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2014 BMW R nineT First Ride

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


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2014 BMW R nineT First Ride Video
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The 2014 BMW R nineT is a modern classic that offers a thoroughly enjoyable riding experience. See the machine in action in the 2014 BMW R nineT First Ride Video.
I’m jaded. Not too many motorcycles really pique my interest these days longer than a few minutes as I pour over the specs and study the lines and shapes to see where the designers got it right and where they got it wrong. Sure, there are the exceptions, the marvelously weird and wicked examples such as the 1290 Super Duke R, but I would never own it. In fact, with access to so many bikes, I’ve found it hard to see myself signing on the bottom line for any recently produced motorcycle. Until now. The 2014 BMW R nineT has grabbed ahold of me and won’t let go.

Unveiled last October, the R nineT is a stripped-down and classy rendition that pays homage to BMW’s 90th anniversary. It bears resemblance to R models gone-by and is a modern take on what a riding motorcycle is in its simplest form. No need for traction control and ride modes here. But don’t call it retro, BMW’s designers prefer to think of it as a modern classic that is ripe for customization. It all sounds like the marketing gurus have got to me, I know. But one look and one ride and you’ll know they got it right.

The R nineT's presentation to the U.S. media was made at BMW’s DesignworksUSA campus in Southern California, and was it quite different than the usual BMW pre-ride briefing. Usually there are hours of technical specs, charts and graphs highlighting the latest bits of innovation and evolution. This time, however Ola Stengard, BMW Motorrrad’s Head of Vehicle Design, took the floor first. He went on to speak to the look and feel of the nineT, and why it is unlike other models in BMW’s lineup. The simplest way of explaining the nineT is as a reversal of the maxim “form follows function,” with the bike being styled to look good before engineers made it perform well.



And it is a looker. Right off the bat, the beautifully-styled aluminum tank, painted black with brushed knee panels, catches your eye. Usually the closer you look at modern motorcycles the details are not that appealing, but here the details hold your attention. The triple-clamps, front fender stays, headlight hanger and rear shock preload knob are all forged aluminum pieces rather than cast. Bits like the rear shock preload adjuster further impress. The reflector of the traditionally round headlight has even been penned masterfully. Only the charcoal canister parallel to the rear shock and the exhaust power valve are lackluster. Whether the gold anodizing on the front fork was a good choice became a much debated topic within our group of editors; I am on the side of thumbs up.

Sitting on the flat two-piece seat, reach to the ground is easy. Moving feet onto the pegs, the bend of your legs is comfortable and slightly sporty. The wide aluminum bar is set back just enough to give you a slight lean forward. The Spartan switchgear is easy to reach and has a familiar BMW touch.

The older air-cooled Boxer engine springs to life quickly and has a more muscular rumble from the twin Akrapovic-built mufflers than the tin-like tone of GS models. Twist the throttle and the note is excellent throughout the rev range with a nice pop and gurgle on decel.



Power output from the 1170cc Boxer Twin is rated by BMW at 110 horsepower and 88 lb-ft of torque, which isn’t a massive amount considering the 489-pound curb weight. But it’s a joy to get the nineT up to speed with low and midrange torque that is both easy to use and satisfying. Jamming out of corners is a blast grunting through the midrange all the way to the top-end rush that begins to taper off around 8000 rpm. It’s not going to get away from you by any means, but it makes for an enjoyable ride.

Rowing through the gears is effortless with a light shift lever that never misses its mark. Every shift is precise if not too smooth; a classic-looking bike like this should have some roughness.

Whether the gold anodizing on the front forks was a good choice became a much debated topic within our group of editors; I am on the side of thumbs up.
The 2015 BMW R nineT has a more muscular rumble from the twin Akrapovic-built mufflers than the tin-like tone of GS models.
(Above) Whether the gold anodizing on the front fork was a good choice became a much debated topic within our group of editors; I am on the side of thumbs up. (Below) The 2014 BMW R nineT has a more muscular rumble from the twin Akrapovic-built mufflers than the tin-like tone of stock GS models.
Suspension action at the rear of the R nineT is handled by the same Paralever single-sided swingarm as the R1200GS, mated to a rear shock with preload and rebound only. Up front a down-spec S1000RR fork handles the bumps rather than the usual Boxer front-end, the Telelever. Why a non-adjustable fork rather than the tried and true Telelever? It just wouldn’t look right.

