Nick Zarras | Managing Editor
BMW had a 15.2% increase in sales last year with a record of 123,000 motorcycles sold worldwide. They added new motorcycle models and increased their target market coverage. One key addition was the BMW R nineT. The BMW air cooled boxer engine has been upgraded for the R 1200 GS, the R 1200 RT and the R 1200 R. But this air/oil cooled boxer engine is still very viable in its present configuration. The low center of gravity provides great stability in winds and the air/oil cooled system is a simple, proven design. So why use this for the BMW R nineT? Simplicity, low weight and a proven platform form the basis for this new format “naked” bike. There has been a resurgence of nostalgia for aesthetics of retro-designs. But going out and finding an older bike and restoring it can be a long painstaking process which could cost more than a new bike. So BMW created the retro-design R nineT, featuring simplicity of design, modern reliability and handling, a bike that attracts due to its pure styling. You can have your old school to look at and new school to live with. The best of both worlds.
When you approach the BMW R nineT it seems like a nice compact package, smaller than the R 1200 R. Standard nonswitchable ABS provides a safety measure for the hooligan in you. There is an LED Multifunction Display and fuel injection. The features found on R, RT and GS models like traction control, ride modes, quickshifter and heated grips are not part of the R nineT’s US package.
Siting on the stock R nineT shows comfortable handlebar ergonomics. The upside down front forks are from the S 1000 R/RR. The front has a single round headlight to finish up the “naked” bike style. The seat sits comfortably behind a hand-finished aluminum tank. The steel-trellis frame, fenders, shock, fork internals, headlight, tank, seat, and mufflers are new, but the engine, clutch, transmission, drivetrain and wheels come from the established BMW parts bin.
Ergonomically the foot pegs are well placed. The wide handlebars are set for comfort and leverage in the turns. The R nineT is a trim package. The standard 1,170cc 110 hp/88 lb-ft torque air/oilcooled flat twin ‘Boxer’ 4-stroke engine provides plenty of power to this 489 pound motorcycle.
The R 1200 R styling peeks through but the R nineT has its own cool design elements. In this road test I get to test two versions. One was the stock R nineT. The other a custom R nineT created by Steve Avalos of BMW Motorcycles of Las Vegas. I will call the custom model the Rizoma R nineT. The Rizoma R nineT has a multitude of custom bolt ons that harken back to the design era of London’s Ace Café, where riders brought in their custom naked bikes to the frequent gatherings. Aesthetically the R nineT has classic style, but with up-to-date performance and reliability.
The instrument cluster on the R nineT is simpler than the other R series motorcycles. It consists of two analog gauges, a speedometer on the left and a tachometer on the right. Between them is the Multifunction Display (MD) and warning and indicator lamp display. There are two buttons under the display. The one on the left selects the trip 1 or 2, or total distance odometer on the MD. On the left handle grip is an INFO button. It is next to the 4-way-flasher. On the MD it selects average speed, average fuel mpg and range to empty displays. The MD will also display max mileage until next service. The one on the right just sets the clock on the MD. The MD also has an easy to read gear indicator. The tachometer has an ambient light sensor that adjusts instrument lighting and has an ABS warning light. On the speedometer you have warning lights for battery and fuel reserve.
The R nineT is all about the new “naked” customer base. The 32 inch seat height is easy to mount. Seat contour and placement to the handlebars are comfortable and upright for a greater long distance ride. Seating comfort is good.
The front suspension is a carryover from the S 1000 R/RR with an upsidedown 46mm fork with compression and rebound stage adjustment. The rear is a single-sided swing arm with BMW Motorrad Paralever, central spring strut, spring pre-loaded hydraulically adjustable with rebound damping adjustments. Both have 4.7 inches of travel which provides a well-controlled yet comfortable ride. The 3.5” x 17” front and 5.5” x 17” rear wheels are a carryover from the R 1200 R. Tires are 120/70 ZR17 front and 190/55 ZR17 rear. The wet weight of 489 pounds gives it a playful feel on the road. The R nineT has BMW Motorrad ABS standard. The front brakes are dual floating brake discs, 320mm diameter, with Brembo 4-piston radial calipers. The rear assembly has a single 265 mm diameter disc brake with a two piston floating caliper. On the road the braking was powerful yet had great feel. The power capacity is 600 watts providing you plenty of power for heated gear.
