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  • October 24, 2016
  • Dirck Edge
  • Chris Rubino and Dirck Edge
  • 77 Comments

2016 BMW R nineT: MD Ride Review

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The latest wave to catch in the motorcycle industry looks a lot like one that rolled in decades ago. Once again, it’s seemingly less about the motorcycle, and more about the “lifestyle”. This time, indicia include beards, flannel shirts and sunglasses tucked inside open-face helmets (? this time?).

Another difference is that there is more than one central player, unlike the Harley-Davidson “lifestyle” that brought out competition never genuinely legitimized by the Sturgis Rally crowd. The new movement has many players claiming the mantle of authenticity and legitimacy and no real leader.

For the time being, let’s call this the “Heritage Custom” genre. Other players would have to include the Ducati Scrambler (starting at under $9,000) and the Yamaha SCR950 (priced at $8,699). Oh, and we shouldn’t forget perhaps the most “authentic” players of all … older, used motorcycles (starting at $250 for an old, air-cooled wreck) that are simply fixed-up or customized.

Into this mix BMW introduced the R nineT back in 2014. Initially priced at $14,999, (currently $15,095 for the 2016 model we tested), BMW has clearly counted on a much more affluent customer than the grounded garage mechanics who certainly started this “movement” by acquiring used motorcycles from Craigslist before turning them into Café Racers and Scramblers crafted from spare parts. If there was any disconnect between the target customer (hipsters?) and their real-world budget, on the one hand, and BMW’s marketing campaign for a $15,000 bike (see photo), on the other, it apparently went unnoticed at the German firm. At least, for a while.

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BMW marketing pic.

Most recently, a less expensive sibling to the R nineT has been introduced, i.e., the R nineT Scrambler priced at $13,000. This is simply a de-contented model. It is an R nineT sans aluminum fuel tank (the Scrambler’s is steel), wire-spoked wheels (the Scrambler’s are cast), radial-mount brake calipers and higher-end suspension components.

We aren’t here to evaluate lifestyle choices, of course, but we thought the context was important. The R nineT, and its growing list of family members, was not intended by BMW to push the performance envelope. The heart of the bike gives this fact away. Rather than the latest boxer, BMW installed the final air-cooled version of the 1170 cc opposed-twin engine. The claimed 110 horsepower gives away 15 horsepower, or so, to the latest liquid-cooled boxer unit found in other BMW models.

Together with the air-cooled heart, the R nineT receives a Paralever shaft-drive rear suspension unit, and inverted telescopic fork (not the Telelever, which BMW thought counter to the traditional look of this machine). The rear shock is adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping, while the fork is non-adjustable.

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The R nineT is a beautifully crafted machine. It does not resemble anything made in a garage by anyone we are familiar with. That aluminum gas tank we mentioned has a brushed finish at the knees, and is part of a theme that includes several forged aluminum pieces, including fender mounts, triple clamps and an air scoop. It is not easy to find a plastic part on this bike, and the overall look, including the gold fork legs and wire wheels (17″ front and rear) round out a package both elegant and purposeful (and expensive). The brakes include quality, radial-mount Brembo calipers in front.

We understand the R nineT gets a lower final drive ratio, which improves acceleration delivered through the six-speed box. This bike is certainly quick with that big torquey lump moving just 490 pounds of curb weight.

As you might expect, the power comes on long and smooth. Throttle response is near seamless, and you can twist your right wrist at very low rpms without serious juttering and continue to wring the motor all the way to redline. The word “flexibility” comes to mind, making the six-speeds available often superfluous.

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The ergonomics are reasonably comfortable, although perhaps a bit cramped for taller riders. The seat is firm and should provide decent support on longer rides, although without a windscreen, highway travel can be tiresome on more than short bursts (fear not, you can put a windscreen on the bike if you so choose).

This is a big bike, and handling is more than competent, but you can feel its mass. You don’t flick the R nineT into corners so much as bend it. At lower speeds, you can even feel slightly different levels of effort rolling through left-handers and right-handers thanks to the longitudinal crank.

