BMW K1300S

We first threw a leg over the slightly updated Beemer back in March when it was released to the sporting press and found it to be an excellent motorcycle. While changes were minimal to the naked eye, the exception being the new 1300 sticker on the tail section. The fact of the matter is that there are a host of minor changes aimed at making the bike not only faster but easier to live with on a daily basis. This is what happens when BMW believes the U.S. market is now its primary target for motorcycle sales moving forward and will change models to fit U.S. rider’s requests when the demands require it.

For full technical details on the K1300S be sure to check out our First Ride, but the cliff notes version goes something like this: a 1mm bigger more (80mm) and 5.3mm longer stroke bump the displacement up to 1293cc, while inside the lump sits redesigned and lighter pistons along with updated engine-mapping. The objective was to achieve more outright power while making it more useable at the same time.

That said, BMW did release a recall of over 2000 of its K-series motorcycles for problems involving their fueling systems, which included the 1300S and 1300GT. The recall revolves around the use of poor quality fuel that could leave deposits in the throttle bodies. According to the NHTSA, this could cause the bikes to stall due to restricted air flow during low rpm riding. BMW also released a recall for issues pertaining to the new for-2009 turn signal switchgear (more on that later). According to the German brand both have been, or are in the process of being addressed, at no cost to the consumer. Still worth paying attention to, nonetheless.

As for the performance numbers, the K1300 ticked the quarter-mile lights at an extremely respectable 10.16 @ 141.4 mph. We actually may have been able to get a few more tenths out of it, but the shaft started to overheat and shudder off the line, negating any further attempts. As for top speed, BMW limits it at 186 mph, much the same as the Suzuki. On our GPS unit it recorded a very close 185.8 mph in controlled testing, though felt like it was running out of pull and slowing down at that speed.

Though not what we may think of as ideal for a Hypersports bike, BMW has always stuck by its shaft drive system, using it across almost every motorcycle in its lineup – the new S1000RR Superbike being one notable exception. And while we found the shaft drive on the 1200 model to be jerky during hard performance riding, the updates on the 1300 have seriously smoothed out the final drive. With little-to-no driveline shudder other than what we experienced at the drag strip and nearly instantaneous throttle response, when it comes to comfort and logging some serious miles it becomes clear why the Bavarians put such faith in the shaft drive system.

“The driveshaft isn’t what I would want for something around town or racing from stoplight to stoplight, but when it came to hammering out the miles it works alright,” said Road Test Editor Waheed. “It’s extremely smooth on and off throttle and doesn’t hamper suspension action much and the roll-on response is right there – no lag at all. Just don’t try and do a burnout or wheelie with it!”

Another plus in the ‘distance and comfort’ category is the BMW’s eccentric suspension. The Duolever system up front and Paralever in the rear elevates the use of a traditional fork and as a result there is limited front-end dive under braking. Add into the equation that the K-bike offers an extremely stable ride during the high-speed straight line freeway mileage and this bike starts to really make sense for riders geared toward the touring side of the equation.

Furthermore, the on the fly adjustability of the suspension adds another comfort feature the Suzuki simply is not prepared to offer. Our test unit came equipped with the optional ESA II – Electronic Suspension Adjustment – system. Like the previous model this an option, only now the second version of the system has been updated for more adjustability. Featuring nine distinctly different modes the rider has the ability to alter shock damping, spring rate and spring preload, all at the touch of a button. Sport mode was overly stiff and jarring at times, while the Normal setting was optimal for most situations, as it provided good damping and stability without being excessively rigid. The final mode, Comfort, was the setting of choice for long-distance freeway miles, especially when the road got rough, making things more bearable on one’s rear end.

Same could be said for two-up comfort, as the BMW not only gave the passenger a slightly larger seat area but it’s less aggressive riding position allowed for substantial more distance to be covered before the pillion was aching to get off.

“There’s no question when you get to the twisties the Hayabusa leaves the BMW in its wake,” Waheed added. “The unconventional suspension of the K1300S makes the machine hard to turn-in and want to stand up mid-corner. It also lacks the feedback needed to really push. The rider is never really in tune with the road like he is on the Hayabusa. Kinda of strange, too, as looking at the two you would guess the smaller BMW would run circles around the rather larger ‘Busa, but it’s not the case at all.”

In a further aim to please the American market, the BMW’s switchgear is now of conventional fashion, which we quite like. Almost ironically, though, BMW already had a recall on the system. They tell us everything has been fixed and they will continue to use the traditional set-up on all new motorcycles. Never thought I would see the day, though it shows the German’s commitment to respond to U.S. consumer requests. As for our test unit, the switchgear system would stumble and delay on occasion, but nothing too major. Still enough for a recall though.

While the big K-bike looks nearly identical to the previous 1200, it’s actually now 18mm slimmer in the upper fairing, has new side cowls and a black-face split on the upper fairing headlight, all aimed to improve its image. A revised speedo, tach and clear LED taillight round out the changes. In other words, to the untrained eye they are nearly identical. As for whether we rate this as a plus or minus, that’s a question always taken in context. Sitting next to the bulbous Hayabusa the BMW looks angular, modern and sleek. I can hear the cult clanking their pitchforks and assembling the mob now, but in this comparison we give the aesthetic vote to the Beemer.

And The Winner Is…

While we hoped BMW had done enough to give the Suzuki a run for its money, the truth is that it’s not even close.

When riding the BMW by itself the Germanic instrument performs quite well, especially for its intended purpose – long-distance high-speed touring. Furthermore, we experienced only minor blinker issues with our test unit and none of the other recalled items were a problem, so in a standalone test it would have rated relatively well. But within one minute of getting off the BMW and onto the Hayabusa, the decision is plain as day. There’s good reason Suzuki has sold so many of these bikes: Whether you like its appearance or not, the combination of fearsome speed and wild looks is utterly addictive and is mated to a chassis that hides the 579-lb curb weight well. As such, the decision is simple.

The monster Suzuki just barely defeated the Kawasaki ZX-14 in our ’08 comparison and has now easily retained the top spot by defeating the contender from BMW. Many have challenged the ‘Busa, but so far none have succeeded. Considering the levels of legal intervention that loom on the horizon, who knows if any ever will? For now, all hail the mighty Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa, the undisputed Hyperbike King.