Until the Ducati Diavel made its hellish appearance this year, the BMW K1300R was the elephant sitting in the corner of the naked streetbike segment.
Introduced in 1200cc four-cylinder form in 2005, and upgraded to 1300cc in 2009, the special K has long held the honour of being the world's fastest BMW product when it comes to setting zero to 100kmh times.
Skilled riders can regularly better BMW's own zero to 100 claim of 2.8 seconds thanks to the bike's combo of more than 170 brake horsepower, low gearing, and an elongated wheelbase that makes it easy to transfer all that power to the road.
Now that the Diavel has entered the segment, the K1300R doesn't appear such a freak as both its blistering performance in a straight line and its distinctly challenging looks now seem to have found their carbon-copies in the BMW's new Italian rival.
For the Ducati also rips from rest to legal limit in similarly spectacular fashion, and also possesses an appearance that only its design team could love.
The similarities don't end there either. For the BMW can be optioned up like the Ducati by ticking boxes on the order form that give you traction control, ABS brakes and even a tyre pressure monitoring system. The BMW also has the option of electronic suspension adjustment, allowing the rider to tailor the bike while it's on-the-fly to the riding scenario. Tick all those options, and you have pricing that's right on the money asked for an equally well-equipped $36,790 Ducati Diavel Carbon.
Perhaps a more valid rival for the K1300R is the fully-faired K1300S, which you'll also find in the BMW bike showroom. Extra bodywork on the S hides some the visual sins of the R, notably the strange-looking inline four- cylinder engine, which is canted forward at an extreme angle.
However, the S is 11 kilograms heavier, has narrower handlebars that offer less leverage, and is higher geared. The first and last of those differences ensure that the R is a slightly faster-accelerating bike than its more touring- friendly sibling, while the wider, flatter bars bless the naked Bavarian with a friskier handling persona.
However the K1300R is only an agile handling bike in comparison with the even more ponderous S model.
Other naked bikes, notably Triumph's immensely-chuckable Speed Triple, Kawasaki's Zed- Thou, and Honda's CB1000R, make better slow corner carvers. Even the Diavel, arguably the worst- handling Ducati of the current range, will show its overly-wide rear tyre to the K1300R on a tightly-wound back road. The problem for the B-road aspirations of the K1300R is two-fold. With 1585 millimetres between the wheels, and a fully-fuelled weight of 243kg, this is a long, heavy bike, making it more reluctant to change direction than lighter, stubbier rivals. The other issue is that the optional electronic suspension system fitted to the test bike definitely likes to enjoy a little recovery time between bumps. When the hits arrive in sequence, the ESA II system feels flustered and out of sorts, no matter whether you've got the "sport", "normal", or "comfort" mode selected.
Such impressions are easily gathered when you're being chased up a bumpy mountain road by something like a Ducati Streetfighter S, and the red mist starts to descend. Back off the pace a little, and the composure of the K1300R returns. This is one of the better naked bikes to choose if there's going to also be a pillion passenger involved.
The long wheelbase ensures the sublimely comfortable seat has generous longitudinal room for two, and that's there's plenty of luggage space. The optional hard luggage would be one of the first of the K1300R's many options that I'd tick, because this is a naked that's more than ready to go the distance thanks to its shaft drive and comfy rider/pillion accommodation.
Meanwhile, the thrills of using the powerful engine to its full potential will never tire. The extra 100cc that the Kay-13 range gained in 2009 gave the motor more grunt than a pig farm.
Although the torque peak of 140 newton metres doesn't arrive until quite high in the rev range, the K1300R is already kicking out 100Nm at just 3000 revs per minute, making it feel immune to the steepest gradients. Although there's more vibration than the 1200cc version at the top end, the way the 1300 snarls aggressively as it delivers its extra power to the road is more than compensation.
Excuse me if I indulge in a few memories of the superseded K1200R, and the way it gobbled up the Scottish Highlands for me back in 2005. It was supremely powerful, plush and comfortable, and as inspiring as the locally- distilled single malt whisky. The 1300 is that bike and more, for similar money. The world's fastest Beemer in purely zero to 100kmh terms is as much of a blast to ride at other speeds too.
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 1293cc liquid-cooled dohc 16v inline four stoked by fuel injection to develop 127kW (173bhp) at 9250rpm and 140Nm of torque at 8250rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed sequential gearbox, shaft final drive.
Frame: Cast-alloy twin-spar frame with Duolever central strut front suspension, shaft drive single-sided swingarm working a rear monoshock, optional electronic suspension adjustment for both wheels.
Price: $30,850 for the standard bike, as tested: $35,601.
Hot: The best streetbike for two-up work; as many attractive options as a popular nightclub.
Not: Duolever front end works OK, but makes the bike look like it has already been biffed.
- © Fairfax NZ News