2012 BMW K1300 S HP Review
BMW’s K1300 S long-distance missile arrived on the scene in 2010, based on the previous K1200, but with a comprehensive list of upgrades. (See Neale Bayley’s review of that bike here.) The improvements were immediately apparent, with virtually seamless fuel injection replacing the patchy responses of the 1200, and with a transmission that shifted accurately every time.
Now BMW has an HP version of the same bike, with a stylish Akrapovic muffler decorating the right hand side, and with all of the normal K1300 S’s optional equipment lumped together under one (pretty substantial) $20,255 price. BMW is quick to point out that you can’t add all of the various items (ESA II electronically variable suspension, ABS, speedshift, tire-pressure monitor, traction control, trip computer) to the $15,555 K1300 S for the $4,700 difference in price.
The HP has race-style rearset rider’s footpegs and unique passenger pegs along with a distinctive HP-specific black, blue and white color scheme and expensive carbonfiber replacements for the front fender, the airbox cover, the clutch cover and the pillion seat cover, to identify it as a small-volume collector’s piece.
In addition, the bike comes standard with heated grips, and a paddock stand completes the list. The effect is pretty grand, and the bike’s comprehensive equipment levels are a welcome complement to a fast and stable long-distance express. Being able to switch from the comfort suspension position to either normal or sport while riding is a real benefit.
In comfort mode, the big (560 pound) machine makes short work of the superslab, eating miles effortlessly while affording the rider a comfortably upright riding position and pretty good protection from the wind. If you want to cover serious distance, the HP will do it. Even the tank is big enough to straddle hundreds of miles, holding all of five gallons.
Being a BMW, the bike’s suspension is unlike anything you’ll see on rival motorcycles. Up front is a Duolever system with dual trailing links mounted high in the frame, supporting an aluminum wheel carrier that does not telescope in the way conventional forks do. With a degree of anti-dive designed into the geometry, the K1300’s front end is remarkably stable and accurate in operation.
Out back, BMW’s Paralever system counteracts the driveshaft’s tendency to jack and drop the rear end during acceleration and overrun, and handily disguises the type of drive system being used, while benefitting from all the usual advantages. With an extremely compact final drive hub, even unsprung weight effects have been diminished.
Add adjustable damping to the mix—along with fairly high-mount footpegs and plenty of ground clearance—and you have quite an athletic canyon carver on your hands. The long, 62-inch wheelbase and not-insubstantial weight make the handling deliberate rather than acrobatic, but the HP is a capable performer in the right hands.
And it has power. Rated at 175 horsepower at 9,250 rpm, with 103 pound-feet of torque at 8,250 rpm, the 1,293 cc inline four is flexible enough to render use of those high engine speeds mostly unnecessary. Sure, when you need a swift blast of acceleration, the HP will oblige in a highly satisfactory fashion. But there’s more vibration at the top end, and unless you’re on a track, you mostly don’t need that much thrust.
There were complaints about clunky shifting and occasional balkiness in early K1200 transmissions, but we never missed a shift on the HP. The action is decidedly mechanical, and (possibly because of how stiff the shaft-drive is in comparison to a chain) the selections can often be heard as metallic impacts. But you soon get used to it, as you do the gear assist (as BMW calls its speedshift), which makes full-throttle clutchless upshifts possible.
As you lift the shifter through its throw, there’s a pleasing race-carlike bark from the fairly uninhibited Akrapovic canister as the power is briefly cut, then resumed. As with many of BMW’s systems—like heated grips—you soon wonder why this is not on every bike out there.
But that’s what makes BMWs unusual. The company’s approach to design and execution is pretty unique. The result is a machine not like anything else in the market. We like that, particularly when the unique execution provides real user benefits.
It’s an expensive machine, no denying it. But as is so often the case, prolonged exposure to the HP’s charms produces a growing appreciation. That’s a critical part of the owner-machine interface, and goes a long way to justify the steep pricetag.
Beginner Riders should look elsewhere. This is a big, heavy, powerful machine, and even ABS, traction control and all the rest will not compensate for inadequate experience.
Intermediate Riders might consider this machine if they are limber, strong, and confident of their skills. The various rider’s aids will stand them in good stead in the event of clumsy control input.
Expert Riders will love the versatility this bike offers. Able to swallow many interstate miles between cities without producing much discomfort, the bike can then be set on Sport and made to unravel a challenging canyon road. Which it will manage with aplomb.