I had two days to ride the R nineT and Rizoma R nineT. On the BMW R nineT test day it was a lovely 60 degree day and sunshine so I took it to Lake Shore Drive in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The easy ergonomics, and comfortable seat made the long distance test a pleasure. On the road the sound from the Akrapovic-made exhaust was right on with the design objectives, brawny but not excessive. It will announce your presence but not excessively. The R nineT was very agile, with the smooth engine performance from its proven pre-2015 R 1200 R engine. The BMW boxer engine provided plenty of real world acceleration and the handling on this lighter weight platform both for the highway and on the sweeping low traffic lake shore drive roads was excellent. The 65 pound-feet of torque was available just above 2700 rpms, and with the 110 hp it had plenty of power for those higher speed merges on the Nevada highways or fast passes on single lane back roads. A rider can sample the bike’s maximum 88 lb-ft of torque between 4500-6500 rpms with an optimum shift point around 5700 rpms. But for real world touring, the engine will pull easily from 3000 rpms up to maximum rpms. The engine map allows throttle roll on, without complaint, from as low as 2000 rpms all the way to redline. Shifting, throttle response and braking all mimic the classic R 1200 R. This “naked” bike can be used as a sport-touring platform as well.
Even though the R nineT does not have all the options one might expect on other BMW motorcycle platforms, it remains an enjoyable bike to ride. The bikes ergonomics were easy to adapt to. The lack of “toys” to play with let me concentrate on just enjoying the ride. With its 4.8 gallon tank and observed 42 plus mpg on the test run it will provide you 168 miles to its .8 gallon low level light. It is a fun platform that will appeal to men and women of most any stature. It’s light weight and easy handling makes it a great first bike or a keeper. The MSRP of this “Black Storm Metallic” edition with destination charges is $15,885.00.
On the Rizoma R nineT test day Steve Avalos and I went out to Red Rock National Conservation Area. It was 56 degrees and heavy overcast. The Rizoma R nineT has all the mechanical characteristics of the base R nineT with the exception of the lower bar design ergonomics and the custom design. On the road the handling is the same except for riding position. The forward low bars puts you just above the tank. You are now in a lower profile view of the road. Its handling mirrored the stock R nineT in curves. It was a lot of fun to ride as a “vicarious Ace Café Rocker”. The seat configuration is comfortable.
The Rizoma R nineT has the following options: rear plate delete, carbon head protectors, stainless front fender, stainless rear fender, stainless intake tip, billet exhaust tips, triple clamp cover, swingarm plate holder, billet gas door, rear plate support, clip on bar kit, Club S LED light w/wiring, Spy R Bar End mirrors w/adapters, aluminum headlight fairing and aluminum seat cover w/pad. This custom upgrade added $4,763.45 to the price for a total dealer price of $20,648.45 (dealer fees and tax excluded).
It was a fun two day test of the BMW R nineT and Rizoma R NineT. So the question is: would you keep the R nineT stock or make it into an “Ace Café Racer?” BMW has a complete line of options to customize your R nineT. With performance, style or utility options so your R nineT can be outfitted to look like none other. The BMW R nineT gives you real world performance and handling, yet in a retro-styled platform where simplicity and livability are key.
As in all the Safe Money and Sweet Rides articles in STAReview Magazine we ask: “how is it to ride?” and “how is it to live with?” The BMW R nineT will score high in both categories. With its light weight and real world torque you could even take it on a just for fun track day (with the right tires). The stock 2015 BMW R nineT MSRP is $14,995 (including ABS). My thanks to Steve Avalos, Director of Marketing (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) for use of the Rizoma BMW R nineT bike and helping me out with the photo shoot.
I also thank Tom Evans, Sales Associate (e-mail: email@example.com) for the use of the 2014 BMW R nineT for this road test. The BMW Motorcycles of Las Vegas contact information is: phone: 702-454-6269, web: www.bmwoflasvegas.com, address: 6675 S. Tenaya Way, Las Vegas, NV 89113. Stop by and demo a BMW. They also have a full rental facility on site.
Ride Safe my friend…Clear skies, clear roads….