I’m always on the lookout for bikes which I could consider keepers. I don’t want to wax poetic about it, but someday I’d like to own that one bike I can happily grow old with. A bike I’d simply appreciate looking at while sitting at a roadside cafe. A bike I’d imagine myself riding into the sunset. That sort of thing. Having said that, a keeper bike for me is something with, preferably, an upright riding position. A comfortable bike I could ride for hours on end without breaking my back. It should also have a low enough seat height to lessen my stress during slow traffic or parking lot maneuvering. It should handle well and be powerful enough to make my remaining years on earth more exciting. But most of all it should be classy, a bike with pedigree. A bike I would be proud to pass on to my son, Matteo Nile. Right now, I can only think of a handful of bikes that fit that description, and one of them is no other than the BMW R nineT.
It may have a weird name, but believe it or not, the R nineT is actually BMW Motorrad’s way of commemorating their 90 years in the motorcycle industry, and not, as many believe, a tribute to the 1973 R90 S. But you’d be forgiven if you think it was. I for one thought it was when I first saw a prototype at the 43rd Tokyo Motor Show back in 2013. While they share more than a passing resemblance in form, the R nineT is purely a modern bike in design and function, albeit, in a modern classic clothing. And if you think it looks perfect as it is, you’d be surprised to know that BMW designed it with customization in mind. Think of it as a blank canvass, BMW has a catalog full of accessories to make your R nineT standout from the crowd, if that’s your thing.
But if you ask me, I’d be perfectly happy with a stock bike. The beautifully styled black painted aluminum fuel tank with brushed knee panels is certainly the R nineT centerpiece. But wherever you look on the bike, there are finely crafted details that will surely grab your attention; such as the aluminum front fender stays, triple clamps, air-intake shroud and headlight hanger. Even the round headlight is a joy to look at. The gold anodized inverted forks, on the other hand, gives a nice contrast to the mostly black paint job. Oh, and the R nineT only comes in that color (or the lack thereof). The black-anodized aluminum rims with silver spokes complements the overall modern-classic appeal of the bike.
The seat is flat and thinly padded but they’re surprisingly comfortable and supportive. More importantly, they’re low enough to allow me to put both feet firmly on the ground. Reach to the wide handlebars is minimal but its placement a bit low, forcing you to a slightly forward stance. There’s ample clearance between the seat and footpegs bending your knees to a comfortable yet sporty position. The retro-looking instrument pod consists of a large speedometer on the left and a similarly sized tachometer on the right. Nestled snugly in between is a T-shaped multi-info LCD screen that displays time, odometer, temp, range and gear position.
I had the opportunity to ride the R nineT extensively both on the road and on the racetrack and I should say it doesn’t disappoint one bit. Of course, don’t expect it to outperform sportbikes on the track, but with a talented rider on the saddle it can surely keep up. The pre liquid-cooled boxer-twin has plenty of punch left in them to make long-term R nineT ownership interesting. Once you push the starter-button, the flat twin roars to life and quickly settles to a smooth idle. Giving it a handful of throttle sends out a more muscular rumble than I could remember on the R1200GS, courtesy of the twin Akrapovic made mufflers. The exhaust power valve that enhances low rpm torque kicks in at higher rpm and gives out a satisfying pop and gurgle when decelerating. Typical of boxer-twin powered bikes, the R nineT rocks slightly to the left when revving the engine while at a standstill, but this is hardly noticeable while on the move. Power tapers off at 8000 rpm but getting there is the fun part because there’s plenty of low to mid-range grunt to power your way out of corners briskly.
Suspension tuning is spot on for casual road riding to moderate canyon carving. The rear suspension can be easily adjusted for preload and rebound but the front inverted fork suspenders are not. So, unlike the Telelever front suspension design of other boxer-engined Beemers, the inverted fork units on the NineT dives a little bit under hard braking, but not so much to spoil the fun. The Paralever rear final-drive system, as always, provides smooth and slack-free drive that feels directly connected to the twist-grip throttle. A boon in traffic, clutch pull is surprisingly light while the six-speed transmission is one of the smoothest I’ve tested so far. The gearing, though, feels a bit shorter compared to the R1200GS, allowing the R nineT to accelerate from a standstill with more urgency. Aside from the ECU, the only electronic trickery on the R nineT is the ABS, which controls the braking pressure from the master cylinder to the steel-braided brake lines down to the radially mounted Brembo calipers, and they work brilliantly on the road and at the track.
After a few days riding the R nineT, I came to the conclusion that it’s definitely a keeper bike. It’s a pared down motorcycle that echoes the design principles of the early BMW boxer-twins of the late 50’ and 60’s. Nothing fancy, but with loads of character that’s simply missing in most modern motorcycles, including BMWs. One ride and you’ll discover why BMW chose the tagline “pure riding”. If you ask me, the asking price of PhP 1,200,000 is relatively cheap for something that’s surely going to be a collector’s item someday. Time to save up.
Engine: Air-cooled, boxer twin, dohc, 8-valve, 4-stroke
Displacement: 1170 cc
Max Power: 110 bhp @ 7550 rpm
Torque: 88 lb.ft. @ 6000 rpm
Seat Height: 785 mm
Fuel Capacity: 18 liters
Curb Weight: 222 Kg.
Top Speed: 209.21 Km/h
Price: PhP 1,200,000
C! Editor’s Rating: 10 / 10
+ Hipster looks, attention to details, characterful motor
– Plenty of admiring looks