BMW R NINE T (2014 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Best handling of BMW retros
  • 1200cc boxer twin is excellent
  • Great build quality

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4.9 out of 5 (4.9/5)
Annual servicing cost: £920
Power: 110 bhp
Seat height: Medium (31.7 in / 805 mm)
Weight: Medium (490 lbs / 222 kg)

Prices

New £12,745
Used £7,300 - £11,700

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
5 out of 5 (5/5)

This is the bike that set the standard for modern large-capacity retros. Before the BMW R nineT came along, choosing a traditionally styled bike meant accepting old-school performance and ride quality to go with the retro styling. BMW changed all that.

The R nineT has looks and details inspired by the R32 of 1923 (90 years before it was released, hence its commemorative name) and their old race bikes, but with performance, handling and manners that are entirely modern. This means the R nineT is fast and flexible, super-stable and inspires massive confidence in corners, as well as looking great reflected in shop windows.

It’s also a premium device. The air-and oil-cooled opposed twin engine is fit and proven, the chassis features high-quality suspension (including forks from the S1000RR superbike) and brakes, and impressive details include an alloy fuel tank, deep paint and twin pipes. Reliability is good, plus there’s an array of desirable optional extras and the promise of strong residual values.

What did we think at the launch? Watch the video below to find out more:

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
5 out of 5 (5/5)

There have been several other variants since the R nineT arrived (including the entry-level Pure, head-down Racer and retro-trail Urban G/S), but the original family-topping model has the greatest chassis quality.

The Sachs lamppost-scale 45mm upside-down forks and well-damped rear shock give a ride that’s a great balance of comfort and control, and plenty of feel; forks were fixed on early bikes but have preload, rebound and compression adjustment on newer models.

The low-slung chassis doesn’t have the quickest steering; however, the handling has a neutral feel and gives masses of confidence – the R nineT seems to pull itself down into corners and feels brilliant over on its side, urging you to carry plenty of old-fashioned corner speed. Oodles of ground clearance, too.

A side view of the BMW R nineT

Despite the quality of the standard bike some owners find the front forks are a little too softly sprung and the rear a tad harsh – so if you’re looking at a preloved bike check to see if it’s been tampered with.

Modifying the standard unadjustable forks with a revalve or different internals can make the front end feel even better, while some rear shocks get swapped for an upgraded part – units from Öhlins and Wilbers are common, though there are options to suit most budgets. Nobody bothers trying to improve on the mighty ABS-equipped brakes.

It’s a good riding position that balances attitude and quite sportily located feet with control and comfort. The seat’s quite thin though, being one of the few universal criticisms of the R nineT by owners. Most upgrade their perch, either with BMW’s own Custom accessory version or an aftermarket part – the one from Sargent is widely recommended (it’s around £300, though).

Engine

Next up: Reliability
4 out of 5 (4/5)

It’s the 1170cc air-and-oil-cooled boxer engine that was used in the R1200 models. Though it’s the 'old' twin this doesn’t mean second-rate performance: it belches out instant grunt throughout the rev range, striding forward at low revs, romping through the midrange and delivers a boisterous top-end rush that’ll push the R nineT through the air at 135mph.

With no faffy riding modes or other distractions it’s a direct and engaging power unit. Sounds great too. The boxer’s twin pipes rumble when you pootle, bellow on a wide-open throttle and pop on the overrun.

The BMW R nineT makes a great noise

It’s also a reliable engine. If you’re looking at a used bike then there are a few things to inspect, though: make sure there’s no slip or drag from the clutch as replacement is a costly affair that involves loads of disassembly, look for hints of exhaust smoke, and ensure the six-speed gearbox behaves itself.

Also make sure a tight-arse owner hasn’t missed any of the expensive services (oil and brake fluid every 6000 miles; oil, valve clearance check, new drive shaft oil, air filter and plugs at 12,000).

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
5 out of 5 (5/5)

If the new price looks steep given the R nineT’s lo-fi specification, it’s because you’re paying for quality engineering, classy parts and proper finishes. Not many bikes have forged aluminium brackets locating the front mudguard. Some BMWs put a question mark over the brand’s premium reputation, but the retro isn’t one of them.

