In October of 2013, Edgar Heinrich, Head of BMW Motorrad Design, rode onto a stage with their all-new creation: the R nineT.
As a member of that audience, I witnessed the flashbulb frenzy as the much-anticipated 90th anniversary commemorative bike rolled out to the masses.
While we didn’t get a chance to ride it then, the hype and excitement around it was worth the wait.
A little bit of history
Since the company’s first flat-twin, air-cooled model, the R32, BMW has enjoyed much success, especially in a specific segment. The R 1200 GS
is their most successful model worldwide, and over half of all motorcycle sales are GS models. That includes Canada, too.
To commemorate 90 years of existence, BMW brings the world the all-new 2014 R nineT, also known as the nineT for short.
What is the R nineT?
Heinrich describes this new machine as a classic roadster with classic proportions.
It’s also not the most practical bike out there.
He says: “In this segment, we wanted to have a rather emotional thing as opposed to a 100% functional machine. We actually sacrificed things like comfort and rain protection because you don’t need it on this thing. Here, emotion is much more important.”
The new 2014 BMW R nineT is available in only one colour scheme, so if you don’t like it, you’ll have to get a custom paint job.
It comes in a classic black (Black Storm Metallic), with silver and metallic contrasts. Up until the 1960s, black was the predominant hue of BMW Motorrad models. After that, they opened up the colour spectrum on their motorcycles. Thank goodness.
Gold is found on the anodized fork tubes, and the central single spring used for the rear suspension is painted white.
An array of metallic hues coupled with a large, circular headlight up front adds to the R nineT’s modern yet throwback appeal.
Powering the 2014 BMW R nineT is an air/oil-cooled, 1,170cc, twin-cylinder boxer engine with an output of 110 hp at 7,550 rpm and 88 lb-ft of torque at 6,000 rpm.
Twist the throttle and work your way through the constant-mesh, 6-speed gearbox to get the fabulous feeling of the wind against your body (more on that later).
Paired with a hydraulically actuated dry clutch, there is the added element of modulation. Compared to other BMWs I’ve ridden, it’s not as smooth from the get-go; it just takes a little more finesse to get comfortable with it.
Like Heinrich mentioned, the R nineT’s philosophy is about cool factor versus, well, a lot of comfort.
Ergonomics aren’t bad. A more upright riding position allows you to keep most of the weight off your wrists.
On the highway, yes, you’ll feel the wind beating against your body, but that’s because of the absence of a windscreen.
Many hip-to-be-cool bikes don’t have windscreens.
It’s high-speed stability that really counts. The R nineT doesn’t waver easily despite its relatively light weight of 222 kg (489 lbs).
To get your leg over the 2014 BMW R nineT, you don’t need to be a German supermodel -- male or female. A fairly low seat height of 785 mm (30.9”) makes it accessible to riders of all different limb sizes.
The R nineT doesn’t have the smoothest of suspensions. That said, when you hit some road imperfections, you’re not greeted with a jarring sensation throughout your body.
At slow speeds, its nimbleness allows you to manoeuvre your way through tight spaces -- an ideal quality especially if you’re going to use the R nineT as an urban commuter or if you just need to park it outside your local biker café for people to stare at.
Time to brake
Classic doesn’t mean dated in the R nineT’s case. Yes, it takes elements from the past, but being a BMW, it’s brought up to speed with the times.
Like every BMW model, it comes equipped with ABS as a standard feature.
Braking power is provided by a hydraulically actuated 320mm dual-disc brake up front, and a single-disc brake with a diameter of 265 mm around back.
The brakes are grabby and give the rider a solid feel when slowing from highway speeds.
Information when you need it
Giving the rider information when needed is a round speedometer and
What you’ll be able to see are things like time, engaged gear, remaining range, trip mileage, servicing interval, average speed, and fuel consumption.
The all-new 2014 BMW R nineT has some noteworthy attributes: cool styling, a nimble ride in the city, and a face that adequately represents 90 years of riding awesomeness.
- Styling: it’s just cool
- Gauges are easy to read
- Low seat height
- Dry clutch can be a little fussy
- Suspension isn’t exceptionally forgiving