All right, you asked!
I bought mine immediately as they became available in April 2009. I have owned lots of bikes (14 new ones just the past 4 years), I always have at least 5 in my garage, but there is always one that is my main transportation, the one I ride practically every day (I don't use a car since I can't stand four wheeled vehicles). My fully loaded S was purchased for that role.
She now has ~12K miles - mostly commuting, occasional long trips, rides up to Santa Barbara every few weeks, I even rode her to the track and back once (but rode a different bike on the track
Here is my review after one year of ownership:
- The engine: absolutely fantastic. The power is intoxicating, the acceleration bordering on the insane. Low RPM fueling is not perfect (like the S1000RR, for example) but not too bad - just the slightest hint of hesitation on pickup at times. Overall, however, the fueling is great. The bike is also surprisingly frugal for such a monster - I am a bodybuilder (a little over 6', over 245 lbs. at the moment) and even with my heavy ass and crazy right hand the bike gets around 45 mpg with mixed riding.
- The brakes: superb. Until I got the S1000RR I didn't think a motorcycle could stop better than the S does. The ABS is the best I've ever experienced - it never intrudes, and when it activates it is to save your ass. Smooth, efficient, powerful and modulable. If you push it really hard you can get a bit of fade (she's not a light bike, after all) but for general use you can't wish for more.
- Traction control: a bit crude (compared to the S1000RR, definitely) but still better than nothing - it is a life saver when you ride a beast this powerful in the rain or ice. The most fun thing about it is its anti-wheelie/anti-spin that, combined with the quickshifter, lets you take off from stopped by dumping the clutch, throttle wide open, and then bang the upshifts while the world literally warps around you. Just make sure you hold on tight...
- Handling: I love it. This was my first bike with the para/tele suspension, and it just freaking works. Some people complain about lack of feedback - which is fair, you do not get as much info back from the frontend as you do with a conventional fork, but the added stability midcorner and the immediacy and precision with which cornering is initiated are worthwhile tradeoffs on a bike primarily intended for road use. The suspension is a big part of it, but the chassis is really what makes the handling so exceptional. The K1300S is supremely well balanced, stable and it is fun
in the corners because it is so predictable (once you learn to trust it).
- Shaft drive: this was the first bike I ever bought with a shaft, and I swear to you if it weren't that I see it when I dismount I'd forget it's even there. Lash is almost non existent, and overall the bike is very smooth. There is, to be fair, a bit of shaft-induced vibration at ~7K RPM and higher, but nothing too bad and generally you don't go that high in the revs for very long (the road tends to end, with your license...
). You cruise at 90 mph at around 4K RPM in 6th, and believe me, if the need arises you do not need to downshift to let her rip!
- ESA II electronic suspension: do not buy it without it. Once again, the BMW gadgets actually work
. The ability to adjust the rear shock at the touch of a button is amazingly useful if you ride the bike in a variaty of situations. There is this section of 101 freeway between Camarillo and Ventura here in Souther California where the surface is bumpy in a way that seems designed to crush your teeth if you are on a sportbike. I have taken it on a whole bunch of bikes - the worst ever was my Ducati 1098 and its brutally stiff suspension, those few miles I swear were enough to give me a splitting headache and make my nuts go numb. Normally I keep the K1300S in Sport mode, with rider + luggage selected (I can't stand soft bikes - I like 'em stiff and handling well). I remember the first time I got to that section of road and, sure enough, the shaking and chattering was starting... I reached for the button, switched to "Comfort" and literally felt as if the road was being smoothed out under me. Holy shit that was awesome!
Totally worth the money, believe me...
- Ergonomics: perfection. To me and my body this is the ultimate motorcycle. Mine is stock, and I can literally ride all day without a hint of pain or discomfort. Some people find more upright bikes to be better suited to their bodies, but that is certainly not hte case with me. I could not sit upright for hours at end and be comfortable, a bike is no different. The not-too-forward but still half-fetal position of the K1300S is perfect for me. Reach to the bars is comfortable but sporty and it allows for spirited cornering when needed, there is plenty of leg room, wind protection is excellent. Even the passenger accomodation is good, if you need to carry someone. The electronic suspension helps tremendously here too.
- Others: every detail about the bike is useful and works great. The (easily adjustable) headlight is the best I've ever had on a motorcycle, the heated grips make winter riding a pleasure, the electronic tire pressure and oil level monitoring are great peace of mind. The dash is readable, informative and the auto-adjusting backlighting is flawless.
- Problems: the initial run of K1300S had two common issues: stalling and failing switchgear. My bike never had a stalling problem (maybe twice the first month I had it, never an issue since) but I understand some owners were unhappy back then. I have not heard anything about it in a long time, so I assume the problem has been resolved (like I said, never an issue for me...). The faulty switchgear was replaced as part of a recall a few months back. Mine failed twice (indicator switch and high beam stopped working) the first month - was replaced once, then again for the recall and I have not had a problem since. The new BMW "traditional" switchgear is actually quite clever (it is fully modular, CAN compatible and it has no wires at all) but the initial run had some defect that caused them to fail after a short time. All fixed now and none of the new bikes have those issues anymore.
- Quality: my bike is well over a year old, and while 12K miles might not seem like much for a daily all-year rider, you must consider that I ride the other bikes as well and, most of all, that in October 2009 while riding home at night I was t-boned by a 16 year old moron (he had gotten his license that morning, and had four friends in the car). I hit the rear of the idiot's car at well over 50 mph, rolled for a while and when I came to a stop the bike had slid all the way onto the sidewalk. I always wear full gear (and I mean full: one piece leather suit, back protector, gloves, boots, helmet) so I walked away unhurt other than a seriously swollen foot (but not broken), and even more amazingly the bike only received cosmetic damage. The fairings on the left side were destroyed, but the frame and shaft didn't even have a scratch! The kid was 100% at fault, of course, and at the end the dealer replaced the fairings, left handlebar, mirrors, windshield, pegs and shifter, a chip that got smashed in the collision, etc. but that was it, no major damage at all! Luckily, I had replaced the little plastic cover on the shaft drive with a slider from R&G because I thought it "looked cool"
It was literally ground down to nothing as the bike slid on it for 30 feet or so. If it weren't for that thick piece of plastic I am sure the shaft would have been in really bad shape. Of course I got another one as soon as I got the bike back (you can see it in the recent picture below). The worst part of it all was that it took 2 months for all the parts to come in from Germany (I was not happy about that) but at least the bike was back to perfect afterwards.
At the end, the bike was int he aforementioned collision, it has been in the rain, in the freezing cold up in the mountains, in thick fog, even in a dust storm and a crazy ash cloud during the brushfires last year, yet it looks and rides like new. The paint is still perfect, the plastics are black and deep - she looks awesome. That shoudl be a testament to exceptional build quality, I think.
So... here's the short version of my review: my 2009 BMW K1300S is the greatest single motorcycle I've ever owned. If I only could have one bike, she would have to be it. There are other bikes that are better at specific things (like my incredible S1000RR) but nothing comes close to the big K as an all 'rounder
. She is the perfect blend of comfort, fun, practicality, insane speed, gadgets, quality and frugality. She was my first BMW ever, my first bike with a shaft drive, first bike with heated grips...
I truly, honestly love it and I can't imagine you not loving one if you decide to buy it.