Though most of the finish is excellent, the frame paint is bit thin and can wear through – and make sure it’s not caused rust on a secondhand bike. Exhaust collectors will look grubby after winter use, and you should shake the mirrors to see if they rattle as the glue dries out inside.

There have been a few recalls. Most affected just the early 2014 bikes, recalled for loose swingarm pivot pin bolts that needed Loctite and re-torqueing, and some suffered a faulty ignition switch. There have also been a few weepy master cylinders.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
5 out of 5 (5/5)

You’ll get around 44 miles to a gallon on average. This means 120 miles or so until the low fuel light comes on, and an overall range of 145 miles. Insurance is group 13 – that’s the same group as rivals like Ducati’s Scrambler and Honda’s steadier CB1100 EX, but a group higher than the perky Triumph Speed Twin.

At £12,745 (2020 pricing) the R nineT is the most expensive bike in BMW’s Heritage line-up, and significantly pricier than rivals – the equally-engaging Triumph Speed Twin is two grand cheaper and Honda’s sportiest retro, the CB1100 RS, is only £9999.

The Beemer represents good value, though: the boxer has perhaps the highest sense of quality, residual values are solid, and it’s one of the few bikes where any accessories boost value.

How does the BMW R nineT Sport get on against some of its closest rivals? Watch the video below to find out:

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

Part of the whole old-school R nineT thing is stripped-back simplicity and pure riding sensations. Your money goes on lovingly manufactured parts, fine finishes, and a rear subframe that can be whipped off for a sawn-down single-seat look, rather than superficial trinkets.

The only electronic gubbins on the original bike in 2014 was ABS, and even now ASC (automatic stability control, like a basic traction system) is an optional extra. Fancy heated grips? Open your wallet

There is an onboard computer for some additional info on the old-style twin dials, though, and new R nineTs come fitted with Datatool Stealth S5 security. And BMW offer a bewildering range of official accessories should you want to adorn the bike with milled aluminium this, adjustable that or carbon the other.

Specs

Engine size 1170cc
Engine type air-cooled, 8v flat twin
Frame type Steel tube trellis
Fuel capacity 17 litres
Seat height 805mm
Bike weight 222kg
Front suspension 46mm forks, adj. pre-load, rebound, compression
Rear suspension monoshock, adjustable preload and rebound
Front brake 2 x 320mm discs with four-piston calipers. ABS
Rear brake 265mm disc with two-piston caliper. ABS
Front tyre size 120/70ZR17
Rear tyre size 180/55ZR17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 44 mpg
Annual road tax £93
Annual service cost £920
New price £12,745
Used price £7,300 - £11,700
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two year unlimited mileage

Top speed & performance

Max power 110 bhp
Max torque 86 ft-lb
Top speed 135 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 145 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

2014: R nineT introduced as a new model. 1170cc opposed-twin engine, 110bhp, unadjustable S1000RR-derived forks, 18-litre tank, 222kg. Black paint is the only option. Planned as a commemorative limited-edition model to celebrate 90 years since the first BMW bike, but its success means it not only stays in the line-up but spawns a complete range of Heritage models based around the same platform. 

2017: The ‘kombi’ R1200R instruments of are replaced with neater twin dials carrying digital inlays. Front forks are made fully adjustable, new black finish on the spokes, engine and chassis, and two special paint schemes are offered: ‘Blackstorm metallic/Vintage’ with hand-painted yellow blob and number 21 on the tank, and ‘Blueplanet metallic/Aluminum’ with dark blue paint and gold trims over the brushed aluminium tank.

Other versions

There are several other R nineT models to choose from, all with cast wheels and lower-spec suspension, finishes and fittings. The Pure is the entry-level version; the Scrambler features semi-knobbly tyres and higher pipes for a retro desert sled feel; the Urban G/S is styled as a homage to the original R80 G/S giant trailie; and the Racer has a half-fairing and torturous 1970s-superbike riding position.

