It’s about noon and I’ve stopped at one of the many famed dhabas near Murthal on the Delhi-Chandigarh highway. The aim is mainly to hydrate and get some grub before continuing the ride to Punjab in this April heat. Since last year’s ride from Jammu to Kanyakumari, which was again around the same peak summer time, I have longed to return to Punjab and explore it some more. This time I not only did get the chance to plan the Punjab ride better, but also got myself a motorcycle that no one has really experienced much on our roads — the BMW S 1000 XR. It’s a rather uncommon machine that has often received a stepmotherly treatment in India, thanks to its glamourous race-winning sibling, the S 1000 RR, getting all the love and attention.
Having ridden the race replica on the MMRT track, I completely agree why it’s such a hot seller. But, just halfway through to Ludhiana, the long highways with erratic traffic had me sold on this touring-friendly iteration of the S 1000 RR. Wait. Maybe ‘friendly’ is not the right word for this. Why? Imagine riding a touring motorcycle that is powered by a screaming race-winning 999cc liquid-cooled inline-four motor making 163 bhp at 11,000 rpm and 11.6 kgm of torque at 9250 rpm. Borrowed from the superbike S 1000 RR, the engine is detuned on the XR, but it hardly feels like it is missing anything. BMW refers to the XR as an adventure-sport model, but let me tell you that there is a lot of sport in there and little of adventure. And that is a good thing.
The XR is not an adventure motorcycle. For that you have the much-sought-after GS family from BMW. The XR is an outright highway hauler and it does it better than anything else in its class today. Across the 1000 km of riding to explore the gorgeous farmlands and open highways in Punjab, I experienced how comfortable and potent the XR is. Outrageously quick and lethal like its superbike sibling, the XR brings comfort to the package and a host of electronic aids that make life a lot easier on the road. I remember a particular instance from the ride — slotted in sixth gear and cruising at about 120 kph, a herd of cows appeared out of the tree-lined median and straight into the fast lane which I happened to be in.
So, I went down three gears straight, thanks to the electronic gear-shift assist, and jammed onto the Brembo 320-mm brakes. At the end of it, the bike had come to a halt well in time — without reacting funnily or scaring me more than seeing the cows in my path. Honestly, the XR behaves exactly like a litre-class superbike but without the discomfort of a crouched-down position. The confidence-inspiring form and the rock-solid stability turn the XR into a serious long-distance machine that can also hold it own on a racetrack. No kidding. Packaged inside an all-new aluminium-alloy perimeter chassis that shares the load bearing duties with the motor, the XR gets an extended aluminium swingarm for improved stability. Suspension is made up of a fully adjustable 150-mm long-travel upside-down fork at the front and a rear monoshock adjustable for rebound damping and preload. So while the cushy long suspension makes for good comfort, the 17-inch cast-aluminium wheels make it clear that this motorcycle is not meant for the dirty stuff off the tarmac.
Even the equipment on the top-spec XR is like you see on any modern-day premium superbike. It gets ride-by-wire, followed up with electronic gear-shift assist that makes clutchless shifts a breeze whether going up or down the cogs. BMW’s cornering ABS mechanism is subtle with its actuation and doesn’t interfere with hard braking unless it’s absolutely at the edge of the traction limit. Out of all this electronic voodoo, the dynamic ESA — basically, electronically adjustable suspension — was something that impressed me. At a press of a button, the ride quality and suspension feel changed instantly. Swapping from boring and bumpy long highways to some of the best twisty mountain roads, the XR was at home on both thanks to the dynamic ESA. It turned the XR into a highly potent litre-class machine for Indian road conditions where it can soak up the bumps and then get all sporty and tight for the cornering action in the hills.
The BMW S 1000 XR isn’t your average highway tourer with sedate and docile power delivery. It is a litre-class wolf inside a sport-touring skin. It will eat miles endlessly without tiring the rider one bit and then continue to go the distance without voicing any complaint. And while at it, it will thrill you to the bone like no other motorcycle in its class.
With a price tag of Rs 21.50 lakh (ex-showroom), it isn’t exorbitantly priced for the features, equipment and, of course, the BMW tag. Well, the Aprilia Tuono would come close, but that’s a super-naked and not really an adventure-sport machine. Which the BMW is. Again, a lil’ more sport and less adventure. It works!
PHOTOS Amarjeet Batth