Suspension action seems dialed by BMW just about right for the intended purpose of this bike. The fork is on the soft side, but still reasonably balanced with the rear shock. The brakes are powerful, with good feel, but not much initial bite. The clutch and brake levers are comfortable on the hands, and clutch pull is reasonably light for a large displacement twin.

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The exhaust note is tuned by BMW To give a pleasant rip as you approach the redline at close to 8,000 rpm. This bike is so smooth, the “character” of an older boxer might be missing, for some. It feels thoroughly refined, just as it should be given the generational advances to this design begun many decades ago.

In short, the R nineT works very well as a refined German product. It is fast, smooth, predictable in its handling, and very attractive in its fit and finish. The ergonomics are not bolt upright like several competitors in the Heritage Classic category, but they are not uncomfortable, either, and provide a slight lean forward into the stiff headwind this powerful naked can so easily generate.

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Of course, the R nineT, for many buyers, will be just a starting point for customization. In this regard, between official BMW accessories and the aftermarket (and your own imagination, if you have the skill for fabrication) you can turn the R nineT into something entirely unique. Whether you want to start that process with a bike this expensive, powerful and refined, is up to you.

The 2016 BMW R nineT starts at a U.S. MSRP of $15,095 (including ABS). Take a look at BMW’s web site for additional details and specifications.

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77 Comments

  1. J_T says:

    I don’t get all the hype over this BMW, Moto Guzzi made this bike 10 years ago – Griso .

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      And the Griso got plenty of hype when it came out, too. And all these years later, it is still an excellent alternative to this bike and others in the genre.

  2. kawzies says:

    Beard, crappy t shirt, crappy helmet…..just another rebel who can afford a $15,000 bike. A more honest ad would show the typical Beemer rider in head to toe BMW gear (or Aerostitch) with top of the line rider protection.

  3. Bubba Bleu says:

    (Signal: face palm) I could have had a Low Rider S!

  4. Bud says:

    I’m leaning toward the R9T Pure, but I would really rather have a pre-LC R1200R.

  5. My2cents says:

    Like a warm cup of milk, BMW puts me to sleep. Should have called it the zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

  6. Mick says:

    JUST 490 pounds of curb weight? How heavy does a bike need to get before it loses that “just” bit?

    I’ve been seeing tons of these things around Paris. But I guess two tons of them would be about nine wouldn’t it? There are nice looking bikes.

    Any time I hear lifestyle applied to anything, I give whatever it is a pass. The idea that buying something can change who you are is never going to get any traction with me.

    • mickey says:

      When talking motorcycles, and depending on who you are talking to, there is a very fine line between just and bloated.

      Had they put a proper rear fender and two up seat on this that would have probably pushed it to a bloated 500 pounds instead of just 490.

    • KenHoward says:

      “Any time I hear lifestyle applied to anything, I give whatever it is a pass.”

      “Lifestyle” “Hipster” etc. – Why not judge a product on its own merits? Whether buying – or not buying – something because of what others project, isn’t that letting others (often total strangers) influence what we believe is right for us?

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        I agree. Who cares what the marketing team says? The advertising for this bike makes me throw up a little in my mouth every time I’m subjected to it. But I still love the bike. Ride it, then decide if it works with you.

      • Mick says:

        I do judge products on their own merits. My front line street bike weighs less than 300 pounds. There is a whole lot more than silly marketing phrases that keep me from darkening BMW’s doorstep.

    • Bubba Bleu says:

      IMO, weight is a very misunderstood quality in motorcycles. Ultra light weight, like a racebike, is great for racing, but it isn’t quite so important on the street, up to a point.

      Too heavy, like a 900 lb tourer, is very heavy around town, but nice for all day long. A Suzuki Bandit is about right as far as around town weight is concerned. There’s nothing wrong with 540 lbs. Flyweight rides like R6s around town are not really that desirable, I don’t think.

      That being said, my ’79 Bonneville is really light and a hoot around the farmlands. Harley Dynas are about spot on.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        A heavier bike does have some value out on the open interstate. But I prefer riding a lighter machine to be more pleasurable in every other circumstance.

        • Norm G. says:

          re: “A heavier bike does have some value out on the open interstate.”

