lower the dash and allow the bar risers with the FZ-09 stock risers to go fully down and forward to a near clip-on position. I would have had to modify the upper fairings a little and had plans for cutting and fiberglassing this project into a YZF-R9. Or.... Buy a motorcycle that's designed to do what I'm chasing in the first place.
I looked at the 600cc sport bikes, but with 40ish ft lbs of torque, I eventually dismissed them because I had gotten so used to the instant delivery of the CP3. I was a little sad because I love their high revving scream, but these bikes also don't have the go-go gadget wizardry of their 1000cc counterparts for a couple thousand more. I was looking at the R1, ZX-10, GSX-R1000 and CBR1000RR. These were the "cheap" liter bikes and the euro bikes weren't even on my radar because of price. For me, a "Dream Bike" would be a motorcycle that ticks all the boxes and is also attainable. Attainable doesn't just mean that I could technically own it. It had to be affordable and within my wife-approved budget. Months of shopping and watching dealer inventories brought it down to finding a '15 R1, ZX-10 with ABS or 17+ CBR/GSXR. These year limitations were due to requiring ABS for daily all-weather commuting.
That's when I saw it. A BMW S1000RR in a dealer inventory for a hair over 12k. A 2015 with only 1240 miles on it. I looked up the VIN and it was the premium edition with "Other Equipment" listed as SA DTC, SA SCHALTASSISTANT PRO, FAHRMODI PRO, RACEPAKET, Heated Handlebar Grips & Cruise Control. So, it has all the bells and whistles except electronic suspension, which I wanted to avoid anyhow. Red flags! What's wrong with it that it's priced so low, when 10k mile equivalents are at other dealers for 14-15k? Before ever contacting the dealer, I wandered down to find it in their show room, sit on it and inspect it. It looked pristine, like it had been sitting on a showroom floor for the past 4 years. Original tires with chicken strips so wide that chik-fil-a would be intimidated. I contacted the local BMW dealer and gave them the VIN to check. It was unpacked in Michigan, assembled and had it's first service performed there along with a warranty replacement of the shift sensor. No outstanding recalls, major repairs or warrany items were listed in their network. For those that don't know, every time a BMW is brought to the dealership and they hook up the diagnostic unit, all of the information gets uploaded to BMW HQ in Germany and shared across the dealer network. I decided to jump on the deal before someone else did and dropped a $300 deposit over the phone.
Thursday September 19th and with some minor haggling (knowing it was very fairly priced) saw them give me a very fair offer for the FJ-09. It had 23,940 miles on it and the 24k service was due. They gave me an allowance since I had literally JUST installed a pair of Michelin Road 5 tires with a couple hundred miles on them. Hooray!!! I bought the BMW. My very first ride was from the northwest side of Atlanta to the Northeast side of Atlanta during rush hour, bumper to bumper, 5mph, stop & go traffic in Atlanta heat. Miserable.
First Impressions and First week of Ownership
The very first thing I noticed was that the throttle was so smooth and linear. The dealer put it in Rain Mode, but I wasn't having it. Sport mode was just as smooth, linear and easy to modulate. It was reminiscent of the Triumph Street Triple, except it just gave me more power out of the twist. It's the S1000RR equivalent of "Standard" mode on the FJ. There's "Slick" and "User" also available, but those are both track oriented, so I'll leave them alone for now.
Everything about this motorcycle is so smooth and easy. It's like going on a date with that really cute lady that you wonder "how could she possibly be single?" You start to get to know her, conversation is easy and smooth. Everything is as nice and comfortable as you could imagine. Then there's a long clear exit ramp and a twist of the throttle later an epiphany slaps you across the face. This girl is hiding her crazy behind easy going comfort. Give her a little prod and she goes straight to bat-shit crazy faster than Moto GP video pass can file a Youtube take-down notice. The laughter ringing through your helmet tells you that you LIKE this brand of crazy. It's a little scary and definitely to be respected. If ever I'm not wary of the capability of this machine, it will be time to end the relationship.
Riding Ergonomics: Aggressive. The seat is canted forward and slides you into the tank. The leg positioning is perfect for me at 5'10 with a 30" inseam. It's not quite as racy as an R6, Daytona 675 or R1. It's similar to the ZX-10 with a slightly farther forward reach to the bars. I personally felt the ZX-10 a little too close, which made tucking chest against the tank awkward. A couple hundred miles commuting and soreness of a new riding position is dissipating as my muscles get used to it. My back feels better, since I can't/don't have as much tendency to slouch. I have not been on a long ride, but will do a couple hundred miles tomorrow in the mountains. There is room to move around and adjust seating position / location. Similar to the FJ, I'll be moving around a lot to maintain comfort over long distances.
