BMW R NINE T (2014 - on) Review
- Best handling of BMW retros
- 1200cc boxer twin is excellent
- Great build quality
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£920|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
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.
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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 & brakesNext up: Engine
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.
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).
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).
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
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 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 nineT Sport get on against some of its closest rivals? Watch the video below to find out:
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.
|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||£93|
|Annual service cost||£920|
|Used price||£7,300 - £11,700|
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
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.
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.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£920|
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.