The front fork of the K100 is a clear declaration of principles. Look at it carefully. Look at it well. What do you see? Or better said, what is it that you don’t see?
A simple fork, a fork that would not have surprised anyone in 1955….enormous 41.4 cm bars, an oversized wheel hub and nothing more. There are no air valves or disc for the adjustment of the hydraulics. There are no Aeroquip hoses or mechanical camshaft anti-dive system. There is only a kind of double action, progressive hydraulic fork... like the forks of the MV Augusta of Surtees, to give an example of an "old" bike that didn’t behave particularly badly, at least not in my opinion.
Plus, BMW is telling us something very important with this fork with enormous bars but without the solutions of a GP bike. They are saying, “We believe that the street cyclist does not require or know how to set up GP bike suspensions and besides, we believe that the anti-dive system that gives such good results in bikes driven by men like Kenny Roberts and Freddie Spencer at 300 km/h is no more than a sales pitch for road bikes.
Behind, another statement of principles: only a classic shock absorber with just three spring adjustments, no air, no hydraulic adjustment and mounted on the right side of a "half swing arm" provided by the 80 GS. BMW says with this simple and sturdy shock absorber, "a single classic three positions spring shock is better than a complicated system ."
Yes. The K 100 talked to me from the first moment, and afterwards on the highway it convinced me and then forced me to admit something that was difficult to admit …that the air valves, hoses and anti-dive cams like Pro-Link, Uni-Trak y Full Floater give more pleasure to us testers (who can glory in our technical vocabulary) than to the cyclists who find that the advantages to these innovations in the real world of the road are rather theoretical and academic. Let there be no doubt, on a competition bike an anti-dive system and progressive rear damping are fundamental. A bike like, let’s say, the Tecfar-Ducati on Endurance and Formula 1 racing (in order to talk about a bike that I know well instead of speculating about the performance of Roberts’ Yamaha) would be a dream on the road, just like the Bimota, but to take it to the high quality sophistications of the series would mean a big increase in price. Plus BMW with the classic and efficient suspensions of the K speaks very clearly, “Instead of trying to trick us with pseudo-GP hoses, valves and shocks, we are giving you stability without gimmicks and without commercial arguments.”
These are the hard words of serious people. Plus as you will see in the first of the following introduction paragraphs, the K fork doesn’t lie.
Before getting to the test and the analysis of the bike, we have to reflect a little on the meaning of this drastic design change at BMW and a little on what this direct challenge from a European factory to the strength of Japanese industry means.
First, however, very briefly, some sequences of the test that will leave it very clear that the K 100 is a great bike, a bike that we have had to wait for many years, but which fortunately was worth the delay.
GOING STRAIGHT: A long straight somewhat bumpy trajectory with an abrupt change of slope. I was going at 215 km/h according to the gauge with the K smoothly over the pot holes and suddenly the incline surprised me. Front wheel in the air! A long, long wheelie like on Bray Hill on the Isle of Man or the straight away in the Montjuic Stadium before they put in the chicane. I felt the handlebar loose in my hands with the bike lifted up 20 degrees. Perfect landing. No fear. A quick wiggle upon landing, but without pitching. All normal for the 100 K. Plus a clocked 215 km/h on the road without any problem.
Wide open on the road from Colmenar Viejo to Madrid. The curve before the gas station at nearly 200 km/h, waiting for a wobble to be able to cut in time. Some normal bouncing on hitting the bumps, but the K is faithful to the trajectory, wide open on a steep slope and a change in inclination to get the left curve. The fork that appeared to be loose, soft and worn can handle dramatic conditions on the highway and the single shock absorber and medium tilt can keep up as well.
