What happens when you take BMW’s venerable 1200 air-cooled boxer engine, fit it to a lightweight trellis frame and add a splash of retro superbike styling ? You’ve got the alluring R Nine T Racer.
The bike was glistening in the morning sunlight, its white paintwork and simple three colour motorsport inspired graphics inviting me to climb aboard and venture out onto the open roads. Firing the superb sounding double overhead cam engine into life I immediately find myself stretched over the tank to reach the clip-on style bars. The domed half fairing, covering the analogue sweeping gauges, evoking thoughts of café style races of the 60’s and 70’s – something I’m sure BMW stylist were well aware of.
Once settled into the ride, the position is spot on for this type of bike, it’s a comfortable, natural position, but a little more extreme than I anticipated. With only a little weight on the wrist, the shape of the tank allows me to grip with my knees and support my position.
This was my first ride on bike with a boxer engine, whilst having ridden lots of inline 4 and v twins I’d never had the pleasure of BMW’s finest. Kirk at Bowker Motorrad said to me before I left “Take it for a ride for half an hour, get off, have a brew, have a look around it and then get back on and you’ll feel a lot more at one with the bike.” This turned out to be perfect advice. I don’t know why this works but during the first half an hour it felt a little lumpy in places, I was missing gears, snapping at the throttle and just not gelling with it. After my first brew it was like it had been part of my garage for years.
The gearbox is buttery smooth allowing me to move through the 6 gears with ease. The characterful 110 brake horse power engine provides massive amounts of low down grunt which makes it very easy to get off the line and to keep it flowing through traffic. Overtaking is a breeze, regardless of which gear your in, pick your moment, wind on the throttle and the R nine T Racer effortlessly pushes you to the back of its solo seat and takes off down the road. BMW performance figures say that the Racer can reach 60mph in 3.6 seconds and will continue on to over 125mph.
There are two different models on offer – the Racer and the Racer S. The S has 17” wire spoke wheels instead of the cast alloys and it also has heated grips, chrome exhaust and LED indicates. I think the wire spokes add a little ‘je ne sais quoi’ to the mix – although the 24 degree heat and gorgeous sunshine meant I had little need for the heated grips.
Even though its got Racer in its name, this is not the kind of bike that you need to rev to its 8,500 rpm redline to get the best out of it. The handling is very predictable and perfectly responsive to small steering inputs. But, around town and at low speeds the weight can feel a little awkward, the bike feels heavier than it really is. This could be due to the stretched out position and high rear set pegs, but once out on the open road and up to speed its 220kg weight seems to disappear and it becomes a joy to ride.
The longer and faster I rode, the better this bike felt. It was at its happiest in the national speed limit country roads up through the Forest of Bowland. The suspension coped really well with all but the harshest country lane bumps and up front its twin four piston Brembo ABS brakes we more than adequate for bringing it to a halt when needed.
This isn’t a motorbike suitable for shrinking violets. Other bikers want to stop and talk to you about it, at every stop I made, for a brew, photos or a bacon butty it attracted attention. It produces a beautiful rasp that bounces off walls and makes tunnels a joy. Riding through the city centre I couldn’t help but notice the admiring looks that this bike gets, people turn around and watch it go past. It’s a stunning looking bike, even sitting still it looks like it’s going a hundred miles an hour and catching a glimpse of myself in shop windows as I pass and it even makes me look good!
For riders who value a bit of practicality in their motorcycle, the R nine T Racer probably isn’t the best in the BMW stable. If you want to go fast and look very cool then it might just be the right choice for you.