£11,600 | 110bhp@7750rpm | 88lb-ft@6000rpm | air/oil-cooled boxer twin
90 years in the making, the R nineT was inspired by the Bavarian company’s history with boxer engines. From the traditional riveted oval VIN plate, to the modern S1000RR derived forks, it’s a bike that mixes old-school design values and simplicity, with the latest handling and performance. Arguably the most desirable production café racer ever, it’s also crying out to be customised…
Tell me about the engine
This is the last air-cooled version of the 1170cc Boxer motor that’ll be produced by BMW. It’s the same one used in the previous generation R1200GS, producing 110bhp and 88lb-ft, but despite the lack of liquid-cooling, it’s certainly no slouch.
A clunky gearbox does slow things down a bit… It’s bearable, but worth a note, though the power delivery is so good that you can get away with winding the bike on in top from quite low speeds, so you don’t have to change gear all that often. The motor’s fuel injected, but it’s not fly-by-wire, so the traditional cable gives what I find to be a more tangible feel to the throttle. The twin exhausts also connect you to the bike: burbling away, they sound beautiful and you can’t help but make a few harsh down-changes to get the cans really popping on the overrun.
The tubular steel frame is carried by 41mm upside-down un-adjustable forks, and a hydraulically preload-adjustable rear shock mounted to a cast aluminium single-sided swingarm with BMW’s weight-saving Paralever: A torque rod is mounted parallel to the swingarm, and is designed to reduce the forces caused by the shaft-drive that’d result in hard suspension during acceleration. Without it, the swingarm would need to be almost 1.5 metres long.
ABS comes as standard, with dual 320mm discs up front, and a single 265mm on the rear. Tubed tyres run on stainless-steel spoked wheels, with aluminium hubs.
Unusually, BMW want the nineT to be a base for customisation. Whether using the company’s own aftermarket accessories, or others, there’s huge scope to personalise or transform the bike. For instance, the frame is built from four sections, three of which make up the rear – for solo riding, remove the subframe that carries the pillion footpegs, and opt for the rear-seat hump. Want to go further? You can take off the whole pillion frame. You’ll lose the number plate and light cluster, but there are fixing points on the swingarm for a more American-style setup.
At 785mm, the BMW’s saddle is quite low, which meant that my feet (I’m a shade under six foot) could rest firmly on the ground. Likewise, the bars aren’t overly forward-positioned and the pegs are comfortably set. This is an easy machine to ride.
The detail on the nineT is second-to-none, and it’s easy to find yourself staring, obsessively noting every neat touch, contemplating the engineering feat it took to produce such a quality finish. Even those who aren’t into bikes will find themselves appreciating the sheer beauty of this machine, which rides as good as it looks.
The retro-faced dual clocks are complemented by a contemporary, easily readable digital display. It hosts a whole load of data, including gear selection, time, trip and MPG, but it doesn’t look wrong in the slightest. In fact, nothing on the bike looks wrong or out of place, from the large hand-rivetted VIN plate (which throws a blatant styling cue to the brand’s origins), to the front headlamp’s BMW logo, which sits so smartly behind the glass outer.
The beautifully sculpted, hand-built aluminium tank isn’t simply there to catch attention; it holds an impressive 18 litres of fuel for a 200 mile-plus range. The same goes for the attractive single-seat cover, which doubles up as an easily accessible storage compartment. It’s details like these that make you realise how fit-for-purpose the Beemer really is. It’s real world.
As standard, this bike will draw people in, and it’s a terrific roadster. It’s sure to be incredibly popular with customisers though, and whether you’re looking for new lights, Akrapovič exhaust, or a total style change, it’s easy to make your mark on the bike.
So what’s it like to ride?
The initial part of the launch test-route was relatively slow paced: the roads were straight, with the only excitement being the occasional roundabout. But that was enough to realise just how agile the bike is. It flicks from right to left at such a speed that on the first corner I had to correct myself, having over-compensated for what I assumed would be a heavy handler. The introduction of flowing bends took the experience to another level, as it’s a fantastically stable bike, and I was particularly impressed at how well the suspension coped with the surface’s imperfections, delivering strong feedback at all times, whilst flowing through the apexes with ease. The faster you go, the more you find yourself hunched over the front of the bike, where there’s a real connection with the front wheel, inspiring confidence, and giving you one very big grin. The forks might not be adjustable, but BMW have got the settings bang-on.
Despite being down on power compared to the liquid-cooled lumps, the engine’s strong throughout the rev-range, and feels sporty. That spread of power makes for easy overtaking, and a more relaxing ride if you want it. Like any other naked bike, at high speed the wind (without an optional screen) is a constant reminder of your licence, but at legal limits the nineT’s a great place to be.
Tested by: Bruce Wilson
Engine: 1170cc air/oil-cooled DOHC boxer twin, eight valves
Power: 110bhp (82kW)@7750rpm
Torque: 88lb-ft (119Nm)@6500rpm
Curb weight: 222kg
Seat height: 785mm
Tank size: 18 litres