A compelling combination of existing BMW technology and new styling cues, the 2014 BMW R nineT may be just the motorcycle the German manufacturer has been looking for to freshen its image on BMW’s 90th birthday (hence, nineT).
Designed with modification in mind, the R nineT is already off to a strong start on BMW showroom floors, and once you see one in person, that is no surprise.Basically, the 2014 BMW R nineT using parts bin materials on its bottom half, and matching them with some high-end — handmade in the case of the aluminum fuel tank — bits to give it a fully distinctive look that catches eyes wherever you ride or park.Rather than the new liquid-cooled boxer found in the RT or GS 1200s, the R nineT gets the air-/oil-cooled 1170cc boxer motor that has earn a solid reputation. It’s still a DOHC design with a short-stroke motor that puts out 110 horses and has a torque peak at 6000 rpm, so the nineT is no slouch with a claimed weight of less than 500 pounds with the 4.8-gallon tank topped off.The 17-inch wire wheels, triple disc brakes, and Metzeler Roadtec Z8 Interact tube tires are previously known to BMW, as is the switchgear, levers, mirrors, instrument pod (one of the few large pieces of plastic on the nineT). One unique non-feature is that this is the only BMW that lacks grip heaters.Customizing the back of the bike is easy, as the R nineT’s rear subframe unbolts in minutes, and there are a couple of replacement options, including a ready-to-ride solo seat with café racer styling. Putting on wheels that accept tubeless tires is easy enough, as is modifying the exhaust system (BMW offers a street-legal Akrapovic muffler). The R nineT is definitely modular and ready for personalization.When sitting alone, the R nineT looks like a substantial bike. However, once you get on, the bike feels much smaller than it looks (though no less sturdy). The ergonomics will make a newer rider feel comfortable, due to a seat height under 31 inches and naturally placed footpegs. The bars are wide and have a flat bend, so you lean forward in a way that recalls the S 1000 R — upright, with a semi-aggressive stance.Around town, the BMW R nineT is flawless. The boxer has the familiar rumble, while the dual exhausts emit a friendly growl. The sound is enjoyable, and won’t offend the sensibilities of non-riders.Power is softly developed right off idle, and you can move around town all day long without revving to the torque peak at 6000 rpm. When you do feel like leaving a stoplight smartly, the power is there to make quick work of any four-wheel vehicle you’re likely to encounter.The hand controls will not wear you out in urban settings, where you’re stuck in start-and-stop traffic. The hydraulic clutch is surprisingly light for a big twin. Shifting is effortless, though neutral is occasionally elusive at a stop; there is a gear position indicator for those who find them helpful.The hand brake is also a soft touch, especially considering there are dual radially mounted calipers up front. There are few bikes we’ve ridden with a softer front brake engagement than the R nineT — you’d really have to work hard to make it grab rather than gently engage. The brake pedal is too far inboard, making it necessary to toe-in to get a good toehold on the pedal.Steering effort is neutral in the city, reflecting the manageable sub-500 pound weight and wide bars. Everything about the R nineT seems focused on ease of use. Comfort is pretty good, though the thinly padded seat will have you taking a break before the nearly five-gallon fuel tank runs dry.Of course, we can’t ignore the attention the BMW gets. Be prepared to get thumbs up at stoplights and to answer questions at gas stations and coffee bars. It’s a positive-attention grabbing motorcycle. You get everything from, “That bike is cool!” to “I want to buy one. How much does it cost?” Answer: Just shy of $15,000.Because of the difficulties of producing the hand-formed aluminum tank in great numbers, BMW doesn’t expect production to meet demand until 2016, so you will be assured a somewhat exclusive ride for the foreseeable future, making the R nineT just a bit bespoke.Back on bike, it you find yourself on the freeway, you’ll get one nice surprise — the R nineT that seemed so docile in town is willing to rip it up on the freeway. If you find yourself doing around 70 mph in sixth gear, a hard twist of the throttle will rocket you toward 100 mph far faster than you might have expected (or wanted). Roll-on rocks on the nineT.The windblast won’t be too bothersome on longer highway rides, as you’re naturally leaning into the airflow. However, that cool-looking thin seat will have its way and, as in town, you’ll need to stop long before it’s time to