When I first saw the first BMW Motorrad RnineT back in 2013 from its Malaysian unveiling, I thought it was quite fugly in appearance. Heck, I knew the RnineT is designed to be as a classic motorcycle or café racer, as bike enthusiasts like to call it for any modern machine that has its look based on those beauties of yesteryears.

Fast forward to 2017 – I still think it is not a pretty looking motorcycle, with the front section being larger while the tail end too small like it doesn’t exist at all other than providing the seat with the sub-frame underneath. Granted, the whole concept of the first RnineT (2013) and its latest successor, the 2017 edition, are similar in appearance from every angle at a glance.

There are some differences between the two as the 2017 edition is a facelift, with a few parts revised. The most obvious, at closer inspection, is the new inverted front forks which now come with adjustable settings as you can’t do this on the original as it is fixed. Next is the instrument panels, although remain unchanged from the original with dual units as opposed to the single unit type used on its RnineT siblings, the Pure and Scrambler, have been updated too.

Granted, the original 2013 edition RnineT is just another model which BMW Motorrad is able to utilize its famed 1,170cc twin cylinder, shaft-driven boxer engine. Even the chassis is similar to the ones used in the company’s boxer engine-equipped, shaft-driven motorcycle line-up such as the R1200RS, R1200R, R1200GS and R1200GSA. That’s about where the similarities end as other supporting components on the RnineT are new and designed from ground up.

The new parts exclusive for the RnineT are the tank, the forks (R1200R and R1200RS used electronically adjustable forks), rear absorber, seats, handlebars, taillight, instrument panels and rear foot-pegs, all of which are retained for the 2017 edition. Only the instrument panels and forks are revised.

With the original RnineT, nothing much can be done when encountering terrains that are uneven and bumpy as the front forks couldn’t be adjusted, other than changing the lubricating oil inside the cartridges. That’s easier said than done as in reality, it’s a time-consuming process, and once you configured the forks to work well with bumpy and uneven terrains, the motorcycle would feel too stiff on conventional surfaces.

With the 2017 edition, the issue is taken care of, and the difference in handling is immediately obvious. Anytime the rider needs to adjust the strength of the forks to compensate against uneven terrain, he could do it himself without sending the RnineT to an authorized BMW Motorrad service centre.

With the new adjustable forks, there’s nothing to complain about of the BMW RnineT in riding, performance and handling. In fact, if there’s any, it’s the use of tubes inside the default Metzeler tubeless tyres for both front/rear as the spoked rims aren’t of the same type used for the manufacturer’s R 1200 GS adventure motorcycle, which could fit tubeless tyres without an air tube. What this means is once the RnineT suffers a puncture, the rider is basically stalled as he won’t be able to repair the leak on a tube, as a tubeless rubber could still maintain the air for quite some time before it deflates.

Nonetheless, chances of that happening would be rare, and if does, it’s not the fault of the RnineT but the responsibility of the rider to ensure such a risk is minimized each time he goes riding with the bike. I am surprised that BMW Motorrad decided to fit spoked rims to the RnineT instead of a sports type while providing the latter wheels on the sibling model, the 2017 RnineT Scrambler. The Scrambler version is meant for off-road and adventure riding while the standard RnineT is designated as a Café Racer/Classic naked sport, which is to be enjoyed on conventional tarmac than uneven terrain.

Due to its lower seat height, the RnineT is more enjoyable to ride than most naked sports particularly when cruising along twisty roads and city roads. It would be more daunting to these with other naked sports featuring higher seat heights and even wider handlebars. When riding the RnineT, it is pretty much comfortable for as long as the cruising speed is below 150km/h. Riding the bike above 160km/h and the wind resistance would be felt immediately. Pushing the RnineT faster to towards 200km/h up till the top speed of 230km/h, and the wind pressure gets even stronger if the rider is still upright. Only by crouching on top of the fuel tank would get the rider to hit 230km/h with minimal resistance.

However, that too is easier said than done. The strong wind pressure would put most RnineT owners from doing that top speed feat regularly unless their weekend riding buddies are mostly consisting of R 1200 GS/GSA riders instead of fellow RnineTs. GS/GSA riders are known to hit top speeds the moment they see the highway ahead to be clear of traffic, and their bikes have windshield that divert the wind pressure off the riders, a feature which the RnineT lacks.

I had subjected the original RnineT to reach its top speed and didn’t like it. I reckoned the 2017 edition is of no difference when it comes to any attempt to hit 230km/h. Besides, this is a motorcycle designed for leisure riding instead of being fast so there’s no need to experience riding it beyond 180km/h. For approximately 90% of the time when the 2017 RnineT was with me for this review, I had rode it at my chosen speed of 120km/h as shown on the LCD speedometer. Given the fact such a speed readout is not accurate, I reckoned I probably did it within the speed limit of 110km/h most of the time.

Obviously, the twin boxer engine is huge, with both cylinder heads protruding sideways on both sides of the RnineT. Due to its lower seat height as opposed to the rest of the Boxer line-up, there’s a perception that those cylinder heads might scrap those 6-inch thick pavements on city road shoulders when attempting to navigate peak hour congestion. However, the actual gap from the cylinder heads are 1.5 feet above ground level, and approximately 1 foot higher than those pavements, which mean the RnineT could ride above them with ease, and no risk of scrapping any.

As for the fuel consumption, the RnineT has approximately the same level as other BMW bikes I have reviewed previously, with the fuel gauge started blinking after clocking some 230km of mileage. With an 18-litre capacity tank, the RnineT would give the rider another 80km distance at cruising speed to find a fuel station once the warning comes on.

Posted by Philip Chong

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