Originally launched in 2013, the BMW R nineT was designed to commemorate BMW Motorrad’s 90th anniversary (from which the bikes name is derived: nine-T, get it?) while opening up a new category for the company it calls “Heritage.” The model was created to introduce a new world of customization options that hadn’t previously existed for BMW.
The BMW R nineT is a classic roadster, meaning it is a sporty standard motorcycle with no fairing or luggage. This model combines modern looks and high-quality features with vintage BMW styling. For example, the shape of the tank is reminiscent of much older BMW motorcycles, but the bikes stance is definitely current and edgy. The R nineT is designed for the rider who wants to “just ride” on a higher-end, but simple machine.
Since its introduction BMW has come out with several offshoot versions of the base model R nineT and bike builders have created some truly innovative and interesting machines using the R nineT platform. But even in its original form, this bike gets a lot of thumbs up when rolling down the road.
Most of us will never customize our bikes much more than changing a seat or adding luggage. So Women Riders Now decided to give the R nineT a good long-term women’s perspective review by “making life a ride,” like the company’s ad campaign suggests.
I acquired the BMW R nineT to test over an entire riding season, which for me in Connecticut means from when the snow melts in March through the end of October. Here I am giving the WRN salute (peace sign) with “my” new R nineT and my friend Laura with her Suzuki V Strom 650 on International Female Ride Day in early May. I didn’t take many wet weather rides after this one due to the rooster-tail-cocktail of road dirt and water that splashed all over on the back of my jacket because of the lack of a real rear fender.
Using this bike as my sole mode of two-wheeled transportation for the season (except for when I test rode the BMW S 1000 RR for a few weeks) I had the opportunity to take lots of notes on much more than just basic controls and initial riding experience. As every motorcycle owner knows, there is much more to know about your motorcycle than what the dealer brochure and a demo ride reveal to us.
The first thing I noticed immediately after taking off on the R nineT is its torquey power. Fitted with BMW’s iconic flat twin air/oil cooled 1170cc “boxer” engine, the 2 cylinder 4 stroke powerhouse produces 110 horsepower at 7,750 rpm and has lots of torque (88 ft-lbs. at 6000 rpm) throughout the powerband. The power and punch is what makes this roadster a ton of fun to ride. It’s also why I wouldn’t recommend it as a new riders first motorcycle.
The boxer engine is easily identifiable by its horizontally opposed piston design that makes each cylinder stick out on the left and right side of the motorcycle. Revving the engine at a stop, you notice that the bike “pulls” to one side very momentarily. Once moving, the engine is perfectly balanced and you stop noticing it altogether very quickly.
The R nineT’s 31.7 inch seat height feels lower than it is because of the bike’s slim midsection that allows an easier reach to the ground. The height is no problem for my 5-foot-7-inch height and 33-inch inseam. This Black Brand womens leather jacket I reviewed for WRN complements this vintage-styled bike well.
Since the bike lacks any kind of wind protection, you might assume riding the R nineT at speed would tire you more quickly. However, the riding position naturally places your body in an aggressive, slightly forward lean, which sets you up better to withstand the wind force without unnecessary fatigue.
I spotted this BMW R nineT while “making life a ride” at Babes Ride Out East, the east coast version of the hugely popular Babes Ride Out event that made attendance history last year. The small aftermarket fairing on this bike probably helps its owner cut through the wind. The aluminum tail cover that replaces the passenger seat is a BMW accessory.
The R nineTs footpegs are directly under the seat, a sporty standard sit-up riding position that alleviates pressure from the spine, but the leg bend can be tiring during long periods of riding. I had no problem riding long distances at highway speeds, but I did need to take breaks every 150 miles or so just to stretch my legs.
The dual stacked mufflers on the R nineT are on the left side of the bike and emit a really cool grunt that I never got tired of hearing. I wouldn’t even mind if the exhaust note was just a wee bit louder, which is abnormal for me to want a louder exhaust. That’s how good it sounds.
The R nineT’s tank is aluminum so it doesn’t hold a magnetic tank bag. Luckily, I had this BMW accessory soft bag that fit perfectly on the passenger seat. It takes away from the cool naked bike look, but leaving home without extra gear and my camera equipment is not an option for me.
The stock two-piece seats white stitching looks great, but the padding is very thin and the seat is not very comfortable for all-day rides.
After using the stock seat for several thousands of miles, I swapped it out for this Mustang Seats rider and passenger setup. I immediately wished I had done so sooner.
It took only about a half hour to remove the stock seat and install the Mustang seat.
The Mustang uses a new mounting bracket and still allows for just enough room underneath it for the owner’s manual.
I didn’t realize at the time, but this tool comes with the R nineT and was attached to the underside of my bike’s stock seat. I found out the hard way (when I was hundreds of miles from home) that this tool is required to be able to add oil to the engine.
