2017 BMW R nineT Racer Review | Retro Motorcycle
The 2017 BMW R nineT Racer is the latest evolution of the R nineT line launched in 2013. Since then, the R nineT lineup has been expanded to five trim levels—standard R nineT, Racer, Scrambler, Urban G/S, and Pure. I spent the day twisting the throttle of this retro-racer throughout Southern California. Here are the essential 14 Fast Facts on BMW’s magnificently styled vintage-inspired machine.
1. First things first, we need to talk about the aesthetics of the 2017 BMW R nineT Racer. The motorcycle gets much of its inspiration from the superbikes of days gone by, specifically the ’70s and ’80s. Between the half fairing, petite solo seat, large single headlight, and air-cooled engine; it wears its inspirations on its sleeve. And in this case, that’s more than a good thing because BMW absolutely nailed it when it comes to aesthetics. The only downside is that you’ll be attracting old white guys at gas stations in no time.
2. The air-cooled 1170cc flat twin retains its charm. Featuring a claimed 110 horsepower and 86 ft/lbs of torque, the air-cooled boxer engine has great fueling throughout the rev-range. It pulls well into the upper regions of the tach, with a crisp throttle response to match. It has a classic feel to it, giving lots of tactile feedback that keeps the ride engaging. The engine only becomes buzzy when wrung out.
3. Short shifting is the way to make the motor work. Make use of the strong mid-range and you’ll be a happy camper while in the twisties without having overwhelming power. Fans of the previous flat-twin iterations won’t be disappointed that its personality has been removed, it still has it all in spades.
4. A light clutch pull and smooth transmission await. Getting a downshift with a single-finger pull isn’t out of the realm of possibilities for the R nineT, and its precise transmission is happy to oblige.
5. Racer is in the name and that means race ergonomics. While the R nineT isn’t a race bike, at least not one from 2017, its ergonomics are demanding. At 5’ 10’’ with a 32-inch inseam, the R nineT has a proper supersport riding position, stretching your body across the tank. You’ll need use your core and legs quite a bit, otherwise all that weight will go into your wrists. Fortunately, the Racer has an accessible 31.7-inch seat height that allows riders my height to still get their feet on the floor.
6. Out of the box, the R nineT Racer’s 2-into-1 exhaust has quality tone when pushed. It goes without saying, but if you want to hear the thrum of an engine, you’ll have to give it some throttle. The good news is that the Racer can belt out a quality tune.
7. Supple suspension does a great job on the street. One of my favorite aspects of the R nineT is the suspension. The 43mm non-adjustable fork and spring-preload adjustable shock offer a smooth ride that soaks up harsh roadways with ease. The damping has been sorted out quite well, making the R nineT quite stable, though under heavy braking, one will notice front-end dive.
8. You won’t get caught out by overeager handling. With a wheelbase of 58.7 inches and a relaxed 26.4 degrees of rake, the R nineT is inherently stable. Fast sweeping corners are something to be enjoyed, but the Racer does like a bit of direction. Whether you employ a bit of body positioning, trail braking, countersteering, or a combination of all three, the Racer is a bike that requires you to ride it to reap the rewards. The Racer is one hell of a stable machine that needs real coaxing to negotiate corners successfully.
9. Riding fast means you must stop fast, and the R nineT delivers. With dual 320mm rotors and Brembo calipers up front, plus a 265mm rotor in the rear, the R nineT can come to a confident halt. Brake feel at the lever is progressive and allows for great modulation. The front discs lack a cruel initial bite, making the brakes accommodating for a wide variety of riders, with the majority of braking happening at the end of the lever sweep.
10. The R nineT Racer uses 17-inch cast aluminum wheels. If you want to upgrade from the all-weather, long-life Bridgestone Battlax Sport Touring T30 Evo tires, which hang in the canyons quite well in this application, there are plenty of options.
11. Aluminum is not used for the Racer’s tank, as it is on the standard R nine T. Given that BMW paints the tank in its motorsport colors, it makes sense that they went with the less expensive steel design. If you feel the need, the there are two optional aluminum tanks¬—both under a grand.
12. The R nineT Racer is a solo machine from the factory, but owners won’t be limited. For those who want to carry a passenger, the R nineT Racer can easily have its subframe and seat replaced with BMW factory units. But, why would you buy the R nineT Racer to carry a passenger? Why?
13. ABS is standard; Automatic Stability Control is not. Automatic Stability Control is a fancy term for traction control. Neither system prematurely intervenes, and we think ASC is a worthwhile $400 option.
14. Think of the 2017 BMW R nineT Racer as a retro sport bike, with a focus on its visual appeal. This is a motorcycle that is beautiful to look at and impressive to be seen on. In exchange, be prepared to accept its style-based ergonomics, reserved power, and conservative handling.
Location and action photography by Don Williams
- Engine: Horizontally opposed twin
- Bore x stroke: 101 x 73mm
- Displacement: 1170cc
- Maximum power: 110 horsepower @ 7750 rpm
- Maximum torque: 86 ft/lbs @ 6000 rpm
- Valve train: DOHC
- Fuel delivery: EFI w/ 50mm throttle bodies
- Cooling: Air and oil
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Clutch: Dry, hydraulically actuated
- Final drive: Shaft
- Frame: Tubular steel w/ self-supporting engine
- Front suspension: Non-adjustable 43mm fork; 4.9 inches of travel
- Rear suspension: BMW Paralever shock; 4.7 inches of travel
- Front tire: 120/70 ZR 17; Bridgestone Battlax Sport Touring T30 Evo
- Rear tire: 180/55 ZR 17; Bridgestone Battlax Sport Touring T30 Evo
- Front wheel: 3.5” x 17”; cast aluminum
- Rear wheel: 5.5: x 17”; cast aluminum
- Front brakes: 320mm discs
- Rear brake: 265mm disc
- ABS: Standard; BMW Motorrad
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 58.7 inches
- Rake: 26.4 degrees
- Seat height: 31.7 inches
- Fuel capacity: 4.5 gallons
- Curb weight: 485 pounds
- Estimated fuel consumption: 45 mpg
2017 BMW R nineT Racer Price:
- $13,295 MSRP