Linked curves, the last stretch of the road from Sacedón, the section used for timing on road motorcycle tests. Repeated shifting between second and third, exaggerated leaning without touching more than the stand, and this only a couple of times. Repeated rush of braking without problems. Plus the handlebar clock tells the story. With this 1000 cc, 239 kg with a full tank bike, and Cardan, I've cut 27 seconds off the time of the light, agile and super-sport 550 GPz up to now my fastest motorcycle test on the road to Sacedón.
Excellent braking results from 50 km/h, 75 km/h and 100 km/h, but more important still, if it fits, almost all the braking worked out the same. The bike never fish-tailed, and although the front disks are strong and very controllable, the rear disk seemed a bit weak and sluggish at first glance, it is completely trustworthy. Without completely locking up, the back brake made the tire squeal from the start, acting as a keel and keeping the bike running straight.
The factory announced a certified speed of 209 km/h, but the truth is that our test K 100 reached 217 km/h with the wind and 215.5 against the wind for an average of 216 km/h making it one of the fastest 1000 cc bikes in the world market, and maybe the fastest bike in the Spanish market (waiting for the official presentation of the Suzuki Katana). The factory stated an official clocked time of 23.6 for one kilometer from full stop, but without punishing the hardy dry clutch I was able to get times of 23.6, 23.5 and the 23.3.
Madrid, seven in the afternoon, heavy traffic. With the K, whose maximum width is 690 mm, you can get around in traffic as if the bike were a two cylinder. It doesn’t tire you out either. Smooth controls, smooth running motor. Controlled power from low rev without sudden surges. Plus during long stops at the traffic lights the thermostatic control fan turns on and you know that the temperature of the refrigeration liquid has gone over 103 degrees, but the situation is under control. You don’t have to worry, and if the temperature reaches 111 degrees a warning light comes on. However, you don’t have to worry about that either, because at 120 degrees the excess of pressure activates a backflow check valve that leads to a leveling tank and four liters of cooling liquid enter to control the temperature. Plus, during this test the temperature warning light never came on, even during extreme driving under a punishing Castilian sun.
Highways and secondary roads, 120 km/h, 150 km/h cruises...comfortable posture, a precise motor. Impeccable stability going straight at full speed with no tendency to wobble when going over the painted lines. Refueling. Can’t fit any more petrol in the tank? The 22 liter aluminum tank is already full, but at a cruising speed of 120 km/h you haven’t reached 6 liters per 100, and at 150 km you barely use up more than 7 liters per 100. The thing is that the K has an injection system that feeds fuel at a constant pressure according to the speed of the motor, temperature of the air intake, and temperature of the water... Information sent through sensors to the “brain” which is housed under the seat. No matter how much you twist the throttle, if the motor is not ready for full throttle, the brain under your bottom “will not approve the request” and when you get to a gas station, you have used less, much less and you say to yourself, “what a good driver I am, how little gas I have used.” The K 100 is more intelligent than other bikes and knows how to save gas even in the case of aggressive riders…
You walk out of the bar. Where is the K 100. Ah, there it is completely surrounded by people, by admirers. You are the center of attention. All eyes are on you… the owner of such a long-awaited bike, of such a discretely spectacular line in combination with qualities that until now only BMW has been able to achieve in a single bike. This is your moment of glory. All of us like to be admired, envied. “How fast can it go?” A little boy with a timid voice asks. “Around 215, 220,” you say as you get on the bike. You put on the helmet slowly like a hero, like Steve McQueen in the film, Le Mans. You lower the bike from the stand. There is great expectation, but you make them wait while you put on the gloves carefully. Now is the moment, but... where are the keys?
With a silly smile you take off the gloves and put your hand in your pocket, but they are not there. You have to get off the bike. The crowd is losing their patience. And the key? “Sir? Sir?” It’s the barman at the door. “You left your keys on the bar.”
The K 100 can solve all your problems... but it depends on you, as much on the curves as on the street.
European with an inferiority complex
Since the presentation at the end of the Honda CB 750, the European brands have been outdone in performance, refinement, dependability and price by the Japanese. The only salvation for the non-Japanese manufacturer has been the niche market.
