Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Face-off: BMW K1 vs K1300S


In 1989, the BMW K1 was probably the most radical sportstourer around...
Pics: 2Ri.de

First unveiled in September 1988 and launched in early 1989, the BMW K1 was a pretty radical machine. The bike weighed almost 280 kilos, but its 987cc liquid-cooled fuel-injected inline-four, which produced 100bhp and 100Nm of torque, could still push the K1 to a top speed of 230km/h. But, of course, it was the K1’s styling and technology that made it stand out from the crowd…

Between 1989 and 1993, BMW produced close to 7,000 units of the K1. The bike was expensive, costing US$12,990 back in 1990. But then this was a high-tech machine, with bits like Bosch fuel-injection, Brembo brakes with four-piston callipers (with optional ABS) and Paralever shaft-drive system.

Then there was the K1’s ‘love it or hate it but you can’t ignore it’ styling. Its wind-tunnel-tested full fairing, semi-enclosed front wheel and side panniers integrated into the tail unit made the K1 quite aerodynamic, giving it a coefficient-of-drag figure of just 0.34 – the lowest ever for any production motorcycle made in those days. However, the rather bulbous bodywork with its solid red / solid blue paintjob and bright yellow graphics was not to everybody’s taste.


The K1's engine made 100bhp, but the bike weighed 280kg wet, so performance was only moderate...

According to some magazine road tests of the late-1980s and early-1990s, the K1 actually handled well. Or at least it handled well for a motorcycle that weighed almost 280 kilos wet. It wasn’t exactly a tool for carving up mountain roads but the K1 was calm and stable at triple-digit speeds on those German Autobahns and would happily cruise all day at 200km/h.

Of course, the K1 was not without its foibles. The engine was buzzy in its low to medium rev range and the way the bodywork was designed meant that the great deal of heat pouring out from the BMW engine slow-roasted the rider’s legs.

While the K1 wasn’t exactly a big success for BMW, it certainly is one of their most memorable bikes. With the K1, BMW finally proved that they could do much more than just doddering old touring bikes – they had what it takes to make a full-on sportsbike.


The BMW K1300S is certainly competent, if not as unique as the K1

Moving on to the 2009 BMW K1300S, the bike is in some ways quite similar to its 1989 predecessor. Like the K1, the K1300S is fitted with a liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 16-valve, DOHC four-cylinder engine. However, at 1,293cc engine capacity, 175 horsepower and 140Nm of torque, the K1300S packs considerably more brawn than the K1.

Instead of the K1’s steel tube chassis, the K1300S gets an aluminium beam frame, which uses the engine as a load-bearing member. The single-sided Paralever swingarm with shaft drive is still there at the rear, while at the front, the K1’s conventional telescopic fork has made for BMW’s Duolever suspension on the 1300S.

Braking and electronics are two areas where the new K1300S is in a completely different world compared to the two-decade-old K1. With its twin 320mm brake discs with four piston callipers (front) and 265mm single disc at the back, with integral ABS, the K1300S offers stopping power that was unimaginable in the K1’s era. And with bits like ASC traction control, optional ESA II electronic suspension adjustment and a Quickshift system with clutchless, push-button gearshifts, the K1300S simply overwhelms the K1 with new-age motorcycle technology. And at 228kg dry, the 1300S is also quite a bit lighter than the K1.

So while the K1300S is, of course, technologically and dynamically superior to the K1, which is the more memorable machine? In our opinion, it’s definitely the K1. The 1300S is a very competent sportstourer, but it simply isn’t as unique, as radically different from everything else on the market as the K1 was in ’89.

Let’s put it like this: If we were riding a motorcycle across 5,000km, we’d take the K1300S. But when it comes to putting a motorcycle poster on our bedroom walls, it’ll still be the K1… :-)


7 comments:

Anonymous said...

My Dad bought a McDonald's... Sorry, "BMW" K1 when they were brand new. I thought it was great! Made me the motorcyclist I am today.

Mac said...

So you'd still take the K1, eh? Let's see, you also still listen to Abba and Boney M and wear stonewashed jeans?

Jason_M said...

Yellow painted gearcases and styling like a tractor from Mars. Did someone drop a load of Rhino tranquilizer into those BMW stylists' drink? Those are not my words, it's what the editors of Cycle World magazine said when the bike was launched, back in 1989. Personally, I think the bike looks very distinctive. If this was a Bimota, everybody would be raving about its exotic-ness. But because it's a BMW, everyone says its insane... :-D

the_tourer69 said...

Compared with the K1, the 1300S is so run of the mill. The K1 was totally unique and cutting-edge for its time, the 1300S doesn't have anything that a dozen other bikes don't have. You can't compare a classic like the K1 with a competent-but-oh-so-ordinary contemporary BMW!

Anonymous said...

At leat in one thing most of us agree, the color designer of the K1 deservs being beaten up by all the guys of the K-1, Pride and MMA for 53 min. I want to join them. I don't remember a similar chromatic faux pas (refined, eh?!) from the German house, in cars or bikes.
The blue one has the Swedish colors, the red one looks like painted by Ronald McD like someone wrote.
If they weren't sure about what's right to do..why they didn't ask to Ann Landers ?.
IMHO the K1 is still a great bike, clearly it was ahead its time, the 1300S is externally more conventional but I'm sure its tech DNA will set much of the way to go in its class.
Finally, F&F people don't you think that an special about the full dressed tourers (H.Aspencade, Kawa Concour, Yam Venture Royale..Zuki ?, BMW RG100?) of the 80/90s could be nice?.

Rider1772

Note: I still listen to Abba, Boney-M, UB40, Mike Oldfield, Village People, Mozart and some Alt C&W.
At my own pace I'm catching on the electric/hybrid born-to-hoon machines.

Anonymous said...

I had a K 1 and now own the K1200s. If you want to blast some roads take the new K bike. If you want to turn heads take the 20 year old K 1.
The new bike is not as comfortable as the K 1 even if the waste heat is managed far better. The cooling fan on the new bikes makes the exact same sound as the fan on a K 1. I hear the fan come on and for a few seconds I am home again on my beloved red and yellow K 1.

Steve said...

I've still got the '92 k1 (blue/silver) I bought as a demo in '92. The bike now has over 130K on it. I bought a '99 K1200RS so I could restore the k1. The newer bike has a much smoother motor, and I love the Telelever up front. The one thing that is obvious is that the k1 does a much better job of keeping the elements off the lower legs and feet. I plan to sell the 1200 when I get the k1 back on the road ... but I must say I wouldn't mind having the k1 look and aerodynamics with the newer bike's functionality.