The launch-control system’s rev limiter keeps the needle at 9 000 r/min as an ear-splitting pap-pap-pap-pap erupts from of the Akrapovič exhaust. I release the clutch, grip the bars tightly and mere moments later hook second gear as the bike hits 160 km/h. Beyond first gear, no clutch is needed to move through the ‘box as the quick shifter allows you to simply flex your left ankle before the onslaught continues. The changes are instantaneous and smooth. I can feel my heart pound in my throat.
It’s a feeling that dominates time spent with the updated BMW S 1000 RR … but only if you want the bike to be exhilarating. As visceral, intense and downright intimidating as this motorcycle can be, BMW’s engineers have also made it pain-free to ride when you don’t push it.
The new S 1000 RR has undergone a number of upgrades, both visual and mechanical, but it’s the tech that’s instantly available to the rider that stands out. My favourite is the aforementioned launch-control system. It works a treat and will catch game-to-dice road users off-guard.
In a straight line, the BMW is blisteringly quick but, like all superbikes, it’s ultimately built for cornering. Before tackling your favourite piece of tarmac, there’s the option of choosing one of a number of electronic software maps. Rain mode is best left for moist surfaces, while sport and race are perfect for dry roads. Then, for those who are brave enough to scrape their elbows through corners, there’s slick mode.
Tackling one CAR’s favourite Western Cape mountain passes, the RR’s immensely powerful engine simply sucks the next corner towards the bike’s asymmetric headlights. Using a mere two fingers of your right hand, you can quickly brush off massive speed with the sensitive brakes before dipping into the next bend. And thanks to loads of low-down torque, there’s strong acceleration even in the higher gears.
Returning the key at the end of the ride to one of the most advanced, fastest, but also most usable superbikes proves difficult. The S 1000 RR is so intoxicating that I found it impossible to think of a comparable car. So I’ll pick two: imagine a monstrous amalgamation of a Pagani Zonda and an Ariel Atom V8, and you wouldn’t be far from the truth…