Ducati is directed towards the hard-cores and specialists in mountain sports driving, and nobody has been able to overcome them…but they only make 6.000 bikes per year. Harley-Davidson forgot about exportation in order to work exclusively for the domestic market in the U.S. making strange bikes for quite strange people, but Honda has invaded their chopper and custom domain forcing Harley to go to the government and ask (and get) customs protection in order to survive. Moto Guzzi seems to have decided definitely on the traditional road, trusting totally in their V-2 850/1000 motor that will shortly have cylinder heads with four valves per cylinder, and in their new and light parallel cylinder motor from the V-35, V-50 y V-65 series.
Plus, until now BMW has insisted on the merits of its boxer motor that has 60 years of design behind it. However every day the market for the boxer has been limiting itself more and more to the fixed idea traditionalists who are considered as staunch supporters of the brand. Meanwhile BMW found itself obliged to base its publicity on a combination of snobbery and tradition, a dangerous combination during a world recession. At the same time, a new generation of young cyclists didn’t know what to think of the BMW two cylinders with weak performance and super high prices. The arguments to defend the boxer didn’t convince them. Especially the argument about hardiness, because the Japanese bikes don’t break either, and a 550 cc Japanese bike is faster today than an R 100 RS, while the fastest of the boxers, the classic R 100 CS has nothing to say about acceleration and maximum speed in comparison to the new 750 cc Japanese bikes... and even less about a 1.000 or 1.100 at a lower price.
Meanwhile, infiltrations, rumors, espionage pictures of new BMW's voluminous silhouette being broken in at private testing in Germany.
In addition, as even the most discreet company testers usually have a few beers with friends on Saturday evening, it was not difficult to discover that the new BMW engine was a four in line but placed horizontally in the frame... a logical configuration for a water-cooled engine.
However, the key question was simple: is it fast or not? Plus with so many German journalists researching the matter, I am sure that the company testers have not had to pay for a round of beers in a long time ago.
Plus, according to “trusted sources,” the new K was a powerful motor, “like a Japanese bike, but with low consumption and better response from low speeds.”
In other words, BMW was going for the big market of cyclists in the 80’s. They were not going to use traditional, sentimental, and nostalgic arguments.
They were not going to limit themselves to a tourist clientele. They were going to go for the first time to face to face, wheel to wheel with the big monster… in other words with Honda in particular and with the Japanese bike industry in general.
A daring decision, but with many risks. First, to change the BMW design and to leave behind a unique image and 60 years of tradition. Their staunch supporters inevitably were going to find that the up to now stable value of the box in the used bike market were going to fall in the coming months. BMW couldn’t turn back now.
BMW has to live or die with the K. They are not abandoning the traditionalists because the 65 and 80 series continues in production, but the new image of BMW bikes will depend exclusively on the K 100, the K 100 RS and the K 100 RT.
I admire the courage of BMW and in particular the design team of the K. To substitute a classic model with 60 years of tradition is not an easy job, and the possibilities of failure are great.
Direct comparison with Japanese brands, something that until now has not been logical in the case of BMW, is not inexcusable. The directors, themselves, of BMW are so used to doing everything possible in order to belittle the performance figures that they are now like children with new shoes, shuffling figures of 12 seconds in the quarter mile and 220 km/h on the “autobahn,” and telling stories of factory testers who have met with Japanese sports riders in the Alps overtaking them easily and leaving them way behind.
Of course, it depends on the rider-skills of the in house testers, but before with the boxer there were no stories of this type circulating around the administrative offices of BMW. Plus there have been as well testimonies of surprised owners of Katanas or VF 750’s that have said with expressive gestures in the bars of Munich and Stuttgart, “ …and suddenly a red motorcycle passed me with a big and muffler. I could follow it on the straight away. I even gained a little on it, but it went through the curves very well, and in the end I lost view of it. I’m sure it was a K...”
