BMW R NineT: Review

There is a feeling of change sweeping through the motorcycling world. While buyers are still interested in sportsbikes like the S1000RR or ZX-10R, the Supersport class is all but dead and naked bikes are rapidly becoming the new trendsetters. However, while super nakeds catch the headlines within this group is a rapidly burgeoning sub-culture of customisation, garnished with beards, tattoos and all the rest.

NineT designed to be easily customisable
NineT designed to be easily customisable
Old-school is all well and good but just labelling something retro as a way of masking poor performance and a lack of engineering isn't the way forward. And neither is building a 'retro' bike that is a poor imitation of the iconic machine it is modelled on. Some modern bikes are actually less powerful than their long-dead inspirations for goodness sake. What's the point in that?

Modern retro
With the R NineT (the name is a nod towards BMW's 90th anniversary), BMW has been very clever. Avoiding the obvious retro path it's instead built a fantastic looking machine claimed to encapsulate the spirit and philosophy of pure motorcycling.

Rather than simply building an old shonker, BMW has given itself scope to add quality equipment to make a bike that handles and performs like a modern naked, but looks infinitely cooler for retro fans. A combination that most certainly floats PH2's boat both in terms of style and performance. It is, quite simply, bloody brilliant.

No water cooling for this boxer twin
No water cooling for this boxer twin
Built with passion
Anyone who went to the Motorcycle Show in Brum will know pictures simply can't do the BMW justice. Even under the show's fluorescent lights the NineT looked fabulous. Add Spanish sun and the key in your hand and it is little short of drop dead gorgeous.

When you walk around the bike (mine had the accessories seat and bullet pillion cover) you can't help but admire the little details. The BMW logo in the centre of the light, the ease at which the tail unit and pillion peg hangers simply unbolt, the quality of the fasteners and, best of all, the completely pointless but wonderfully cool old style BMW frame badge. That's the great thing about the NineT, despite the fact it is stripped down to its very bare bones, BMW hasn't skimped on any components or features that will add to its heritage or appeal.

When you speak to the NineT's project leader, Roland Stocker, you can see why. Pony tailed and wearing a lumberjack shirt (the shirt is part of the BMW clothing range, the pony tail isn't), Roland spends most of his time fiddling with old-school bikes. The NineT is the bike Roland wanted to build and he is heavily into the whole scene. As such the NineT is authentic, built by a proper enthusiast. And one who was prepared to stick up for himself.

Roland Stocker - his heart and soul is in NineT
Roland Stocker - his heart and soul is in NineT
No compromise
With the NineT Roland had a very clear impression of what the bike needed to be and that's why it is lacking virtually all electronic gadgetry. No traction control, fuel modes, power modes or even water-cooling. ABS was allowed, but only on the insistence that it wasn't linked front and back so that the rider could impress their mates with a burnout or two. But when a modern part improved the feel or spirit of the bike, such as the handling, then that wasn't an issue, which is why the NineT has radial brakes and inverted forks from the S1000RR (minus any form of adjustment). But as with any bike the true feel comes from the motor and in the case of the NineT its the old air/oil-cooled GS engine, complete with the off-road bike's lower gearing on the shaft drive for a bit of poke. And the NineT certainly has some guts...

Old school flyer
Hit the starter on the pleasingly minimal switchgear and the boxer engine burbles into life with real throatiness. There is the familiar side to side sway that the older engine came with (reduced in the water-cooled motor) and even a very pleasing clunk as first gear is engaged. The older boxer always had a clunky gearbox, something that suits the NineT down to the ground. It's character- rather than shudder-inducing like an old Brit single's gearbox.

If the look is retro the hardware is anything but
If the look is retro the hardware is anything but
While the seat unit is fairly minimal, it isn't uncomfortable and the flat bars are also nicely placed. BMW could have gone all retro and slapped on clip-ons like the hideously uncomfortable Ducati Sport Classic, but thankfully they designed this as a bike to ride. And judging by the pace Roland sets off at, he likes to ride bikes fairly rapidly.

Modern performer
Get the hammer down and the NineT handles really nicely. On some twisty coastal roads with just a metal barrier separating us from a lot of air and jagged rocks below, the NineT was fabulous. The boxer engine is stacked full of low down drive (it will happily wheelie in second with a bit of clutch as encouragement), which is what you would expect, but it was the chassis that impressed me the most. The forks give excellent feedback and the harder you push the NineT the better it gets. Scrub some speed, chuck it into a corner and then nail the throttle on the exit, this was an old-school ride at its very best but on a bike that performed like a modern machine. After about 10 minutes on the NineT I was grinning from ear to ear. BMW has made an absolute winner and sales are already reflecting this fact.

Retro frame plate typical of attention to detail
Retro frame plate typical of attention to detail
Join the queue
BMW has already sold out of nearly every NineT it can make and dealers are screaming for more stock. Not that it will do them much good, even factory workers in Berlin will have to wait until 2015 until they can buy one! And dealers PH2 spoke to back up both the demand and short supply. Will this dent its popularity? I think not.

The NineT is an exclusive machine that won't go out fashion as it is already retro styled. If the fashion passes, the NineT will remain a very cool looking bike with the potential for some seriously off the wall personalisation. As BMW has given this bike modern handing and a fairly modern engine, the NineT isn't just a garage ornament, it is a bike to be ridden. And if Roland is anything to go by, ridden hard!

1,170cc, air/oil-cooled boxer twin
Power: 110hp@7,750rpm
Torque: 88lb ft@ 6,000rpm
Top speed: 140mph (est)
Weight: 222kg (wet)
MPG: 53mpg (est)
Price: £11,600

Some onboard footage here.


P.H. O'meter

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Comments (59) Join the discussion on the forum

  • V8 FOU 29 Jan 2014

    Proper bike. Well done BMW for producing a quality, electronics reduced machine. No wonder they are in short supply.

    Isn't or wasn't Roland Stocker the man who makes wheels / controls / etc for Harleys? That is good quality stuff.

  • srob 29 Jan 2014

    Nice write up of a nice bike smile


    Article said:
    The older boxer always had a clunky gearbox, something that suits the NineT down to the ground. It's character- rather than shudder-inducing like an old Brit single's gearbox.
    ... I'm not sure you'd agree after a little spin on the KTT. The gearbox is riflebolt action compared to the 'box in my old man's old R80RT!

  • BristolLee 29 Jan 2014

    "PH2 rides the BMW Nine T, shortly after does celebratory wheelie"

    Lies! Everyone knows you can't wheelie a shaftie! wink

  • RumpleFugly 29 Jan 2014

    Have been keeping an eye on this for ages, hoping they wouldn't cock it up. I think I've found my new daily rider!

    So will this be the last new air/oil cooled BMW boxer?

    This could well be contender for the 'future bike investement' thread

  • Hammerhead 29 Jan 2014

    Sehr, sehr schön. Mögen!

    Yeah, it's not bad, is it hehe

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