The R nineTs dash provides plenty of information, including a “service” notice when you need to take the bike in for scheduled maintenance.
The generous folks at MAX BMW in Brookfield, Connecticut, gave me an inside look at the cylinder while performing a 6,000-mile service. This service includes changing engine oil and filter, adjusting valve clearances, changing gearbox oil, and performing a series of inspections. Instead of waiting for the work to be done, I was given the key to a BMW F 800 R demo bike, just like the ones editor Genevieve and I grew to love on the WRN tour of Italy last year.
The R nineT has a very wide handlebar—even wider than many adventure bikes I’ve ridden. Personally, I love this type of setup because it demands very little steering input effort for cornering and makes slow speed maneuvering a piece of cake.
When you press the starter button, all the indicator lights illuminate for a moment as shown. The LCD display shows the time, gear youre in, and the option to toggle through the odometer, two tripmeters, average fuel mileage and current fuel mileage, but a fuel gauge is glaringly missing among the displays. The 4.75-gallon tank has a range of about 202 miles per fill-up. I kept track of my fuel consumption by using a tripmeter. The low fuel warning light goes on when there’s .8 gallons remaining.
The left grip contains the usual controls plus an info button that toggles some of the information on the LCD dash readout. Happily, the hydraulic clutch lever is four-way reach adjustable, an important feature for smaller-handed women thats often overlooked by manufacturers.
The brake lever is also adjustable. Throttle operation is a bit touchy and achieving smooth roll-ons takes a bit of practice with the R nineT.
The R nineT’s tubular frame incorporates the engine as a load-bearing element. The bike’s inverted telescopic front fork comes from BMW’s supersport powerhouse, the S 1000 RR (but without its adjustability), and is one of the bike’s higher-end components that make for superb handling. This setup works very well, and even when cornering hard and fast I always felt planted and confident in the bike’s chassis and suspension.
The stock steering damper thats mounted on the fork brace looks cool and aids in high-speed control by “stabilizing” the fork but is not adjustable.
The R nineT comes with spoked 17-inch cast wheels, and ABS is standard. With the mufflers on the other side of the bike we can clearly see the cool-looking single-sided cast aluminum paralever swingarm and shaft drive. The rear brake is made up of a single rear disc with a double piston floating caliper that does a solid job of stopping the little powerhouse.
Two large 320mm discs with 4-piston Brembo calipers in front work extremely well at stopping the bike as fast as the engine starts it.
Being able to adjust the rear shock on the fly to accommodate added or reduced weight is a luxury feature youd expect on a BMW, so I was glad to see it on the R nineT. Preload is changed by turning the hydraulic knob. Rebound damping is adjustable with a screwdriver. Cleaning this area is a real chore though, and it gets filthy under there, again due to the lack of a rear fender. If this were my bike, I’d invest in an aftermarket fender so I could spend more time riding and less time cleaning.
The 489-pound motorcycle feels really light, and moving it around the garage is easy. The R nineT has six gears and each gear ratio feels just right with sixth gear being a true overdrive. Third gear, at about 4300 rpm, was my personal sweet spot where I had the most fun. Downshifting requires some finesse though. Release the clutch lever a little too quickly during downshifts, and you may inspire a little “rear wheel chirp” as the engine braking grabs the pavement too quickly.
Being accustomed to jumping on many different brand new bikes in a single season, I rarely need to worry about maintenance or the dealer experience and how it affects me. Taking the R nineT to my local dealership for service gave me the opportunity to chat with the service reps, browse inventory, meet other owners, and see what’s underneath those valve covers. I discovered a company with enthusiastic customers who really love to ride … a lot, including women. Meeting solo women riders in technical riding suits and full-faced helmets who’d come from far away made me feel part of the BMW family.
My time with the R nineT was nothing short of completely enjoyable. I used it for weekend trips, short errands, day rides, and commuting, but I had the most fun riding it in a “spirited” way on my favorite twisty back roads. That is indeed where the bike shines the most. The ability to make quick decisions is a prerequisite to riding this bike, as the power delivery and handling is instantaneous, as is the accompanying smile that overtook my face every time I reached my destination.
Specs At A Glance: BMW R nineTEngine Size: 1170cc Seat Height: 31.7 inches Weight: 489 pounds Fuel Capacity: 4.75 gallons 2016 Colors: Blackstorm Metallic Price: Starting at $15,095
WRN RecommendationThe BMW R nineT is not a beginner’s bike, as it’s torquey and powerful. It would be too easy for an inexperienced rider to twist the throttle or release the clutch too quickly and find herself in real trouble. However, experienced riders who live for the thrill of riding a lightweight, powerful, maneuverable classically-styled sporty standard with high-quality components without high-tech gadgetry will enjoy this ride. Priced at $15,095, this is not a cheap motorcycle, nor does it feel like one.
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