Perhaps in some cases, those early afternoon annoyances were not always the K, the almost phantasmagoric factory prototype K. However, what is clear is that some people had seen the K going through the mountains and on the “autobahn” and going in a hurry... like a Japanese bike. Plus now after five years of development, testing, improvements, changes, research, and after two years of rumors, infiltrations and great expectation, I could finally get on a K and ride it over Spanish roads. Many bikes that behave well on the good asphalt of the north wiggle like flan when they arrive in Spain. However, it will be already clear after the first paragraphs that the K has not disappointed.
To say that a new bike does not disappoint can seem to be a weak eulogy, but not in this case. Because in order not to disappoint the K had to be one of the best bikes of the world market from the point of view… sporting, quick, thrifty, balanced, stable.
We have to make it clear as well, that the K doesn’t reach the level of a hard, rough and super sporty reply racer, like the Ducati 900 SS, still queen of the mountain, nor a ferocious and brutal registered Formula-1, like the Honda CB 1.100 R. However, while the Ducati SS and the Honda CB 1.100 R are decidedly niche market bikes, the BMW finally stopped being one.
Of course, its high price in relation to its Japanese rivals will limit its potential clientele, but seen as a big bike, like a superbike, the K doesn’t fail in any area of performance, it stands out in braking and fuel consumption… and has the feel of a 750 sports bike, but the with the power and low power range of 1000 cc.
Plus, if in the rest of the world the K will have a disadvantage of some 33% in price against the large Japanese bikes, here in Spain its price is so close to these Japanese bikes (Katana, Yamaha XJ 900) that the commercial impact of the K is going to be stronger in our country than in any other.
Before entering fully into the details and impression of the new K, we are going to reflect briefly on the contrast between BMA and the Japanese factories that know find themselves confronted by a new and dangerous rival in the category of powerful superbikes.
The economic situation of the Japanese industry is bad in general. The recession has lasted longer than expected, and the first brand to enter a situation of crisis has been the most sporting and for many the best loved. Yamaha with its many years of world championships and its excellent, powerful reply-racers with the competition bike. Plus Yamaha was also the only Japanese factory that really has tried seriously to beat Honda in the world market. The intent, however, failed. Currently the great Honda offensive with new models of all kinds , V-2, V-3, V-4, one cylinders, four cylinders, three cylinders, without forgetting the six cylinder CBX and rumors of a new V-6, are making the situation very difficult for its Japanese rivals, in particular Yamaha who at this moment find themselves with almost a million bikes in stock, 98 million dollar losses in one market alone, the U.S. and a crisis so sharp that they have laid off almost all their non-Japanese executives in Amsterdam and the U.S. Kawasaki is also going through bad times with their market share reduced drastically and without new models to contest the latest Honda and Suzuki 250 cc, 550 cc and 750 cc. However, while Kawasaki is the fourth largest Japanese factory of motorcycles, the mother company, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, it a real monster and capable of surviving some difficult years because their motorcycle division is not as big as that of Yamaha.
Suzuki has left the World Championships of speed with the promise to return within a few years, and they have lowered their production to avoid problems of large stocks.
What is clear, however, is that the only Japanese factory that is currently maintaining its growth rate is Honda.
Plus, if in general the new Honda models, especially the VF 750 F, have pleased, the Japanese brands have been criticized for flooding the market with new models, making the other valid models obsolete after only a few years of life, and creating a precarious situation in the second hand market for users of Japanese brands.
He who fell in love with the first Honda V-4 750 cc. now finds that the VF 750 F has made his brand new Falcon obsolete, while the current owner of a VF 750 fears the appearance of a VF 1.000 or even a V-6 that would leave behind in prestige and value the 1983 “bike of the year.”
Plus when viewed from within the motorcycle industry, hundreds of agents and distributors of Japanese bikes have been forced to close their shops in England and other markets, because they cannot continue to buy the amount of spare parts and new models that the factories are forcing them to.
