Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 17th June 2008

BMW have always made very practical and reliable motorcycles. They have also been tarred with the epitaph ’boring’, and perhaps as a result have tried to change their image. You may not like BMW’s but you do have to respect their bikes’ individuality and build quality. reader, Jonathon Oakes, has owned two R1100s and found them fun to ride, handled well, comfortable and well built. Here, he takes a look at the latest 1150cc version of BMW´s basic roadster model.

The 2001 roadster comes with a number of interesting features such as servo-assisted brakes with (optional) ABS, catalytic converter, six gears and an extra 30cc or so over the 1100. The aspect that attracted me though, was that you could order a bike to your own specification and so I chose to add heated grips, small fly screen, lower seat height, overdrive sixth gear, aforementioned ABS and the very natty rack and pannier rails. The final addition was some engine protectors to ensure that if my cornering became too enthusiastic (or I dropped it in the drive – far more likely!) I wouldn’t damage the boxer´s cylinder heads.

All of the extras added over a grand onto the standard price and as a result I did not get much change from £8,000. The ABS is an extra £750 alone! One more tip; there is not much point in haggling over the price, as I had to travel over 100 miles to find one and wait nearly 4 months for it to be made and delivered – BMW don´t do discount!

The good news is though that it should hold its price reasonably well and putting a few miles on it will not detract from its saleability, don´t forget that boxer engines are not really run in until they have done 10,000 miles.

Much has been written about the suspension/frame set up on modern BMs. The forks do very little in the way of shock absorbing, that is done by the spring below the headstock (which is rebound adjustable).

The rear has a single sided swinging arm that also houses the maintenance free shaft drive. The handling is superb and gives even a mediocre scratcher like me the ability to take corners in their stride. Another benefit of the front suspension set up is that it does not dive if you have to whack the front brake on mid corner.

The brakes, with their servo assistance, need very little pressure on the handlebar lever to slow you down. The front brake also applies the rear to improve stopping performance, but on the R, the pedal works the rear brake only. These types of linked brakes seem eminently more sensible than the Honda idea of linking the front to the rear so that activating the pedal also applies the front.

I like the idea of ABS, as stopping fast in the wet has always been a fairly nerve racking experience until now. Who can honestly say, hand on heart, that they haven´t inadvertently locked up front or back end during panic braking? Anyway that is a personal issue and it is an option, take it or leave it. (Does help to make it sellable though). A word of caution, servo assistance is not available with the ignition switched off so pushing the bike around in the garage etc. needs to be done carefully.

The 1150 engine has a claimed output of 85bhp, up 5bhp over the R1100 and 72 ft lbs of torque. Top speed is about 130 mph. Not mind numbing performance by any stretch of the imagination, but on tap from low down and useful in the real world of speed cameras and busy A roads.

The optional fly screen, combined with the canted forward riding position makes cruising at 80 mph quite comfortable.

With the overdrive top gear this speed equates to 4,000 rpm, and if you maintain this reasonable, but not slow pace, fuel consumption figures into the mid 50s are easily possible. The tank holds a usable 20.4 litres (4.5 gallons) which is good for 160+ miles before the fuel light comes on with a further 50 miles before you run out. The price you pay for the low revs and increased fuel consumption is that you have to change down when riding spiritedly around twisty A roads and when overtaking. This can be annoying with such an otherwise torquey engine.

The heated grips have come in handy (pardon the pun), even in August, when torrential rain dogged every ride. The ability to wear thin gloves all year is a real luxury. The other extras, particularly the BM luggage, are excellent and make touring a lot less hassle.

The tyres are reasonably sporty Michelin Macadams and they are held in place by the most gorgeous starfish alloys to be seen on any motorcycle. Tyre wear is negligible after nearly 2000 miles.

Are there any bad points? Well, the engine vibrates quite noticeably, enough to blur the mirrors badly and feel a tingle through the pegs. Hopefully the vibration will smooth out a bit as the miles are increased. The bike looks very um, ‘individual´ with the large air scoops on the tank hiding the oil coolers and the strange looking front mudguard.

It looks very purposeful from the side and front, but from the rear looks plain weird. The paintwork could be deeper and the chrome of a higher quality, and as for the decals on the tank, well I am surprised they didn’t fall off after the first cleaning, a very poor detail. Switchgear is typically BMW with individual indicator switches, which even I still get confused with, particularly when trying to cancel mid roundabout.


The bike is great fun to ride, can be hustled around twisty bits of road with no problem, and is comfortable and economical. It is fast enough to be enjoyable, but not too fast to be unusable and in danger of losing your licence. It makes a good tourer in that you can cruise down to your destination, take the panniers off when you get there and then enjoy the twisties. Definitely worth a test ride.

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Vital Statistics
Engine Four stroke, flat twin cylinder, air cooled 4 valves per cylinder
cc 1130
Claimed power (bhp) 85bhp @6750 Torque 98 Nm @5250
Transmission 6 speed, shaft final drive
Cycle parts
Front tyre 120/70, 17 inch diameter
Rear tyre 170/60 17 inch diameter
Front suspension Telelever
Rear suspension Paralever
Front Brakes Twin 320mm front discs
Rear Brakes Four piston calipers, single 276mm
Weight 218kg
Top speed 126mph
Fuel capacity 20.4 litres
Fuel consumption 53mpg combined cycle
Buying Info
Current price £6,795