          INERTIA, both friend and foe.

          if I ever get me Jack Russell pup, I think that’s what i’ll name him.

        • Don says:

          My wife’s 690 Duke is great fun on a calm day here in AZ. but when the wind is blowing I prefer my Superglide Custom.

      • Dirty Bob says:

        You are right about one thing:”Dynas are spot on.” Steet Bob’s (FXDB 103) can be everything, even cow path runners.

  7. bmbktmracer says:

    What great days to be a motorcyclist! Lots of choices all across the price spectrum. I ride a 2004 Triumph Sprint RS with a Staintune pipe, Ohlins shock, and GSXR USD forks. It’s a really fun bike and I’ve kept it because I haven’t really found anything substantially better. But…with all the great choices now, including this BMW, the new Triumphs, and the looming CB1100RS…might be time to take a hammer to the piggy bank.

  8. MGNorge says:

    “Another difference is that there is more than one central player, unlike the Harley-Davidson “lifestyle” that brought out competition never genuinely legitimized by the Sturgis Rally crowd. The new movement has many players claiming the mantle of authenticity and legitimacy and no real leader.”

    I’d like to think that this breaks that stronghold and more riders feel the goodness that is all of motorcycling, not just one brand!

  9. Skybullet says:

    Think of this bike as a marketing exercise (re: R 1200 C). Mfg’s are looking for new customers to appeal to with fashion not function. Personally, I like the traditional look that can be customized to fit your application. BUT, you can probably find a better handling, more comfortable, less expensive, all round better performing bike if you ditch the “image thing”.

    • Tom R says:

      Any motorcyclist who states that images doesn’t matter…is lying.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      “BUT, you can probably find a better handling, more comfortable, less expensive, all round better performing bike if you ditch the “image thing”.”

      When you think about it, all motorcycles are marketing exercises. That’s the name of the game – manufacturers looking to connect with buyers. For the client looking for the “better” bike you just described, BMW makes the R1200R or the F800GT. You know the old cliche, though: Sex sells. That is what the RnineT is about.

  10. rokster says:

    Not that anyone would give a crap, but I spent most of yesterday researching the NineT (worst bike name since the B-King?) and now you publish a review. It can only be a sign. This is most definitely a good-looking bike with many quality components. It has more than adequate power and torque and even the standard exhaust sounds great. Add the ease of customization and you have a winner. Except of course for the price, but there are quite a few lightly used ones available already.
    Moreover, in an absolutely astonishingly astounding twist, none of the commenters here said anything negative about the bike’s looks, which is just, well, like an unexpected kick in the balls, only less painful but more surprising.

    • xLaYN says:

      TL; DR: “This is most definitely a good-looking bike with many quality components” Agree

      ” like an unexpected kick in the balls, only less painful but more surprising” lol…

      In my opinion, I consider this a standard bike… it will have appeal in a very broad group.

      The hipsters crash resistant, dot approved beard were throw in for marketing purposes.

    • Stratkat says:

      yeah sounds good right? good looking bike but ever ride one? took one out for about an hour. my take on it was if you just want to ride down a country road its fine, youll love it. it you want to take up the pace, keep looking. it has a soft power band, never any kind of hit anywhere, slow to accelerate, very average brakes, heavy with soft suspension. at the time i had my 8 yr old 2007 KTM Super Duke to compare it with.

      • rokster says:

        Riding down a country road is exactly what I like to do here in Wisconsin. And compared to my KLR I am sure I will not find the power band soft, LOL! But I agree it is worlds away from your SD, they should not even be compared I think.
        Also, funny how we view a bike, that does not even have a fairing or screen, and goes from 0-200Km/h in 14.3 seconds, “slow”. An Audi R8 v10 does it in exactly the same time…
        Anyway, I never complain about any new bikes that come to market, the more choices we have the better. OK, I hate it that every damn thing HAS to have a low seat, but what can you do.

        • Stratkat says:

          actually on paper they should be closer than that, and then factor in the price and the fact that my bike had 36k on it! anyway sounds like you know what you are getting into. it was a pretty bike and well made, just didnt do it for me.