Commuting Comfort: It's fine for commuting if traffic is moving. In slow traffic and the fans kick on, it gets hot. The frame and seat get warm from heat soak, which I think will be a nice feature in the winter. In the summer, you just sit and wish you could get moving again. Tuck your pants into your left boot if you're going to spend a lot of time sitting still or stopped in traffic. When those fans kick in, you get uncomfortably hot air hitting your left shin on the foot peg. It's almost painfully hot if your pant cuff rides up and it hits bare skin. It takes 20+ minutes sitting in traffic for this to happen. I'm waiting on my new plates so I can use the HoV lanes again and not have to worry about being stopped or under 10mph for long. I want lane splitting to be legal now more than ever.
Electronics: I haven't been through all of the settings, but they're all easy to work with. ABS on or off? Just press the button. Traction control on/off? Just press the button. Cruise control? Just press the button. Heated Grips? Just press the button once or twice for low/hi. Self cancelling signal timing can be adjusted in the menu. Rider aids can be adjusted in the menu as well. The downside to "just press the button"? Lots of buttons. It's going to take me a while to know where everything is without having to look. Some are intuitive, like the high beam. Left pointer finger switch is like a trigger. Pull it to flash high beams or flick it out to engage high beams. In a couple hundred miles, I haven't had any of the rider aid electronics intervene in any way and probably won't on the street.
There's plenty of information too. I turned on the lean angle indicator which displays the maximum Right/Left lean angle since starting the motorcycle. The braking indicator displays in M/S^2 of braking force and is similar to the lean angle indicator in that it shows a bar for maximum achieved. I haven't been looking at the dash, but I think there's a second bar for current braking force. Eyes up though. I'll play with it over the weekend.
Suspension: My first impression was "why is it so soft?" because of the amount of brake dive on the front brake. The answer? Because everything was turned all the way down/loose. Compression, Rebound and Preload front, were dialed to 1 and rear was more of the same. So, I went through the manual and set static sag, then set rider sag with some assistance in measuring from a zip tie on the front and help from my wife for the rear. Standard from the factory for 85kg rider is "4" on the front and "4" on the rear. I set it to 5's all around (out of 10) given I'm about 20lbs heavier. Rider sag is at 12.5mm front and 15mm rear (manual states 10-15mm range). No need to count clicks for rebound/compression, everything is marked 1-10 on dials. It's super easy to set and adjust.
The suspension handles bumps and road imperfections just fine once the suspension is set up. You feel more of the minor stuff, but it's not as pronounced as the FJ. Bumps and things that were jarring on the FJ are still jarring on the S1000RR, which is to be expected. Overall, it feels smoother. I've not ridden quickly yet, but I noticed turns that felt "fast" on the FJ-09, I'm completing on the BMW and it feels normal, almost sedate. You definitely get a lot more front end feel. The quick turn in and agility of the S1000RR really made me appreciate how good the FJ-09 was on twisty roads in comparison. The Ninja 1000 felt heavy and resistant to turn or change direction in comparison to both the FJ and the BMW.
Ridability: It's so easy to ride, as long as you can tolerate the sporty riding position. It's as gentle and tame as YOU want it to be. The smooth throttle makes it easier to ride in heavy traffic than the FJ-09 ever was with stock fueling. No injector cuts, no jerkiness, and smooth low end torque makes it feel like a motorcycle anyone could ride in any conditions. It gets hot in traffic as stated earlier, but the FJ-09 was also guilty of blasting my feet with hot air if I had to place my foot on the ground. The FJ-09 seat, frame and fuel tank didn't heat soak. I don't mind it though, as the contact points don't get uncomfortably hot, just warm.
The up and down quick shifter is a joy to use. It's so good. Seriously, at almost any RPM, I haven't gotten it to even hiccup. Dropping from 6th at 20 mph because you're coming to stop at a traffic light and forgot to downshift sooner? No prob. Cruising at steady throttle at 50mph? Up or down as you'd like without having to adjust throttle. It just works. The tradeoff is a slightly squishy feeling that takes some getting used to. I liked the FJ-09 shifter where there was a solid click to a hard stop, then release. The quickshifter on the BMW is more like it's on a spring and shifts when the spring is pulled. When you're in first, you can squish the shifter downward and it just doesn't do anything, while on the FJ it would be a hard stop if you were already in first so there wasn't a need to look at the dash for gear indicator. It's perfectly capable of shifting normally if you just enjoy clutching (which is a light and easy pull, about the same as the FJ).
