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  • Writer's pictureIan Speight

Riding the new 2020 BMW S1000XR TE

Updated: Jun 7, 2020

On Friday 5th June 2020 I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to ride the all new BMW S1000XR, which was made possible by the team at Barrie Robson Motorcycles, York.

The new bike has been reworked by BMW and now boasts slightly more power, combined with a little less weight and has also had a styling make over. I've ridden the previous model a few times and even toured on one to both Scotland and Germany. I remember that model being really quick, with a free revving engine and sharp handling, whilst still maintaining pretty reasonable all day comfort, so I was really looking forward to riding the new bike.

The bike I rode was the TE version and had the optional red wheel trim, taller screen and the call assist. I have to say that on first seeing the bike I really liked it. It seems more substantial than the previous bike but stands quite tall, almost as tall a GS, with a similar seat height.

The bike has been subtly restyled with lots of slight differences, such as the headlights, tail lights, the screen (which now has a handy lever to adjust it up and down) the exhaust and of course the TFT name but a few.

The new lights and re styled front end.

There is no longer a separate rear light/brake light, these are now 'built in' with the indicators like the S1000RR.

The new exhaust.

The lever to adjust the screen height.

The XR now has the TFT dash which BMW is now rolling out across their entire range and in my opinion is excellent. I have it on my GSA and love it. The TFT on the XR has 2 options for it's main screen, a 'normal' one and a 'sport' version, displaying all the usual stuff like speed, revs, fuel, time, gear indicator, temperature but the sport option also has a lean angle indicator.....I'm sure it's great for the track and bragging rights at the bar, but I can see some riders getting themselves into bother as they try to beat their previous best!!

Here's the 'normal' option......

......and here's the 'sport' option with the left and right lean angles displayed in the middle....I hadn't ridden the bike at this point, hence why they're still at zero degrees.

Another new aspect of the bike is the way the panniers are fitted. There's no longer any metal pannier frames. The new panniers fit like the GS Vario system. It really tidies up the rear end and is very neat.

The top of the panniers drop into these 2 slots.....

....and the bottom of the pannier slides onto this locating point on the rear foot peg hanger. All very neat.

After a quick walk around and a few photos I was on my way. I pulled out of the car park and immediately nearly hit the kerb!.....the bike was so light! Some mental readjustment was required.

Out onto the York ring road and then the A64 for a short stint of dual carriageway before heading off onto the A166 to the village of Fridaythorpe where I was meeting a mate (Daren). While waiting for Daren I decided to see what the slow speed balance was like by doing a few feet up figure of eights, I was pretty surprised how easy it was, the clutch and throttle are super light and the slow speed balance was spot on with plenty of lock to lock in the bars.

After Daren arrived we headed off on a selection of A and B roads as well as some pretty narrow single track stuff. Despite the varied road conditions the bike took it all in it's stride. Apparently the suspension now has a softer side to it than before but when slotted into Dynamic mode still gathers itself together for a much stiffer, yet still very cosseting ride. I tried the bike in all it's suspension settings, Min and Auto pre load, as well as Road and Dynamic damping. In the end I settled for Min/Road with the occasional switch to Min/Dynamic. It never felt too stiff and never wallowed in the softer setting.

After about an hour we arrived at Olivers Mount at Scarborough for a brew and a leg stretch and to get Darens' opinion of the bike. Daren had followed behind for the whole ride up to that point and said the bike looked very stable, smooth and without drama but wasn't convinced about the rear light/brake light/indicator set up, saying the indicators were sometimes not as easy to see when the brake light was illuminated, depending on the sunlight.

With the bikes parked more or less next to each other you can see how similar in size the XR is to the 1200GS

After leaving Scarborough we headed over Staxton and on to the very fast and flowing B1249, a lovely smooth, well surfaced road and the XR really came into it's own. Despite being limited to revs due to the running in procedure, the bike still howls through the air box and the exhaust has a great note to it and when added to the super smooth quick shifter it really was a pleasurable and fun place to be.

The taller and wider screen offered a reasonable amount of protection but I didn't really notice any big differences between positions and after trying both several times, I ended up just leaving it in the highest position for the rest of the day.

We arrived in the village of Pocklington where I parted company with Daren and then headed off on to some roads that I use for my advanced rider training before finishing off with a ride through York and back to Barrie Robsons BMW.

In total I did 135 miles and covered just about every type of road, barring motorways and green lanes and it has to be said that the bike seemed to take it all in it's stride. Yes it is still fairly taught through the chassis but it is a sports adventure bike after all. The engine is super smooth, as is the quick shifter and the gearbox will hold 6th gear at 30 mph and would no doubt keep going until you hit the limiter and that induction roar under acceleration will put a smile on your face every time you hear it!! The brakes were eye poppingly sharp and reassuring at all times.

Looking at overall comfort, the ergonomics were very good (for me at 5ft-11) with a very familiar position for seat/foot pegs/bars. Looking at the seat on it's own, there's no getting away from it, it looks slightly lacking in the padding department and whilst it's no GSA seat, it was OK. The seat is quite scooped out and sits you in a fairly rigid position which doesn't allow for much wriggle room, but after 4 hours and 135 miles I was fine and could happily have ridden further. I believe there is an optional comfort seat that gives an extra 10mm of padding which may be worth considering if you like long days in the saddle.

So, finally to the BIG question......vibrations. This is something that a lot of owners complained about on the early bikes and which was addressed to some degree by BMW from 2016 bikes onwards. I can honestly say that I didn't suffer with any tingles or issues either through the bars, foot pegs or seat. I do sometimes suffer with pins and needles in my hands and have fitted heavier bar end weights to my own GSA, but this was never an issue on the XR. Having said that, the 2019 bike I toured Scotland and Germany on didn't cause me any issues either, so maybe I'm just not as susceptible as some owners?

So there you have it, my summary of the new XR, a fantastic bike that will excite you and comfort you although not quite in equal measures. Would I buy one? In an instant if I didn't do 20,000 miles a year, need a little more practicality and luggage space and have a partner who loves her pillion seat on the GSA!

The XR is a fantastic bike and if you're in the market for one I doubt you would be disappointed.

Many thanks to Kev and all the team at Barrie Robson BMW for their continued support and for inviting me to ride the new 2020 BMW S1000XR. For all your BMW needs go to

Thanks for reading.

Ian S

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