Suspension action is soft at both ends for comfort cruising through town and for moderate canyon carving. Of course, upping the aggression on less-than-perfect pavement will find you squirming and bucking at the rear while the front dives more than is optimal when on the brakes hard. The suspension fits the intended usage as a well-rounded standard rather than as a racer.

Turning effort is light with the help of the straight and wide bars, and once in the corner the ride is stable. The 17-inch Metzeler Roadtec Z8 Interact Tube tires match the handling capabilities of the suspension. For my 225-pound frame, two turns of rear preload helped level out the ride and sharpened the handling without adding any twitchiness. A steering damper is installed as stock, but it never felt like I needed it, perhaps because it’s doing its job seamlessly. Either way the nineT is a solid handler.

Braking performance is decent but not ideal. The four-piston radial-mount calipers have strong bite and excellent feel, but first you have to get through the first half of the front lever travel. It gives a mushy feel before the power kicks in. The rear is mushy as well, but not on the same level. The only electronic aid on the nineT is the BMW standard ABS, and it works well although the rear is a bit too intrusive for my tastes.

The ride on the nineT is great, but the time looking and studying the lines of the bike is just as satisfying. Every time I got off the motorcycle I stared at it and thought about what I would do to personalize it to my taste. And that is probably the most impressive part of the R nineT; the options are nearly endless. With just a handful of fasteners you can remove the passenger peg supports and rear seat. Café to bobber in no time. Want to take it further? BMW has a host of parts ready to rock such as exhausts, seats and a cool rear cowl. The aftermarket scene has already jumped in as well; Roland Sands Designs has billet valve covers, breast plate, headlight bezel and numerous other parts that completely transform the look of the nineT. And then there is what you can come up with in your own mind and garage.



My mind was going throughout the press ride and I was lucky enough to ride in the same group as Roland Sands himself. I told him I’d like to build a custom nineT in the style of the John Player Specials iconic 1970s F1 livery. At each stop I told him I’d do this or that. He offered to sketch it up for me (pictured above) and now I’m really hooked. I’ve already made a BMW R nineT mine, even though I don’t own one yet.

The thing about the R nineT is that it is not high-powered or sharp-edged. It’s just fun and that is the most important part of riding a motorcycle. I smiled and laughed more on the nineT than I have on any other press launch. There might not be as much adrenaline, but it is a more enjoyable experience than most any other bike out there right now. I’m seriously calculating where I can come up with $14,900. The line at the dealership just got longer by one.