A "five star" Honda London agent has the legal obligation to have in stock most of the brand available—60 models! And even more difficult, the double obligation, legal and moral, to have in stock spare parts for these 60 models.
The contrast with BMW is shocking. With the K, BMW has submitted its first new engine design in the last 60 years.
BMW bikes are expensive, always have been expensive, but the K enters the market with an identical price to the R 100 RS, a bike with a frankly old fashioned design that conserves despite everything, the prestige and charisma of an exclusive bike.
So BMW knew to replace the boxer just in time, when his legend was about to be in danger, offering in its place a better bike in every way, but for almost the same price. Plus, simultaneously the Japanese brands are gradually starting to the increase prices of the new models, while at the same time they are forced to sell stock at rock-bottom prices that destroy the value of the second hand Japanese bikes.
In addition, for the first time 'modern' buyer, who demands the power and performance of the 1980s has to include in his closed circle of options, a new European motorcycle. What’s more BMW has in its favor the prestige of many years of manufacturing motorcycles and automobiles and the fame of great seriousness in after-sales service and spare parts supply.
Plus the Germans not only are a thorough and effective people, they also know how to take maximize advantage of their good fame as trusted technicians of confidence.
Lufthansa does not have to convince us that “only the aircraft receives more attention than you,” like Iberia used to (a motto that concerned passengers who did not especially feel well attended).
I frankly think that the Department of marketing at BMW has done more to maintain the fame of the ruggedness of the BMW boxer during recent years than the technical department... because although the truth hurts, a BMW 1,000 cc boxer in the hands of a nervous and hardcore rider is not as rugged as a four cylinder Japanese bike, although this is only a personal opinion based on the experiences of friends and acquaintances.
Now, however, BMW technicians offer us a modern bike, in the vanguard, which doesn’t force us to resort to emotional and subjective arguments to justify it. Maybe this bike will not please 15 or 20 percent of the fans of this brand, but neither is BMW abandoning the traditionalists. The boxer will continue. However, for the first time a tester can directly compare a 1,000 BMW with the best current Japanese bikes.
For me, until now, no has BMW ever convinced me completely, and always because of lack of performance. However, at the same time I have always liked the unique BMW touch of quality, the brand image, the impeccable finishing and, above all, I've always enjoyed touring with a BMW, be it a 650 cc, 800 cc or 1,000 cc. We are, however, in 1983 and since the introduction of the R-90-S, their first superbike of the 1970’s, BMW has been losing ground to the Japanese in terms of performance and fun. Not even the purest of the traditionalists can deny that a large part of the pleasure of motorcycle riding comes from the combination of acceleration and agility.
Now BMW has come completely up to date, and before dedicating ourselves to trying the K we are going to make clear the great abyss that there is between the classic BMW boxer and this new K.
The figures are from tests made under similar conditions and on the same roads and highways. The maximum speed is an average of going and coming on the same route.
The K is much more stable on the straight away and on fast curves, more suitable for sporty riding and has a far superior braking than its classic sister. There are logical differences between a bike from yesterday and a motorcycle from today. The beauty of the R 100 boxer is that it managed to remain in the market until 1983 without ever becoming outdated... old, yes, but still valid, while the K was awaited. Now the K has arrived and the 1000 cc boxer, one of the great bikes of the 1970s can finally retire with his intact honor due to the fact that like in the cowboys and Indian films, the cavalry arrived just in time in the form of the 100 K.
Design: sophistication and simplicity
I started by talking about the front fork without anti-dive and without complicated controls for the air or the hydraulics, because I wanted to make it clear that BMW had avoided superfluous complications. The bike, however, or better put, the motor, is extremely modern and sophisticated.
