The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.5
The BMW R nineT represents the perfect blend of retro looks and modern performance. It’s a simple, torquey, sweet-handling bike that is fun to ride and built in a way that makes customisation easy and relatively inexpensive to explore.
Reasons to buy
- Best-in-Class retro roadster
- Excellent performance, handling and braking
- Hugely characterful air-cooled Boxer engine
At a glance
In the metal, the R nineT manages to blend the best of old and new with an undeniable Teutonic presence. The tank is handmade from brushed aluminium - clear lacquered at the sides and painted gloss black in the middle for a nod to the past. The exhaust has a 2-1-2 configuration with stacked megaphone-style silencers, the pair of analogue dials inherit the old BMW typeface and the model head has been riveted to the steering plate in the traditional way. Admire for longer and you’ll spot 21st century additions such as the BMW S1000RR upside-down forks the modern Continental Road Attack rubber lacing those black anodised rims plus Brembo monobloc callipers. Without doubt, this is a beautifully conceived and crafted motorcycle. We just wish the optional brushed aluminium seat cowl had been given the same lacquered treatment as the tank for a final, seamless flourish.
The R nineT may be a naked bike with an upright riding stance but it is surprisingly comfortable to ride both in town and on the motorway. The flat seat is very roomy, there’s decent legroom for taller riders and the tank scallops are perfectly contoured to hug your legs. All the switchgear has a typically robust action to function, and the layout is immediately intuitive. Even pillion space is good.
Despite the stripped-back aesthetics, there are some practical considerations on the R nineT such as a digital dashboard presenting your fuel range, speed, gear and distance; bungee hooks tucked under the subframe, a small storage cubby under the passenger seat and further storage in the hollowed-out, optional cafe racer hump. Paralever shaft drive makes adjusting a greasy chain a thing of the past, while the rear section of the chassis is modular, meaning you can unbolt and customise quickly without getting the hacksaw out. Other parts, including the chunky metal headlight and LED indicators, are also designed for easy replacement thanks to a separate wiring harness for ancillary electrics. BMW says its 18-litre tank can offer 310 miles of range, but in reality, you’d be wise to plan trips based on around half of that distance.
Performance & braking
BMW’s previous-generation air and oil cooled boxer motor has found a new lease of life in the R nineT. The 1,170cc unit produces 110bhp at 7,750rpm and 88lb/ft of torque, offering that old-skool ‘rocking’ motion under a blip of throttle and the occasional popping on the over-run. There’s no traction control or rider modes, just wonderfully accurate fuelling from a cable throttle that unleashes a motor with masses of low- and mid-range grunt. Braking is courtesy of two four-pot ABS-assisted Brembo monobloc callipers gripping twin 320mm discs up front, and a 265mm disc gripped by a twin-pot unit at the rear.
Ride & handling
Dynamically speaking, the BMW R nineT is the best retro bike on sale. Suspension on both the front fork and the vertical monoshock may be non-adjustable (except for rear pre-load via a decorative cast aluminium knob), but it’s so well set up for the road, it’s doubtful you’d want to fettle anyway. The bike feels lightweight, responsive and agile while still being compliant enough to soak up poor road surfaces efficiently.
The boxer motor is respectably economical, with 50mpg entirely feasible when cruising, and at 222kg wet, it should also prove easy going on consumables such as tyres and brakes.
The bike is too young in its lifecycle to have received any recalls, but the tried and tested air-cooled boxer twin should prove trouble free.
Warranty & servicing
The basic price of the BMW R nineT is quite high for a relatively simple naked roadster, but it is justified by the beautiful detailing, build quality and strong residual values. It also comes with a two-year manufacturer’s warranty, as well as two years’ European roadside assistance. Service intervals are every 6,000 miles or 12 months, whichever comes first.
Standard equipment is pretty basic, but there is a huge selection of official accessories available, including heated grips, panniers, brushed aluminium café racer seat hump, carbon-fibre front mudguard and an Akrapovic titanium-and-carbon exhaust that can be high- or low-level fit using alternative connecting pieces. There’s also plenty of optional vintage-style extras that includes a roll-up toolkit, woven badges and a sticker set, so the only thing you’ll need to look out for yourself is a hipster flannel shirt.
In many respects, the R nineT is the perfect distillation of modern-day biking. It has an abundance of character, offers nostalgic glimpses to the past and is fun to ride at sensible speeds. At the moment, it also happens to be retro and on trend. This fashion may fade, but you can be sure that the quality on the R nineT will endure.