      • stinkywheels says:

        Not a real valid comparison. I agree, it’s probably soft, smooth, reasonably quick, comfy. The price is a little high, I can make it a stiff as I want, cheaply, butcher the exhaust, and use up some tires. I’ve got an 84 R100, Buell 1125CR, Ducati Hyper ST2 and Monster to compare it to. I just got back from the Texas Hill Country and I would’ve had a good time on it. You’re right, it’s not a Super Duke or 1125.

  11. Norm G. says:

    and now for the 9T racing angle, the return of Kern. spoon on some gumballs, add a healthy dose of carbon fiber and go…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L10dY8riW1E

    oh, and he gives his opinion on tubes.

    • todd says:

      What does he know, he said “dampening” three times! And yes, carbon fiber rims are lighter than aluminum rims with tubes.

      • Norm G. says:

        Q: What does he know (?)

        A: the exact same amount as anyone else in this thread on about tubes, no more no less.

  12. Martin B says:

    BMW have brought out the R NineT “Pure” for the “Cheapsters” (my new buzzword of the day), which is a little less glitzy. BMW flat twins are something special. They don’t have that “Rev it high and how fast will it go?” quality we have come to expect from Japanese makers chasing performance. Instead they are happier sitting at middle revs just going places. The engine layout offers that balancing pole lightness of touch through corners, feeling much lighter to turn than their avoirdupois would indicate. They seem to have a subterranean centre of gravity. And they are at their very smoothest at the speed limit. There is no urge to get to a top end power band, the power is already there. This is something they share with Harley big twins, but in a much more civilized manner. BMW bikes used to be exclusively for gentlemen, who could afford the high asking price, and the time off to go adventuring across continents. With older airheads becoming a fad, even with the mechanical problems of age and ancient design, these new models have hit the trend well, even if their design elements are not exactly top of the class aesthetically. BMW could take lessons in styling from their earlier models. In this they are way behind everybody else. Harley, Triumph and Guzzi have capitalized extremely well on their own histories to supply vintage looks and modern machinery. BMW stylists have dropped the ball. But all German designers have similar failings. They can only draw ugly. They need to hire some Italians.

    • rokster says:

      Thanks for making me go Google “avoirdupois” (English is not my first language and French is Greek to me). I will heavily treasure that word for all time to come.
      Nice, remarks, though. Some guys simply do not get it that not everybody wants to be flat out at 12 000 rpm all the time. Like you and others said, the NineT is happiest at around the speed limit. Isn’t that exactly where you would want a road bike to perform best? My KLR seems to be happiest at about 40-55mph so that is how I ride it on the backroads and avoid the freeways.
      Finally, commenting on looks will always be totally subjective. For some reason I find the NineT to be a nice mix of standard, old and new, with a little agression thrown in.

    • SeTh says:

      Not unlike the Suzuki Bandit 1250

  13. mickey says:

    As Beemers go it’s ok, I wouldn’t buy one and personally I’d rather have a pre 2015 R1200R Classic. Actually I would rather they made this resemble an 77 R100/ or 76 R90S which were both way better looking than this.

    • Tom R says:

      Resemble, or copy?

      • mickey says:

        They wouldn’t have to be clones, but classic paint with pinstripes, nice comfortable two up seats, a real rear fender, side covers, availabilty of attaching some bags. A nice pipe on each side of the bike for symmetry.

        I think manufacturers are doing a pretty good job of designing the front half of bikes these days, but really falling short in the back half, from the rear of the gas tank to the tail light. But that is just my opinion, and I am getting old. Then again I have the cash to buy one of these sitting in the bank, but I won’t, cause it doesn’t meet my standard of what a std motorcycle should look like, so that is a lost sale for them.

  14. Buzz W says:

    I’ve never been a huge Boxer fan but test rode one of these and really liked it.

    It reminded me of my old Ducati GT1000 Sport Classic. I guess Ducati was ahead of it’s time when those came out.

    Hipsters didn’t exist then.

