M Is for Motorcycle: BMW Reveals Its First Performance-Badged Two-Wheeler

The vaunted Motorsport moniker will make its first motorcycle appearance on a BMW with the race-ready M 1000 RR.

Welcome to the family: After 40 years, BMW has an M motorcycle, the M 1000 RR. (BMW)

BMW has revealed its first-ever M-badged motorcycle, the M 1000 RR superbike. A heavily reworked version of the already-capable S 1000 RR sportbike, the new machine is riding the trend of track-focused machines, as the motorcycle industry watches sportbike sales follow the same path as sedans in the automotive world. Finally joining the previously four-wheel-only BMW M club after more than four decades, the M RR is in essence a street-legal, turn-key racebike.

Metrics for BMW’s first M-badged motorcycle will come via reduced lap times. (BMW)

The M badge is emblematic of BMW’s highly regarded Motorsports division, which produced its first racecar (the 3.0 CSL) in 1972, and its first road-going car with the mid-engine M1 in 1978. More attainable M vehicles arrived in 1979 with the M535i, based on the popular 5-Series sedan, and the Munich-based automaker has since produced an M version of nearly every vehicle it’s manufactured (the larger 7 Series being a notable exception).

The engine for the BMW M 1000 RR has seen major mods to tune it for a track-focused environment. (BMW)
BMW worked with Nissin to adapt the brakes from the WSBK machine to the street-legal M 1000 RR. (BMW)

With liter-class sportbikes already some of the highest-performing vehicles extant, how will BMW’s M-model motorcycles be differentiated from standard models? With a stopwatch. “Based on the current S 1000 RR, the product contents of the M 1000 RR were consistently aligned with motorsport requirements from customer sport to World Superbike,” explained Rudi Schneider, BMW’s head of S and K series models. “This will be clearly measured in lap times from 2021 on.”

According to BMW, when fitted with racing slicks and ridden by World Superbike (WSBK) pilot Markus Reiterberger, the new M RR was only 1.59 s off the pace of fellow WSBK rider Eugene Laverty onboard his factory S 1000 RR racebike, which is 33 lb (15 kg) lighter and 15 hp (11 kW) more powerful. “With the M RR we have managed to go one better in every single discipline,” Stephan Loistl, head of overall M 1000 development claimed. “It’s lighter, faster and simply consistently trimmed for performance, which you can feel from the first meter.”

Track-base engine treatment

Not making it easy on themselves, BMW’s first M-badged bike starts with a machine that’s already its most track-centered offering. “The stringent focus on relevant racetrack attributes and perfecting according to this was both an exciting and motivating task for the engineers. It is not an easy task to optimize an S 1000 RR,” said Christian Gonschor, the M 1000 RR project manager. The team started with the engine, following traditional port and polish tactics.

The M RR’s 999cc inline-4 engine uses BMW’s ShiftCam variable intake-valve timing and lift setup and has seen most of its systems upgraded or modified. Redline has increased 500 rpm, from 14,600 to 15,100 rpm thanks to upgraded reciprocating components. Its power peak is up 5 hp/4 kW to 212 hp/156 kW, arriving at 14,500 rpm and peak torque (83 lb-ft/113 Nm) arrives at 11,000 rpm. A new fully machined intake system with shorter intake funnels feeds modified combustion chambers and piston-crown shapes, resulting in higher 13.5:1 compression ratio (up from 13.3:1).

The aerodynamic winglets on the M 1000 RR were tuned at the track and wind tunnel and can produce 30/6.4 lb (13.4/2.9 kg) of front/rear downforce at 186 mph (300 km/h). (BMW)
A full-titanium exhaust system shaves 8 lb (3.7 kg) compared to the standard exhaust setup on the S 1000 RR. (BMW)
If the nearly €34K price tag didn’t cement the M designation in your brain, the 6.5-in TFT display also features an M logo on startup. (BMW)

New 2-ring forged Mahle pistons are each 12-g lighter than the standard RR slugs and feature two additional reinforcing crossbars. The pistons are mounted to longer (2 mm) and lighter (85 g) Pankl titanium connecting rods, which reduce lateral piston loads and friction. New titanium valves on the exhaust side operate with a new spring assembly via slimmer and 6% lighter rocker arms. Intake timing has been modified, and a new exhaust-cam profile provides an elevation curve with 0.4 mm more lift.

The camshafts on the M RR are driven directly by the crankshaft without an intermediate wheel, and the reduction gear for the camshafts is mounted directly in the cylinder head. The engine breathes through a full-titanium exhaust system that shaves off 8 lb (3.7 kg) compared to the standard setup. In total, according to BMW engineers, the engine mods create a mill that gathers revs “vehemently.”

