BMW R nineT – Road Test

BMW got a big boost in street cred with the release of the R nineT. This very customisable café racer had hipster heads turning in Cape Town when Bikeroutes took it for a test ride.

BMW R9T-051

So what is it?

It’s a minimalist café racer for those who like (retro) customising, but don’t identify with the cruiser crowd. BMW made this bike with the company’s  90-year history firmly in mind. Harking back to the very beginning of BMW’s biking history, the R nineT also brings back a modern incarnation of the classic café racer. Stripped-down basic biking, a twin-cylinder boxer motor and air cooled, the R nineT offers prospective owners that look back through time, but with modern brakes and reliability.


BMW provides a blank canvas for the perfect café racer. The R nineT is built with customising in mind and is almost reserved in its simplicity. The entire rear sub frame can be removed, effectively ‘cutting off’ the pillion seat. This then allows for an aftermarket wheel of your choice, up to 2’’ wider. The cut-away rear also gives the RT a classic bobber look, if you like that sort of thing. The big cylinder heads jutting out on either side of the naked bike make a lasting impression. But take care when lane splitting, as they do protrude quite a bit! The bike will appeal to a rider who cares more about style than performance and wants to customise the bike to his or her individual tastes. BMW cater for the buyer in this regard, with a large selection of after-market goodies and lately a few after-market shops have sprung up in Cape Town and Joburg. Google “Roland Sands R nineT project of 2014” for an idea of what sort of customising is possible.


The standard 1200 cc air-cooled motor comes straight from the old GS 1200 range. The standard Akrapovic exhaust gives a throaty roar and the baffles can be removed with the supplied hex key (on the key fob) if you want more noise. I found first and second gear to be short and a little rough, but the motor comes on song in 3rd and 4th. Spirited riding will bring the standard issue steering damper into play, as the R nineT gives a vicious head shake at higher speed gear changes. The motor is smooth, but still gives that distinctive pull to the right when revving the boxer motor. Road cruising at legal speed limits are a jol and I found this bike a load of fun to ride. The R nineT adds a good dash of performance to the scene; unlike the Triumph Thruxton and Bonneville.

BMW R9T-047

Ride and Handling

The ride is smooth, with both front and rear suspension of the usual top BMW quality. Up front are a pair of solid (gold plated) 46 mm USD forks, and at the rear the single swing arm is mated to a paralever hydraulically adjusted, and a single spring (manually adjustable by turning a knob). The bike feels solid, planted and absorbs the bumpy roads around the city with ease. Handling is easy, with the short wheel base (1.46 m) making even tight U-turns effortless. A low seat height of 785 mm (a GS is 870 mm) makes this a perfect bike for the vertically challenged, yet comfortable enough for taller riders. The triangle between handlebars, foot pegs and seat position make for a comfortable and relaxing ride at legal speeds – anything too long and too fast may be a bit hard on the bum and neck.

Likes and Dislikes

I like the styling of the bike – it makes an urban statement of intent and will appeal to guys who like bikes from the 60s and 70s. The classic roots of the bike and BMW’s 90-year anniversary makes the bike even more desirable. I didn’t like the inconsistent fuelling – the bike felt like it was lurching away from take-off, and then suddenly dropping power in the mid-range. Hopefully it’s just a glitch on the test model. Another dislike is the lack of colour options – let’s see what BMW offer for the 2016 range.

Verdict and Rating

I am going to give the R nineT 6/10. The appeal is somewhat limited but will no doubt find willing buyers in that segment. At R159 000 it is a special bike appealing to a special market.

BMW R9T-041

Also Consider

Triumph Bonneville and Thruxton 900 models, Harley Davidson Sportster 1200


Engine – 1170cc air-cooled boxer with four valves per cylinder
Gearbox – 6-speed, sequential manual gearbox, shaft drive
Power – 81 kw (110hp) at 7750 rpm (claimed)
Max torque – 119 Nm at 6 000 rpm
Weight – 222 kg
Seat height/ground clearance – 780 mm
Fuel capacity – 18 liters
Fuel consumption – claimed – 4.5litres per 100km (at 90km/h)
Tank range – km approx. 400 km (in ideal condtions)
Warranty and servicing – 2 years with unlimited mileage
Service: 1st 1000 km service is compulsory thereafter at 10 000 km intervals or annually after last service.
Price – R 159 000

Rode by Mukhtar Mukuddem in March 2015

BMW R9T-032

Photos by Sedick Jappie

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