    • Stratkat says:

      yeah but the GT1000 would walk all over the BMW, less comfortable though.
      the BMW was very flat all over…

  15. Jeremy in TX says:

    It is still a great-looking bike, possibly my favorite from the retro-inspiration movement. I haven’t ridden one yet, but it fits me like a glove when I sit on it.

    While I am not one of those guys that thinks the exclusion of tubeless tires should be punishable by death, I do think that is a silly move for this particular bike. The tubeless spoke wheels in BMW’s arsenal look sharp, though I guess the Wookie pictured riding the bike in the advertisement might feel tubeless rims aren’t “authentic” enough.

    I’d think a $15K bike is deserving of better suspension bits than what the bike is equipped with. I’m sure that wouldn’t make or break the sale for most though, and obviously BMW is f the same opinion.

  16. Austin ZZR 1200 says:

    Hipster target—-miss
    Folks over 50 looking for a standard bike—-hit

  17. CrazyJoe says:

    I could never fit on a BMW. I fit perfectly on this one. I wonder how much out the door not that I can afford it.

    Does that beard come with a Snell and Ece sticker? Open face helmet off pavement, short sleeved shirt and laced boots. Safety not what’s being marketed. Then there’s the wire wheels. No not every flat is catastrophic but going tubeless makes it less likely. Come on sunglasses?

  18. Denny says:

    Any time I look at classic Beemer I think: what a pity, cylinder head goes down first. You have the choice though – left of right side.

    • CrazyJoe says:

      Can a motorcycle be a motorcycle without crash bars? Absolutely…not.

    • TunaPete says:

      After thirty-plus years of riding and racing BMW boxers, I like to think of those cylinders and heads as “leg never gets pinned to the side of the bike.” Also, in a low-side, that valve cover and the tires are often the only things touching the ground. That actually makes repairs much easier and less expensive than they otherwise might be. 🙂

  19. Tommy D says:

    I walked into my local Ducati BMW Motorcycle dealer and saw one that was fully customized with a minimalist slant. Anything not required to go or stop was reduced or removed. It was the first BMW I actually felt the desire to own. Styling very similar to Clutch Custom’s work, right down to the taillight. I am not sure why certain designs have that visual impact that trip the desire/lust switch but this bike has it for me.

    https://www.clutchmotorcycles.com/bmw-r-nine-t/

    • Norm G. says:

      ok now that’s a good trick, someone actually went and stylized an oil cooler. just when you think you’ve seen it all.

  20. Auphliam says:

    I love the look of this bike, but for 15 Large you’d think they’d at least offer a proper seat. My old ass goes numb just looking at that plank…or maybe its just numb ’cause I’m old…I don’t know, but either way, that slab looks uncomfortable as hell.

  21. BPinAZ says:

    The bike looks so cool. Then you get on and it’s so cramp. And it is a “naked’ bike.

  22. ROXX says:

    Love the bike.
    Hate the price.
    Guess I’ll be keeping my 99 R1100S for awhile longer.

    • BoxerFanatic says:

      See, now I would love to have a good clean R1100S, I wish the R1200RS wasserboxer bike was half as gorgeous as the flowing R1100S bodywork. I’ve wondered what would be required to re-dress a R1200ST or R with R1100S bodywork. The only aesthetic improvement I would make to an R11S would be a more hemispherical, bullet-shaped front end, with a modern LED-emitter headlight arrangement. That and a Duolever refit onto a hex-head boxer bike. I figure the R1200 line already has a lower control arm with Telelever… just needs an custom upper one, fabricated subframe, and some K-series items.

  23. WSHart says:

    How about instead of calling them “Heritage Customs” or worse still, “nakeds” (God what a stoopid, sophomoric and all-together priapic term), we call them what they are:

    STANDARDS.

    Nice bike BMW except those wheels. Unless I am mistaken, I don’t see a raised lip into which the spokes are laced which can only mean one thing: Cheapo tube type bicycle wheels.

    Once again BMW has intercoursed the pooch and their customers. They could’ve done right by all but noooooooo.o

    Makes one wonder if the BM in BMW stands for…?

    • Scott says:

      You seem to be generally angry about the world of motorcycles. Maybe you should step away for a while…

      • WSHart says:

        I praise that which I find worthy. Are you one of those people that doesn’t want to “offend” anyone or anything except those that you disagree with?

