BMW R NINE T (2014 - on) Review
- Best handling of BMW retros
- 1200cc boxer twin is excellent
- Updated for 2021
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£730|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
Before the BMW R nine T 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. This is the bike that set the standard for modern large-capacity retros.
The R nine T 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 nine T 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.
BMW R nine T updated for 2021
For 2021 the R nineT gets Euro5 engine tweaks, more rider aids and minor styling changes. It’s still a wonderfully joyful creation that mixes Germanic retro style, detailing and build quality with scintillating performance, boxer character, crisp handling and big grins. Changes to the 2021 model won’t be enough to get current owners rushing to dealers to upgrade, but they do add a little extra sparkle. It’s now slightly more urgent on the throttle, electronics come with a thicker safety blanket and the suspension has more control.
Of course, you can get your old school kicks for a lot less, but for the ultimate in retro indulgence the Beemer still rocks.
Once you've been through this review and our owners' reviews, you may want to join an online community to meet likeminded folk. We'd suggest the BMW NineT Forum.
What did we think at the original BMW R nine T launch back in 2014? Watch the video below to find out more:
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
There have been several other variants since the R nine T 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.
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 nine T 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).
BMW R nine T facelift in 2021 - how does it ride?
There are no big changes to the chassis. It has the same tubular steel frame, fully adjustable S1000RR-style forks and chainless Paralever back end, but the rear shock has more damping towards the end of its stroke for improved control under hard load. There’s also a handwheel adjuster for rear preload. Improvements to handling are minimal, but it still rides beautifully and has a lust for corners that belies its retro looks. It still gently rocks and pitches as the engine and shaft drive do their things, but it’s stable and Brembos are a riot of hissing power and feel.
Its upright riding position remains on the relaxed side of sporty with wide, perfectly set bars and generous amounts of legroom. It still leans over a long way on its side stand, but that’s about its only quirk.
EngineNext up: Reliability
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.
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).
BMW R nine T updated for 2021
BMW have kept the R nineT’s classic 1170cc flat twin alive, kicking and marching to the beat of the Euro5 drum, without having to resort to water cooling. Cylinder heads have revised-shaped combustion chambers for a bigger, more efficient bang, cylinder head covers have new cooling fins and throttle valve components are tweaked. Peak power is down a bhp to 108bhp but arrives 500rpm sooner, torque stays at same 86lb-ft and there’s more oomph between 4000rpm to 6000rpm. It’s a tiny improvement, but there was never a lack of instant, hard-edged grunt in the first place. Still sounds mean, too.
The ’21 machine also gets ride-by-wire, traction control and two riding modes. It’s debatable whether it needs its rider aids, as even on wet roads the BMW has so much grip and poise the TC never makes an appearance. The twin’s power delivery is so friendly there’s little point switching from ‘Road’ to its softer ‘Rain’ mode either. It also has cornering ABS and a system (first seen on the R1250GS) that cuts the power during an emergency stop to prevent you accidently braking against the throttle.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
If the new price looks steep given the R nine T’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 rivalsNext up: Equipment
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 nine T Sport get on against some of its closest rivals? Watch the video below to find out:
Priced at £13,150, the rest of the range was priced accordingly: the base £11,395 R nineT Pure, £11,515 Scrambler and £11,950 Urban G/S (and £13,965 40th anniversary version). The Racer is disappears from the line-up.
Part of the whole old-school R nine T 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.
BMW R nine T accessories updated in 2021
BMW have left the R nine T’s clean and minimalist styling alone, but it now has LED headlights, white LED indicators, tweaks to the analogue speedo and tacho, which still have multi-function LCD displays embedded within and a USB charger. It’s still luxuriously finished and detailed, which goes a long way to justifying its lofty price tag.
|Engine type||air-cooled, 8v flat twin|
|Frame type||Steel tube trellis|
|Fuel capacity||17 litres|
|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||£96|
|Annual service cost||£730|
|Used price||£7,500 - £13,000|
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two year unlimited mileage|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||108 bhp|
|Max torque||86 ft-lb|
|Top speed||135 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||145 miles|
Model history & versions
- 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.
- 2021: Updated model with Euro5 engine tweaks, more midrange grunt, revised rear shock, cornering ABS, two riding modes, LED headlights and indicators, USB charger and revised clock graphics.
Owners' reviews for the BMW R NINE T (2014 - on)
11 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.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£730|
+ve character, it’s freedom on two wheels; -ve suspension is appalling I owned the bike since launch in 2014 and sold it in 2020. I had added the heated grips, high Akrapovic and titanium down pipes, fly screen and bar end mirrors which made it feel all the more special. But, the single best improvement was having a rear Nitron shock fitted and the front forks serviced with heavier oil. The air gap on each fork was different. If you buy this bike, have the suspension done before anything else. Otherwise buy a gum shield and stop every hour for a brew.
Again, the suspension is poor.
Bags of grunt and character
Mine suffered zero corrosion. It was heavily treated with ACF50.
Er, there isn’t any.
Buying experience: From Bahnstormer Alton. They are brilliant.
Annual servicing cost: £1
lots of problems from day one
p poor .performance in and out of dealers many times crap dealer.took it to another dealer they sorted it out in minuets.
So far so good
Basic bike, but that is it's appeal
Buying experience: Excellent- Reiten Motorrad-really enthusiastic and professional
Version: Great, but basic bike
Annual servicing cost: £3,000
Fantastic back to basic bike,
Brakes are awesome, ride can be a little hard
I have 2 bikes only ever go solo on this one
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
It's cheap to insure and gives 45 mpg on average, but dealer servicing is pricey.
No fuel gauge, no centre stand and no traction control is unforgivable on a bike costing this much.
Annual servicing cost: £220
Excellent quality components, torquey engine, goes, stops and handles really well but my my *rse suffered.
It would have been 5* but it is not a comfortable bike. No change from my R100RS back in '78 then.
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.
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.
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.
Goes very well. Almost powerful enough!
Frame paintwork is poor and it rusts all over. Mirrors rattle after a while as the glue fails. Handlebar switches are cheap and nasty.
BMW are expensive! Seems every part (apart from tyres) has a 50% BMW loading.
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).
Modern classic that looks fantastic and rides beautifully.
Version: Sport (silver, Akrapovic)
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.
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).
Ultra smooth, rumbly friendly with an angry growl when provoked.
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.
Gobbles fuel but not too bad overall.
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)
Version: Customised Single seat Cafe Racer in Storm Black Metallic..
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.
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.
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.
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.
OK it's not the cheapest bike on the planet, but it's well worth the money IMO.
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.
Great bike, really engaging, great presence and evocative exhaust note. A keeper.
A rest is required after 120-ish miles on the standard seat. Superb brakes.
Beautiful torquey engine, however, water cooled R1200R is much smoother.
Not cheap to buy but as it is a limited edition, it should hold its value well.
Funky clocks that twirl round and back on ignition.