refill the generous tank. If your posterior can handle the seat, or you swap it out for something with longer-term comfort, range is over 200 miles under a wide variety of riding conditions.Once you make it to the twisties, the BMW R nineT is all about fun. The motor is sweet, but not overwhelming. The suspension is more than competent, but you better like it as delivered — adjustments are restricted to rear preload and rebound damping. There are traditional inverted forks up front, rather than BMW’s signature Telelever, and we’re good with that.While not overly soft, the R nineT suspension tends toward comfort over speed. Plenty of riders will be more than satisfied with the supple action, which is sportier than the R 1200 R’s suspension. If you truly want to ride hard, buy the S 1000 R instead; you’ll save yourself $1750 and go much faster.Cornering is predictable — don’t expect to throw the R nineT around. It’s a stable bike in corners, and the Metzeler Roadtec Z8 Interact tube-type tires do an admirable job within the bike’s performance parameters. Cornering clearance is good, and you have to be serious to touch down the peg feelers.If you feel the need, tubeless wheels can be installed and you can have the highest quality rubber at your beck and call. Still, you’re looking at nearly 500 pounds, a wheelbase of 58 inches, and a conservative rake of 25.5 degrees.To enjoy the BMW R nineT in the canyons, carry good corner speed and let the torque do its job. Those 88 ft/lbs at 6000 rpm are easily accessed, and will get you out of a corner smartly. Work the slick six-speed gearbox to take advantage of the early torque peak and the speed will come. Be realistic about the BMW R nineT’s canyon capabilities and you’ll be quite pleased.The 2015 BMW R nineT is a fantastic styling exercise that also happens to be a great riding motorcycle. When you look at it from a performance standpoint, it’s difficult to justify the $14,900 price. Yet, it’s flying off showroom floors and is BMW’s fourth-best selling model — production won’t meet demand for a while. If you’re into a sporty bike with a retro feel, quite a few custom-like parts made from expensive materials, and customization is a priority for you, the BMW R nineT is a unique and enjoyable starting point.Photography by Jon BeckRiding Style Helmet: Arai Defiant Jolly Roger 2 Faceshield: Arai Pro Shade System Jacket: AGV Sport Breeze Perforated Leather Gloves: AGV Sport Veloce Jeans: Sliders 4.0 Boots: Joe Rocket Mens Big Bang 2.02014 BMW R nineT Specifications Engine Type: Air/oil-cooled four-stroke opposed-twin boxer, DOHC, four radially positioned valves per cylinder, central balancing shaft. Bore x stroke: 101mm x 73mm Displacement: 1170cc Rated power: 110 horsepower at 7500 rpm Maximum torque: 88 ft/lbs at 6000 rpm Compression ratio: 12.0:1 Fuel preparation system / engine timing: Electronic intake-pipe injection/ digital engine management with overrun cutoff, twin-spark ignition Exhaust-gas treatment: Controlled 3-way catalytic converter, emission standard EU 3 Electrics Generator: Three-phase alternator 600 W Battery: 12 volt, 14 Amp/hours, maintenance-free Drivetrain Clutch: Single-plate dry clutch, hydraulically actuated Gearbox: Dog-shifted six-speed gearbox with bevel gearing Final drive: Shaft Chassis Frame: Four-part frame concept with front frame and three-part rear frame, partially load-bearing engine/gearbox unit, rear-seat frame removable for one-up riding Front suspension: Upside-down 46mm telescopic forks Rear suspension / suspension elements: Cast aluminum single swinging arm with BMW Motorrad Paralever; central spring strut, spring preload hydraulically steplessly adjustable (via knob), rebound-stage damping adjustable by knob Wheel travel front / rear: 4.7 inches / 5.3 inches Wheelbase: 58.1 inches Castor: 4.04 inches Rake: 25.5° Wheels: Wire-spoked wheels Rim size, front: 3.50 x 17″ Rim size, rear: 5.50 x 17″ Tire, front: 120/70 ZR 17, Metzeler Roadtec Z8 Interact tube-type Tire, rear: 180/55 ZR 17, Metzeler Roadtec Z8 Interact tube-type Brakes, front: Twin 320mm discs, floating brake discs, 4-piston radial calipers Brakes, rear: Single-disc 265mm disc, double-piston floating caliper ABS: BMW Motorrad ABS Performance Top speed: 125 mph + Fuel economy at a constant 55 mph: 52 mpg Fuel economy at a constant 75 mph: 41 mpg As tested in all conditions: 46 mpg Fuel grade: Premium, unleaded Dimensions / weights Seat height: 30.9 inches Fuel-tank capacity: 4.8 gallon (including 0.8-gallon reserve) Length: 87.4 inches Height (over mirrors): 49.8 inches Width (across mirrors): 35.0 inches Curb weight, full tank of fuel: 489 pounds 2014 BMW R nineT MSPR: $14,900
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.