2014 BMW R nineT First Ride Photos

Turning effort is light with the help of the straight and wide bars  and once in the corner the ride is stable. Its a joy to get the nineT up to speed with low and midrange torque that it easy to use and satisfying. The only electronic aid on nineT is the BMW standard ABS  and it works well although the rear is a bit too intrusive for my tastes.
The wide aluminum bar is set back just enough to give you a slight lean forward. Sitting on the flat two-piece seat  reach to the ground is easy and with your feet on the pegs the bend of your legs is comfortable and slightly sporty. Rowing through the gears is effortless with a light shift lever that never misses its mark.
2014 BMW R nineT First Ride Gallery
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Comments
wildpig   July 30, 2014 02:45 PM
balready -- ah NO. hd build quality-- infinitly superior. reliability- surely you jest, are you not aware of ALL the many issues bmw has had with the boxer engine clutch electronics the last 5 yrs? I guess you're not aware.more speed? I own both you're wrong on that as well. better brakes- no way their abs is exceedingly grabby. you failed to mention terrible resale value, sparse dealer network, no parts inventory on hand, nor did you mention the outrageous maintenance costs and upkeep. so all in all i'll be kind here - YOU COULDNT BE MORE WRONG IF YOU TRIED.
AlienVan   July 29, 2014 05:21 PM
Not for me. No more German stuff. The do-not ride certified letter did it for me. Still waiting for replacement shock. Promised in late October.
balreadysaid   July 28, 2014 02:36 AM
same price as a harley but you get reliability and more speed, better brakes. soft suspension translates into an awesome street bike in the city. engine enhances that feeling of great street bike. gives off that ducati monster from 10 years ago vibe. over priced but well worth it if you like cafe racer loud twins with niche engines. this is the bike you buy to keep with the others.
wildpig   July 27, 2014 06:30 PM
over priced/over rated.
Piglet2010   July 26, 2014 07:15 PM
Not a bad bike, but really $7K better than a Bonnie or $4-5K better than a CB1100? But at least it is less expensive than most H-D Big Twin cruisers.
Superlight   July 25, 2014 06:12 AM
Nice detail design work on this bike,but why have a SSSA and cover the exposed wheel with the mufflers? It also needs (and I'm sure will get)a 1/2 fairing option to make road trips more comfortable.
harleybro   July 24, 2014 07:10 PM
OK, something's wrong here. "The simplest way of explaining the nineT is as a reversal of the maxim “form follows function,” with the bike being styled to look good before engineers made it perform well." "Every shift is precise if not too smooth; a classic-looking bike like this should have some roughness." "Why a non-adjustable fork rather than the tried and true Telelever? It just wouldn’t look right." "Suspension action is soft at both ends for comfort cruising through town and for moderate canyon carving. Of course, upping the aggression on less-than-perfect pavement will find you squirming and bucking at the rear while the front dives more than is optimal when on the brakes hard." "Braking performance is decent but not ideal. The four-piston radial-mount calipers have strong bite and excellent feel, but first you have to get through the first half of the front lever travel. It gives a mushy feel before the power kicks in. The rear is mushy as well, but not on the same level." And, after all this, this - "I’m seriously calculating where I can come up with $14,900." Why? It sounds like this is a mediocre bike. In fact, the BMW fanboys are almost sounding like harley boys here, gushing over a bike based on heritage or looks, not performance. No offense meant, I'm trying to understand why all the love for this bike.
jng1226   July 24, 2014 06:50 PM
Great article Justin. I've liked these since the early press materials came out. Same situation in Central Florida that dwolvin reports, dealers sell them as soon (or even before) they arrive in the crate. Absolutely love what Roland Sands did for you on the sketch. I like your vision and he executed brilliantly. Wonder how much it would add to make that one a reality? Good luck and looking forward to watching your build article on your new ride.
dwolvin   July 24, 2014 07:51 AM
I hear you loud and clear on the entire article. My local shop (San Diego) can not keep one on the floor, even the staff have not been able to try one. Every single one they get is sold as they uncrate it... The only reason that I have seen one in person is that the guy that bought one the first week of July left it on the floor for the party while he was out of town. So beautiful!
spyglass   July 24, 2014 06:01 AM
Back to basics....it's about time. Just a windscreen and a little rack and I'd be ready to go. Read somewhere else that the roll on power will surprise many supposedly quicker scoots....and their riders, too. Looks like they got it right (if there are no niggling maintenance issues down the line).
wd8cyv   July 23, 2014 09:00 PM
saw one at the dealer the other day been riding bmw since 1960 owner/rider since 1970 a used r69s and several others over the years including 2 new bikes this is the first model that has my attention since they stopped making the k75 3 cylinder Dave Thompson
weitzman   July 23, 2014 04:22 PM
well done JDawg, the new R Nine T does have a s**t load of magnetism. Especially that Roland Sands unit. 110 hp is plenty for anything but the track and I want one too. In my youth I spent a lot of time on an R50/2 and at the time I thought that was fast. Yeah sure, today it might get eatin' alive by a Vespa 300GT, but the new R Nine T will be more than able to handle itself at the traffic light grand prix.