This motorcycle is also deceptively easy to ride fast. What feels like comfortable corner speeds on clover ramps and sweeping turns are where the FJ-09 felt like I was riding quickly or sporty. The S1000RR just handles 30 degrees of lean the same way it handles cruising at 70mph on the highway. No drama, no effort involved. This is a bit scary in it's own way. The FJ-09 at the same speed at least felt like your were riding fast and took some conscious effort to perform.
Maintenance: The fairings and body panels are easy to remove for maintenance. They all use the same size torx+ bits. The frustrating part is that there isn't any periodic maintenance schedule available. The owners manual just states to take it to the dealer annually or every 6k miles, whichever comes first. Trying to find torque values? Nope. Common torque values are difficult to find. Service manuals are available in DVD format online for as little as $40, but if you want a paper book, it can be difficult to obtain. My local dealer is willing to order me a factory service manual for $130, shipped from Germany and it's a gray area whether they're supposed to make those available to the public. Dealer scan tool is required to reset the service interval lights as well, but there are multiple scan-tool offerings online from a maintenance light reset too for about $100 or a complete $399 tool that will give you full access to everything in the ECU.
Actual physical maintenance is fairly easy to do once you remove the fairings. It took me about 10 minutes to get he right side fairing off on my first try, without instructions or reference. I replaced the stock horn with the Denali Sound bomb Mini that I removed from the FJ-09 before trading it in, so there's my first modification. The factory provided tool-kit is basic, but has everything needed to remove fairings, adjust suspension and get to anything that would need periodic maintenance.
Under the passenger seat was just enough room for my flat repair kit with the stock tool kit. That includes mini air compressor, air compressor line, puncture repair tools and cable for power to the pump. It connects to the battery tender line that the bike already had installed. Which is good, because mine went with the FJ-09.
My Verdict: If you skipped to this, I don't blame you. The 2015 BMW S1000RR is a premium motorcycle and really shouldn't be compared to an FJ-09. The FJ-09 is more comfortable and very capable on its own, but it's a bit like comparing a sporty 4 door sedan to an actual race car that's been made street legal. Because that's exactly what the S1000RR is.
I appreciate the FJ09, because it's a great everyday motorcycle that can do sporty things while the S1000RR is a sport motorcycle that can do everyday things. It was the right move for me, right now, and I'll enjoy it while I'm physically able to.
Edit & quick Update on January 2nd 2020:
From 1240 to 3680 miles - I'm still in love.
My early impressions turned out to stand the test of a few thousand miles. I'm perfectly comfortable with the overall ergonomics now, even on longer rides. Oddly, after 300-400 mile day rides, my knees feel better on the BMW than the FJ. The seat is harder so my butt is a little more sore and I'll look for something this spring to help with long rides. I'm generally more comfortable on the BMW already than I was on the FJ, even after years of ownership.
Winter and rain commuting is much nicer than it ever was on the FJ-09. The difference is MUCH more than I ever expected. I attribute the difference on the BMW to the fairing design that allows wind to go over and around my hands, torso and legs while the engine is busy pushing heat into the frame, tank and seat which helps keep me warm in the winter. Not only do I stay warmer, I stay much dryer in the rain too. The BMW heated grips don't get nearly as hot, but they don't need to. My hands stay comfortably warm, even while riding at 35 degrees where on the FJ I'd have hot palms and frozen knuckles. My thighs don't freeze the way they did on the FJ, because they're not out in the wind when I pull my knees into the tank.
The noticeable/measurable difference is that discomfort temps dropped by about 10-15 degrees while wearing the same gear. On the FJ, I was putting on the over pants with thermal liners at about 50-55 degrees with a base layer and jeans. I can ride down to about 40-45 in armored riding jeans on the BMW, where on the FJ I would have the over pants and thermal liners on by about 50-55 degrees F. I can ride to work on the BMW down to 30 and still arrive comfortably warm where I was just starting to get chilly on the FJ. It's about a 30-45 minute commute, so there's a much wider tolerable riding range than if I was trying to ride 250 miles. I expect the discomfort temperature range difference will hold when it's down into the teens and twenties, which will be in January/February.
I guess the only other thing that stands out to me is that I NEVER think about riding modes anymore. The BMW has been in "Race" mode for months, no matter the weather or conditions. It keeps the front wheel down (gently!) and keeps the rear wheel from spinning up without any noticeable change except the TC light flashing to tell me some magic is being worked somewhere in the bike.