2014 BMW R nineT - First Ride

The Motor Works creates a Monster! With video!

2014 BMW R nineT action photo

At the press intro for the new R nineT, BMW Motorrad USA Product Manager Sergio Carvajal had a little fun with Germany's 7-1 victory over Brazil in the World Cup. Originally from futbol-mad Colombia, he listed seven things to remember plus one to forget: BMW Motorrad is no longer "the bike that my father rides."

According to BMW Motorrad's Head of Vehicle Design Ola Stenegard, the R nineT project began three years ago as a sort of back-door effort. Originally a chopper builder from Sweden, Stenegard envisioned the machine not so much as a retro cafe racer or naked bike but as a blank canvas for customization. Thus the rear frame that supports the passenger seat and footpegs comes off with just eight bolts, while the portion holding the taillight and license plate bracket comes off with another four screws. The latter transforms the bike into something of a bobber, which entails the owner adding his own taillight and license plate bracket.

The R nineT is powered by the final air-cooled version of the venerable opposed-twin Boxer engine, which in dohc form produces a claimed 110 horsepower and 88 pound-feet of torque. While the rear suspension utilizes BMW's proven Paralever shaft-drive system, up front is a traditional inverted telescopic fork; Telelever would have looked wrong on this model. Spring preload for the shock is hydraulically adjustable via an easy-to-reach knob, and there's also a stepless rebound-damping screw; the fork is non-adjustable. The two-piece seat comes off using a second “key” with an integral Torx bit to reveal a spartan toolkit.

In a word, the R nineT's styling is elegant, with many beautiful forged, glass-blasted and clear-anodized aluminum pieces such as the front fender mounts, triple-clamps, seat stays, and right-side air scoop. Even the gas tank is aluminum, brushed at the knees, painted black over the rest and clear-coated. There are no plastic covers. Continuing the theme are the gold-anodized fork legs, the white seat stitching with blue logo and the old-school riveted historical denomination plate on the headstock. The wire-spoke 17-inch wheels run Continental RoadAttack 2C tires fitted with inner tubes.

2014 BMW R nineT static side view

The only unsightly parts are the charcoal canister, the cables running to the exhaust power valve and the wires running to the fuel-injector throttle bodies. Strangely, the bike comes standard with anti-lock brakes but heated handgrips are not available; in fact, the one-and-only option is an anti-theft alarm. There is, of course, a wide range of accessories, but no windscreen, though Stenegard does not rule out the possibility of a café racer-style flyscreen in the future.

As for the model name, R nineT is meant to pay homage to BMW's 90 years in the motorcycle business, not to any one specific model. “No child looks exactly like his parents, but all have their DNA,” Stenegard explains.

The question with any custom motorcycle is how does it work? Though form often trumps function, thankfully that's not the case here. While the frame is all new—and admittedly crafted to have the right "stance" rather than the right numbers—it handles quite well. I can't remember the last time I rode a Boxer with a telescopic fork (Telelever debuted circa 1993), so the front end diving under braking is an unfamiliar sensation. I can't pinpoint whether it was due to the softly sprung fork, the conservative chassis geometry, or the shape of the front tire, but the bike did tend to stand up a bit while trail-braking into corners. And it felt subtly different in left- and right-hand bends due to inertia from the longitudinal crank. Some testers said the Brembo radial brakes felt mushy; while I wouldn't go that far, I suspect the initial bite was dulled to prevent the fork from bottoming under braking.

2014 BMW R nineT exhaust pipes

The only change to the existing Boxer drivetrain is a slightly lower (higher numerically) final drive from the police-model RT. This lets the R nineT accelerate quicker than a standard GS/R/RT, but it also makes the bike buzzier at freeway speeds. Though not debilitating, vibration is omnipresent, varying from a thrum to a tingle depending upon rpm. But the six-speed gearbox shifts better than any Boxer I recall, and the sound from the standard double-barrel Akrapovic exhaust is intoxicating.

Given its lusty twin-cylinder engine and sporty seating position, riding the R nineT is reminiscent of a Ducati Monster. Whether that was by design or by happenstance, it's not a bad thing. Ducati has sold many tens of thousands of Monsters over the years, and the R nineT looks to be following suit. Although availability is expected to be production-limited until after the 2015 selling season, it's already BMW's fourth best-selling model.

The R nineT represents a significant departure for BMW because what it has more than any of its predecessors is attitude. And not the kind that comes from pinning a roundel to your lapel.

This is not your father's BMW. Don't you forget it!

SPECIFICATIONS

2014 BMW R nineT
PRICE $14,900
ENGINE TYPE 1170cc air- and oil-cooled dohc opposed-twin
BORE & STROKE 101.0.0mm x 73.0mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 12.0:1
FUEL DELIVERY EFI
TRANSMISSION Six-speed
FINAL DRIVE Shaft
FRONT SUSPENSION 46mm inverted fork, 4.7 in. of travel
REAR SUSPENSION BMW Paralever, 4.7 in. of travel
FRONT BRAKE Dual 320mm discs
REAR BRAKE 265mm disc
FRONT TIRE 120/70ZR-17
REAR TIRE 180/55ZR-17
LENGTH 87.4 in.
WIDTH 35.0 in. (across mirrors)
SEAT HEIGHT 30.9 in.
WHEELBASE 58.1 in.
RAKE 64.5°
TRAIL 4.0 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 4.8 gal.
CLAIMED FUEL ECONOMY 52 mpg (at a constant 55 mph)
CLAIMED WET WEIGHT 489 lb.
COLORS Black Storm Metallic

R nineT lineup.

Action shot #1

Action shot #2

Action shot #3

Action shot #4

Action shot #5

Action shot #6

Action shot #7

Static left-side view.

Static right-side view.

Front view.

Overhead view.

Rear view.

Front section view.

Headlight.

Front wheel.

Manufacturer plate.

Cockpit view.

Instrument panel.

Seat.

Rear view of exhaust.

Side view of exhaust.

Static front 3/4 right-side view.