Owners' reviews for the BMW R NINE T (2014 - on)

8 owners have reviewed their BMW R NINE T (2014 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your BMW R NINE T (2014 - on)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 4.6 out of 5 (4.6/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Engine: 4.9 out of 5 (4.9/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4.9 out of 5 (4.9/5)
Value vs rivals: 4.2 out of 5 (4.2/5)
Equipment: 4.1 out of 5 (4.1/5)
Annual servicing cost: £920
4 out of 5 Great, but basic bike
04 April 2020 by Wayne Dilworth

Version: Great, but basic bike

Year: 2019

Annual servicing cost: £3,000

Fantastic back to basic bike,

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Brakes are awesome, ride can be a little hard

Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

I have 2 bikes only ever go solo on this one

Equipment 4 out of 5

There isn't any but that is why you buy it

Buying experience: Dealers are great, back up, 3 year warrantee 3 year breakdown cover

5 out of 5 One to keep!
04 May 2019 by Philip Cooper

Year: 2016

Don't let its retro roadster looks fool you into thinking its a big softy, its not! It's easily a match for my mate's KTM SMC 690 and my son's Triumph Street Triple in the bumpy twisty B-roads and has a lovely turn of speed when the roads open up. Handling and braking are right up there with the best handling and the engine grunt ensures that you just clear off out of bends.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

It's very stiff and set up more like a sports bike, which I like. It does not wallow and weave when I'm out scratching at insane speeds. But the trade off is a hard ride everywhere at more sensible speeds. The brakes are light and offer monster power, effectively wiping tons of speed off when I'm approaching bends too fast! The rear is powerful too, with lots of instant feel but you're in no danger of locking up as the ABS cuts in.

Engine 5 out of 5

This is why I bought this bike, and I'm not disappointed, it's awesome. It has grunt everywhere in any gear. It just responds immediately when I open the throttle. The engine keeps on building power as the revs rise and there's a real rush up to the rev limiter. It just looks so good too. How BMW got away with the sound it makes I don't know, but it sounds beautiful snd is the loudest bike I have experienced on its standard exhaust system, which I wont be upgrading as it sounds and looks fabulous.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

I have only done 1600 miles so far, so it's too early to assess reliability although I've had no issues. The build quality and finish are of a high standard.

Value vs rivals 3 out of 5

It's cheap to insure and gives 45 mpg on average, but dealer servicing is pricey.

Equipment 2 out of 5

No fuel gauge, no centre stand and no traction control is unforgivable on a bike costing this much.

4 out of 5 A really great bike but ooh! my *rse!
26 January 2019 by Cynical Dodgyknees

Year: 2015

Annual servicing cost: £220

Excellent quality components, torquey engine, goes, stops and handles really well but my my *rse suffered.

Ride quality & brakes 3 out of 5

It would have been 5* but it is not a comfortable bike. No change from my R100RS back in '78 then.

Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5

Basic features standard, heated grips £330 extra. Clocks almost unreadable at night. Metzeler Roadtec's a delight. Fitted optional handlebar risers. Waste of time. Wunderlich handlebar fairing aftermarket fit was pricey but really good and completed the R90S-style retro look.

Buying experience: BMW Motorrad at Northampton was a mixed bag. Service department excellent, Sales depended on who you got.

4 out of 5 Won't be selling this one any time soon
08 October 2018 by Nick Pettefar

Year: 2016

Annual servicing cost: £250

I love it and ride it everywhere including touring, scratching and commuting. Tubed tyres are a nightmare when you get a puncture.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Need to stop every hundred miles or so to have a cup of tea. Brakes are great, best I've ever had I think. Suspension is a bit hard and could do with being improved. Seat is OK-ish. I added an IKEA sheepskin and it was much better.

Engine 4 out of 5

Goes very well. Almost powerful enough!

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

Frame paintwork is poor and it rusts all over. Mirrors rattle after a while as the glue fails. Handlebar switches are cheap and nasty.

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

BMW are expensive! Seems every part (apart from tyres) has a 50% BMW loading.

Equipment 4 out of 5

ABS - first time for me and it hasn't intruded much at all. Sadly doesn't have a fuel gauge which is poor. No centre-stand which is really bad! I've added lots to it - Givi Airflo screen, Givi topbox, Wunderlich hand shields, Krauser panniers, engine bars, horns, spots, etc.

