BMW R nineT Racer and R nineT Pure Ride Review

BMW releases a pair of more affordable spinoffs from the R nineT platform

2017 BMW R nineT Racer
2017 BMW R nineT RacerJon Beck

With the “classic heritage” motorcycle craze continuing to move along at full steam, manufacturers are scrambling (pun intended) to create new models styled after this increasingly popular genre. BMW has been exploiting its own rich past via the very adaptable R nineT boxer twin platform that has already given birth to several hot-selling current models.

For 2017, BMW has released two new versions of its successful R nineT "oilhead" boxer: the R nineT Racer and the R nineT Pure. The R nineT Racer harkens back to the days of the original R90S of the '70s and '80s with its stretched-out cafe racer ergos, slinky half fairing, and solo tailpiece. The R nineT Pure is actually a more conventional take on the R nineT, with styling slanted more toward the '70s and '80s, and comes with a full catalog of optional components and accessories to fully customize the bike to your individual tastes.

2017 BMW R nineT Pure
2017 BMW R nineT PureJon Beck

Both bikes use the R nineT’s classic 1,170cc DOHC oilhead boxer twin, so while the claimed 110 hp doesn’t sound that impressive on the spec sheet, the claimed 86 pound-feet of torque makes up for that in the real world. There’s plenty of responsive grunt anywhere past 3,000 rpm that gets either bike moving forward smartly at the twist of the surprisingly long-turn throttle. Like the original R nineT, the Racer and Pure models aren’t bristling with electronic rider aid trickery, though ABS is standard, and BMW’s ASC traction control is available as an option.

2017 BMW R nineT Racer/Pure
Left: The R nineT Racer has a classic-looking analog speedometer and tachometer in the cockpit. The tiny windscreen is more for style than function. Right: The Pure's cockpit is basically that: not much more than a speedometer with a small LCD info panel. The conventional handlebar has a medium rise for upright ergos, though the thinly padded seat keeps things from getting too comfy.Courtesy of BMW

Despite their budget-conscious origins, the Racer/Pure’s nonadjustable 43mm conventional fork and single shock with rebound damping and spring preload adjustability do a good job of soaking up nasty urban pavement while keeping the chassis under control. Granted, we didn’t exactly run through any canyon roads at a heated pace during our half-day ride, but the few twisty portions of road we did encounter were attacked with zeal, and we met with no issues. And while the R nineT Pure’s intended customer obviously won’t be looking for back-road scratching at every opportunity, the Racer rider—as the model name and nice-looking BMW Racing white/blue/red livery imply—likely will want to relive the R90S heritage through canyon roads. The brakes were also more than up to the task, with the dual Brembo four-piston calipers and 320mm disc combination with ABS hauling both bikes down from speed with authority when desired.

Once you get beyond the engine and chassis/running gear though, the R nineT Racer and R nineT Pure are about as different as chalk and cheese.

As you’d expect from a bike with a competition-style moniker, the R nineT Racer’s ergos are classic cafe racer, with a very long reach to the bars that stretches you out over the elongated tank, putting a lot of weight on your wrists. Similarly, the footpegs are positioned fairly high and rearward to complement the natural race-jockey stance. And don’t expect much wind protection from the sleek frame-mounted half-fairing, as the windscreen is little more than a dress accessory.

2017 BMW R nineT Pure
2017 BMW R nineT PureCourtesy of BMW

By contrast, the R nineT Pure is just that: the basic R nineT package distilled down to its original roadster essence. No racy bodywork or scrambler underpinnings—just a stripped-down version that is very similar to the first R nineT of three years ago. The riding position is very upright standard style, which seems comfortable until the firmly padded saddle has your behind yelling for mercy after 30 minutes.

What will likely be one of the bigger appeals of both the R nineT Racer and Pure is the price. Due to substituting a conventional fork and standard-mount brake calipers along with other omissions and substitutions, the Racer and Pure come in several thousands under their other R nineT brethren. The R nineT Pure starts at $11,995, while the R nineT Racer stickers at $13,295. Either way you look at it, these two are probably the best editions yet of BMW’s classic roadster.

2017 BMW R nineT Racer
2017 BMW R nineT RacerJon Beck
2017 BMW R nineT Racer/Pure
MSRP: $13,295/$11,995
Type: Air-/oil-cooled, DOHC opposed twin
Displacement: 1170cc
Bore x stroke: 101.0 x 73.0mm
Compression ratio: 12.0:1
Induction: BMS-MP, 50mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl.
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Metzeler Roadtec Z8
Rear tire: 180/55ZR-17 Metzeler Roadtec Z8
Rake/trail: 27°/4.7 in. (118mm)
Wheelbase: 58.8 in. (1493mm)
Seat height: 31.7 in. (820mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.5 gal. (17L)
Claimed wet weight: 485 lb. (221kg)/483 lb. (214kg)