BMW has remained faithful to its horizontal cylinder motor, but this time it’s an in-line four cylinder engine and with water cooling. In-line four motors are not especially well balanced, because it entails placing two twin cylinders side by side at 180 degrees. The annoying primary vibrations in twin cylinders are eliminated in four cylinders, but the secondary vibrations are combined to equal out the primary vibrations of the piston, and they act at twice the speed of the crankshaft.
The boxer motor with the pistons moving towards and away from the center simultaneously is ideal. The primary and secondary forces are eliminated without counter-weights. The K motor vibrates more than the motor the R 100, but the first impression is that the K motor is smoother.
The thing is that the boxer engine with its crankshaft placed longitudinally in the frame tends to tilt to the right when you accelerate from neutral or from a low speed. The K engine, however, would do the same as it also has a longitudinal crankshaft, if it were not for the fact that the clutch rotates in the opposite direction to the crankshaft. In cyclical roundness, the boxer engine is superior to a four cylinder engine, and although the vibrations never become annoying like those of a 360 or 180 transverse twin mortorcycle, perhaps the only thing that would disappoint the regular user of the boxer is the slight tingling on the handlebars after a long journey. There is also some vibration at high speed in the footrests.
The first sensation when starting the K is a brief regret that it sounds “like a Japanese bike,” with the whistling of the gears and the roaring of the in-line four. That it sounds Japanese is only because the Japanese have brought the four cylinder engine to the production bike. The BMW sounds like a BMW... a BMW car.
It’s got a double overhead camshaft, two valves per cylinder and a sophisticated injection and ignition system that combines to dramatically reduce fuel consumption and also to ensure immediate response from any speed.
There is nothing here that would surprise a modern car mechanic; the injection system processed according to r.p.m., oil and water temperature along with the Bosch VZ-51 L ignition controlled by microprocessor, which advances or delays the spark in the cylinder vacuum and the engine revolutions, is cutting edge innovation in the field of the bike. In addition we have three-dimensional communication between the injection system and the ignition, since microprocessor acts as a controller of the magnetic valves that regulate the fuel injection.
In other words, if your K ever lets you down, something quite unlikely, it is no longer like it was before when it was possible for the owner of a Norton to jump the cursed Zener Diode and other diabolical inventions of the sadistic Mr. Lucas in order to get home.
The K does not want to break down either, and even the craziest of the diehards will find it hard to break the motor. There is no spark cut-out, as it is the case with the Honda VF 750 at 11,500 rpm. No, the K has a rotational speed regulator that slows us down at 8,652 r.p.m. In high gears this is enough to save the engine even in the hands of savages, but assuming that a crazy psychopath gets on who strives to go full throttle in first gear until death. Even with delayed ignition the K is capable in low gear of revving until you break it... in theory, but in practice no, because there is a injection cut at 8,776 r.p.m.
(All this makes me think about the vicar of Grimsby who purchased a Honda 50 cc at the shop of Freddie Frith, world champion of 350 cc with the Velocette in 1949). "I want a bike that will not break," said that good man. “What speed are you thinking of going with it?” asked Freddie, "I will not go more than 40 miles per hour," was the reply. “Then I assure that the Honda won't break.” During the winter, however, that Honda broke down completely and on numerous occasions. Mr. Frith and Honda G.B. did not hesitate in continuing to repair the Honda under warranty and apologizing to the priest who was still assuring them that he never passed 40 miles per hour. Until one day Freddie Frith was cutting his lawn when he heard a horrible, incredible sound. “I had never heard anything like it. I ran to the door of the garden and I saw that man of God with the face of angel at 40 miles per hour... in first gear... at some 15,000 r.p.m. (The thing is that previously he had a Solé and didn't know that Honda had three gears).
BMW has the first mechanical accident control measure at a linear piston speed of 20,1 meters / second and the second definitive one at 20,5 meters / second.