Buying experience: Almost new from Joe Duffy BMW in Dublin. Was OK although the salesman was difficult with the tax disc. I paid too much of course (Expensive Ireland + BMW dealer).

5 out of 5
26 February 2017 by Bri

Year: 2015

Modern classic that looks fantastic and rides beautifully.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5
5 out of 5 Friendly Bear
27 September 2016 by Token

Version: Sport (silver, Akrapovic)

Year: 2016

Annual servicing cost: £200

Perfect weekend bike. One of the best looking production bikes along with Thruxton R. Easy to customise, sounds amazing, tons of personality, ultra smooth power. Not too aggressive when ridden calmly which works well in the city.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Wonderful, seamless power delivery. Great ergonomics and low to the ground. Brakes are massive and work very well. Awesome suspension and fairly cushy standard seat(s).

Engine 5 out of 5

Ultra smooth, rumbly friendly with an angry growl when provoked.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

A fantastic piece of kit. Only minus is the gauges which are plasticky and laughable compared to Thruxton R. R Nine Scrambler gauge is nicer.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

Gobbles fuel but not too bad overall.

Equipment 5 out of 5

The Sport option comes with great sounding Akrapovic can, but the standard silencer (also Akrapovic) sound amazing as well. Sport also comes with the hump which is easily swapped out for pillion seat. Heated grips always welcome. Would have loved the full electronics package even if it "goes against the integrity of the bike". Looking forward to swap bits from the Scrambler and other upcoming R Nine T models.

Buying experience: BMW were super helpful, test ride great. Very responsive. (London)

5 out of 5 A keeper
11 May 2016 by Nick

Version: Customised Single seat Cafe Racer in Storm Black Metallic..

Year: 2016

This bike just fixes a grin on your face and collects crowds wherever it is parked. The wiring for the lights is seperate from the main harness and converts to fully LED lighting with no problems. Great base for customization and you rarely see 2 identical 9Ts ... at least not where I live. Loads of aftermarket components and massive scope for personalisation. I'd recommend it to anyone as a commuter or a weekend fun bike, not so hot for long-distance touring.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

The ride is a bit hard and the seat is unforgiving, but that's what I expected. It's no long distance tourer so regular coffee stops are required. I have done 3-400 mile days on it and was tired at the end, but that was all over curvy alpine 'B' roads which are its bread and butter. This bike is most at home on A and B roads... had a few emergency stops from relatively high speeds (cars pulling out) the brakes are strong and reassuring.

Engine 5 out of 5

Strong engine with thumping torque .... great fun and a truly wonderful exhaust note. Very strong engine braking so a blip on the throttle when downshifting becomes habit and is rewarded by a beautiful exhaust note. Pops and bangs on over-run which I personally love. Very forgiving and easy to ride.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Beautifully put together, runs flawlessly unless, like me, you accidentally cable-tie the Navigation system harness to the throttle cable and prevent the throttle closing properly. Stupidity is not covered under warranty.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

OK it's not the cheapest bike on the planet, but it's well worth the money IMO.

Equipment 5 out of 5

ABS, heated grips, an alarm and different tank colours. That's pretty much it from the factory. A tail mod is necessary as the OEM tail looks awful, fortunately there are oodles of aftermarket options available. Love that the passenger sub-frame can be completely removed making the bike a single-seater... the whole rear end is modular and bolted together so it can be customised very easily and offers multiple configurations.

Buying experience: It's BMW .... prep, handover etc. flawless.

5 out of 5 Ahhh! - Nine T.
18 August 2015 by miyumiyu21

Year: 2015

Great bike, really engaging, great presence and evocative exhaust note. A keeper.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

A rest is required after 120-ish miles on the standard seat. Superb brakes.

Engine 5 out of 5

Beautiful torquey engine, however, water cooled R1200R is much smoother.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

Not cheap to buy but as it is a limited edition, it should hold its value well.

Equipment 5 out of 5

Funky clocks that twirl round and back on ignition.

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