You know you are on something special when car drivers at traffic light intersections glance at your bike, wind down the window and give you the thumbs up. It was the same at several roadside pull-ins where I stopped for the occasional break. One owner even popped out of his burger van and asked the significance of the number 21 on the tank. Ah, that is where ignorance reared its head and I had to admit defeat, even though I should have done my research beforehand, anticipating that very same question. So when I arrived home I contacted Neil Allen, BMW Motorrad UK PR & Communications Manager.
“The number 21 is a reference to the internal model code that BMW had for the R nineT when building it,” he explained. Glancing through the manufacturer’s website, I then noted the number 719 on the side of a rather splendid red and blue coloured R nineT. This relates to the ‘Option 719’ customisation/accessories arm of BMW Motorrad, where it is possible to spec up the heritage range with some lovely paint jobs, billet packs, etc. And lovely paint jobs they are, too.
Every time I took the bike out, it reminded me of a rather excellent quote (anon) I had once read: ‘Only a biker knows why a dog sticks his head out of a car window.’ That neatly sums up my passion for this bike. It is akin to donning one’s favourite tailor-made suit, nothing being out of place, the fit perfect, the styling rather wonderful, and in this case, the ride pure pleasure. As you may have gathered, this is proving difficult to explain in any clear sense, because until you ride a bike that truly fits with your psyche, you will not understand where I am going with this line of thought. Psyche, of course, is the goddess of the soul and the spirit. It was her husband Eros, son of Aphrodite, who spread love around the world. Whilst I will not go down that road, I will spread the word about how the R nineT grabs both the soul and spirit of riding; the sound of the wind and that glorious Boxer v-twin purring like a caged animal as it sends shivers of pleasure down the spine.
Looking at the aluminium seat hump cover, which on my test bike had been fitted instead of the pillion seat and included a small splash-proof storage compartment, I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the seat was, offering a comfortable backrest pad. Should you wish to, it is possible to upgrade and make the bike more individual by getting yourself a custom rider’s seat with moulding and indicated cross steps, plus partially Alcantara look. Alongside the black with white double decorative stitching, you are treated to embroidered nineT lettering in gold. Fancy, eh!
I rode and rode, through towns and villages, across open pasturelands and through wooded glades, on A- and B-roads, finding quiet valleys and stumbling upon sleepy hamlets, dawdling behind tractors and waving at hikers, all the while clearing away the rubbish that had been festering in my head and causing me sleepless nights. Cobwebs were blown away and left to break up and die in the breeze. I labelled this bike ‘The Hedonist’, ordering up a constant quest for pleasure and satisfaction at every outing. And it never let me down.
It is somewhat of a peculiarity that this, the ‘standard’ version, sits at the top of the R nineT model variants alongside the Pure, Scrambler, Racer and Urban/GS. But then, the ergonomics are what count here, where BMW have paid special attention to the design, making sure it is the best possible for the end user, and the task to which it has been built. Balance that with other factors such as aesthetics, the market and the cost, and it all adds up to something rather special. I write this purely from a personal perspective, as this bike will not suit everyone, I know that, just like a cruiser, or an adventure bike, or a scrambler will not be to everyone’s taste. All bikes are subjective, and it just so happens that I have come across a bike that dials into my needs perfectly.
It has an unmistakeable presence and a wonderful soundtrack, the powerful air-cooled two cylinder boxer engine featuring a capacity of 1170cc and 110bhp of output, supplying the rider with a dynamic power delivery even when in slow-moving traffic. Not that you would want to be stuck in that for long, because once on the open road, the R nineT comes into its own.
As far as specs go, apart from the standard BMW Motorrad ABS and optional ASC traction control, that is about as far as it goes with rider aids. No more mods to distract you, instead leaving you with a good, old-fashioned, honest ride, the bike stripped back and ready for action. With the double instrument panel you do get an analogue speedometer and rev counter, and the brake and clutch levers are adjustable. Having said that, owners can customise the no-nonsense bike to their heart’s content.
For starters, in addition to the Black storm metallic paint finish, there are three paint finishes from the individualisation offer under the umbrella of BMW Motorrad Spezial, the most expensive being ‘Option 719’, offering a part of BMW history as a self-starter conversation, so if exclusivity is your thing, this is a good place to begin. Excluding the classic Black storm metallic colour, you could check out two new special colour variants from the customisation range: Option 719 Pollux metallic/Aluminium with classic light and dark colour mixtures, so if you are after dark and characterful, then there you have it; or opt for the perfect colour triad of Option 719 Mars red metallic matt/Cosmic blue metallic matt, with the number 719 on the tank. My test bike came with Option 19 Black storm metallic/Vintage with its unified yellow application with the starting number ‘21’, hand-brushed like the padded sides.
We are talking new levels of exclusivity and expert craftsmanship here, where you can tinker to your heart’s content, upgrading and adding personal touches as you go, provided your wallet will stretch to it, or instead simply opt for the ex works option. The possibilities are pretty much limitless as far as customisation goes, depending on your personality and vision.
The BMW R nineT is indeed a bike for all seasons. If I had been able to keep it for longer, I know I would have enjoyed a few longer distance rides, even though in reality this is a naked. I know, doesn’t make sense, does it? But at the end of the day it’s a blast, whichever way you look at it.
|Engine:||1170cc, air-cooled DOHC, flat twin (Boxer) 4-stroke|
|Power:||110hp/81kW @ 7550rpm|
|Torque:||88lb-ft/119Nm @ 6000rpm|
|Frame:||Four-section (front and three-section rear subframes)|
|Front Suspension:||Upside-down telescopic forks, 46mm fixed-fork-tube diameter|
|Rear Suspension:||Cast aluminium single-sided swing-arm with BMW Motorrad Paralever; central spring strut, spring pre-load hydraulically and steplessly adjustable via handwheel, adjustable rebound damping|
|Front Brake:||Twin disc brakes, floating discs, diameter 320mm, four-piston radial brake calipers|
|Rear Brake||Single disc brake, diameter 265mm, double-piston floating caliper|
|Front tyre:||120/70 ZR17|
|Rear Tyre:||180/55 ZR17|
|Fuel capacity:||18 litres|
|Fuel economy:||53mpg (claimed)|