The engine is almost squared in its bore/stroke relationship, but with a 70 mm. stroke and a 67 mm diameter. Plus, the 90 HP at 8.000 r.p.m. with a maximum torque of 86.0 Nm r.p.m. at 6.000 r.p.m. combine to give a wide power range with a flat curve without any violent jerks.
It makes me think a lot about the power curve of the Honda VF 750. Just like the Honda, the BMW does not impress through its power. There is no bad-ass kick at any speed, although from 6.000 r.p.m there is a surge and the engine howls discreetly through its funny square silencer. (Javier Sanglas said that the only way of getting silence without losing power would be by using high volume silencers.)
This one from BMW is 7 liters and of an esthetic level that it makes me think of agricultural machinery.
Just like the Honda VF 750, the rider is first one surprised when he sees the real maximum speed. It does not seem that it goes so fast, but it goes great.
The advantages of this engine are principally its compact form and low center of gravity. At the time of repairs the BMW customer will pay less labor because it is possible even to change the crankshaft of this engine without extracting the engine from the frame.
The crankshaft is forged in one piece and rotates on five supports. The connecting rods are detachable smooth bearings while the flat pistons are cast in light alloy and with three segments.
The camshafts are chain driven and the valve timing is carried out through adjustment shims, and in general the engine is a classic four-cylinder DOHC. Its sophistication is in your power supply system and in its ignition, and certain details such as the injection cut-off and ignition delay to avoid over-revving, plus the use of exhaust valves of four special materials to avoid high temperatures make it likely that the K engine will be very rugged.
Details and finishing
Here, quickly, is a review of details. The BMW now has a folding handle to put the bike up on its stand... a subtlety copied from the Ducati Pantah. Fortunately the bike is easy to get up on the center stand. For two reasons: first, the kickstand is precarious and treacherous, and second, if the level is close to the maximum when you lean the bike on the kickstand, the oil from the crankcases gets into the cylinders, and when starting the bike it smokes like it had broken a couple of segments... something that caused some concern among technicians of BMW Ibérica during this test.
The headlight (Diameter 180 mm H-4 55/60) allows easy adjustment via a bolt in the left rear, a very useful detail.
The turn signals are switched off at 130 meters or 10 seconds, but you cancel this with a button on the right handlebar. I didn’t find the placement of turn signal switches very comfortable, each one in its corresponding handlebar, but probably with more time I would have gotten used to them.
The 100 K doesn’t come with a digital clock as original equipment, something that I consider a mistake, since on a bike so expensive and with a open space on the panel that says BMW hours and minutes, more or less is forcing the K user to buy the clock as an accessory or admit that he has sacrificed so much to buy the bike that he didn’t have enough money for the clock.
To let us know about the fuel level there are two warning lights, one orange, which warns us that are fewer than 8 liters left, and another red that indicates there are fewer than four liters. There are also lights to warn about the high temperature of the coolant (red at 111 degrees), a digital indication of the gear engaged (I think this is a silly detail in a very serious motorcycle), a neutral indicator, plus the usual signals of bright, intermittent and choke lights.
The two horns are double tone. Plus there is now a package of pressure capsules to repair punctures of the excellent Pirelli Phantom tires in addition to the already usual first aid kit and high quality Toolkit.
The only thing that clashes a little is the clutch lever which is exaggeratedly far from the handlebar. It's okay, since it is the classic BMW clutch with a warm butter touch... 70 N. of force to use it... but I found myself obliged to stretch my fingers more than normal to reach it. The girth of the seat bothers the rider.
The aerodynamic form mirrors of the headlight tend to vibrate at high speed to the point that at 180 km/h I saw what looked like a flying saucer about to overtake me. I looked back and saw the distant headlight from another BMW K-100 test.
Sound aesthetics but with questionable details
It makes us think a little about the Katana and this will be because the man who designed the Katana worked in the BMW Department of Prototypes... and now I think I see the origins of the Katana aesthetics in the K. Of course the Katana is unlike any other Japanese motorcycle and little by little, Suzuki, not knowing exactly how to follow in the evolution of the Katana, of German aesthetics, is abandoning their beautiful and spectacular line in favor of the more conventional line of GSX-ES series.
