BMW R12 nineT long-term review update one | First impressions after two months and 1288 miles

1 of 5

As soon as I found out that I’d be running the BMW R12 nineT this year, I was greeted with wide eyes, big grins, and repeated affirmations of ‘that’ll be a good bike’ from nearly everyone I chatted with. 

As someone who’d never ridden a BMW before, let alone the prestigious R nineT, I was excited and a little bit terrified with the prospect of taking on such a popular bike for 2024.

But having had the Moto Guzzi V7 as a long-termer a few years ago, I was ready to embrace having two cylinders poking out like ears again.  As I write this, I’ve had the BMW for around two months, and it’s been a whirlwind! 

BMW R12 nineT left handlebar with wheel

I knew that the first hurdle would be understanding the barrage of electrics and gizmos on the handlebars – a challenge I couldn’t wait to accept.

With easy-to-use heated grips (that really work) and cruise control (although quite stiff to begin with and I feared snapping the little paddle lever as it looked quite delicate in comparison to the other controls) I was off to a good start. But what I couldn’t figure out initially was what the BMW wheel at the end of the left handgrip actually did.

The wheel on the new R1300GS (which editor Rich Newland is running this year) controls all sorts of menu functions and the optional sat nav – but I have a very different TFT screen rather than the retro clocks which come as standard on the nineT. I thought the wheel would scroll though the settings… but after a few attempts I realised this wasn’t the answer. 

BMW R12 nineT dash

After a bit of research and a dedicated chunk of time just to familiarise myself with my dash, I finally got to the bottom of its purpose, and it turns out the wheel is a nifty feature indeed. Once you have linked your phone up with the onboard Bluetooth, you can then mount it on the handlebars, and spin through the BMW app.

The app offers you access to navigation, your stats from the ride, weather updates and a few more bits and pieces besides which bring the retro revival bang up to date with the rest of the BMW fleet.

Well, almost. One particular bugbear for me is that without your phone (which I don’t like to ride with all the time) there is no fuel gauge. What is more annoying is that on the dash, if the fuel light comes on, it automatically comes up with how many miles you’ve ridden with the fuel light on, rather than how many miles until you’re going to be stuck at the side of the road. So unless you know how many miles you can ride on reserve, it’s just a nerve-wracking guessing game.

BMW R12 nineT engine

I’m usually so busy in my reporting role that I don’t get to take part in MCN road tests, so I was delighted when there was a space in the saddle, and the time, for me to hop on board when we pitched the
R12 nineT against Triumph’s Speed Twin 1200.

This meant I could not only get a chance to put the R12 through its paces alongside a professional road tester, but also try out one of its closest competitors at the same time.

The R12 nineT has the air/oil-cooled boxer engine (rather than the latest liquid-cooled lump), so for those that hanker after café racer styling complete with old-school side-to-side shudder and no radiators, then this bike ticks all the boxes.

BMW R12 nineT on the road

But the weighty throws of the pistons make cornering feel unlike anything else I’ve experienced, and when comparing it back-to-back against the Triumph, you really get to understand that the R12 has to be ‘actively ridden’, rather than just piloted.

Road tester Jon Urry revelled in the sensation, and I caught up with his enthusiasm as the day progressed. It has grunt, it has torque, and it can whip your breath away if you’re not careful with its brutish delivery.

The furthest I’ve ridden in one sitting so far is around 80 miles, but with a Welsh trip on the cards, I’m keen to see if this B-road blaster can rack up big miles in style.