In 1989, BMW released a motorcycle that shocked the motorcycle world. That bike was the BMW K1 and it was surprising for two reasons, its performance and the fact that it was built by BMW. At the time BMW had been known for making solid, reliable bikes but they were uninspired and dull. The K1 broke that mold and led to the present day BMW line up that includes many performance oriented machines such as the K1200S and K1200R.
At the time the K1 was built, a voluntary limit of 100 bhp restricted the power output of German motorcycles. In order to obtain the maximum amount of performance from the K1 BMW engineers decided to wrap the motorcycle in an all encompassing aerodynamic fairing. This decision also made a statement that in the future BMW would make bikes that were not only reliable but were exciting both to look at and to ride.
The K1 was powered by a 987cc, liquid cooled, double overhead cam, 16 valve inline four cylinder engine that produced 100 bhp at 8000 rpm. It used a five speed transmission and a shaft final drive. The engine sat in a tubular steel space frame. The suspension included a telescopic front and a mono shock rear. Twin disc brakes on the front and a single disc on the rear provided stopping power. The bike was a bit on the heavy side tipping the scales at 570 lbs. While being the sportiest and most powerful bike ever built by BMW, it was still not as powerful or fast as its contemporaries. It didn't possess gobs of torque at low speeds and the engine wasn't a fire breather but it did pull linearly up to its 8500 rpm redline. The bike excelled as a sports tourer and was at its best when traveling long distances at high speeds.
Like its motor, the big BMW's handling was not razor sharp but was adequate enough to get the job done. The K1 was heavy and required a moderate amount of force on the handlebars to turn, which proved to be advantageous for its role as a high speed touring motorcycle. The K1 could go all day on straight or long sweeping curves but when the road got twisty the K1 had to slow its pace to negotiate the turns.
The fairing of the K1 made long distance rides very comfortable. It did an excellent job of diverting the wind. The bike had great fuel economy and a long range. All in all the K1 was a great high speed touring motorcycle but it did have one drawback. It was sorely lacking in luggage space. The BMW K1 was not a pure sports bike but it was a success as a sports touring motorcycle. It was the first motorcycle to break the traditional BMW mold and led to the innovating and exciting bikes the company now makes.