The nineT is a machine that can reignite a passion for biking. It provides a touch of rebellion, as well as a beautiful mix of vintage and retro. It’s out of the box, but it also uses BMW’s immense knowhow to create a unique bike that bares all. Read our detailed BMW Motorrad R NineT Review to know more about this motorcycle.
What’s better than celebrating an important birthday with a nice gift? Maybe that’s what the engineers in Munich were thinking when they decided to call their new creation R nineT. The pronunciation is ‘ninety,’ which is how long the Bavarian manufacturer has been producing motorcycles. This anniversary was celebrated at the Milan Motor Show in 2013 (in fact, the first motorcycle for BMW was the R32 in 1923).
R for Roadster
We are in a luxurious garage in Monte Carlo, ready to ride on the roads of the French Riviera on the back of the new ‘naked’ Bavarian motorcycle. Before we begin our BMW Motorrad R NineT Review, we scan it very carefully, and are impressed by the attention to detail – even on components that are not usually noticed. It looks and feels like a well-built motorcycle with its solid construction. The appeal is certainly not lacking, especially with its cafe racer tail end. But this one has something different, and we can’t put our finger on it. This BMW radiates strange and attractive feelings that drive us to touch it. Unlike conventional bikes, the NineT is not an R 1200 R with a change in styling and components. On the contrary, it’s a new type of motorcycle – designed and built to be exactly what it is. Something that’s intended to break the mould!
The new German roadster is equipped with the penultimate version of the double overhead camshaft (DOHC) boxer engine – the one with the mixed air and oil cooling system, capable of delivering 110bhp at 7,550rpm. However, the engine is not a copy-paste job from the R 1200 R – for the nineT, the electronics have been revised. There are new, redesigned collectors, and a charming double silencer – which is also much lighter than a conventional exhaust. The gear ratios have been shortened using those of another BMW icon, the GS ‘triple black.’ The goal was to emphasize the character and power distribution of the boxer engine.
The frame of the nineT is also brand new, made of four modular parts that are able to accommodate a conventional suspension system, in place of BMW’s Telelever suspension – which has been fitted to (almost) all the boxer-engined motorcycles from BMW since 1993. The front forks are the ones fitted to BMW’s super-sports motorcycle, the S 1000 RR – of course, with specific calibration changes to suit this application. It certainly seems strange to see a BMW boxer engined bike with conventional front forks, as if our nineT first passed through the clutches of an imaginative trainer.
The modular frame also provides the ability for customers to configure and customise the bike according to their taste and personal needs. The idea is to provide a kind of ‘blank sheet of paper’ to all those who wish to customize their bikes – starting with the front suspension. In addition, the entire electrical system is free of fuses, and is assisted by a control unit that can ‘accept’ the installation of aftermarket accessories supplied with 12V power. The standard exhaust, by Akrapovic, offers the possibility to remove the noise restrictor in order to satisfy even the lovers of louder, more masculine exhaust notes.
The tank is a true work of art – all-aluminium, it’s assembled in Berlin by master welders and finished with a beautiful matte black paint that becomes brighter after applying a transparent coat of lacquer. The two ‘side pods,’ made with some craftsmanship, are left unpainted. Even the cover of the snorkel intake air filter box is made of aluminium.
Now it’s time to verify whether the feeling of riding the nineT is as good as the visual sensation it provides. The riding position is a return to the past. We’re sitting ‘above,’ and not ‘in’ the bike. The seat is hard, and the handlebar is really wide. But it takes just a few miles to get used to it. Starting it up, we can feel a wince. It’s our heart that trembles! The nineT emits a dull hum, and the engine revs very fast. Everything has been planned to enhance the low and mid range of the bike. We change gears in fast succession to taste the engine’s response – that, in this version, seems to live a new life. We retry at a slightly higher speed, and there are no issues – not even a jerk. Truly amazing!
In the first part of this road test, the curves of the road make us appreciate the large handlebar, but it’s only when the road opens up that the feeling of riding this nineT becomes exponentially better. The BMW roadster closely follows the set trajectory. Although it could be more responsive during rapid direction changes – this could be due to a fork that’s a little too fast in returning. It’s a pity that the nineT’s front suspension lacks adjustment. To improve the response, you can work on the oil or change the springs, but it would have been reasonable to expect at least a couple of settings. The rear shock is adjustable though, and immediately we removed a bit of preload. After that, you can immediately feel the difference – with a softer reaction at the rear.
Ride the nineT in a smooth manner, and it provides a great feeling of control and confidence. Braking is also up to the task. Beautiful and effective, Brembo’s mono-block caliper is supported by Bosch’s excellent ABS system. This is the only concession that the nineT provides to electronics.
Maybe what we liked most about this roadster is the beautiful mix of vintage and retro – being both out of the box, but also using the immense know-how of BMW to create a truly unique bike that bares all. Its defects are immediately noticeable, as are its strengths. The new BMW nineT’s engineering has given way to its design, and this has allowed them to create not only an attractive but also a true bike.
A pure bike, which we believe can awaken the passion of those who, for various reasons, have moved away from two wheels but still remember when bikes ‘were made well.’ But, the nineT can also draw in the stylish younger bikers – who would prefer the strong character of this bike (which can also be ridden wearing a leather jacket and a café racer helmet), instead of the more practical R 1200 R. For some (but not for everybody) a bike is first of all a matter of style. And it’s to them that the nineT is meant to appeal.
The large fuel tank of the nineT is made entirely of aluminium. In the photo above, you can appreciate the fact that the area which gets squeezed between the knees is not painted, exposing a brushed metal finish. The effect is quite spectacular
BMW R Ninet
1,170cc, air and oil
cooling, 12:1 compression ratio, DOHC overhead camshafts
8 valves electronic fuel injection with two 50mm throttle bodies
wet sump lubrication
dry clutch, 6-speed gearbox
Electronic controls managed by the rider
Trellis frame of steel tubes with an integrated engine, 25.5° tilt steering head, 102.5mm trail, 46mm upside-down front suspension fork, monoshock rear suspension with
adjustable spring preload and hydraulic shock absorber (compression and rebound)
Front: two 320mm discs
radially mounted 4 piston calipers
265mm rear disc
ABS as standard
Front: 120/70 ZR17
Rear: 180/55 ZR17
Seat height: 785
17 litre tank
Weight in running
110bhp @ 7,550rpm
119Nm @ 6,000rpm
AS YOU WANT ME
The nineT comes with a rear seat and passenger foot pegs. Then, if you decide to ‘undress’ it… well, you are free to do so. Just remove a few screws to take off the rear structure, and the nineT becomes a fascinating bike in perfect café racer style. You can also remove the final part of the seat, but that configuration is not homologated for road use. The exhaust of the bike is standard with a double silencer bottom, and is Akrapovic branded. There is the optional single pipe type, to be mounted above (removing the passenger sub frame) or below. Other special items are not shown in the photos – the front cover of the engine in carbon fiber, the tank pad rubber, the LED kit, heated handlebar grips, antitheft system, protection heads in aluminium, tank bag, rear bag, and antitheft oil plug, can all be added.
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