At first glance the BMW-K seems bulky... a huge lump with a gigantic engine. The thing is that we still don’t know how to see it. To see the bulk of the horizontal motor we imagine that there are huge crankcases and that everything on top of the engine is also part of the engine.
However, once you are at the controls you realize that you are riding the lightest 1000 cc four cylinder bikes.
The fuselage of the radiator is beautiful seen from the side. However, the most beautiful view of the K is from the dashboard. You look down and there is a very beautiful combination of tank and radiator with a quick filler type cap completely flat with the surface of the tank and absolutely watertight. Not even one drop gets out, not even the smell of gasoline.
The engine itself, as an element of the bike is somewhat shocking. We are not accustomed to, but if the square 7 liter exhaust is ugly, four exhausts that turn a golden color after the initial break-in period, are attractive... a little automobile like, but nice.
The K, however, doesn’t threaten the super sport bikes like the 900 SS and the Le Mans, although maybe some of the mountain veterans with wrist, kidney and back pain will be tempted to switch to a less harsh and uncomfortable bike... but also less sporty.
We are facing a new BMW design that will have to last another 10 or 15 years, if not another 60, and BMW has managed to conceive a design that doesn’t seem to be a copy of anything or anyone. Plus, if you take away the BMW logo and study the silhouette of the K, I think that you will agree that only BMW could have created the K.
Plus this deep three dimensional paint…who paints their motorcycles like BMW?
For the Grand Tourer version, we will have to wait for the commercialization of the more expensive K-100-RS, but with the K we have a motorcycle in the style of a superbike.
A superbike is simply a big bike that does it all well without limiting itself to a small sector of the market. A Ducati 900 SS or a Guzzi Le Mans user generally ignores BMW, but with the K the mountain hard-cores are going to lift their view momentarily from its Veglia lap counter and the apex of the next curve to stare at the K which it passing them in the other direction.
Plus, at the moment the rider of the R 100 RS and the Guzzi with fairing and windshield is not going to be convinced by the K. However, the K-100-RS will be here soon, although at one higher price.
All other users and potential customers of powerful superbikes with prices of 900,000 pesetas or higher, already have a new alternative, and provided that there are no unpredictable problems with the first series K, I think that for the money the K, a big bike without any doubts, is probably the surest investment of the moment. Traditionally the BMW bikes retain their value in the second-hand market, and the factory won’t be changing models each year either.
The K won't finish off Japan by any means. The Japanese are going through bad patch, but continue to be the future and the present of the motorcycle business, and in Europe their great advantage is in their reasonable prices. In Europe and the US market, the K is going to be the motorcycle of the year and it is going to gain ground on the Japanese brands despite a high price.
Here in Spain, the business impact and the commercial success of the K, in relation to their Japanese rivals, will become even more important because rare circumstances and Spanish quirks have created a situation in which the Japanese motorcycles come out with prices that are out of this world in relation to their true international value.
I didn’t believe that the K was going to convince me, but it has. In part through its performance, but above all because of its lightness and agility.
Photographically it is difficult to capture the lightness and agility of the K…and even looking at it in the street up on its stand it can seem bulky, strange, oversized. However, when you climb onto the bike everything changes. Like all the BMW bikes, its sound is discrete, its controls soft, ideal for long trips, but the BMW has a new facet. You give it the gas and it flies low, and when the curves arrive you will find yourself smiling inside from the completeness.
What’s more, the most extraordinary thing about the K is that it immediately loses the aspect of a recently released bike, a great novelty. After 1,000 kilometers with the K, it seemed to me as BMW as the veteran boxer, and if it will take time for the tastes of the general public used to the K, this doesn’t worry BMW. They have patience and lots of time… almost 60 years.