In 1989, the BMW K1 was probably the most radical sportstourer around...
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.
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.
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… :-)