Tunable chassis, extensive electronics

According to the chassis engineers, the M RR’s kinematics have been “comprehensively changed” to modify wheel-load distribution and adjustability. The M RR chassis is based on the standard machine’s welded, gravity die-casted structure, and consists of four elements plus the engine as a structural component.

The M RR’s steering angle has been relaxed slightly (to 66.4°), with a 3-mm fork-offset reduction increasing trail by 6 mm. Unlike the standard RR, the M’s fork bridges are milled from solid aluminum, making them 20 g lighter. A 9 mm-longer swingarm extends the wheelbase to 1,457 mm (57.4 in), and rear ride height has been raised 6 mm. Compared to the regular RR, front wheel load has been reduced from 53.8% to 52.1%.

“The close cooperation with the M Sport department and a driving geometry that is strongly based on the current WSBK vehicle have resulted in a significant increase in performance in race track operation,” noted Martin Keck, chassis development lead for the M 1000 RR. “The brake calipers optimized for racing sport make a significant contribution to this. They are particularly characterized by their outstanding resistance-point stability and the fast rear wheel change.”

Developed in cooperation with Nissin, the all-new front four-piston fixed calipers are each 60 g lighter than the standard components, and feature additional convective cooling, reduced brake fluid volume and zinc/nickel-coated steel pistons with grooved contact surfaces. The new binders grip 0.5 mm-thicker, 320 mm brake discs, and two brake-pad compounds are available (road/track).

The M RR comes standard with carbon-fiber wheels, which as a set are 3.7 lb (1.7 kg) lighter than the standard aluminum wheels, with BMW noting that the aluminum hoops lost 3.5 lb (1.6 kg) when they were redesigned last year. An all-new rear-wheel bearing enables faster wheel changes, and the front-wheel service stand forced a re-route of the front brake lines, resulting in an incidental 30 g weight reduction. The swingarm has saved 220 g, the M RR gets a lightweight (2.8 lb/1.3 kg) 5 Ah battery. Compared to the standard RR, the fully fueled M version is 11 lb (5 kg) lighter at 423 lb (192 kg).

The 6.5-inch TFT display in the instrument cluster provides access to a host of riding modes and GPS-based track features. The four standard modes (Rain; Road; Dynamic; Race) are on call along with three additional and customizable Race Pro modes. The “Pro” modes provide two adjustable throttle-curve profiles and three engine-braking maps, along with launch control and a speed limiter to ward off pit-lane violations. Clutchless up- and downshifting via a standard quickshifter is on tap, and the shift pattern may be reversed (1st gear up) for track use.

The M RR’s TFT display can be customized in both analog and digital formats, and provides some slick track-specific gauges such as: lean angle; deceleration in m/s; traction-control torque reduction; lap time/distance/speed (min, max, average); number of shifts and average throttle position per lap; plus total and best-ever lap. A far more extensive GPS data-logger set (for nearly 300 racetracks around the globe) can be downloaded via the cluster’s OBD interface, with manual lap triggering available via the headlight flasher button.

Aero as a traction aid

Aerodynamics is the new frontier in superbikes, and BMW’s engineers worked to leverage it to improve all aspects of the M RR’s lap times. Developed in the wind tunnel and on track, the M RR’s winglets are made of clear-coat carbon fiber and are designed to provide additional wheel load. This force helps counteract wheelie inclination, reduces traction-control intervention and converts more driving power into acceleration. BMW claims the winglets are also effective during deceleration or cornering, permitting later braking and increased in-corner stability.

“The high aerodynamic efficiency of the winglets, their design and their noticeable impact on the overall vehicle performance fascinate me,” admitted Tim Krych, head of bodywork development on the M 1000 RR. “This highly functional motor sports technology can be experienced by racing drivers and hobby drivers alike. By means of numerous prototype and wind tunnel tests, we have increased the effectiveness of the winglets to such an extent as to achieve an optimum balance of downforce and drag.”

According to BMW’s tests, the aero aids provide benefits at speeds as low as 31 mph (50 km\h), when they’re adding 0.88/0.22 lb (0.4/0.1 kg) of downforce to the front/rear tires, respectively. Those forces grow to 13/2.9 lb (5.9/1.3 kg) at 124 mph (200 km/h), and 30/6.4 lb (13.4/2.9 kg) at 186 mph (300 km/h). To compensate for the winglets increased drag, the M RR features a taller, redesigned windscreen which improves airflow around the driver's helmet. BMW claims that even a “semi-professional” racer will reduce lap times 0.5 to 0.7 s thanks to the M RR’s aerodynamic optimization.

If you do plan on riding the new M 1000 RR to the track, you’ll be comforted to know that cruise control is standard, as are heated grips for those chilly track days (be sure to bring your tire warmers). The new M RR is FIM homologated and within the price range for Superstock and WSBK, and at least 500 will be produced as required for the world championship series. Pricing has only been set in Euros (€33,800), with availability expected in early 2021, hopefully before race season starts.