2021 BMW R nineT
Unlike automobiles, it is more of an emotional choice when it comes to motorcycles. Almost every rider wants to have a unique ride, and looks are the most important part of choosing a bike. Granted, BMW Motorrad’s model lineup is known for being unique looking bikes, but they always look too industrial and emotionless unlike some Italian exotics. BMW needed a motorcycle that doesn’t look too industrial, or emotionless – more of a retro bike that can be customizable to reach more potential buyers.
Sometimes it is hard to differentiate BMW’s model lineup, as they currently have several different types of naked motorcycles. 2021 BMW R nineT stands in between the cruiser, R18 and R1250R that we reviewed this year. Unlike the other naked bikes, it comes with many different trims, such as the Pure, Standard and Scrambler. Although it is not shown in Roadster category in BMW’s website, it’s actually retro styled roadster-naked motorcycle. Round shaped LED headlight is probably the most significant design feature that differentiates it from the other naked entries from BMW.
Despite it’s retro styling, it only dates back to the last decade. BMW came up with the idea of R nineT in 2013. The popularity of retro bikes has been increased quite a lot in the last decade, almost all manufacturers came up with a solution, and BMW decided to take a smart step by not only designing a retro looking bike, but they used oldschool drivetrain from R1200GS, which is an air cooled setup with shaft drive.
So here we have the 2021 BMW R nineT which is updated this year to keep up with EU5 norms. It is essentially a retro styled naked motorcycle that carries modern day technology and performance. Unlike the R1250R we reviewed earlier this year, R nineT comes with an oldschool air cooled boxer engine, it feels very modern and alive. R nineT has horizontally opposed boxer 1170cc engine that produces 110 horsepower and 88 lb-ft of torque. It revs up to 8500 rpm which is a little bit less than newer liquid cooled version.
1170cc air cooled engine makes its peak torque around 6000 rpm and it lacks ShiftCam technology that we saw it on R1250R, meaning that it has significantly less torque at lower RPMs. It still has a lot of torque throughout the rev range, meaning that no matter what gear you are in, you still have pretty decent amount of roll-on power. Our average consumption was around 6.2L / 100km which is very close to the spec sheet.
Like the R1250R and other boxer engine lineup, it is matched with 6 speed transmission and shaft drive which is placed on the left side instead of right. The transmission feels more clunky and more industrial with the R nineT, as it is using old platform. The clutch feeling is nice, but it is significantly heavier and harder to find the friction zone. It’s kind of expected from a retro styled motorcycle to have some industrial feeling.
Having and older platform doesn’t mean it’s bad. It gives it’s unique character. R1250R’s boxer engine already has its own unique character but it was a very smooth drivetrain whereas with the R nineT you get more vibration that you feel throughout the handlebars, and the air cooled version sounds much better than modern liquid cooled boxer engine. Air cooled boxer engine makes all the right noises, and vibrations to provide you a unique riding experience.
Having a retro bike not only means industrial and old feeling, but you also miss some important features, such as Quickshifter and electronic suspension that are available with the R1250R. 46mm inverted front forks and rear suspension can be adjusted manually and they are tuned very well for daily riding. They are a little bit on the firmer side with the factory settings, but it’s good to have an adjustment option and they feel excellent on the road.
Despite not having more tech, like the suspension, other components are top notch, especially the brakes. It comes with dual 4-piston Brembo calipers matched with dual 320 mm front brake discs, as well as single 265mm disc matched with 2-piston BMW brake caliper in the rear. I love the braking performance of the bike, it gives you a lot of confidence and the braking feeling is spot-on.
You also don’t get some tech that is available with the other modern BMW motorcycles, and that’s the digital gauge cluster. 2021 BMW R nineT comes with analog gauges that have small screens on both sides, showing very essential features with no Bluetooth connection. There is also no fuel gauge, it only shows when it’s very low. If you are prioritizing the looks, the analog gauges are totally fine, but BMW’s digital dash is one of the best in the industry and you will eventually regret not having it.
2021 BMW R nineT ergonomics are quite nice as a daily rider. You sit further back with very wide handlebars, and foot pegs are placed in the front with less aggressive body position compared to other BMW naked motorcycles. The seat height is 31.7 inch (805 mm) and it is quite easy to get on the bike for shorter adults. At 6’1″, I didn’t feel cramped at all despite having low seat height, so it offers great comfort for most type of riders. The wheelbase is also quite long for a naked bike, and as a result it offers you quite relaxed riding position.
Our tester has the Option 719 package, which comes with a cover on passenger seat to make it look more like a Cafe-Racer, if you are riding solo it makes the bike look even more retro. The rider seat comfort is nice, and the cover has a small cushion that keeps the rider in place which I quite like it. You still have passenger footpegs connected to the frame, which means if you can always install passenger seat if you don’t like riding solo.
When you check the spec sheet, it looks very impressive. But what about daily riding? I can easily say that it uniquely feels BMW due to iconic boxer engine, though it is not as sharp as the newer liquid cooled version. Due to the seating position, it is very easy to ride it on a daily basis, and when you take it to twisties, the suspension system makes it feel easier. The bike feels very stable when you lean due to the longer wheelbase, though the initial turn-in is not very fast.
While it has less features than many non-retro entries from BMW, it still has some modern features such as the cruise control, adaptive LED headlights, anti-theft alarm system, heated grips and traction control for rider safety. It has three different riding modes (Dynamic, Comfort and Rain) and each adjusts throttle response accordingly. Dynamic mode feels a little bit sensitive especially for daily driving, and Comfort mode feels like there is too much delay in throttle response for spirited riding, so you need to be in correct riding mode
At the end of the day, 2021 BMW R nineT is exceptionally good machine that combines classic and modern design language with great components, it is the right bike for the right person who prioritizes looks over anything else while still having top notch components throughout the bike. However, after riding one of the best touring oriented naked bikes on the market, called R1250R, it is really hard to recommend R nineT as a daily rider especially for the same price, unless you really want to have that heritage looks and retro design features.
2021 BMW R nineT starts at $17,500 and our tester had the Option 719 package which costs $1,435, as well as Comfort Package which includes riding modes, heated grips and cruise control that sets you back additional $900. The price tag is not easy to swallow, but if you are looking for this type of bike, it is really not that expensive, considering it has some decent features, excellent looks, great daily riding characteristics, and boxer engine noise makes it a unique retro motorcycle. For more details, please visit www.bmw-motorrad.ca