        You like every bike made and all 31 flavors at Baskin-Robbins, right? And you think that the saying “if it feels, good do it” is nigh on Biblical in its righteous truth? And bullies are meanies.

        This Beemer (Bimmers are cars) is a nice bike with the caveat that if you get a nail in either tire you will not like the resultant rapid loss of not only air from the tire but your ability to control the bike.

        Of course if I am incorrect and the wheels are sealed and run tubless, then it’s a nice bike made better and safer than one with tubes in the tires.

        “You seem generally angry about the world of motorcycles. Maybe you should step away for a while…”

        You seem “too content” or “too complacent”. Maybe you should step up to the plate and take a swing at something other than someone you will never meet but doesn’t share your love of everything except those that disagree with you.

        I don’t dislike you one bit and if this is the bike for you or anyone out there, prove it and buy it and ride it. Your doing so will not make me any happier or sadder. It’s your money. Your life.

        And “naked” is still an ignorant term befitting a pre-teen know it all. Unless (apparently) you are a journalist or a generation nothing wannabe.

        Once more. This BMW is a nice bike but it would be nicer and safer with tubeless wheels. If those spoke rims actually run sans tubes, then good for BMW!

    • todd says:

      You seriously overplay the whole tubed tire thing and definitely overreact to anyone that suggests otherwise. I’ve gotten nails in tubed tires before, I just slowed down and pulled to the shoulder. I wasn’t thrown off my bike or had a feeling of utter loss of control. On my dirt bikes or on my old Vespa, I would just fix it on the side of the road. On my street bike I’d have to park it and come back for it or get roadside service. No big deal, I’ve only been stranded by a flat once in 25 years of daily riding. I care more about comfortable seats or steady/functional mirrors than I do about the style of wheel rim.

      • Xootrx says:

        I don’t agree. The last time I had a flat on a tubed tire was in the middle of no where, halfway between Indio and Blythe, Ca. I had pulled off the freeway to check on something, and when I tried accelerating, the tire went flat immediately, and I went for one helluva ride. I was stuck there for four hours waiting for the tow truck, and another four hours waiting for a repair in town, plus about $100 for the repair. My current bike is tubeless. I had flat with it a couple years back. I couldn’t even tell until I parked the bike and noticed the drill bit sticking out of the tire. Using a plug and a portable inflator, I was fixed and on my way in less than an hour. I know it’s different in the dirt, but for the street, no more tube tires for me.

        • mickey says:

          seeing how I have 3 flats this year on tubeless PR4GT’s (one with 2500 miles one with 5,000 miles)that cost me nearly $300 each for a new tire and labor to replace, I’d almost rather be replacing tubes than tires. Been an expensive year tire wise. Saving grace was being able to plug and ride to the shop instead of waiting for my wife to bring the truck and trailer.

          Tubes are cheaper, tubless is more convenient.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            Three flats so far this year? Man, I think I’ve only had three flats in the last seven or eight years. And two of those were pinch flats off-road.

          • mickey says:

            I know right? I haven’t had a flat in years. Then 3 in one year. Then again being retired, I ride nearly everyday, including a couple long trips every year, but all my flats have been local. Guess the averages are just catching up with me all at once.

    • Tim C says:

      Snotty Beemed me twice last night

  24. Montana says:

    Years ago, Harley’s print advertising featured a photo showing a rough looking character (like the one above) sitting on a new “Hog”. The caption asked, “What kind of man rides a Harley?”
    It didn’t take long for the pranksters to respond, “The kind who would steal one!” The ad was quickly pulled.

    Looks like Rocky has shifted his business to BMWs.

  25. jimmihaffa says:

    It looks amazing and this is definitely a bike I for one would want. One concern I have that wasn’t mentioned in the article is the amount of wind you catch at highway speeds. The bike appears to have a low set headlight and speedo, combined with the upright ergonomics I would expect that you’re catching more wind on this bike than most. A well integrated deflector might be needed for moderate highway use if youre allergic to giant plastic screens as I am.